Why applying for a working holiday visa in Germany isn’t as easy as it sounds

If you are Australian, under 30 and want to work and holiday in Germany (why people would want that beats me, but to each their own ;)) you can enter Germany on a tourist visa and apply for it here. If you provide a bank statement with sufficient funds (according to our information more than 5.400 AUD but better to be checked with the authorities) and a proper health insurance you will get the visa the same day you are applying for it. Normally that sounds fairly easy. But it’s actually not, which my girlfriend and I had to find out the hard way. Resulting in sleepless nights and stressfull days.

So here is what we’ve found out:

1. You can’t get an appointment within the 90 days you are allowed to stay

If you enter the Schengen area (which includes most of the European countries) on a tourist visa you are allowed to stay 90 days after your arrivial.
If you use your tourist visa for what it’s intended to and actually take some time to travel first before you try to book an appointment the chances are pretty low that you will get an appointment before your visa runs out.
But even if you go directly to an embassy or welcome center you might not get an appointment within the 90 days you are allowed to stay (Could be different in other places or at other times of the year but here in Hamburg my girlfriend went on the 8th of august and got an appointment for the 12th of november, which would have been 96 days later).
In some areas in Germany it might be possible to book an appointment online but for applying for a visa in Hamburg it’s not. So I am not really sure how to get an appointment within the 90 days you are allowed to stay.

2. You CAN’T get an extension for a tourist visa

Since my girlfriend only got an appointment in november (two and a half months after her tourist visa would have run out) she’d been told that she should go to the district office to get an extension and that she can only do that maximum five days before her visa is running out. And that information almost killed us^^. Cause if you are having the information that you can’t go earlier than five days before it runs out, you end up having only five days (or less if there is a weekend in between) to figure it out before it actually runs out. And that’s were the stress begins.

Especially since you have to have special circumstances to extend a tourist visa. And not getting an appointment in time isn’t one of those special circumstances.

Which is simply to due the following reasons:

  • If you are here on a tourist visa no one really knows that you are here. The visa you’ve got while entering was simply so the people at the airport knew whether to let you through or not. But the people at the district office neither know who you are nor did they ever made a decision whether or whether not you are allowed to stay here.
  • If you could get an extension for your tourist visa simply because you couldn’t get an appointment on time a lot of people would start booking appointments just to get the extensions even if they wouldn’t be eligable to get a visa in the end. And that is when the whole system would crash and it would be even more complicated to get an appointment.

3. You can get your visa without an appointment but the waiting list “closes” before the department even opens

Another reason why the whole visa process got stressful in the end was cause my girlfriend also got the information that she can simply get her “extension” five days before her visa is running out by going to the distict office between 7am and 7pm. It sounded really simple but truth is that even if the district office is open between 7am and 7om the foreigners’ office is not. In our district it was only open between 8am – 12pm and even that didn’t mean that you would actually been heard during these hours.

So when we went there on friday (the first day my girlfriend had been told she could get the extension) the foreigners’ office was already closed. When we’d asked what to do, we’d been advised to come early (ideally at 7:30am) on Monday to put our name on a waiting list.

Since it was the first monday of a new month we’ve decided to go even earlier. Just to make sure that we actually get a spot on the waiting list seeing that monday was already the second to the last day before my girlfriends visa would have expired (so there was no room for more delays). When we arrived at 7am on Monday we’d been the 22nd on the waiting list and on 7:41am that list was already marked as “maybe you won’t get in today”. So 19 minutes before the foreigners’ office would actually open the list was already closed (On tuesday the waiting list was already full at 7am – and yes we had to go twice^^).

4. You have to be register your address first before you can apply for a visa

When my girlfriend and I’d been called to the information desk on Monday morning the woman who prechecked if we had everything to actually apply for a visa, couldn’t find my girlfriend in the system (and therefore couldn’t reserve her a spot to be actually seen that day). She told us that we needed to register her first at my address so the foreigners’ office has her data and knows if they are actually have to take on her case. Useful information but unfortunetaly nothing you wanna hear on the second to the last day. Especially since this had to be done at a different department and since that department didn’t have any appointments left for the day or the next one. Luckily another district office had an appointment left half an hour after we’ve got the bad news.

5. No one actually knows how it’s working (and therefore no one is to blame)

Once we arrived at the other district office (with a little running session) to register my girlfriend at my address, the person handling the registration told us that he can only register my girlfriend once she has a visa. Which was completely against what they told us at the foreigners’ office where we couldn’t get a visa without being registered (in German there is a saying that “the cat is biting its tail” which basically means we are running in circles ;)).

But after rechecking again he was able to register her (so getting a registration without a visa is actually a thing – at least for Australians). And that is where we learned that there is obvoiusly a lot of different and confusing information out there. Which is not surprising since every country is different and has their own agreement with the german goverment.  So we can’t really blame anyone for not knowing (or giving us the wrong information), we just wish we would have had the right information earlier.

6. Going as early as possible and having 2 hours to wait is still better than coming later and having to wait for four hours

Since we couldn’t get into the foreigners’ office after we registred my girlfriend at my address we had to come back the next day. Since it was our last chance before her visa was running out we decided to go even earlier (which was good since the waiting list closed already at 7am – the time we went there on monday).

Turns out that was actually a smart idea. Cause if you go at 5:50am to put your name on the list you still have to wait 2 hours until the office even opens. But depending on how many are infront of you (we’d been number 5, the first one was there at 5am), you might be one of the first ones to get in (we’d been called at 8:05 and been out of there at 8:40am). If you go at like 7am you either end up not being on the list at all or you’d been 22nd and wait at least two hours (potentially even longer).

7. If you know the drill it’s actually a simple process

If we would have had the right or at least no misleading information at hand the process would have been actually as easy as it sounded.

But therefore it is necessary to:

  1. Register your address first before you go to the foreigners’ office (otherwise they don’t know if they are “responsible” to handle your case).
  2. Once you’ve registered your address, go as early as possible to the foreigners’ office to be one of the first ones on the waiting list (yes you have to get up early for that but potentially you can go to bed at 9am again while everyone else is still waiting for their appointment).
  3. Take everything they need: Sufficient funds, health insurance, application form, biometrical picture your passport (if that needed to be said ;)),… (maybe even go one day just to get the right information).
  4. If your German isn’t good enough take someone with you that is fluent since they can’t (or don’t want to) speak your language (which is fair cause they can’t know all the languages and you are the one who wants to stay in Germany).
  5. And: Go as soon as you have all the required documents and not on the very last day. It is indeed possible to apply for a working holiday at every foreigners’ office and you don’t have to have an appointment for that. Going there just to get an extension for your tourist visa is not a thing! (If we would have had that information our life would have been easier^^).

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