Work permits for international students

What rules apply to non-EU students?

You are allowed to work for 120 full days or 240 half days in one calendar year. This includes voluntary internships, even if they are unpaid.

It does not include so-called “mandatory internships“ proscribed by the study regulations!
The Immigration Office as a rule requires the following documents as evidence:

  • a valid passport 
  • a confirmation by the university (your faculty) that the intended internship is a mandatory part of your studies 
  • an internship contract, or a draft thereof, containing a detailed description of your work and how much you get paid per month

Studentische Nebentätigkeiten: Students can take part-time jobs such as student or research assistant or as a tutor at the university or another academic institution (without being limited by the rule of 120 full days or 240 half-days). This includes organisations in some way connected to the university (e.g. Studentenwerk), provided that the work is related to the field of study.

Studienförderliche Beschäftigungen: Furthermore, with permission by the Arbeitsagentur (Federal Employment Agency), students can take employment that advances their studies for up to 20 hours a week. For this, the Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office) requests a corresponding confirmation by the university as well as a draft contract. If in accordance with these conditions working as a freelancer/self-employed might be allowed.

Studienkolleg and language courses: If you are taking a language course, or are enrolled in the Studienkolleg (preperatory college) in order to pass the entrance examination, there are particularly strict rules: you may only work during the lecture-free period in the course of the first year of preparatory studies, and only if both Immigration Office and Federal Employment Agency give permission.

What rules apply to students from the EU, as well as Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein (and Switzerland)

Citizens of member states of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) are treated as equivalent to Germans in work-related issues.

These students can work as much as they like without having to apply for any permits.

It is recommended not to work more than 20 hours per week. If students work more than 20 hours per week during the lecture period they cannot participate in the student health insurance scheme (except for short-term work of a maximum of 3 months or 70 working days respectively).

If you earn more than 450 EUR per month you will have to pay social security contributions.

Tip: You can ask your employer or your health insurance about the conditions applying for you before starting a job.

The situation regarding students from Switzerland is not quite clear. It is best to make enquiries at the relevant Immigration Office.