Jobs in Germany for Americans: full guide

Gabriela Peratello
22.03.22
7 minute read

As the most populous country and largest economy in Europe, Germany offers plenty of expat career opportunities. Major local, regional and global employers are present — and hiring — in all of Germany’s big cities. However only around 5% of jobs advertised in Germany are available to English speakers¹. 

That means you need to do some research if you want to find jobs in Germany for English speakers. Use this guide to learn more about jobs in Germany for US citizens, and how to find them.

📑 Table of Contents

Working in Germany as an American: visa options and requirements

A common choice is the German job-seeker visa, which allows you to stay in the country for up to six months while looking for a job².

Eligibility requirements

Eligible applicants meet the following requirements³:

  • They have a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree, or a recognized vocational qualification
  • 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

If you have a vocational qualification you’ll be required to have functional German language skills to allow you to do your job. 

The language requirement may be waived for university qualified professionals, although your chance of finding a job in Germany is significantly higher if you speak some German.

Required Documents

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

  • A valid passport 
  • 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 qualifications
  • 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 or Consulate nearest your home. The exact process will vary from place to place, but you’re likely to need to:

  • Book an appointment to visit the Embassy or Consulate, and apply for your visa
  • Attend in person, present your documents and pay your fee
  • An official will conduct a short interview with you to check your application details
  • Give biometric data for your application
  • You’ll be notified of the outcome once the application has been processed

It’s worth noting that this visa type doesn’t allow you to bring dependents into Germany, nor is it enough to actually start your new job once you find it. 

This visa lets you enter Germany, look for a job, and work for up to 10 hours as a trial in a new position only. Once you have found a job in Germany, you’ll need to change your visa to a standard employment visa.

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Finding a job in Germany

As we noted above, you’ll ultimately need to get a standard employment visa once you have secured a job. Your employer will be able to help you with that — let’s focus now on how best to find work once you arrive in Germany.

Try job hunting on online platforms

Depending on your profession you may be able to find positions being advertised online, through your personal network, or through targeted job hunting. 

Online platforms are the perfect place to start your job search, and you can begin to get a feel for the opportunities before you even head to Germany in person. Some popular sites which offer expat jobs in Germany include:

  • Make it in Germany⁴
  • Federal Employment Agency⁵
  • Berufenet⁶

Learn about the German mini-job

You may come across “mini-jobs” while you’re job hunting in Germany. It’s worth noting that you won’t be able to get a work permit with a mini-job — and you’ll need to see if your visa will allow you to legally carry out a mini-job before you accept one. 

In a mini-job, employers hire 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. 

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 work⁷. 

Look for English speaking jobs in Germany

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 to look for a job in sectors with a high-demand for English speakers, like those listed below.

  • Teaching/Tutoring
  • Childcare
  • Customer Service
  • Hospitality

What about English speaking jobs in Berlin?

If you already know you’ll be in Berlin you can search for specific jobs by location on websites like englishjobs.de⁸. You can also get involved in the local expat community — even before you travel there — through social media. 

By building a local network you’ll be well placed to hear about positions before you’re even publicly advertised.

Search for American companies hiring overseas

One option you shouldn’t overlook is working for a US based company which is either hiring in Germany, or which may relocate staff to its base there. 

Some US giants like Amazon⁹, and popular tech firms like KAYAK¹⁰ have a big presence in Germany, as well as many startups and mid-size companies. 

Start out by researching US companies in your professional field which have offices, headquarters or operations in Germany and see what you turn up.  

Seek opportunities in large German companies

Germany has a large, developed economy, with many German companies household names all over the world. Check out automotive companies like Volkswagen and BMW, financial companies like Allianz SE or multinational engineering giant Bosch for example. 

Start finding positions with companies like these by browsing their websites which will have a careers section. You can often upload your CV even if the perfect job isn’t yet available. Local headhunters and recruitment agents in Germany will also work actively with large German employers like these — so tapping into their knowledge is another smart move.

Things to know before working in Germany as an American

Getting excited for your new life working in Germany? Here are a few more things to know about before you travel.

Be ready for a change of pace

The lifestyle in Germany is likely to be a bit different to what you’re used to in the US. But that’s the whole point of moving abroad, isn’t it?

The really good news here is that compared to day to day life in many busy US cities, Germany’s culture is far more laid back, with a slower average pace of life and a better balance between work and leisure.

Working hours

Germany’s culture puts a focus on work life balance which means that working hours are likely to be shorter compared to the US. While this does naturally vary depending on the industry you’re in, the general expectation is that you’ll have time to rest and relax rather than having to work overtime on a day to day basis.

Job culture

German working culture is reputed to be guided by a principle of fairness. That means more equality and openness in matters of pay, and strictly set out processes for discipline and resolving issues. It also means that people generally work for the hours they’re contracted for — and not more. 

Holidays and leaves

While vacation allowances do vary between jobs, you might find you get around 30 days of annual vacation leave, on top of 9 days of public holidays. 

Sick leave is also generally more generous than in the US. Doctors are willing to give you a medical certificate covering enough time to truly recover from an illness, and more serious problems can be covered for an extended period — up to a year in some positions.

Budget before you travel

Moving to a new country is a big deal, and will require some careful planning. One important step is to build your budget. How much your relocation costs you can vary widely, but be sure to factor in key costs like:

  • Visa and legal costs
  • Travel and shipping
  • Temporary accommodation when you first arrive
  • Down payment for longer term accommodation (3 months rent is common)
  • Renovation or additions to rental accommodation (properties may require tenants to buy white goods or even fit a new kitchen)
  • Living expenses until you start getting paid in Germany

Relocation and accommodation

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.

When it comes to rent, the price you pay can vary depending on where you choose to live. It’s important to know though that not all rental properties will be move-in ready. You may need to buy and add fixtures and fittings, at your own expense. 

Here’s a look at the rental costs in a few major German cities:

Berlin¹¹Frankfurt¹¹Dresden¹²
1 bedroom apartment in the city center1,162.96 USD1157.03 USD563.17 USD
1 bedroom apartment outside city center836.06 USD910.44 USD492.72 USD
3 bedroom apartment in city center2,278.88 USD2,073.79 USD1,274.85 USD
3 bedroom apartment outside city center1,552.50 USD1,608.58 USD971.31 USD

Moving your stuff and pets to Germany

Pack Light: Germany has strict rules on what goods you can bring into the country. If you don’t meet the right criteria, you may 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 country¹³.

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 pitbulls¹⁴.

Pick up some basic words in German

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. Here are a few key words to remember:

EnglishGerman
HelloHallo
GoodbyeAuf Wiedersehen/Tschüs
PleaseBitte
Thank youDanke
Do you speak English?Sprechen Sie Englisch?
I don’t understandIch verstehe nicht
SorryEs tut mir leid

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 German city.


Sources:

  1. Live Work Germany - English speaking jobs
  2. Germany Visa - Job seeker visa
  3. Settle in Berlin - Job seeker visa requirements
  4. Make it in Germany - Job listings 
  5. Arbeitsagentur - Jobs
  6. Berufenet - Jobs
  7. Handbook Germany - Minijob
  8. English Jobs - Berlin
  9. Amazon - Jobs in Berlin
  10. Kayak - Jobs in Berlin
  11. Numbeo - Cost of living comparison: Frankfurt and Berlin
  12. Numbeo - Cost of living in Dresden
  13. German Way - 10 things to consider
  14. German Way - Taking dogs or cats to Germany

Sources checked on 03.17.2022


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.

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