Jobs in Germany for Americans: Your ultimate guide

TransferWise
04.30.19
7 minute read

Are you thinking about moving to Germany and need to find a job? As the most populous country and largest economy in Europe, Germany offers plenty of opportunity for travelers seeking to work in another country.

Germany is a decentralized country, meaning there’s a lot going on beyond the capital and largest city of Berlin. The cities of Frankfurt, Munich, Cologne, and Hamburg — spread throughout the large country — are strong economic engines in their own right.

The thought of moving to another country with a happening economy and a vibrant culture, but it can pose certain challenges. Only 5% of jobs advertised in Germany are available to English speakers.¹ That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to fulfill your dream of working and living abroad, it just means you need to know how to look for the right role. This article serves as a guide to workers who are curious about moving to Germany for an extended period and want to find a local gig.

Need to manage money in multiple currencies or countries? TransferWise could help

Before you get started, a word.

Banks often charge hefty fees for foreign and multi-currency accounts. And if you’ve already tried managing multiple accounts in multiple countries, you know it’s rarely simple.

TransferWise could help. With TransferWise, it’s free to open a borderless multi-currency account with no monthly fees. There, you can manage and send dozens of different currencies all from the same account. All around the world. (Likely, for a lot cheaper than your bank.)

Give it a try. Check out TransferWise today.

Now, back to what you came here to read.

How to Find a Job In Germany

To obtain a work permit that allows you to live and work in Germany for longer than three months, you often need to have specialized skills and be sponsored by a German host company. That can be a high bar to clear for some restless job seekers. But if you don’t have that, don’t lose hope. There are still ways to find employment in Germany as a native English speaker.

One of the best ways to find a job in Germany as an expat is to patrol job boards specifically for you. There are a number of job boards that post jobs in Germany and are meant for those moving from abroad. Online job boards let you scout out opportunities from your home country well in advance of moving, so you can have a solid plan in place.

A common requirement for expat jobs is that they do not require fluency in German and can be done while speaking English. Not everyone moving to Germany will be able to converse in German on their first day on the job.

Job Portals

  • Expatica: Some job boards are built with expats in mind. Any hopeful travelers should check Expatica. It’s a general information website for the expat community, but also has a great job board for English-speaking job speakers hoping to land a gig in Europe. You can select which country you’re interested in, and then look at a job board within that country. The job board has a search bar where you can enter keywords for specific jobs, but it also has the option to browse jobs by category or location. It even has a section of featured jobs.

Other job portals like Expatica include the following.

Sectors Where English Speakers Are Often Needed

It can be challenging to find a job strictly for English speakers in Germany, since many Germans are also fluent in English. One way to go about it is look for job in sectors with a high-demand for English speakers, like those listed below.

  • Teaching/Tutoring
  • Childcare
  • Customer Service
  • Hospitality

About German “Mini-jobs”

Another way of making some cash while in Germany and not fluent in German is to pick up “mini-jobs.” Germany doesn’t have a minimum wage, but these little assignments can keep the cash in your bank account while you live abroad.

Germany allows employers to hire on short-term workers to do a limited job, and pay no more than €450 Euros for it. The duration of the job can vary. Maybe an employee works two long days, or maybe they work a short time each day over a period of a week or so. But at the end of the gig, they get €450 Euros tax free, and the employer pays lower taxes than for full-time employees and no insurance. Once a person finished one mini-job, they can just pick up another one.

Typical mini-jobs are in the service industry, like waiting tables, washing dishes, or cleaning. But they also often function like “temp” jobs and allow people to do office work.² You can do these jobs without a work permit, but on the other hand, you can’t get a work permit by having these jobs alone.

Applying for a Work Visa

The best option for your circumstance is likely the German job-seeker visa. If you lack sponsorship for a traditional work visa, you can apply for this visa, which allows you to stay in a country for up to six months while looking for a job.³

Eligibility requirements

Eligible applicants meet the following requirements:⁴

  • They have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree
  • They have a minimum of five years experience in a specific field of study.
  • They can prove they have enough in savings to support their stay in Germany for a time.
  • They have travel or medical insurance to cover them until they get a work permit

Required Documents

To apply for a job-seeker visa, first assemble the following documents.

  • A valid passport that will remain valid for the next year.
  • A copy of the passport information page
  • Up to three photos of yourself
  • A cover letter explaining why you’re visiting Germany, the type of job you’re pursuing, and your backup plan if that doesn’t work out.
  • A copy of your diploma
  • Proof of residence while in Germany
  • Your resume or CV
  • Bank statements that demonstrate you have enough in savings to support yourself
  • Proof of citizenship in your home country (birth certificate, marriage certificate)
  • Proof of health insurance

Applying for a Visa

After you have gathered the required documents, you must fill out and submit an application with the German Embassy. Once you have found a job in Germany, you’ll need to change your visa to a standard employment visa.

Moving to Germany for Work - The Most Important Things To Know

  • Pack Light: Germany has strict rules on what goods you can bring into the country. If you don’t meet the right criteria, you many have to pay fines on your goods. Not to mention, many appliances you bring into the country will be incompatible with the power outlets in the country.
  • Make an effort: Even if you aren’t fluent in German, try to pick up a few simple phrases so that you can at least converse with clerks, service workers, and cab drivers. Being able to say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me” in German will go a long way.
  • Furry friends: If you want to bring your dog or cat with you on your German adventure, you’ll need to prepare. All pets must have a rabies shot and a microchip. Also, certain dogs are not allowed, like pitbulls.

Cost of Accommodation and Relocation

Moving can be costly, but one way to keep your relocation costs low is to pack light. Don’t bring too much to your new home country, as the cost of shipping it all can easily reach thousands of dollars or euros. Bring only necessities and a small wardrobe, then buy what home goods and appliances you need in your new country.

The table below outlines the cost of rent for in several key Germany cities. The data is provided by numbeo.com.

City Rent for One-Bedroom Apartment
Berlin €879.96
Munich €1,117.80
Frankfurt €915.62
Hamburg €916.54

Opening a Bank Account

If you move abroad, it’s important to open a bank account in your home country. For specific information on opening a bank account in Germany, see this helpful article from TransferWise.

Another great option for expats is a TransferWise borderless account. The borderless account is an online bank account that gives users bank details that apply to multiple countries, so that you can access your funds in the European Union, the UK, US, and both Australia and New Zealand. It also lets you withdraw cash in over 40 currencies at the fairest rate: the mid-market exchange rate. Features like the Borderless account are why TransferWise can be up to eight times cheaper than a regular bank.

Germany has both a thriving economy and culture, and is in need of workers. While you may face hurdles getting a visa and landing an English-speaking job, there are plenty of opportunities. Hopefully this article has given you the tools you need to find the ideal English-speaking job in a bustling Germany city.


Sources:

  1. https://liveworkgermany.com/english-speaking-jobs-in-germany/
  2. https://entwickler.de/online/webmagazin/minijobs-what-are-they-and-what-do-i-need-to-know-1260.html
  3. https://www.settle-in-berlin.com/germany-visa/germany-job-seeker-visa-requirements/
  4. https://www.germany-visa.org/job-seeker-visa/
  5. https://www.german-way.com/moving-to-germany-top-10-things-to-consider/
  6. https://www.german-way.com/for-expats/taking-dogs-or-cats-to-germany

All sources last checked on 29 April 2019


This publication is provided for general information purposes only and is not intended to cover every aspect of the topics with which it deals. It is not intended to amount to advice on which you should rely. You must obtain professional or specialist advice before taking, or refraining from, any action on the basis of the content in this publication. The information in this publication does not constitute legal, tax or other professional advice from TransferWise Limited or its affiliates. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. We make no representations, warranties or guarantees, whether express or implied, that the content in the publication is accurate, complete or up to date.

TransferWise is the smart, new way to send money abroad.

Find out more