One of the most common stereotypes about Germany is the concept of “German efficiency”. While this is true in a lot of cases, there are some glaring exceptions – and few things are as slow and inefficient as the local bureaucracy. Add on the fact that Berlin is the most un-German city in Germany, and the end result is the absolute mess of an application process that new Berliners experience while applying for their Working Holiday Visa.

I personally went through this when moving to Berlin in July 2017. If it wasn’t for a few well-informed people that helped me out, I probably would have given up and settled elsewhere outside of the Schengen zone. Luckily for you, I’ve now put together all of my findings so that you don’t have to struggle (… as much). Trust me, Berlin’s worth it.

Note: there are some quick links in the sidebar that isn’t visible on mobile devices. For the full experience, be sure to check out this article on a larger screen.

What is the Working Holiday Visa?

The “Working Holiday Visa Programme” is a bilateral agreement between Germany and a number of countries (Australia, Argentina, Chile, Israel, Japan and New Zealand). There are also similar arrangement with Canada (Youth Mobility Agreement) and South Korea (Working-Holiday-Agreement).

All of these Working Holiday Visas are for twelve months, with the purpose of allowing young foreign nationals to experience German culture, travel freely and work within Germany. While there is no obligation to work, this visa gives you the option should you need it – or run out of money.

Popular alternatives to the Working Holiday Visa (or if you’re over 35 years old) are the Freelancer Visa, Artist Visa, Language Course Visa. For a quick guide to what conditions apply for your country’s passport, check out Project Visa.

Requirements for a Working Holiday Visa in Germany

To be eligible for the Working Holiday Visa, you must:

  • Be between 18 and 30 years of age inclusive (up to 35 if Canadian).
  • Be a citizen of one of the countries listed above.
  • Not be accompanied by dependent family members (e.g. children).
  • Have the equivalent of at least 2000 Euros in savings.
  • Have your main residence in Berlin.

You must also have all the documents listed here.

Demystifying the German Jargon

While going through this visa application process, there are a few words and phrases that you’ll often hear repeated. The most common ones will be Anmeldung, Bürgeramt, Ausländerbehörde, and the names of a few forms you’ll have to complete.

What is “Anmeldung” and “Bürgeramt”?

Anmeldung is the process of registering yourself to a German address. This is a requirement of your visa (unless you apply from outside of Germany). The Bürgeramt is the local office where you can submit your Anmeldung forms.

To complete your Anmeldung, you’ll need two forms: the “Anmeldung bei der Meldebehörde” is the application form to register yourself at your primary residence, while the “Einzugsbestätigung des Wohnungsgebers” is a form that your landlord – or primary tenant – has to fill out to officially confirm that you now live at this address.

Both forms and more information can be found here (use Google Translate).

What is “Ausländerbehörde”?

This is effectively the visa office that you’ll be dealing with. Here, you’ll need to bring the “Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels” form, otherwise known as the “Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit”.

The Ausländerbehörde is located at Keplerstraße 2, through the gate on the right hand side and around the corner to the left.

How to Apply for a Working Holiday Visa in Berlin

I went through this process with an Australian passport, but the information is relevant to most other countries that have a Working Holiday Visa agreement with Germany. The official website for more information can be found here.

Here the short version on applying for a Working Holiday Visa in Berlin:

  1. Book your Bürgeramt and Ausländerbehörde appointments as soon as possible.
  2. Arrive in Germany using the 90-day Schengen visa (no application required).
  3. Find a house, flat or shared flat, also known as a “WG” (or “Wohngemeinschaft”).
  4. Go to the Bürgeramt and complete your Anmeldung.
  5. Buy travel insurance for a year (more on this below).
  6. Go to the Ausländerbehörde and submit your visa application.

Confused? I know. Let’s break this down into parts.

Step 1: Book Your Appointments

There’s such a shortage of public service officers at the Bürgeramt, that you’ll have to book your appointment at least a month or two beforehand. The Ausländerbehörde is even worse – it’s booked out for years in advance (no, you didn’t read that wrong).

Book your Bürgeramt appointment using this link.

The best thing you can do is check the Ausländerbehörde website early in morning, every day, until you find someone who’s cancelled. Don’t be picky, just take any appointment that’s within your 90-day Schengen window.

Book your Ausländerbehörde appointment using this link.

Get your appointments booked as soon as possible – the earlier the better!

Step 2: Arrive in Berlin

A lot of countries have an agreement with Germany that allows them to stay for 90 days out of a 6-month period without a visa. Project Visa has some useful links that shows each country’s eligibility. If your country’s passport isn’t eligible for this, you won’t able to apply for any sort of Working Holiday Visa using the method on this page.

Step 3: Find Accommodation in Berlin

This can be tricky. The rental market in Berlin is so high in demand that most listings will get dozens, if not hundreds of applications – especially in the more desirable areas. An extra layer of difficulty with this is that you’ll need to sort out your Anmeldung, which a lot of temporary flats or sub-leases often can’t provide.

Still, it’s not impossible. Put some effort into your application, and show the landlord (or your future housemates) why you’d be a good fit.

You can find accommodation using a few methods:

Also, try and ask around. Similar to job openings, a lot of WGs and flats don’t get advertised due to referrals. Obviously, this can be difficult if you’ve just arrived, but it’s something to keep in mind as you start making friends.

Step 4: Go to the Bürgeramt

Don’t be late to your appointment! While the booking process is a mess, the appointments tend to start precisely on time.

If you haven’t managed to book your Bürgeramt appointment, you can try and find last minute cancellations, or simply go to your local office and wait in line. It’s very possible to get a Bürgeramt appointment on the day, just by turning up.

Something to keep in mind is that while most officials at the Bürgeramt speak perfect English, they’ll resent the fact that you don’t speak German. Bring all the documents you need already filled out, and be as nice as possible. If you can bring a friend that speaks German, you’ll have a much easier time here.

Step 5: Buy Travel Insurance

Of all of the required documents, the most confusing one is the “Foreign travellers’ health insurance that is valid for one year”. In the eyes of the German bureaucracy, not all travel insurances are created equal.

The easiest way to get around this is to purchase the widely-accepted “Student” package from Mawista. It doesn’t provide great coverage, but it’s cheap, has a cancellation period, and ticks all of the bureaucracy boxes (it’s even advertised inside the Ausländerbehörde) – which means can apply for your visa with confidence and switch insurance providers afterwards. I recommend (and personally use) World Nomads.

One more tip: buy your insurance a few days before your appointment date, as it can take a day or two for the documents to arrive in your email inbox. I’ve had friends who have missed their appointments after getting their insurance at the last minute.

Step 6: Go to the Ausländerbehörde

If you’ve made an appointment, this bit is easy – it’s a simple matter of arriving on time.

But if you haven’t managed to make an appointment, the harsh reality is that you’ll have to get to the Ausländerbehörde around 3am in the morning, write down your name, and wait until they open. Arrive any later, and you probably won’t get in at all. Also worth noting is that the office is only open on Monday and Tuesdays from 7am, and on Thursdays from 10am.

Step by step, here’s what you need to do:

  1. Get to the Ausländerbehörde at 3am or earlier. Bring a jacket and some snacks.
  2. Someone will have a piece of paper with names on it. Write your name down, find somewhere to sit, and get comfortable. Make some friends if you can.
  3. In a few hours, someone will come around and start reading out names from the list. Line up as your name is called and you’ll get a ticket with your number.
  4. Around 7am, the doors will open and you’ll be able to go inside to the waiting room. Your ticket will be exchanged for another one.
  5. Wait.
  6. At some point, your number will be called out (probably in German, but someone should be able to translate). Line up at the visa office door and wait for your turn.
  7. Give your documents to the person behind the counter. Try and be as friendly as possible. If you speak German (or have a friend that does), that’s a plus.
  8. You’ll be asked to wait.
  9. Wait.
  10. Receive your shiny new visa! You’ll have to pay a fee on the way out, so bring cash if you don’t have a IC card. Debit and credit cards won’t work.
  11. Buy a celebratory beer from a Späti and head home for a nap.

Congratulations – you’ve made it!

Some Final Thoughts

If I had to give one piece of advice, it’s this: get your visa before you arrive in Berlin.

Despite what anybody else (including all the official websites) might tell you, this is by far the most hassle-free method – largely due to the fast that you don’t have to worry about Anmeldung and Berlin’s insane appointment booking processes. If you’re Australian, you can only make this application from the German embassy in Sydney.

If you’re already in Europe and have some time left during your 90-day Schengen Visa, you could even head to another country. One expat that I met in the visa line applied for his Youth Mobility Visa at the German embassy in Poland – the entire process only took several days to process, and he spent the rest of his time sightseeing around Warsaw.

You can find more information and a list of foreign German embassies here.

If you have your heart set on applying for your visa in Berlin, just try to get everything organised as early as possible. It’s not impossible, but 90 days is shorter than you might think – and you really don’t want to be panicking as your time in the Schengen area ticks down.

One last thing: don’t forget to cancel your Mawista insurance after getting your visa and switch to World Nomads afterwards. I’ve heard of difficulties claiming through Mawista (especially if you’re not actually a “student”) while there’s nothing but good reviews about World Nomads.

Good luck!

Chris left his hometown of Sydney in 2016 to work and travel his way around the world. When not working on Nomad Toolkit, he works as the lead consultant of Pareto Digital, as well as dabbling in writing, design, development and photography.

26 COMMENTS

  1. Hi, thanks so much for the helpful article. I just had a question re: applying for visa outside of Germany..
    So I am in Berlin right now on a 90 day tourist visa but due to difficulties getting Anmeldung, I am considering going and staying with a friend in Amsterdam and applying for my working visa from the German Consulate over there.. Is there any reason why this might not work?

    • Hey Zach, the expat that I met in the line did mention that it was much simpler (especially considering the Anmeldung issue) and I’ve heard similar stories from others who have received their visas from outside of Germany. That being said, I’ve never tried it myself so I can’t say that I’m absolutely sure – although I’ve successfully applied for other visas at foreign embassies around the world without any issues at all.

      I’d recommend giving them a call before you head over there – just to double check – and even make an appointment if it’s possible. Be sure to leave a week or two for the processing times, as they’ll likely take your passport and you won’t be able to leave the country. Good luck – I’d love to hear how it all works out for you!

  2. @Zach
    Hi guys!

    Also having Anmeldung issues but am currently in Amsterdam, wondering if you applied in Amsterdam and if this method worked?

    Thanks for the article, stressed Kiwi.

    • Hey Kim, I’d say the best thing you could do is just give them a call or just turn up to the embassy. In theory it should work – the embassy in Amsterdam is the same as any other in Europe – but you won’t know until you try. Information about this sort of thing can differ depending on who you ask, so it’s best to get it from the source.

      I’m curious to know how it goes, I also have a couple of mates who are about to go through the same process. If you could get back to me with your experience, I can update the article to help others who are also dealing with red tape. I’d also recommend joining the “Aussies and Kiwis in Berlin” Facebook group – we’re all in this together!

  3. A lot of information I’ve seen on applying for a YMV always refer to Berlin as the city of choice, can this process be undertaken in any other city in Germany, for example Munich?

    • Hey Brad, the Working Holiday Visa is for Germany (not Berlin). So yes, this process can be undertaken in any other city. Just Google “Ausländerbehörde München” or “Foreigners Office Munich” and you should find the Munich equivalent.

  4. Hey Chris,
    Really helpful article and blog thankyou!
    Im currently planning on moving over to Berlin at the end of October this year on the WHS – leaving myself a bit of time to organise things, some people mention its fine applying in Berlin but others suggest to skip the hassle – apply here in Aus before i go. I know this isnt whay you did, but wondering if you had insight into this from talking to others? Or, given i have a bit of time up my sleeve to book appointments with the departments, if you think applying when i get there would be fine….
    (I don’t speak german or know anyone that likes me enough to waste a day with the gov… I wouldn’t openly give a day up to join an acquaintance at centrelink either…)

    Mainly concerned if i have to apply here in Aus 2months before i leave, will it start cutting into my visa time?
    Also, the part about registering an address?
    Obvs i wont have found permanent residence when i first land on the ground in Berlin, but planning on staying at an airbnb or something till i find / can go to house viewings. Is there a time frame to register address?
    Im actually flying into Amsterdam on a One way ticket, then will get a train to Berlin ( and have proof of the onward travel to show )

    Lastly – I know, so many questions! Sorry.
    You can’t really earn much on the WHS visa, but im hoping to use it as a bridging to then try find a sponsored job in my field. Again something done better in person. Have you stayed on the WHS Or have you transferred to the working visa, and if so, is it difficult?

    Thanks for any advice.

    Cheers,
    Billie 🙂

    • Hey Billie, that’s a lot of questions but I’ll do my best to work through them!

      First off, I’m assuming by WHS, you mean “Working Holiday Scheme”… which I believe is technically only between Germany and Hong Kong. Australians get the “Working Holiday Visa”, also known as the “Youth Mobility Visa”. You might end up confusing people with “WHS” – it even took me a couple of minutes.

      1. You can always apply for your visa in Berlin, but the issue is getting your address registered – you need this before you can apply for a visa. The rental market in Berlin is notoriously competitive, with many people moving from flat to flat for 6+ months before finding somewhere they can register. Between that and the difficulty in getting an visa appointment is why a lot of people (myself included) suggest getting your visa in Australia instead.
      2. As for the visa time, you can specify the start date of your visa on the application form.
      3. There’s a lot of conflicting information about registering your address, but since permanent flats are hard to come by, the realistic answer is “as soon as possible”. I’d suggest joining all the Facebook groups and looking on WG-Gesucht to try and get at least a temporary flat organised as it’s far cheaper than Airbnb.
      4. There are plenty of people who start on a Working Holiday Visa and end up getting sponsored by a company. I’ve never gone through this process, but it’s fairly common. It’s also far easier as the company organises everything to do with the visa for you.

      Hope that helps!

  5. This is super helpful! I’m going to be applying in a smaller town so luckily there aren’t any crazy waiting periods, my question is if the “Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels” is functionally the same as “Antrag auf Erteilung eines nationalen Visums”?

    I’m still waiting to hear back from the Ausländerbehörde here (probably will have to end up calling them) about which is the right form, but I thought you might know.

    • Hey Alex, sorry about the delayed response – your comment got caught in a spam filter for some reason.

      It sounds like they’re more or less the same thing, but I don’t know if there’s a nuanced technicality in there somewhere. I imagine residency (whether it’s permanent or temporary) is basically the same thing as a visa (which allows you to take residence). I hope your Ausländerbehörde appointment went well! 🙂

  6. Hi Chris,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this!! It was extremely helpful.

    I am planning to move to Berlin and July and stay for at least 9+ months. I currently live in Melbourne.

    I have one questions – What would be the absolute best way to apply for this working holiday visa from here?

    It is my understanding that the German embassy here in Melbourne have nothing to do with visas.. I am definitely up for a trip to Sydney if need be to lock everything in before I leave and avoid the headache.

    Apologies for the dumb questions I am just feeling very confused of where to start!

    Thank you again Chris 🙂

    • Hey Danni, sorry about the delayed response! Berlin life got a bit hectic over the last few days 🙂

      That’s not a dumb question at all! This whole visa business is pretty confusing. My understanding is that you will have to get in touch with the German Consulate in Sydney. Have a look at their website, but it looks like this is probably your first step:

      For visa and passport enquiries, you can call us on (02) 8302 4900 during the following times only:
      Tuesday from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
      Wednesday from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm
      Thursday from 1:30 pm to 2:30 pm

      Thank you for your kind words, and good luck!

  7. Hi Chris,
    I’ve just purchased some Mawista insurance but I would like to cancel it after I receive my visa. How did you go about cancelling your insurance.

    Thank,
    Olivia

    • Hey Olivia, it’s as simple as just sending them an email. Just make sure you’re specific about your details when getting in touch with them! Good luck and welcome to Germany 🙂

  8. Has anyone recently gotten an appointment in Berlin at the Ausländerbehörde for the Working Holiday Visa? I’m currently in Berlin and need to get the visa, but when I try to book there are NO dates available (I checked up to 2023).
    My partner needed an appointment for her freelance visa and got one in a couple of months.

    • This is classic Berlin Ausländerbehörde unfortunately. Just keep checking, especially early in the morning – appointments open up every now and again, seemingly at random. If all else fails (as it did for me when I went for me Working Holiday Visa), you’ll just have to go to the Ausländerbehörde and line up.

      I recently managed to get an appointment for the freelancer visa by regularly checking at 8 in the morning. It’s possible!

  9. Hey ya. Just letting you know that you technically dont need to register your address anymore as it states ‘Certificate of registration at the main residence or
    Rental agreement and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord’. The second option being much easier to obtain.
    Also as an Australian you can stay in Germany an extra 90 days under the visa exempt agreement if you do use the original 90 days in shengen (it really does take that long sometimes!) There is not much info on this but you can email the german embasy to get proof.

    Hope this helps

    • Hey Eli, thanks for writing in.

      You’re correct in saying that it’s possible to provide a “Rental agreement and written confirmation of occupancy from the landlord” instead. I’m not sure if I agree if that’s easier to obtain though. Landlords here typically ask for a lot of documentation (financial records, credit scores and some other documents that are difficult to get without a local job or residence permit) before producing a rental agreement. And if you manage to get a formal rental agreement, this typically also means you’ll be able to get the Anmeldung as well. If neither is possible, it’s potentially an illegal sublet. As it is, the Anmeldung is often difficult to obtain but not impossible, and you can get it without signing any formal contracts.

      I’ve also heard about the extra 90 days exemption before as well, but I personally wouldn’t risk it. The bureaucracy in Germany is so unpredictable and open to interpretation, that all it takes is one grumpy public servant to make your life difficult. Have you heard of anyone successfully pulling it off and getting the fine print in writing?

  10. Great article Chris. Interesting about claim issues with “Mawista Student” though. There’s a passage in the eligibility section that seems to include working holiday participants – that is definitely worth pointing out if any further issues arise:

    Ҥ 1 Who is eligible for insurance cover?
    1. The following are eligible for insurance cover:
    a) Residents of Germany who are travelling abroad as language
    pupils, students, scholarship holders, candidates for a
    doctor‘s degree, guest researchers, practical trainees, or who
    are participating in „work- & holiday“-programs as well as
    accompanying members of his or her family”

  11. Hey Chris,

    I think you answered one of my questions on the Australians in Berlin facebook page too. Could be wrong! Anyway,
    I’m about to purchase my health insurance before going in (early af) to the visa office tomorrow.
    1. Do you mean I can use World Nomads instead of Mawista to take as proof of health insurance to the visa registration office OR do you mean I have to use Mawista first (as cheap option) then ditch and change to World Nomads? What I’m asking is, can I just use World Nomads instead of any German health insurance like Mawista?
    I already have travel insurance which covers emergency medical care with World Nomads- it doesn’t last the full year though- only goes to May and I’d need it to go to Sep- could I a) add more time to my World Nomads insurance if its valid in your opinion or b) buy Mawista only to cover from the date in May that my World Nomads expires (e.g World Nomads until May then Mawista from May until September ) or b) would it be better to just buy a years worth of Mawista then cancel it??

    NEED HELP ASAP

    • Hey again Lina 🙂

      I used Mawista as proof of health insurance and ditched it afterwards in favour of World Nomads (which I’m on now). Like the other guy on your Facebook post said, you might be fine with World Nomads, but I thought it’d better to be safe than sorry. Mawista is recommended by the visa office itself as an insurer of choice. If your World Nomads insurance lasts for less than a year, it’s very possible that the visa office will issue you with a shorter visa. The Working Holiday Visa is one of the easier visas to get, but personally, I still wouldn’t mess around as Germany can be very strict with technicalities and paperwork.

      One more thing: it takes a little while (I think it’s a day or two?) for Mawista to actually issue the insurance policy, so it might be too late if you’re planning on buying it now in preparation for tomorrow morning.

      Whichever you choose, good luck and welcome to Berlin!

      • … I just read this, interview tomorrow morning. The insurance says:
        We will check your application and send you all of the documents by e-mail within the next several days.

        • Hey Aaron, yes it took me about a day and a half to get processed and have everything by email. This is why I mentioned in the main post:

          “One more tip: buy your insurance a few days before your appointment date, as it can take a day or two for the documents to arrive in your email inbox. I’ve had friends who have missed their appointments after getting their insurance at the last minute.”

          Hope everything works out for you!

  12. Update 01/10/2018:
    – Mawista student insurance was processed following next day (less then 24 hours).
    – I’m from NZ but live in Prague.
    – Booked appointment in Prague (showed them 9 days at a hostel in Berlin as proof of address).
    – Had to pay fees in Czech Crowns (2k / 75 euro)
    – At first they said I needed to go do this in Germany:
    As they can do the first part of the application, but I have to do the second part in Germany I think they meant the:
    (Anmeldung is the process of registering yourself to a German address.)
    THIS WAS NOT TRUE. After talking to them for a while, telling them that it said I could online – a younger girl who was there was like, wait you can just apply here (there were 3 people who kept confusing each other).

    7 days later, I could pick up my visa. Done, Super easy.

    I agree, don’t do it in Germany – it sounds like more work.

    Chris Lim – Thank you for your help. This page provided a lot of useful information.

    • Thanks so much for the update! You’re very welcome, I’m just glad to hear it all worked out for you. Also great to hear first-hand that it is in fact a lot easier to go through the visa process outside of Germany. Congrats and welcome to Germany 🙂

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