…An Operation: Gone to Europe Update
Ever since I wrote How to Get a German Language Course Visa I had been planning to write a follow-up post about what I did next, which was apply for the German Freelancer Visa. I wanted to write it, but I was too busy travelling and making a living as a freelance writer and content strategist.
TL;DR – Apply for the German Freelancer Visa, I did! And get denied, I did. It was a huge bummer, and definitely unexpected. BUT I’ve been living in the EU (legally) for almost 2 years and have been making the most of it. I’ll tell you exactly how I did it, but let me start here:
I recently got a question about the German Language Course Visa post and it was my motivation to finally write this update. Thank you, Sean! (we don’t have to tell them it still took me 3 months to write, do we?)
I’m going to share with you our exact conversation from August 2018 (with permission):
Hi Rebecca! I found your website while researching a move to Germany for a year. Your ‘German Language Course Visa’ article was very helpful and informative. I was hoping you could answer a question for me; You mentioned that you got insurance through Allianz for $79 per year. Is that all you had to get? It seems that I have read in more than one article that a visitor would be required to get insurance from a German provider. Did you not have to do that?
Also, you mentioned that you arrived there in January of 2017. Did your language course start in May of 2017? Your website says you are still in Europe; did you get a work visa? or how are you still there?
I hope you are able to find the time to respond to my questions. Thanks in advance! and I look forward to hearing from you!
-Sean (Vancouver, Canada)
Here’s my response:
I’m glad you asked!
For the insurance, I only needed the Allianz. The woman at the Ausländerbehörde specifically said to me “For this first year, travel insurance is fine, but after that you have to get a German one.” After the first year I ended up getting MAVISTA, (which is actually owned by Allianz btw). MAVISTA is specifically set up for foreigners living in Germany and they have different plans for students, expats, researchers, etc. Plans range from 59€ -129€ and although they don’t cover as much as a more expensive private German one, they meet the German standards and they suffice if you’re pretty healthy.
I did not get a work visa. Wamp wamp. I applied for a freelancer visa, which Germany offers, but I was denied. It’s a really long story but there is a certain way they want you to write the business plan, which I was not aware of. They also didn’t like the way I filled out the “potential income” part (which in itself is a whole cyclical deal).
I found it hard to get information other than what I could find on travel blogs and the official beaurocratic sites. BUT I turned in all my stuff on January 3  and about a month later they had me come in to hear the “NO” in person.
Officially, they said “There are enough Germans that could perform this work” (I had proposed a combo of teaching English and doing digital marketing consulting).
ANYWAY they told me what to fix and turn in again, etc. and gave me an extension until April in the meantime. At that point, I decided I was frustrated with the freelance visa and that becoming a student at university would be an easier route. (My end goal was just to get legal permission to stay). Simply by telling them of my intention to apply for uni for the fall, I got another 6 months. Time to apply, get the result, etc. Actually it was surprisingly easy.
I am now not going to become a student and am instead moving to Spain on a student visa to work in a high school as a cultural exchange assistant/assistant English teacher in the Auxiliares de Conversación program – learning how to use the system to work for me. 🙂
Seriously thank you so much for reaching out. I’ve been needing to get this all out on paper. Perhaps I could use your questions in a blog post? I could protect your identity or just use your first name?
What are you planning to do in Germany? Let me know if you have any other questions.
Ok, I realize that was a LOT. Now do you see why it’s taken me so long to hit “Publish”?
For those who are interested in applying for the German freelancer (freiberuflich) visa, the documents I needed are listed here. This list is for Berlin, but I applied in Bonn and the required docs were the same, FYI.
If only I knew then what I know now…
In retrospect, I should have researched more about how to write the business plan (For one, I initially turned it in in English, and had to translate it to German and bring it back). It seemed weird to me that you had to create a projected earnings spreadsheet based on non-existent jobs, but that’s what they wanted.
I also learned that while not officially required, letters of intent are very important. You should have at least 2 – 3 written letters from German clients stating that they want to hire you for X amount of hours per month.
Yet another, very helpful thing I now know is that while your application is in process, you’ll always be granted an extension to cover you until your papers get sorted out. For example, I turned in my freelancer visa application on January 3, and my original (language course) visa was supposed to expire January 18. They gave me a 3-month extension on the day of my appointment, thus making me legal until April 18. Later, I got another 6-month extension after telling them I was going to enroll in university. As long as you’ve got some paperwork in progress, they won’t kick you out. Protip!
Through this process I’ve found many others who’ve (successfully) navigated the German freelancer visa waters, including one blogger who also got denied at first, and ended up hiring a lawyer to help with the process. In retrospect, I could have done that as well. Maybe I should have. But I talked to a lot of locals who suggested the university student route.
If you’re open to getting a degree overseas, there are lots of programs offered in English, and it’s very affordable. Students at the University of Bonn pay an administration fee of currently about 290€ per semester. This fee also includes free public transportation in the Bonn/Cologne area and the whole of Nordrhine-Westphalia. Amazing! You can argue with me on this, but in my opinion, America is doing it all wrong when it comes to education.
The Next Chapter – Operation: Gone to Spain
You may have noticed how I casually mentioned that I decided instead to move to Spain after getting denied for the freelancer visa (how rude). Well, the actual process was anything but casual! In fact, I’ve learned that Spaniards should be much more famous for their mind-numbingly confusing and inconsistent, yet surprisingly thorough, bureaucracy.
The program I am doing is called Auxilares de Conversación Norteamericanos (North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain) and it’s organized by the Spanish Ministry of Education. I’m working on a post all about that process as well. In the meantime, feel free to reach out to me directly if you have any questions.
More than anything, I hope this post is helpful to someone. I know there are plenty of others out there who, like me, are looking for a way to stay in the Schengen countries for longer than the allotted 90 days, and who want do it without wearing out their welcome (i.e. getting blacklisted or deported). Besides the hordes of 22 year-olds doing the Auxiliar program as a gap year experience, lots of people use it as a stepping stone to long term residence in Spain. Olé!