One of the things that draws people to Berlin every year is the strong and vibrant artistic scene. From writers, to dancers and painters the city thrives with creative groups, events and spaces. And the low cost of living is also quite beneficial for the fluctuating wages that come with an artist’s life. However, like most countries, to live and work long term in Germany you need a visa (if of course you’re not from the EU, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein). Enter the German Artist Visa.
What is the German Artist Visa and how can you get it?
This is a specific residence and work permit (a subcategory of the freelance visa, §21) given to artists and journalists who want to live and work in Berlin. Important to note that it is only available in Berlin. If you live anywhere else in Germany you need to apply for the regular freelancer visa. While it’s said that it is easier to get an Artist visa as opposed to the work (freelancer) visa, there are several hoops you need to jump through before this can be achieved.
Firstly, you need to clarify whether you actually classify as an artist. While painters, musicians, dancers and photographers are readily described as artists in Berlin, you may need to ‘qualify’ your trade if you’re a writer (as opposed to a journalist), graphic designer or perhaps even a DJ. The art scene in Berlin continues to grow and expand that the definition of an artist is widening but you will still need to prove that you qualify. And it is essential that you carefully and clearly describe your career as you will be required to stick within this definition whilst working.
Who can apply for the German Artist Visa?
If you hold a passport from the following countries then you can apply for the German Artist Visa: Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Japan, Israel, USA and Canada. In fact, you can come to Germany first on a 90 day tourist visa and apply for your artist visa here. This is advisable as you are required to have a proof of address here and German clients, both of which are easier to obtain here. Be sure not to work while on a tourist visa as this is strictly prohibited and may affect your application.
If you are from a country that requires a visa before you leave, then you can apply for the artist visa from home. To do this, simply contact your local German embassy or consulate and start the process from there.
What is needed for your German Artist Visa Application?
Well, firstly it is advised to book your appointment as this may take a few months to get. You are going to the Ausländerbehörde (not the department of Foreign Affairs) on Friedrich-Krause-Ufer. Once you have that appointment then you have a list of documents you need to gather. Be as organised as possible and have everything in place before you attend the interview. The list is long but once you have it all, you’ll be laughing!
1. Confirmation that you live in Germany
Anyone staying longer than 3 months in Berlin is required to have an Anmeldung (meaning registration). This is a form of residential registration and can only be achieved through a landlord. So holiday and AirBnB rentals don’t qualify. Unfortunately due to the low cost of living and the coolness of Berlin it has become an extremely popular city to live in. As a result finding an apartment can be quite difficult. However, it is possible and once you have that elusive Anmeldung in your hands, you have access to a lot of things in Berlin.
You also need to bring a copy of your rental contract with you, so don’t get confused as these are separate documents.
2. Health insurance
There is no exception with this one either. All German residents must have health insurance. This is either public or private. In simple terms, public is based on your salary and private is based on your health. However, it is advised to get some professional advice on your health insurance options before you sign up for one. Also, if you’re unsure how long you’re planning to stay in Berlin, you can start out with an expat health insurance. A health insurance broker will be able to advise you on all your options.
3. CV, Cover Letter and samples of your work
Be sure to have as detailed a CV as possible to show the extent of your experience in your field of work. This is the most important part of your application. So, be sure to include paid and unpaid work, projects that you led and projects that you were a part of. List all your educational experience, short and long term and if you can, get someone to look over your CV.
You are also required to bring a cover letter to explain why you want to work in Berlin as an artist and why the Government should grant you this visa. And finally you need to bring some samples of your work. While you won’t be judged on this necessarily, it is important to include it. 5-6 examples should suffice.
4. Clients – Offers of work
The Government will want to feel confident that you will be contributing to the German economy so you need to show proof of work offers and/or project collaborations. Letters from clients (on headed paper would help) are required that prove that your services are needed in Berlin. 2 – 3 offers should be sufficient but if you have more feel free to include them.
5. Money to survive
You will also need to prove that you have adequate finances to survive on for the first few months of your life in Berlin. Having a few thousand Euros in a newly opened German account would be best, though the German account is not essential. (Do note that you need the Anmeldung before you can open your German account). Between €3,500 – 4,000 is recommended, though the number depends on your letters and your expenses.
6. Revenue forecast and financing plan
They will want to see a projection of your revenue for the year. This will include the money you have now to set yourself up with, the money you expect to receive throughout the year and the estimate of your expenses. As this is only a projection, be sure to just use the figures you expect to receive.
7. Passport and bio-metric photograph
As with all interactions with the German government you are required to bring your passport with you. You are also required to bring a bio-metric photograph for the visa so make sure to get this done correctly as they are very strict on the requirements. One of the positives of the Artist Visa is that if you’re approved for it, you will receive it that day. As opposed to the Freelancer visa, where you will have to wait 3 – 4 months for it.
And finally you will need to show proof of your college diplomas so make sure to have the originals with you when you travel to Berlin.
What to do next?
Once you have gathered all your documents you are ready to attend your appointment. If you feel your German is not sufficient enough, do bring a native German speaker with you. (Technically German officials are not allowed to speak English). This will be helpful in case they feel your application is incomplete. This can happen and you will hopefully be granted an extension visa in order to be able to gather the additional documents. But it’s important you understand what you’re missing and required to bring to your next appointment.