What are the basic rules about foreign students working in Germany
There are plenty of employment opportunities for foreign students in Germany, but the market isn’t completely free. Some rules apply which job-seekers need to take into account.
Most importantly, students can only work for 20 hours a week before they need to make payments to Germany’s Social Security fund. There are also differences between rules for EU and European Economic Area students and those coming from the rest of the world. If you come from outside the EU/EEA you can work for either 120 full days or 240 half days every year (a full day is defined as 8 hours). Internships count, even if they are unpaid, although many research and teaching jobs inside universities are not covered. That’s handy for postgraduate students who need a little extra cash. However, make sure you register with the Alien Registration Office if you take a research job. That way, your work won’t be deducted from your annual total.
Earnings limits also apply to work for foreign students (and all students). If you earn less than €450 per month, your income will be untaxed, but income taxes kick in above that threshold. Students are not treated as standard employees if they earn above that level, and they do not need to pay unemployment insurance contributions. However, they may need to pay health insurance contributions when they pass the threshold (although many students keep their special health insurance status). And they will also need to pay a pension contribution which rises with your monthly income and can reach 9.45% at €850 per month. The extra costs can therefore make higher pay brackets more expensive than working shorter hours – encouraging students to focus on their studies. But this varies from job to job, so be clear about your income before taking a post.
These employment rules apply to holders of a Student Visa. If you are studying for a language qualification you may not yet have a visa. In that case, your employment options are more limited, so be sure to save up enough money to sustain yourself during your course. Additionally, there are special rules regarding freelancing and self-employment. These roles are only available for EU/EEA students. If you come from outside those regions, conventional jobs will be the only available option.
How do foreign students find work in Germany?
Now that we’ve got the legal side of things out of the way, let’s take a look at how to actually find your ideal student job. There are a few ways to hunt for jobs, so maximize your options to give yourself as many choices as possible.
Many students find casual work at restaurants, shops or bars by getting to know their local neighbourhood. German cities are like those anywhere else. Job adverts are regularly posted in windows and noticeboards, while newspapers are also still a good source of leads. If your German is fluent, feel free to introduce yourself in potential workplaces and hand over an up to date resume.
However, these days there are specialist websites for students which make tramping around town much less necessary. For instance, Studentjob.de lists positions advertised specifically for students in college towns all over the country. You can even toggle the language search to English to make life easier (and possibly find jobs that can take advantage of your language skills). If that doesn’t work, there’s Jobbörse – a huge employment bulletin board run by the German state. Either site is a really useful source of ideas to make online applications simple.
On the other hand, you may choose to work within your academic institution. In that case, ask tutors for advice about whom to approach and what kind of posts are available. Most university departments will have noticeboards featuring currently advertised positions. And remember: those posts will probably not count towards your annual quota, leaving you free to find more work during holiday periods.
What type of student jobs can I expect to find in Germany?
Don’t expect to find high-powered jobs which are the first step on a lucrative and fulfilling career ladder. That’s not the way the student employment system in Germany works and very few applicants find highly paid work alongside their studies. Instead, student work is intended to be a supplement for academic work, helping students get by during their degrees. Having said that, there’s no reason why student work should be boring or exploitative. There are many good opportunities around for applicants to explore.
The most common jobs available to foreign students in Germany are the type that Germans generally refer to as “side jobs.” This includes roles like child-minding or tutoring (English instruction for children is a common post). But it could include waiting tables, working in hospitality roles at major events and parties, staffing trade fair booths or basic retail work. Many of these jobs are relatively low paid but can be excellent ways to meet Germans and learn the language.
The other major form of employment is roles within your academic institution. This often involves working as a research assistant for senior academics or project teams but can also involve working in libraries, fundraising, or even performing teaching tasks. These jobs can be a valuable part of your academic growth, helping to supplement your degree. And they also offer great networking opportunities for those who are keen to pursue a career in German academia.
Understanding the different types of student work in Germany
Also known as side-jobs, mini-jobs are a specific category in Germany’s employment system. Designed to make the labour market more “flexible” so that employers can hire the workers they need, mini-jobs come with a maximum monthly salary of €450 (€5400 per year) and none of this income qualifies for income tax. There is also a related category of “short-term jobs” which last for under three months or 70 working days (assuming a 5-hour day). They aren’t usually applicable to students due to the need to focus on semesters but may apply during the long summer holiday. Just like mini-jobs, they aren’t taxed as long as workers stay within the legal guidelines.
Many students in Germany take internships to prepare for the world of work and build ties with companies. If they last for longer than 3 months, internships must be paid, but shorter posts can be unpaid. In both cases, the hours you work will count against your annual work quota. Generally speaking, internships are arranged via your academic institution, which should have a liaison office to connect students and employers.
In some cases, student jobs will be the same as mini-jobs (if they are part-time and pay less than €450 a month). But this doesn’t have to be the case. It’s not hard to find a part-time job, which pays more than that amount, and academic posts aren’t generally classified as mini-jobs either. Don’t assume that your part-time student work is untaxed. Instead, seek advice when applying and make sure you pick a job that’s economical, fits in with your study program and offers an enjoyable experience at the same time.
Get your proof of financial resources for your studies in Germany
As soon as you have enough money to study in Germany, you can apply for a visa. For this, you need proof of financial resources. The most convenient way to provide this proof is by opening a digital blocked account – with Fintiba it is quick, secure and will be accepted by all German authorities with a 100% guarantee.
The Fintiba Companion: Guiding your way to Germany
Never miss an important step on your journey to Germany. From preparing your university application to mastering your visa application and navigating through daily life in Germany – the Fintiba Companion provides you with relevant information throughout all important stages of your German adventure within a comprehensive checklist – tailored to your individual situation.
Last update: September 20, 2023