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Relocating Your Non-EU Employees to Germany: The Immigration Process

If, like many German companies, you’ve had to recruit outside the European Union to fill your vacancies, your ideal candidate might be thousands of miles away. You’ll need to get them to Germany, but how? Michael Seuchter, Relocation and Immigration Director for AGS Relocation Germany, sheds light on the immigration process for non-EU employees.

Posted in: Global mobility & HR, Helpful Resources Germany, Helpful resources Germany, Relocation, Talent management
Published Date: 12 January 2023

First things first: What immigration documents do you need?

According to Michael, immigration begins with an employment contract. That’s because all German work (Category D) visas require evidence of a concrete job offer as part of the visa application process.

At a minimum, your employee will also need to supply their CV and a copy of their highest diploma. Their circumstances will determine which other documents are required. If they are immigrating with their family, for example, they will also need to submit a copy of their marriage certificate. These documents will have to be translated into German by a court-certified translator.

As the employer, you are also required to submit certain documents. The most important of these is a letter of support.


What is a letter of support, and why is it important?

This is a document in which your company motivates why your non-EU employee is the best person for the job. The letter protects the German and European labour markets as it ensures that non-EU nationals only get jobs when there are no suitable local candidates available.

During the visa application process, your employee’s profile is checked against a national database of local employment seekers. A visa will only be issued if no equivalent local candidate is found.
“That’s why the letter of support must be as specific as possible,” warns Michael. “The addition or omission of a minor detail can be the difference between a positive or negative outcome.” This is where the experience of a reputable relocation company can prove invaluable as they will be able to guide you on what information a successful letter of support should contain.


How to make sure you have the best candidate for immigration

Best candidate for German immigration

If you have several potential candidates for the job, visa assessment is another service relocation companies offer. They assess each candidate’s documents and recommend the best candidate for immigration.

Visa assessment has become particularly popular since the pandemic. Many embassies are still operating with limited staff, and applications are taking longer to process, so it is useful to know which candidate will have the easiest immigration path and which visa has the best chance of being issued.


Which work visa should you apply for?

Because it offers the quickest path to permanent residence, the EU blue card is the visa every non-EU employee wants. But since it is only awarded to applicants earning more than 56,400 euros per year (in 2022) or to those who will be employed in a shortage occupation (think human medicine, IT or engineering), not everyone qualifies.German work visa application

It’s also important to remember that the best visa for your employee might not be the best for your company, especially if it allows them to change employers. If you have spent considerable time and money recruiting and relocating your employee to Germany, you’ll want them on staff for as long as possible.

One way to ensure this, if your company also has a branch in the employee’s home country, is to apply for a work visa by way of an Intra-Corporate Transfer (ICT) card. Another option, provided you are registered for the programme, is a work visa based on the international exchange of personnel. Both visa types stipulate that your employee may only work for you, the stated employer, and may not change to another employer during their temporary assignment in Germany.

If you’re not a multinational, don’t worry! There are many types of work visas available. While some might not have an official name, German immigration law caters for many scenarios. You just need to know the law. An experienced relocation company can save you time and money by guiding you towards the best visa for your specific employment situation.


Reducing liability during the visa application process

To be sure that your relocation company is legally compliant, you should check that they work with an accredited immigration lawyer. This is a must because, according to German immigration law, only a lawyer is allowed to make certain applications. This requirement may seem excessive, but the advantage for you as the employer is that the lawyer is liable for any recommendations they make. This inherently protects you from financial loss should your employee’s visa application fail.


How long does it take to get a German work visa?

Michael Seuchter, Relocation & Immigration Director for AGS Relocation Germany
Michael Seuchter,
Relocation and Immigration Director for AGS Relocation Germany

Once the necessary documents have been collected, applicants can expect to receive their visas within 8-10 weeks, although processing time depends on how many applications have been submitted at any given time. For that reason, Michael advises employers to start the immigration process about 3-4 months before the employee’s contract start date.

The visa application process is complex, as three separate German government agencies – the central work agency, the local foreign authority, and the foreign agency (consulate or embassy) in your employee’s country – work on every application. Each agency requires different information and has its own forms that must be completed, but this process is also something that a relocation company can coordinate.


Do you want to move your non-EU employees to Germany?

AGS Relocation offers a complete range of immigration services, including employment contract assessment, document translation and all the services mentioned in this article.

Contact us for answers to all your immigration questions.