Getting a Work Permit to Teach English in Germany

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As I detailed in my last article Hopes of the Past, Dreams of the Future, my return to Germany was followed by a month of fairly intense job searching. My elation at getting my position with Eifert, however, was quickly tempered when I realized that merely finding a job was the easy part.  The hardest task- navigating the wondrous, magical world of bureaucracy- had only just begun.

To be able to legally teach English in Germany (and get paid for it), there are several very specific steps that need to be followed (I recommend taking a deep breath before continuing). 

1)  First and foremost, you need a guaranteed contract from a company. 

2)  Once you have a definite address, you need to apply to the nearest Rathaus (local government office) to confirm your residence within the country, and that you have a specific mailing address. 

Teaching English Abroad3)  After being registered as a resident, you can open a bank account.  I prefer the Sparkasse banks myself, but Germany offers a lot of choices when it comes to banks (Deutsche Bank and Commerzbank are a few other options).  

4)  Next comes health insurance- all residents of Germany, be they native citizens, immigrant workers, exchange students, etc. are required to have German health insurance. 

5)  Once you have all that in place, you can present your documentation to a representative at the Ausländerbehörde (foreign office), pay a rather high fee (mine was 110 Euros), and then you get the necessary work permit, which allows you to finally start your job. 

6)  Oh, and then you file for a tax number (which was actually the easiest part). 

Teaching English AbroadDespite the massive amount of steps involved, the process is not terribly complicated, as long as you do everything in the right order.  The biggest problem I ran into during my application process was that nearly everyone I spoke to at the Amt (office) seemed to completely misunderstand what I was applying for (which caused the process to drag on a few weeks longer than necessary).  I was contracted with Eifert as an independent English teacher, meaning that the specific permit I needed was not a full work visa, but rather an Aufenthaltsgenehmigung or residence permit (and that’s not even the full name).  However, the first person I spoke with at the Amt interpreted this to mean, “I am opening my own company.”  He then presented me with a list of 7 items I needed to include in a full, official business plan, including the effects my company would have on both the local economy and the German economy as a whole, required start-up time, and what sort of funds were set aside for research and innovation.

 Confused by this, I went to a second woman at the office, who thankfully knew what she was doing, and was able to provide me with the correct information necessary for the permit.  However, this misunderstanding struck again when I applied for a tax number- the first person I spoke to thought I was opening up a shop, and sent me a 7-page form that ended up being so much wasted tree.  Thankfully, this misunderstanding was also smoothed over rather quickly. 

Teaching English AbroadIf this lengthy explanation of the ins and outs of German  bureaucracy is discouraging, it shouldn’t be.  Bureaucracy is bureaucracy no matter where you go (my own alma mater in the States has honed being infuriatingly uninformative into a brutally lethal art form), and besides, it’s all part of the journey.  The key is persistence.  When applying for permits, some form of misunderstanding that delays the process is practically inevitable.  When it does happen, just keep going back and talking to different people until someone is able to help you.  There is always a solution to stuff like this.

Read more from Noah in his other articles:

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