Employment and placements

Extra income and work experience

Working during your studies

Many students work alongside their studies in Germany. International students are also entitled to seek employment. However, the regulations that apply here are different for international students.

International students may generally work in addition to studying. Students from the EU and the EEC have the same status as German students. They are free to work in Germany without any restrictions.

Students from non-EU countries may work 120 full days or 240 half days per year. In addition, employment as a student assistant at the University is permitted and is not counted towards the 120 full or 240 half working days. For all employment activities that go beyond this scope, students must apply for an employment permit with the immigration authorities or the Federal Employment Agency. The employment permit is only granted if this does not have adverse effects on the applicant’s studies. A half working day is defined as four or five hours of work in one day. Whether a half day is four or five hours depends on the working hours of the permanent staff at the company you work for. If staff have a regular working day of eight hours, then a half working day is defined as four hours. If the full working day lasts ten hours, then a half working day is defined as five hours.

If the hours you work are not spread out over a longer period of time, but instead you work for a continuous period such as over the semester break, only the days on which you have actually worked count towards the period of employment. Weekends on which you do not work are therefore not counted.

To be eligible to work in Germany, you will need an income tax certificate (Bescheinigung über den Lohnsteuerabzug) which you can obtain from your local tax office (Finanzamt).

Please also note the following:

  • The 120 day rule must be taken seriously. The employment regulations for international students are very strict. You may be deported if you breach these regulations.
  • In general, working time per semester should not exceed 20 hours per week, as otherwise you become liable to pay contributions towards state pension insurance.
  • Both students from the EU and students from non-EU countries may work a maximum of 19 hours per week during the lecture period. There are only a few limitations during the semester break (see above).

Finding a job

To find a student job you can use the FAU student jobs portal, the jobs website of the Federal Employment Agency and other internet portals.

Employment regulations for placements (compulsory and voluntary)

There are specific regulations for placements carried out during your studies:

If your are from a non-EU country or Croatia and you do a voluntary placement during your studies which you are not required to do according to the examination regulations for your degree programme, this placement is counted as regular working time. This applies regardless of whether the placement is paid. Each day of the placement is counted towards the 120 days you are allowed to work for. If you have already worked 120 full days or 240 half days during a calendar year, you must get permission from the immigration authorities or the Federal Employment Agency in order to do a placement.

Compulsory placements which you are required to do according to the examination regulations are exempt from the 120 day rule.

Compulsory placements are only exempt from the 120 day rule for the number of working days specified in the examination regulations. Any days worked which go beyond the number of working days specified are deducted from the 120 days.

Social security and taxes

In Germany, various social contributions and taxes are automatically deducted from earnings. However, special (and often quite generous) regulations are in place for students. Students either pay reduced social contributions and taxes or none at all.

All employees who do not earn more than 450 euros per month are classed as being in low-income employment and do not pay income tax. However, all employees must pay pension insurance contributions which are calculated at 3.9 percent of their income. You may request exemption from these contributions. However, this has an effect on the pension you are entitled to.

Every gainfully employed person in Germany must pay a pension insurance contribution out of their earnings. The usual rate is 9.45 percent of a person’s income. Students who earn up to 450 euros per month may request exemption from the obligation to make pension insurance contributions. If they do not request exemption, students must pay the full contribution amount. At an income between 450 and 850 euros per month or working hours over 19 hours per week, reduced contributions are paid. At a monthly income of 850 euros and more, students have to pay the full contribution rate.

Students do not normally pay unemployment insurance contributions. This also means that they are not entitled to unemployment benefits if they stop working.

Working after you finish your studies

Many students would like to stay in Germany and work after finishing their studies. The legal regulations regarding looking for work after you graduate are different for students from the EU and students from non-EU countries.

When looking for a job, make sure you look for positions which are related to the subject which you have studied. If you require a work permit and start working without one, this is a regulatory offence which can incur a heavy fine.

Students from EU countries may seek a job after completing their degree without any restrictions.

18 months to find a job

Residence permits which are issued to citizens of non-EU countries for study purposes become invalid immediately after they have completed their studies. If you would like to stay in Germany after you have finished your studies, you must apply for a residence permit (“Job-Seeker Visa”) for this purpose with the local immigration authorities.

The residence permit for foreigners seeking employment is issued for a maximum of 18 months, whereby it is possible for breaks to be made in this period – for example, two months for those looking for a job after obtaining a Bachelor’s degree, two months after obtaining a Master’s degree and three months after obtaining a doctoral degree. This means that you have 18 months available in total and not 18 months after obtaining each degree.

When you apply for a residence permit for foreigners seeking employment, you must prove that you are able to support yourself financially, as is also required for a student residence permit.

Students may work without limitations while looking for employment. A form of employment which you undertake purely in order to support yourself financially does not constitute a change in the purpose of your residence.

Work permit

If you have found suitable employment after completing your degree, you must apply for a work permit. Students from non-EU countries have to apply for this work permit with the immigration authorities in their place of residence. After an application is received, the immigration authorities check the documents and, if required, pass them on to the appropriate national authorities which can then issue a work permit.