Germany is one of the most popular destinations for ex-pats and international students in Europe. Since English is widespread across the country, ex-pats can enjoy a relatively fast integration into society. A highly developed economy means that international ex-pats can enjoy a relatively high income while working in Germany.
Germany’s technology sector drives business and innovation in the country, with annual sales revenue of more than $274.6 billion. The industry also provides more than one million jobs, which is about 7% of the economic output.
Software development in Germany is responsible for many accomplishments in technology. It’s a major software market, ahead of the UK and France. As a software engineering expert looking for greener pastures, Germany should be on top of your list.
Let’s take a deeper look into Germany from an IT standpoint and explore what you need and expect.
The Language and People
In most international companies, English is the primary language. In case you end up in a German-speaking company, you shouldn’t be too worried. The majority of IT and engineering ex-pats are well versed in English.
German people tend to be efficient yet organized and direct but are very accommodating. Therefore, to blend in with the local people, learning a bit of German will prove beneficial.
Germans have a strong work ethic, so it’s essential to learn how to balance work and personal life.
Most jobs in Germany pay better than in other countries. According to the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the minimum wage is $10.97 gross per hour.
Besides bonuses and allowances, the average salary for a Software Engineer in Germany is $72,167 per year as of 2020. The amount varies depending on factors such as the region, industry, experience, or company size. Salaries are often higher in the southern parts of Germany.
The annual salaries for IT professionals in top industries are as follows:
- Consumer goods: $ 85,162
- Banking: $ 84,685
- Automotive: $ 82,777
- Medical and Pharmaceuticals: $ 80,988
- Financial service providers: $ 80,988
- Metal industry: $ 80,517
Although taxation is relatively high at about 38%, the obvious benefits include higher average income, modern infrastructures such as public transportation, top-notch healthcare, and affordable higher education.
Jobs in Germany
VanHack has many jobs in Germany that sponsor work visa. You can see them here, apply for free and relocate there!
When you get employed in Germany, your contributions go to four main social security funds and amount to about 20% of your income. On the plus side, your employer matches the 20%.
- Pension Fund
Upon turning 65, you’ll be eligible for monthly payouts from the government, earning up to 67% of the gross salary you had before retiring. Additionally, as an ex-pat, if you decide to relocate to another country, you’ll still get the pension you have accumulated over the time you spent in Germany.
- Health Insurance
As long as you’re working in Germany, you should have health insurance. Your employer is responsible for signing you up for a public health insurance plan.
- Unemployment Insurance
Your contributions to the unemployment fund allow you to get a percentage of the wages you had during your last employment. The amount varies depending on your age and work duration. Your contributions should be for at least 12 months in the previous two years to benefit as an ex-pat.
Accident and Sick Pay Insurance
This insurance covers any treatment costs you incur as a result of illness or injury at your workplace. You’ll also receive payment during this period and a pension if you get disabled.
The best part is, it covers your commute to and from work!
- Disability Insurance
This contribution goes to the state’s disability fund. It helps to pay for facilities assisting people with disabilities in your place of work. It also caters to people with natural disabilities, disabled war veterans, and victims of serious crimes.
As a software engineer, programmer, or IT expert, you understand the challenges of dealing with a slow internet connection.
Germany doubled its average internet speed from about 27Mbps in 2015 to around 55 Mbps in 2020. This is better than the United States, where the average speed is about 15-50Mbps depending on individual states.
The faster connections will suit your hosting, gaming, streaming, and cloud storage requirements.
Narrowing down to the best internet provider in Germany will depend on your location. When renting an apartment, the chances are that your landlord selects the internet provider.
To resolve a slow connection, you can request your landlord to run a cable directly to your home to avoid interference. To boost your Wi-Fi signal, consider getting a network repeater or an access point.
The Requirements of Working in Germany
- EU & European Economic Area (EEA) Residents
Coming from any of the EU or EEA member countries means you’re free to move around Europe. You don’t need to have a visa to enter Germany; have a valid ID card and passport. You can stay in Germany for up to 90 days, over a period of 180 days.
It’s important to note that you can enter Germany without a visa, but you need a work visa or residence permit to get employed.
If you’d like to prolong your stay beyond 90 days, you need to register with the local municipality. To register, you’ll have to prove that you can afford to support yourself and your dependents.
You also have to apply for a residence certificate through the nearest Ausländerbehörde (Foreign Nationals’ Authority). This certificate permits you to stay for the duration of your employment contract but can easily get extended for as long as you prefer. Additionally, you’re able to open your own business and apply for German citizenship if you stay for more than 5 years.
Other countries exempted from the visa requirement are Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the USA. After 3 months, you’ll need to apply for an extension permit.
- Non-EU Residents
If your country is not above, you need to apply for a visa in your home country to enter Germany. The application process takes 6 weeks and 3 months to get approval, so ensure you start the process at least 6 months before your travel date.
The type of visa will depend on your reason for immigration to Germany. For example, to apply for a work visa, you’ll need an employment contract or offer and qualifications from an institution accredited by the German government.
Types of German Visas for Job Seekers
Different types of visas or permits applicable to anyone looking to live and work in Germany
- Academic or Non-Academic Jobseeker Visa
Without a job offer, it’s possible to stay in Germany for up to 6 months as you look for a job.
To apply for the Job Seeker visa, you need to have at least two years of vocational training or a university degree from a recognized university. In addition, to apply for a residence permit, the job you get should match your vocation or area of study.
- Completed visa application form
- Valid Passport
- Biometric passport photo
- Proof of financial ability to cover your living expenses during your search.
- Recognized academic qualifications or university degree
- B1 proficiency in German, specific to your area
- Proof of recognized vocational training
- Temporary Residence Permit or Work Visa
This visa allows you to stay and work in Germany and has no salary requirement. However, you need to have a job offer or vocational training from a recognized institution to apply. It’s valid for one year and gets renewed based on your employment status.
If you switch jobs or your contract gets renewed or extended, you will need to renew your visa.
- Work Visa for IT Ex-pats
As an experienced IT worker with at least 3 years of experience in the last 7 years, you don’t need a university degree to apply for a work visa.
You can apply for a visa to work in the IT sector if your job offer has a salary of a gross minimum of $59,226. You’ll also need the job offer stating your pay and evidence of previous work experience in IT.
- Self-Employment Visa
This visa applies to anyone who wants to open their own business or work as a freelancer.
To start your own business in Germany, the visa requirements include;
- Regional demand or economic interest for your product or service
- Evidence of your ability to create the company with your capital or through a loan.
- Proof that you have enough pension provisions for those above 45 years
To work as a freelancer, you need proof of financial capability and the appropriate license based on your profession.
- Skilled Worker Visa (Blue Card)
If your job qualifications are in high demand or you work in a shortage industry, you can apply for a skilled worker visa. Relevant fields include science, mathematics, engineering, medicine, and IT.
To qualify, you need a university degree from an accredited institution and a gross salary not less than $65,834 per annum. If your job falls under the shortage industry, your annual salary should be $51,344 or more.
A blue card is valid for 4 years, or the duration of your contract with an additional 3 months. It also allows you to be outside the EU for up to 12 months before becoming invalid.
Other benefits of a blue card are no visa waiting period, and you’re able to apply for German citizenship sooner than other ex-pats.
Permanent Settlement Permit
After living in Germany for 5 years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit. It allows you to live and work in Germany permanently.
- EC Long-Term Residence Permit
This visa is an advanced version of a permanent settlement permit. It allows you to apply for residency in other EU countries within a shorter period.
Education in Germany
The German federal government provides funding for primary, secondary, vocational, and higher education. Therefore, public primary and secondary schools are free! As a parent, all you’ll need to pay for are extra-curricular activities, like school trips.
Private schools in Germany are more affordable compared to other private schools in Western Europe. The exact cost varies depending on the specific school and grade, but it ranges from $2,982 to $29,826 per year.
Banking in Germany
After relocation, you don’t need to open a bank account with a German bank. Instead, to pay bills and utilities, you can opt for an international bank, an online bank, or a German mobile bank.
You can manage your finances initially from an overseas account, as most German businesses accept the major international debit and credit cards such as Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
The Largest Software Development and Tech Hubs in Germany
As an Engineer, you can choose to work anywhere in Germany. However, some specific places are best suited for your career.
Besides being Germany’s capital city, Berlin is the starting ground for many software development companies and modern software development solutions.
Silicon Allee in Berlin is the equivalent of the Silicon Valley in the US. High tech start-ups find it easy to acquire the much-needed talented minds. At the Silicon Allee campus, you’re able to enhance your skills, especially in building code bases.
Berlin is home to companies such as Airbnb, Facebook, and start-ups such as N26.
If you’re thinking of moving here, you can rent a one-bed flat in Berlin starting from $716.
If you’d like to advance your IT and software engineering career focusing on application development, drones, and Artificial intelligence, Munich is an excellent option for you.
You’ll find major German corporations such as Allianz and BMW and international supercompanies like IBM, Google, and Microsoft General Electrics.
Vacancies for software engineers in Munich exceed Berlin by almost one thousand.
The cost of living in Munich is higher than in Berlin, with a one-bed apartment going for more than $1,192 per month.
If you fancy cars and auto-mechanics, Stuttgart has brands such as Porsche and Daimler. You’ll be in a position to assist luxury car brands code upcoming supercars.
You’ll find well-paying offers for beginners and young developers in Stuttgart.
The average rental price in Stuttgart for apartments ranges from $894 to $3,296.
Hamburg has become a dynamic tech hub, offering some of the most prominent offices and companies. You’ll find companies such as Google, Facebook, Dropbox, Twitter, and Microsoft.
There’s a new digital campus called HammerBrooklyn, set up by the city of Hamburg. By design, it’s a central location for digital transformation, international companies, organizations, and start-ups from different fields. They work together to experiment, learn and implement innovations.
In Hamburg, housing costs around $1,073 per month for a one-bedroom flat.
Cost of Living in Germany
Based on the living standards in Germany, the cost of living is relatively low. As you plan your relocation, it’s essential to know what expenses to expect.
On average, monthly living expenses are about $ 1,431. This amount varies depending on factors such as location. A three-bedroom apartment in a city center goes for around $1512 per month.
Besides rent, utilities such as internet, mobile, and TV cost about $262. Health insurance costs about $125, although a part of it can get covered by your employer.
To rent an apartment, you need to pay a deposit in advance, and two- or three-months’ rent, excluding utilities.