Can I come to Germany for vocational training?
Vocational training programmes in Germany can offer great opportunities for a successful career. To come to Germany and take part in a vocational training programme, you will need a corresponding residence permit, i.e., "residence permit for the purpose of training" ("Aufenthaltserlaubnis zum Zweck der Ausbildung"), as per Section 16a of the Residence Act, which will come into force in March 2024. For many people from the so-called third countries (countries outside the EU), however, the first step is to apply for a "visa for the purpose of vocational training". A vocational training visa allows you to enter Germany legally and then start your training programme. Here you can learn about requirements you have to meet for a visa or residence permit as a trainee.
*The information on this page has been reviewed and verified by lawyer Astrid Meyerhöfer.
What do I need to know?
You can apply for a vocational training visa for Germany if you want to undertake qualified vocational training here and have admission to a training programme. Qualified vocational training is a training programme that is recognised by the state (or a comparable regulated vocational training) and continues for at least two years. You will find a list of all available qualified vocational training programmes at bibb.de.
If you need a visa to enter Germany, you must first apply for a visa at the German embassy/consulate in your home country or in a neighbouring country and present the above-mentioned documents there.
Please note: It can take several months for your visa application to be processed. However, if you would like to immigrate to Germany as a skilled worker, you may be able to obtain a visa more quickly (in accordance with Section 81a Residence Act). To do so, your future employer in Germany must apply for an "accelerated visa procedure" (“beschleunigtes Visumverfahren”) at the Immigration Office.
If you do not need a visa to enter Germany, report to the immigration authorities at your new place of residence after your entry and present the required documents there.
Whether you need a visa depends on your country of origin. On auswaertiges-amt.de, you will find a list of countries whose citizens need a visa to enter Germany.
In our chapter "National Visa" you will find a list of all the documents that all third-country nationals need for a national visa.
For a vocational training visa, you will also need the following documents:
- A vocational training contract or a specific offer for a vocational training position
- Proof that your livelihood is secured during your training. If you do not have enough money yourself, a third person can make a so-called declaration of commitment for you. You can find out more about this in our chapter "Declaration of commitment for a national visa".
- Proof of your German language skills. You need at least B1.
Good to know: You can also obtain your language certificate in Germany. To do so, you must enter Germany with a visa for language learning (“Visum zum Spracherwerb”) and attend a language course. (§ 16f para. 1 Residence Act)
If you want to do dual training, the Federal Employment Agency usually has to confirm. Then, whether you get a residence permit depends on whether other trainees from Germany or the EU or a person with a humanitarian residence permit are applying for the same training position or not; since such applicants would have priority. The Federal Employment Agency is in charge of the priority check procedure. When you apply, the embassy informs the Federal Employment Agency - that means you don't have to do anything yourself.
After coming to Germany, you must report to the Immigration Office at your new place of residence within three months and apply for a residence permit there. To do so, you must (again) submit the above-mentioned documents as well as, in principle, police registration and a rental agreement. The authorities will check your papers and then decide whether you can get a residence permit.
A "residence permit for the purpose of vocational training" is usually issued for one to two years and can be extended until you have completed your training. During this time, you can work an additional ten hours per week in another job.
With the amendment to the Skilled Immigration Act coming into effect on March 1, 2024, you will be allowed to work 20 hours per week and the job you take on can be anything (i.e. not necessarily a qualified job).
If you drop out or are dismissed, you will be at risk of losing your residence permit. You will only be given up to six months to find a new training position if you are not responsible for the loss of your vocational training spot. That means that if you drop out on your own accord - for no solid reason - you will lose your residence permit. If you are dismissed, e.g., because your company generally has to lay off employees, you will have up to six months to seek a new vocational training programme.
Yes, according to the amended version of § 16 a para. 1 sentence 2, you can. This is known as the so-called simplified change of purpose or “Zweckwechsel”– it means that you can change the training place if you inform the relevant Immigration Office beforehand and they agree. Please note, however, that special regulations may apply for certain special training courses, e.g. training as a speciality chef (in accordance with § 19 c Para. 1 Residence Act in conjunction with the Employment Ordinance).
Good to know: During the training phase, it is not possible to apply for a permanent residence permit (according to § 9 Residence Act). There is, however, one exception: If you worked as a qualified skilled worker (according to §§ 18a, b Residence Act) before your training, you can also apply for a permanent residence permit during the training if all other requirements for a permanent residence permit are met. This is according to the amended version of § 16 a Para. 1 S. 3.