Being the geographic centre of Europe and the bloc’s most powerful economy, it comes as no surprise that plenty of American citizens choose to cross the Atlantic to come to Germany. But for those who are considering it, but have yet to make the great leap, there’s bound to be plenty of questions: How do Americans find jobs in Germany? Do they need a visa? And what’s working in Germany actually like?
In this guide, we run through some of the key issues facing American nationals considering embarking on a new adventure in Germany.
Do Americans need a visa for Germany?
First things first, you need to sort out your rights to live and work in Germany. The good news is that, as an American citizen, you have the right to enter Germany without a visa and then apply for a residence permit once you have arrived.
Temporary residence permits are granted for all kinds of different reasons in Germany, with some of the most common being studying, searching for work, or joining a spouse, partner or family member.
As soon as you have arrived in Germany, you can start the residence permit application procedure, if you wish. However, if you are looking for work, the likelihood of your application being accepted is significantly higher if you already have a job offer. You may also wish to consult with alawyer.
How to find work as an American in Germany
The good news is that finding a job as an American in Germany, even if you don’t speak German, is possible. In fact, it’s more than possible. Being a native English speaker is an asset that many companies are looking for.
At the same time, however, remember that many other people had exactly the same bright idea as you, so there tends to be pretty stiff competition for English-speaking jobs. Determination and perseverance pay off, but there are also some smart, quick fixes that can give you a fighting chance of success:
1. English speaking jobs in Germany
The first step is to target your search: on your average job-search site, less than five percent of the jobs advertised in Germany are in English. IamExpat Jobs, on the other hand, is designed explicitly with expats in mind and only features employers who are on the hunt for English-speaking internationals.
By honing in on recruiters who are looking for expats, you can dramatically speed up your job search and boost your chances of landing a position significantly.
2. International jobs for Americans
Another good option if you’re looking for a job in Germany is to consult with an expert. Multiple recruitment agencies in Germany specialise in matching international talent with German companies.
Rather than filling out hundreds of job applications, only to hear nothing back, working with an expat-focussed recruitment agency takes the stress out of your job search. By targeting your applications to international companies on the hunt for profiles just like yours, they can maximise your chances of success.
3. Tailor your resume to a German audience
One of the most common reasons that Americans and other internationals are overlooked in the German job market is because they have an incorrectly-formatted resume. German CVs follow a very set format, and if yours doesn’t look right, it’s quite likely that it will end up in the trash.
Attaching a picture is standard, but Germans don’t look kindly upon the embellishment, business jargon and buzzwords that tend to fill American resumes. Take a look at our CV guide to get to grips with exactly what German recruiters are looking for. Just a few quick changes to your resume can make a whole world of difference.
4. Freelance in Germany
If you’ve got the right skill set, why rely on finding a job when you can just as easily become your own boss? Setting yourself up as a freelancer in Germany is relatively easy and can be a flexible and rewarding career option for entrepreneurially-minded internationals in Germany.
As an American expat, freelancing also offers a relatively easy way to score a residence permit for the purposes of self-employment. All you need to prove is that you have the right skills, a modest amount of start-up cash to keep you afloat, and a few clients already on board. Take a look at our guide to Going freelance in Germany to see what’s involved.
Largest German companies
Although the backbone of the German economy is made up by the Mittelstand, an economic powerhouse of small- and medium-sized enterprises, the federal republic is also home to no shortage of business heavyweights.
In 2018, 32 German firms made it to the Fortune Global 500, a Forbes magazine ranking of the top 500 corporations worldwide by revenue. Perhaps unsurprisingly, three of them are car manufacturers:
- Volkswagen Group (headquarters in Wolfsburg, Lower Saxony)
- Daimler AG (headquarters in Stuttgart)
- BMW (headquarters in Munich)
Financial services company Allianz, which focuses on insurance and asset management, also ranked within the top 500, along with industrial manufacturing company Siemens, Deutsche Telekom, Uniper, BASF, Deutsche Post and Munich Re Group.
Other notable global companies which are headquartered in Germany include sportswear brand Adidas, pharmaceuticals company Bayer, shoe manufacturer Birkenstock, energy company E.ON, and popular candy manufacturer Haribo.
Working for German companies as an American
So you’ve worked out your visa and residence permit situation. Maybe you’ve even received a job offer. Good for you! But now comes the unexpectedly tricky part - adapting yourself as an American to German working life. The Germans might not be a million miles away when it comes to working culture, rights and etiquette, but there are a few major differences.
German working hours
Americans tend to work long hours - around 47 hours per week, according to a Gallup report in 2014 - and are some of the worst culprits for checking emails and doing other work-related matters outside of regular office hours. That puts American working hours among some of the highest in the world.
In contrast, the average working week in Germany is between 36 and 40 hours, with a full 30 minutes’ lunch break (less eating at your desk here). You are not permitted to work more than 48 hours per week, and new EU legislation on working hours will soon start to enforce this. Work tends to finish at five or six on the dot and sending or answering emails after work is more likely to be frowned upon than praised. Germans generally maintain more of a strict work / private life divide.
Holiday leave in Germany
Compared with other countries worldwide, Americans have come off with a raw deal when it comes to holiday leave: while most companies standardly offer two weeks of paid vacation, many employees take even less than that. According to the career website Glassdoor, the average American employee only takes 54 percent of their leave entitlement each year.
It may come as a surprise to Americans, therefore, that workers in Germany are legally entitled to a minimum of 20 days’ paid holiday leave per year, with 27 to 30 days plus public holidaysbeing common. And it’s normal to actually take it! Having two weeks off during the summer where you don’t even check your mobile phone is not only allowed but practically encouraged!
Maternity & Paternity leave
Parental leave in America also leaves much to be desired: only unpaid leave is guaranteed at federal level and paid leave is left up to individual employers to decide. No surprise then, that parents in America take less time off after having a child than they do in Germany.
If you’re thinking of starting a family in Germany, you’ll be pleased to hear that the federal republic has one of the most generous allowances in the world. While new mothers are legally entitled to fourteen weeks’ maternity leave and maternity benefit, both parents are also given up to 24 months of parental leave and parental allowance to share between them as they see fit.
Employment contracts in Germany
Inevitably, there must be some sort of trade-off to receive all of those benefits. The most significant thing to note is that notice periods on German employment contracts tend to be much longer than in America. Depending on how long you’ve been working for a company, you can count on having to give at least one months’ notice if you wish to change jobs.
On the other hand, this notice period applies to both workers and employers and so provides you with extra protection in the case of dismissal.
German working culture
German working culture may also come as a surprise to newly-arrived American expats. Unlike Americans, Germans don’t tend to sugar-coat things and can come across as disarmingly blunt in their willingness to directly point out problems and mistakes. They don’t tend to respond well to smooth-talking, glossing-over or high-pressure selling tactics.
Working relationships also tend to be fairly formal, with Germans usually sticking to the polite “Sie” form in conversations at work and being less likely to divulge personal details. Small talk is not generally considered a big thing, so don’t ask someone “How are you?” unless you are prepared for a brutally honest answer!
On the plus side, taking time off when you are sick is not frowned upon in Germany. The general thinking is, it’s better for you to stay at home for a day or two rather than make the whole office sick with you! And an even bigger plus is that, although Germans tend to be reserved to start with, the emphasis they place on personal connections and business relationships means that they are extremely loyal. Once you have broken through, you will have a friend for life!
Taxation for Americans living abroad
So, you’ve found a job, you’re adapting to the German working culture, and you’re even paying your German taxes and social security. But what about your tax affairs back at home in the United States? Well, the bad news is that, while you are living in Germany, even if you haven’t stepped foot in America in a long, long time, you must continue to report your worldwide income to the IRS every year.
Yes, filing your US taxes on top of your annual German tax return is a real headache, but with fines of up to 10.000 USD payable, if you fail to submit, you don’t really have a choice. However, consulting with a tax advisor can really take the stress out of the situation. And you might even be entitled to a hefty refund!
Jobs for Americans in Europe
One final observation: if you’re considering making the big leap over to Europe, you don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to Germany. Granted, the visa waiver does make it a lot simpler for Americans to come over and find a job in Germany: not only can you easily attend interviews, but prospective employers then have fewer concerns about the impact of you relocating for the job.
However, that being said, Europe is a big continent, and there’s a whole lot of variety out there, just like in the USA. Depending on whether you want a bustling city or the tranquillity of the countryside, you have plenty of options as to where to set up your new home.
If you’re concerned about the language barrier limiting your employment prospects or just putting a damper on your social life, the UK and Ireland might be good choices. However, English language ability is generally high across Europe, and our ever-globalising world means that there are more and more international companies operating in English. For example, there is a perhaps surprising amount of English-speaking jobs in the Netherlands and Dutch and international recruitment agencies.
Wherever you’re considering moving, it’s important to remember that as an American citizen, you do not have the same working rights as Europeans. Some countries, like Germany, may allow you to enter without a visa, while others will require you to apply for permission to stay before you even set off. Make sure you are clued up on your rights before you plan anything else.
Ready to start your European adventure?
Making a new start in Europe is an exciting prospect - and for Americans, not too daunting, either. Just a little bit of planning and perseverance at the start will ensure that your big German adventure is a grand success. Good luck!
Germany attracts many foreigners who aim to work there; Americans aren't an exception. It's not surprising since the German economy is the fourth biggest in the world, and many companies operate globally. As an American and, hence, a native English speaker, your chances of getting a job in Germany are high.How Can Expats get jobs in Germany? ›
- Check your chances. The Quick Check on the Make it in Germany website should indicate your chances of working in Germany. ...
- Get your qualifications recognised. ...
- Look for a job. ...
- Write an application. ...
- Apply for a visa. ...
- Obtain health insurance.
Visa Needed? All persons who wish to seek gainful employment in Germany are required to obtain a residence permit in the form of a visa. Where needed, a work permit will be included in the visa issued for this purpose.Is Germany good for American expats? ›
While the weather in Germany isn't ideal for someone who loves the sun, Germany offers many benefits that make the country appealing for expats considering living there later in life. This includes a lower cost of living compared to many American cities, phenomenal healthcare, and an excellent infrastructure.What is a good salary in Germany? ›
According to the StepStone Salary Report 2021 (Stepstone Gehaltsreport 2021), the average gross salary in Germany amounts to €56,985. But most Germans consider a salary ranging between €64,253 and €81,503 a good salary.Do I have to pay US taxes if I live in Germany? ›
Americans earning income in Germany will need to pay US taxes—that is, unless you can eliminate your tax liability using the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion, foreign tax credits, and the foreign housing exclusion. The US-Germany Tax Treaty helps prevent double taxation for expats.Is it difficult to get job in Germany as a foreigner? ›
Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world, so there are plenty of jobs in Germany for foreigners with specialist skills, although casual work is also fairly easy to come by.Is it difficult to find a job in Germany as a foreigner? ›
Is it easy to get a job in Germany? All of this may sound like a lot of work, but it's usually fairly simple. And don't become downhearted. There are various areas where employers are desperate for motivated, well-qualified staff, and they don't care which country they come from.Is it hard to get a job in Germany as a foreigner? ›
Now for the not so good news — the unemployment rate of foreigners in Germany (12.3%) is much higher than the national average (5%).How much bank balance is required for Germany work visa? ›
German embassies and consulates generally require that you provide a bank statement of an escrow/blocked account (Sperrkonto) with a balance of at least €720 for each month of the visa. For a six-month Job Seeker Visa, this is €4,320 (although this may vary depending on where you apply).
All persons who wish to stay in Germany for more than 90 days are required to obtain a residence permit. If you intend to stay longer than 90 days, you are required to register at the local Meldebehoerde or Einwohnermeldeamt (Registration Office) within one week of arrival.Can I move to Germany without a job? ›
Can I Move to Germany Without a Job? If you are a non-EU national, you cannot live in Germany longer than three months, unless you are working or studying. However, if you meet the requirements, you can apply for a job-seeker visa which allows you to stay in Germany for up to six months as you look for employment.Is it hard to live in Germany as an American? ›
It is not difficult to move to Germany from the US if you have a valid reason, such as a job offer, a letter of acceptance from a German university, or wishing to join your partner. However, generally speaking, everyone outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland needs a solid reason to receive a German residence permit.Where do most Americans live in Germany? ›
A large number of Americans live in in the Rhineland-Palatine city of Kaiserslautern and its surrounding area. The Kaiserslautern Military Community, home to around 54,000 people, including military service members, has been the largest American armed forces community outside of the US since the 1950s.How much is rent in Germany? ›
|City||Average Monthly Rent|
|Less than 9.984 euros||0%|
|9.985 - 58.596 euros||14% to 42%|
|58.597 - 277.825 euros||42%|
|More than 277.826 euros||45%|
|Mc Donalds Crew Member salaries - 4 salaries reported||Berlin, Germany Area||€21,667/yr|
|Cashier salaries - 3 salaries reported||Berlin, Germany Area||€22,256/yr|
|Schichtleiter salaries - 3 salaries reported||Berlin, Germany Area||€27,178/yr|
Similar to Germany, the US has a progressive tax system, meaning people with higher taxable incomes pay higher federal income tax rates. Tax rates in the US range from 10% to 37%; therefore, American employees pay fewer taxes than in Germany.Is US Social Security taxed in Germany? ›
US social security benefits will only be taxed in Germany and be tax excluded in the US. Other pensions, annuities and retirement remunerations will be taxed in both states if the recipient is a US citizen.How many American expats are in Germany? ›
Americans in Germany or American Germans (German: Amerikanische Deutsche or Amerikodeutsche) refers to the American population in Germany and their German-born descendants. According to Destatis, 300,000 - 400,000 Americans live in Germany. 200,000 of them in Rhineland-Palatinate.
Top job openings in Germany:
- Business managers.
- Account managers.
- Production assistants.
- Sales managers, representatives.
- Product managers.
- Civil engineers.
In short: yes, there are English-speaking jobs in Germany. Foreigners who look for jobs in tech startups or digital departments have a higher chance of finding work in Germany without speaking German.Are Germans friendly? ›
Germany is known around the globe for excelling at a variety of things. Germans themselves are known as friendly and welcoming people, even if everyone thinks we have a nonexistent sense of humor. The country also boasts two millennia of history that, for good and bad, shaped the world as we know it today.Can you survive in Germany with English? ›
There's no doubt that you can survive in Germany without knowing German. Every German usually studies English from the age of 5 and especially the younger generation watches British or American series.What level of German language is required to work in Germany? ›
Depending on the German federal state, level B1 or B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is required.How long does IT take to learn German? ›
German is rated as a category 2 language and considered to be similar to English. The FSI estimates that German takes approximately 30 weeks, or 750 classroom hours to learn. This study was conducted on a group of language students who spent 25 hours per week in class, and three hours daily on individual practice.How easy is it to find a job in Germany? ›
Although the simply worded question of 'is it easy to get a job in Germany' is one that can be simply answered in passing, it all depends on the type of work and sector you wish to work in. Germany has a huge range of industries, some more competitive than others.How much does a German work visa cost? ›
The cost for a German work permit (employment visa) is 75 EUR (90 USD). You will need to complete Germany's work permit visa (or employment permit) application form, called Antrag auf Erlaubnis einer Beschäftigung, and get a residence permit or Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels.Do I need experience to work in Germany? ›
You are required to have a Bachelor's or Master's degree from a German university or other equivalent foreign degrees. Experience requirement. You should have a minimum of 5 years of work experience to be eligible for the Germany job seeker visa.What is the age limit to work in Germany? ›
There is no maximum age for an apprenticeship. As a German or a foreigner, you can apply for vocational training at practically any age. Traditionally, it is still common in Germany for apprentices to be of a younger age: most are between 15 and 25 years old.
Estonia is one of the easiest European countries to get a work visa for digital nomads. It offers an excellent visa program allowing you to stay in Estonia for a year as a tourist while working remotely.What is the age limit for Germany job seeker visa? ›
Eligibility: Qualification – Bachelor/Master's/Polytechnic Diploma of 3 years. Age 18 to 45 years. Work Experience of Minimum 1 year in relevant field.Is it cheaper to live in the United States or Germany? ›
Germany vs United States - Cost of Living Comparison.
|🏘️ Family rent||$1340||$2220|
|🍽️ Food expenses||$370||$543|
|🚐 Transport expenses||$114||$98.8|
|💳 Monthly salary after tax||$2611||$4139|
Mexico. Mexico is one of the easiest and most affordable countries for Americans to move to. It's also the most popular, with over 1.5 million Americans calling Mexico home.Can I retire at 60 in Germany? ›
You can begin withdrawing your pension payments (subject to income tax) at age 60. All contributions to the plan are fully protected by the law from legal claims and are guaranteed to you upon retirement.How much money do I need to move to Germany? ›
The average minimum cost of moving to Germany from the USA is 3,640 EUR (without shipping), and the average maximum of 9,670 EUR, including shipping your items. Changing a place of residence is never free. Moving needs time, effort, and, of course, money. Read below the cost breakdown for moving to Germany from the US.What is the best country to move to from USA? ›
- Portugal. Portugal is widely regarded as one of the best countries to move to from the US. ...
- Spain. Right beside Portugal, Spain provides another warm, laid-back home for Americans living abroad. ...
- Greece. ...
- Malta. ...
- Montenegro. ...
- Thailand. ...
- Singapore. ...
- South Korea.
The Goethe-Zertifikat B1 is a German exam for young people and adults. It certifies that candidates are independent users of the German language and corresponds to the third level (B1) on the six-level scale of competence laid down in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).Why are Americans moving to Germany? ›
Americans are leaving because of the lack of healthcare, in search of new job opportunities, for political beliefs, and for retirement. Germany is a top choice for many expats. As of 2020, Germany ranks as the ninth-best country in the world for quality of life, while the United States only ranks at 14.Is Germany expat friendly? ›
Expats in Germany can enjoy a high standard of living. The country boasts excellent public transport, healthcare, and education systems. Germany ranks above average in the OECD Better Life Index in terms of quality of life and well-being.
Knowing a few phrases in German will make living in Germany a bit easier. In Hamburg, you can expect people to speak a basic level of English and you'll make it through your day to day life without speaking German.Is Germany a good place for an American to live? ›
Overall, Germany is a great place to live. It has a high standard of living, a strong economy, and plenty of culture and entertainment options for a good work-life balance. The cost of living can be high in the major cities, but there are also many benefits to living in Germany.How can a US citizen get a job in Germany? ›
All persons who wish to seek gainful employment in Germany are required to obtain a residence permit in the form of a visa. Where needed, a work permit will be included in the visa issued for this purpose.Is there free health care in Germany? ›
Yes, all Germans and legal residents of Germany are entitled to free “medically necessary” public healthcare, which is funded by social security contributions. However, citizens must still have either state or private health insurance, covering at least hospital and outpatient medical treatment and pregnancy.Which city is the cheapest to live in Germany? ›
Cost of living in Berlin
Despite being the capital, Berlin is one of Germany's cheapest cities. Rental prices vary massively, but as a rule of thumb, the west remains much more expensive than the east. You can rent a one-bed flat in Berlin for €00 upwards.
- Berlin. Berlin is an obvious choice because it is the largest city in Germany. It is also one of the best cities for expats for many reasons. ...
- Munich. Munich is another great city for expats. ...
- Hamburg. Hamburg is an excellent option for internationals.
With a huge range of professional opportunities and roles throughout Germany, securing a job isn't as hard as it may be in other countries around the world.Can I get a job in Germany without speaking German? ›
In short: yes, there are English-speaking jobs in Germany. Foreigners who look for jobs in tech startups or digital departments have a higher chance of finding work in Germany without speaking German.Do German companies hire foreigners? ›
Germany has the largest economy in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world, so there are plenty of jobs in Germany for foreigners with specialist skills, although casual work is also fairly easy to come by.
Americans in Germany or American Germans (German: Amerikanische Deutsche or Amerikodeutsche) refers to the American population in Germany and their German-born descendants. According to Destatis, 300,000 - 400,000 Americans live in Germany.Are Germans friendly? ›
Germany is known around the globe for excelling at a variety of things. Germans themselves are known as friendly and welcoming people, even if everyone thinks we have a nonexistent sense of humor. The country also boasts two millennia of history that, for good and bad, shaped the world as we know it today.How much does Germany pay per hour? ›
|Date||Minimum wage (gross)|
|January 1 - June 30, 2021||9,50 euros per hour|
|July 1 - December 31, 2021||9,60 euros per hour|
|January 1 - June 30, 2022||9,82 euros per hour|
|July 1, 2022 onwards||10,45 euros per hour|
Is it easy to get a job in Germany? All of this may sound like a lot of work, but it's usually fairly simple. And don't become downhearted. There are various areas where employers are desperate for motivated, well-qualified staff, and they don't care which country they come from.What level of German language is required to work in Germany? ›
Depending on the German federal state, level B1 or B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) is required.How many years does it take to learn German? ›
German is rated as a category 2 language and considered to be similar to English. The FSI estimates that German takes approximately 30 weeks, or 750 classroom hours to learn. This study was conducted on a group of language students who spent 25 hours per week in class, and three hours daily on individual practice.Can you survive in Germany with English? ›
There's no doubt that you can survive in Germany without knowing German. Every German usually studies English from the age of 5 and especially the younger generation watches British or American series.How can I get sponsored to work in Germany? ›
- Get a work contract.
- Prepare the required documents - Travel Health Insurance, a place where you can stay, etc.
- Obtain an appointment at your local German Consulate or Embassy and submit the visa application.
Can I Move to Germany Without a Job? If you are a non-EU national, you cannot live in Germany longer than three months, unless you are working or studying. However, if you meet the requirements, you can apply for a job-seeker visa which allows you to stay in Germany for up to six months as you look for employment.Can you get a job in Berlin without speaking German? ›
The city of Berlin, at least in its central districts, is very geared towards anglophones. And in fact, if you speak English, there's not much that'll be closed off to you.
It is not difficult to move to Germany from the US if you have a valid reason, such as a job offer, a letter of acceptance from a German university, or wishing to join your partner. However, generally speaking, everyone outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland needs a solid reason to receive a German residence permit.Which German city has the most Americans? ›
A large number of Americans live in in the Rhineland-Palatine city of Kaiserslautern and its surrounding area. The Kaiserslautern Military Community, home to around 54,000 people, including military service members, has been the largest American armed forces community outside of the US since the 1950s.Which country is best for American expats? ›
- 1/ Mexico.
- 2/ Ecuador.
- 3/ Canada.
- 4/ Portugal.
- 5/ Singapore.