Living and working in Germany: an overview

The IHK Ulm region is known as the second fastest growing region in Germany, which is particularly evident in the 77% increase in econimic output between 2000 and 2017, with the rural area of the district of Biberach driving this dynamic regional development with a 110% increase in gross domestiv product. Likewise the district of the city of Ulm and the district of Alb-Donau ahow above-average results in all economic sectors.

The Ulm/Oberschwaben region is not known just for its “Maultaschen” (similar to ravioli) and the highest church tower in the world, but also for a hardworking philosophy of life – locals are said to “Schaffa, schaffa Häusle baua” (work hard, work hard, build a little house) – and a flourishing economy.

In Ulm you can explore the old town walls alongside the Danube, visit the Minster to scale the highest church tower in the world, or amble through the fishermen’s quarter and experience the charm of the old town. In the area around Ulm or in Biberach you will find countless castles and palaces, or the Blautopf spring in Blaubeuren, which is renowned for its colour. From colourful hiking tours and caves with Stone Age treasures to the unique Schiefes Haus and more, our region has a great deal to offer.

Visa regulations and the Skilled Immigration Act (Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz)

It is a person’s nationality, not their place of residence, that is relevant for immigration purposes. We can distinguish three categories:

  • Professionals from EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland: Persons from these countries do not require an entry visa and have unhindered access to the German labour market
  • Professionals from Andorra, Monaco, San Marino, Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the USA: Persons from these countries do not require an entry visa, but they do require a residence permit to remain and take up employment
  • Professionals from all other states, so-called third countries: Persons from these countries require an entry visa and a residence permit
  • Special provision for Great Britain and Northern Ireland/United Kingdom (including British overseas territories):

Since 1 February 2020 the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has no longer been a member of the European Union. For citizens and travellers nothing will change initially as a result of the Withdrawal Agreement, until 31 December 2020.

Großbritannien und Nordirland/Vereinigtes Königreich: Reise- und Sicherheitshinweise (COVID-19-bedingte Teilreisewarnung)

List of countries with a visa requirement: Overview of visa requirements/exemptions for entry into the Federal Republic of Germany

Who issues the visa
If you come from a third country, under the Skilled Immigration Act you have different options for taking up employment in Germany:

Work visa

For academics

  • As a skilled professional

You can enter Germany and work as a skilled professional. To do this you require a job offer or an employment contract for a position which your degree enables you to take up; in other words, your degree qualifies you for this activity. The consent of the Federal Employment Agency has to be obtained (the employment contract will be inspected). In addition, you must have certificates of your qualifications and evidence of the knowledge of German that you require to exercise your profession.

If aged over 45, you must receive a salary of at least €46,860 (in 2021).

  • Blue card

The EU Blue Card makes it easier for highly qualified persons from third countries to access the labour market. The requirements for this residence permit are a university degree, an employment contract and an annual gross salary of at least €56,800 in 2021. If you have a degree in Mathematics, IT, Natural Sciences or Technology, or you are a trained doctor, you can also obtain an EU Blue Card if you earn the same as comparable employees who are citizens of Germany, but at least €44,304 gross a year (2021).

For professionally qualified persons

If you have completed a vocational training course in your home country, successfully applied for a job in Germany and received a job offer, you can obtain a work visa. The Federal Employment Agency must issue its consent before you apply. The main factor of relevance for the residence permit is the full equivalence of your qualifications, which must be demonstrated by an official notification that they are recognised.

At a glance: Work visa for qualified professionals

Residence permit for recognition procedure

It is now possible to enter Germany to undertake a training course and for second-chance training opportunities. For this purpose, your degree course must be partly recognised and you require at least an A2 level knowledge of German. For second-chance training, it is also important that you primarily lack operational or practical knowledge that is necessary for equivalence. In addition, you must submit an application for a suitable training course and arrange funding.

At a glance: Visa for the recognition of foreign qualifications

Special case for IT specialists

IT specialists who arrive having already obtained at least three years’ work experience abroad can enter Germany even without a relevant recognised university degree. The Federal Agency must agree to their employment, and the person concerned must have a basic knowledge of German (A2).

Residence permit for job hunting

You can enter the country for up to 6 months as an international professional in order to search for a job that corresponds to your qualifications. To apply for this residence permit you must be able to prove to the Embassy that you have an assured means of subsistence in Germany. In this context it is also important that your qualification is classified as equivalent to a German degree. For this residence permit you need evidence that you have a level B1 knowledge of German.

At a glance: Visa for jobseekers

Residence permit for vocational training

As well as degree courses or further education, Germany also has a dual training system. You can decide either to complete a vocational or academic training course. You must already have a firm training agreement. However, the priority rule continues to apply in respect of training.

At a glance: Visa for vocational training

Residence permit to search for an apprenticeship

If you decide to enter Germany to search for an apprenticeship, you must be able to produce evidence of your qualifications beforehand. In addition, you must not be aged over 24 and must be able to demonstrate a level B2 knowledge of German. However, the priority rule continues to apply for apprenticeships, which means a test is carried out as to whether a position could be filled by a person registered as unemployed in Germany.

At a glance: Visa for the purpose of applying for training or studies

Residence permit to attend a language course

You can come to Germany for a language course. Your means of subsistence must be assured for the duration of the language course and you must have obtained admission to an intensive German course.

At a glance: Visa for the purpose of language acquisition

Residence permit for research

At a glance: Visa for research

The way into the German labour market: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/fileadmin/_processed_/6/e/csm_20200221_MiiG_Visagrafik_Arbeitsmarkt_EN_e357a08bf6.png

The way into the German education system: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/fileadmin/_processed_/4/6/csm_20200221MiiG_Visagrafik_Bildung_EN_dd4b8a3e9a.png

You can use the “Quick Check” on the website “Make-it-in-Germany” to assess your options for working and living in Germany: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/

Language

Maybe you have only arrived in the region recently and would now like to start a German course. Or perhaps you have already been living in Germany for a while and would like to improve your knowledge of German? The Migration Contact Center can give you advice free of charge on selecting a suitable integration and language course in the region. One option is also to attend work-related German courses offered by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). For this you might need the consent of the job centre or the Employment Agency.

You can also start acquiring the language while you are still abroad. Among others, the Goethe Institut in your home country offers various courses to achieve this. You can find the relevant Goethe Institut here: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/visa/local-contacts/

Living – housing – family

House-hunting

If you are looking for a house or apartment, you can instruct an estate agent who will take care of everything, or you can house-hunt yourself. If you are looking yourself, you will find available properties on internet portals such as www.immobilienscout24.de, www.immowelt.de or http://www.immo-suche.net/ and in the local press. Daily papers include the Südwest Presse in Ulm, the Südwest Presse and the Schwäbische Zeitung in Ehingen, and the Schwäbische Zeitung in Laupheim, Biberach, Riedlingen and Laichingen.

A further option for finding apartments is offered by cooperative associations, although you do have to register with them:

  • ulmer heimstätte eG: Söflinger Straße 72, Ulm, Tel.: 0731 / 93553-30, kundencenter@heimstaette.de
  • Wohnungsgesellschaft der Stadt Neu-Ulm GmbH: Schützenstr. 32, Neu-Ulm, Tel.: 0731 / 9841-0, Info@nuwog.de
  • BSG Aufbau: Syrlinstraße 6, Ulm, Tel.: 0731 / 96847-0, info@aufbau-ulm.de
  • Heimstättengenossenschaft Blaubeuren eG: Uhlandstraße 3, Blaubeuren, Tel.:07344 / 919130, eMail-Box@HGB-Blaubeuren.de
  • Genossenschaft für Wohnungsbau Oberland eG: Marktplatz 18, Laupheim, Tel.:07392 / 7097-0, info@gwo.de
  • Baugenossenschaft Biberach eG: Bismarckring 62, Biberach, Tel.: 07351 / 3493-0, Info@baugenbc.de

Young people in particular often make use of flat shares (a Wohngemeinschaft, WG). Available flat shares can be found, for example, on www.wg-gesucht.de and www.studenten-wg.de.

If you are only looking temporarily for a furnished apartment in the IHK region Ulm, you will also find available apartments for example on www.wohnung-in-ulm.de or on www.airbnb.com.

A further option is to post a house-hunting notice in your company, for example on the so-called “Schwarzes Brett” (bulletin board).

Bank account

In Germany you need a current account, for example to transfer your rent or receive your salary payments. You are free to choose between the banks and savings banks with their various offers. Bank customers receive a card with which they can make cashless payments in many shops. Credit cards are accepted frequently, but not everywhere. When you open your account you only have to present your passport and residence permit.

At many banks you can manage your account online, and there are also a number of banks which are purely Internet-based.

If you need cash, you can withdraw it with your bank card (and also with foreign bank cards or with credit cards) from the many cash machines, which are located on or outside bank branches or in shopping centres, for example. The costs of withdrawing cash vary, so it is worth comparing them.

The tax system in Germany

Income tax: When you work in Germany you have to pay tax on your income.

As an employee you will receive your salary paid net; the income tax has already been sent to the tax office. Health insurance, unemployment insurance, long-term care insurance and pension insurance contributions have already been deducted from your salary.

The employer deducts employees’ tax directly from their income and transfers it to the tax office.

Tax return: If you have more than one employer or an ancillary income, you must submit a tax return to the tax office by 31 May of the following year. If you have high professional expenses (costs of exercising your profession) you might be able to receive a refund by submitting a voluntary tax return.

Bringing your family with you

A professional’s spouse and underage children (i.e. the “core family”) can apply for a visa for the purpose of following the professional to Germany. Their applications can be submitted at the same time as the professional applies for his or her visa. To obtain a positive decision on the applications, it is important that the living costs and sufficient living space for the entire family are assured without support from the German state. The spouse is generally expected to acquire a knowledge of German before entering Germany, so should already be able to submit a certificate of the lowest language level (A1) when applying for the visa. There are exceptions to this requirement, for example if the professional meets the requirements for the EU Blue Card. The core family’s applications can also be submitted at a later date. In this case, too, evidence of the professional’s employment in Germany, means of earning a living, accommodation and knowledge of the language must be submitted. If children of the professional who are already over 16 only move to be with their parents later, they themselves must have already mastered German.

Subsequent entry by family members

EU/EEA citizens

Family members who themselves are EU citizens or citizens of Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein can establish their right of residence and right of access to the labour market by means of their passport and registration card.

Family members of citizens of the EU/EEA states who themselves are neither EU nor EEA citizens need a visa to enter Germany. After entry they must apply to the immigration authorities for a residence card.

Third country regulation

In Germany, the subsequent entry of spouses is linked to certain requirements. The citizen of the third country who is living in Germany must

  • be in possession of a residence permit,
  • make sufficient living space available,
  • generally be able to earn their joint living expenses including health insurance protection.

Both spouses must also be aged 18 or over, and the spouse who is subsequently entering Germany must generally demonstrate a basic knowledge of German (level A1 language certificate). There must also be no reasons for deportation. These rules also apply to same-sex partnerships.

Subsequent entry by children

Under age, unmarried children of foreign citizens strictly have the right to follow their parents to Germany. Children aged under 16 are given priority, and in this case only proof of legal guardianship and a residence or settlement permit are required. There must be sufficient living space available and the living expenses including health insurance protection must generally be assured.

Subsequent entry by other family members

Family members who are not part of the “core family”, such as adult children and grandparents, can only apply for subsequent entry if there would otherwise be “exceptional hardship”. This would be the case, for example, if the family member living in Germany needs assistance related to illness or their age and it can be demonstrated that no assistance can take place locally.

More information: https://www.bamf.de/EN/Themen/MigrationAufenthalt/ZuwandererDrittstaaten/Familie/NachzugZuDrittstaatlern/nachzug-zu-drittstaatlern-node.html

Childcare

Our region offers you a wide variety of childcare options. Information can be found on the Ulm Innovation Region website, among other places.

Children are happy when they can play with other children of the same age – and in this way they learn the language of their new home very fast. Depending on their age, there are the following childcare options, for example:

  • Day nurseries (municipal, denominational or private)
  • Childminders, who usually look after several children
  • Private playgroups for babies and toddlers
  • Nursery schools (municipal, denominational or private) which offer different forms of childcare
  • Day-care facilities with mixed age groups
  • Full-service schools
  • After-school clubs

The employees at the town halls know which facilities are available in the individual municipalities. The city of Ulm has set up a special family office (Ulmergasse 15, tel. 0731 / 161-5081, familienbuero@ulm.de). You can also search for free childcare places directly on the city’s website.

Education system in Germany

The education system in Germany is very varied as it comes under the responsibility of the respective federal state. Therefore, you cannot talk of Germany having just the one education system. However, it is fundamentally important to know that education is available, and should be available, for everyone. No one should be excluded, and no one should be discriminated against on the basis of their education or access to education. Differences consist in, for example, the length of time children are required to attend primary school (four or six years), or the fact that the types of school differ in how they are implemented or what they are called: Hauptschule (secondary school to Year 9 or 10) has been abolished in several federal states, in others it has been renamed Mittelschule.

Compulsory schooling for children starts at the age of 6 and ends when they reach the age of majority, which is 18 in Germany. If a child is not yet ready for school, their compulsory schooling can be deferred for a further year. This is determined by the school medical service examining the child before they are enrolled for primary school. Compulsory schooling consists of two parts. The first is compulsory full-time schooling, for which 9 years at school are prescribed (as in Baden-Württemberg), or 10 years in some federal states. The second part is compulsory vocational schooling or part-time compulsory schooling. This can be, for example, secondary school in Years 11 to 12 or 13, vocational school, an apprenticeship, technical college or the vocational preparation year.

In Germany the education system is divided into the following categories:

  • Elementary level (age 0–6)
  • Primary level (Years 1–4 or 1–6, depending on the federal state)
  • Secondary level I: Hauptschule, Mittelschule, Realschule Gymnasium up to Year 10, Gesamtschule
  • Secondary level II: Berufsschule (vocational school), Berufsausbildung (apprenticeship), the upper level of the Gymnasium from Year 11, Fachhochschule (technical college), Berufsvorbereitungsjahr (vocational preparation year)
  • Special needs schools (primary level, secondary level I and secondary level II)
  • Tertiary level (academic degrees, further education, vocational academies, Master’s degrees)

The graph below provides an overview of the corresponding levels with the respective degrees and further routes. Interactive overview graphic of your options: https://www.bpb.de/fsd/bildungsgrafik2/?1

The school system in Baden-Württemberg/the region

In Germany, each federal state is responsible for the education and school system. Below we provide an overview of the most important types of school offered by the Ulm/Oberschwaben region (Baden-Württemberg):

Grundschule (primary school): In Baden-Württemberg, all children generally attend primary school for 4 years, in other words from Years 1 to 4. In Year 4, the primary school issues a recommendation based on the child’s personality and learning development. This is intended to help the parents make the right decision on which secondary school represents the best possible further development for the child. However, the decision on which secondary school the child attends remains completely with the parents. After primary school, the child has the following options:

  • Werkrealschule (secondary school to Year 9 or 10)
  • Realschule (secondary school to Year 10)
  • Gemeinschaftsschule (school from Years 1 to 10)
  • Gymnasium (secondary school to Years 11 and 12)

Sonderpädagogisches Bildungs- und Beratungszentrum (special needs educational and advice centre) (SBBZ): If your child has a disability or a chronic illness, they might not be able to cope alone in the regular school system, such as at the Grundschule. This is where the SBBZ comes in, with numerous forms of support to help your child develop to the best of their ability according to their level of learning and learning abilities. There is also the possibility for them to take part in lessons in mainstream schooling (“integration” schemes). The decision here depends on the child’s requirements, the results of various diagnostic methods and the parents’ wishes.

Werkreal-/Realschule: The school leaving certificate from the Werkrealschule is equivalent to that from the Realschule, i.e. it marks the completion of Year 10. It can be followed by completing an apprenticeship, or by switching to a Gymnasium or vocational school. Your children can also leave the Werkrealschule with a leaving certificate equivalent to that from Hauptschule. This takes place at the end of Year 9, or if more time is required for learning, at the end of Year 10. With a Hauptschule leaving certificate, students can also take a dual training course or switch to a vocational school. Realschule must be attended for six years and finishes with the Realschulabschluss (certificate marking the completion of Year 10). Following this, your children can go to a Berufskolleg (vocational college), Fachhochschule (technical college), Gymnasium (secondary school to Years 12/13) or start an apprenticeship.

Gemeinschaftsschule: The Gemeinschaftsschule offers a wide range of school leaving certificates. The intention is to offer a more individual learning route, and thus to admit not only particularly high-performing pupils but also those who perform less well, including children with disabilities or learning difficulties. This is also intended to promote equal opportunities throughout the system. The children and adolescents can take the Hauptschulabschluss leaving certificate marking the completion of Years 9 or 10, the Realschulabschluss leaving certificate marking the completion of Year 10, or, if they are given the opportunity, they can also obtain their Abitur, the certificate marking the completion of Years 12 or 13.

Gymnasium: The Gymnasium leads directly from the Grundschule to the Abitur. The young people can then study at university or take an apprenticeship. The Abitur is the highest possible school leaving certificate in Germany. The Gymnasium may be either the G8 or the G9 variant; in other words, children may take their school leaving certificate either 8 or 9 years after the Grundschule.

Enrolment of newly immigrated schoolchildren and adolescents

Maybe your children are already of school age when you enter Germany? You are bound to be wondering what form their school enrolment will take. The decision on this is taken by the school management in consultation with the competent education authority. Newly immigrated children who are not yet capable of participating in continuous education due to their lack of language skills are generally offered trial lessons. The aim is to integrate them into mainstream school instruction as rapidly as possible.

Other options

If your child leaves school without a school leaving certificate, compulsory schooling still applies to them. Accordingly, there are different options that can be considered:

  • Prequalification year for work and professions (VAB)
  • Vocational preparation year (BVJ)
  • Subsequently, they can complete the Berufseinstiegsjahr (occupational entry year), take up an apprenticeship, attend a Berufsfachschule (vocational school), or with the corresponding documentary evidence they can also attend a vocational Gymnasium

You will find an interactive overview here: https://www.bildungsnavi-bw.de/schulsystem

Degree courses – apprenticeships – further education

Degree courses

As well as the dual education system, Germany is also renowned for its recognised degree courses. Furthermore, in Germany, and especially in the Ulm/Oberschwaben region, there are internationally oriented courses of study with lectures held in English. Despite the courses being held in English, it is very important to learn German because then you can make contacts faster and participate fully in everyday events. In addition, you may well still require a certain level of German, depending on the requirements of the university and the course concerned. If you apply for a German-language course of study, you will have to demonstrate a corresponding knowledge of German, while on English-language courses this is usually not necessary. A good knowledge of German (around B2 is recommended) also substantially increases your opportunities on the labour market in the region. In Baden-Württemberg, a semester fee is charged (approximately €100–300), and potential students who do not come from an EU member state also have to pay tuition fees of €1500. Students must reckon on living expenses of around €900–1000 per month. You must have an assured means of subsistence, although some of this can be earned on the spot via part-time work.

A degree course in Germany can already give you a good start to your career in Germany, since the companies here will clearly know which subjects you have been taught and to what level. You can also make contacts during your course to smooth your career path, for example by completing an internship or getting a student job at a company in the region. Ideally, you will then be able to start work directly for a renowned company or complete a traineeship there. In addition, your personality will stand out thanks to the courage, thirst for knowledge and flexibility you have displayed by coming to Germany to study.

In then Ulm/Oberschwaben region, there are a number of private and public universities and other higher education establishments:

  • Ulm University
  • Ulm University of Applied Sciences
  • Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences (Bavaria)
  • Biberach University of Applied Science
  • SRH Riedlingen (private distance learning university)

After you take a degree course in Germany, not only does a varied and reliable choice of employment await you, but there is also the possibility of becoming self-employed and starting up a new business.

You can find tips, tricks and expert contacts here: https://www.ulm.ihk24.de/existenzgruendung

Here you will find the range of international courses available in your desired subject: https://www2.daad.de/deutschland/studienangebote/international-programmes/en/

Further information on studying in Germany: https://www.deutschland.de/en/studying-in-germany

Further information on studying in Baden-Württemberg: https://www.studieren-in-bw.de/

Apprenticeships

The apprenticeship system in Germany is of particular importance. The unique system (dual training) is a model of very high quality, dovetailing taught theoretical content with direct, practical implementation in companies.
When you start an apprenticeship in Germany, you earn a training salary from the very first day. By doing your training in a business, you usually have a high chance of being taken on there, so you will have made long-term provision for your future and your work prospects. On average, an apprenticeship lasts around 2–3 years. The entry requirements are a visa, a recognised relevant school leaving certificate and German language skills (B2). Non-EU citizens are also subject to the priority test. After an apprenticeship, you again have further options: you can work in a company, take further training in particular areas, train to be a master craftsman, or go to university. So an apprenticeship opens up a large number of options and routes to you.

You can find further information and contacts here:

https://www.ulm.ihk24.de/aus-und-weiterbildung/fluechtlinge-in-ausbilung-und-beschaeftigung/fuer-fluechtlinge-und-ehrenamtliche/ansprechpartner-fuer-fluechtlinge-3381476

or also

http://www.400chancen.de/#internationale

https://mach-doch-was-du-willst.de/

Further education

In Germany and the Ulm IHK region, you have the possibility of attending further education courses. The IHK offerings and details of the people to contact can be found here.

You can also find relevant information on KURSNET, the Federal Employment Agency portal for vocational training and further education.

Recognition of foreign qualifications

Around the world, there are different professional qualifications and different names for similar qualifications. It may well be that a company is not familiar with your certificate, and is therefore unable to assess your qualifications adequately. For this reason, in Germany it is possible to have your professional qualifications recognised. Recognition is compulsory for exercising some professions in Germany, for example for doctors, legal practitioners or nurses for the elderly (regulated professions). However, most professions are not regulated professions, so recognition is not necessary, although it is still helpful as a company is then able to assess your abilities more easily.

In Ulm, the following organisations can help you get your qualifications recognised:

  • The IHK (Olgastraße 95-101, Tel. 0731 / 173-193, balkheimer@ulm.ihk.de) for all the professions covered by the IHK
  • The IN VIA advisory service for the recognition of foreign certificates and qualifications (Wengengasse 15, Tel. 0731 / 388 522 13, anerkennung@invia-drs.de)
  • The Chamber of Crafts (Olgastraße 73, Tel.: 0731 1425 / 6220, st.vogel@hwk-ulm.de)

Further helpful information can be found via the following links:

www.bq-portal.de

www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de

www.anabin.kmk.org

www.ihk-fosa.de

Useful tips

For insider ideas about places of interest, food and drink or hotels, you can take a look here:
https://www.22places.de/ulm-tipps/

International Club

The International Club regularly offers events where you can meet other international professionals and exchange ideas. In this way, we offer you a platform for finding your feet more easily and at the same time getting to know other people. It is also an opportunity to learn a bit of German, discover the region or its specialities, and bring some variety into your daily life. In the past, we have cooked Swabian food together, gone on city tours, baked cookies and visited places of interest. We would be delighted to include you on our distribution list so you can find about and sign up for upcoming events.