What are the Legal Hurdles and Exceptions for Non-EU Academics working in Germany during their studies?

Expat Law | Non-EU Expat Law | Expat Workers | Expat Workers in Germany | Non-EU Expat Germany

Focus of the blog – Non-EU Academics

In the pursuit of academic and professional growth, individuals from non-European Union (EU) countries often find themselves drawn to Germany, a country known for its thriving job market. A vast majority of international expat students need to work to finance their studies. However, the path to employment in Germany is governed by a complex web of laws and regulations, primarily found in the Residence Act (AufenthG) and the Employment Regulation (BeschV). While EU citizens enjoy free movement and unrestricted job market access, this blog focuses on the specific challenges in law and opportunities that non-EU students, university graduates, expat guest researchers, and academics encounter when seeking employment to work in Germany.

Understanding the Basics of Expat Laws For Non-EU Nationals in Germany:

For non-EU nationals looking to work in Germany, securing a residence permit that permits employment is typically a prerequisite. However, recent changes have brought exceptions, particularly for foreign researchers, who may not require such permits for short-term research stays in Germany if they already hold a research permit from another EU member state. This adjustment aims to facilitate mobility among foreign researchers within the EU.

The Role of the Federal Employment Agency:

While residence permits are issued by the Foreigners’ Office (Ausländerbehörde), job approval usually involves a crucial step – the consent of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). This step can be daunting for many; however, there are substantial exemptions for foreign academics, reducing or eliminating the need for Federal Employment Agency approval. This policy shift in law is part of a broader effort to attract more qualified expat workers to help combat labor shortages in Germany.

Key Considerations And Laws For Non-EU Expat Workers in Germany

The decision to grant employment permits for expat workers hinges on several factors, including the economic needs of Germany, labor market conditions, and the imperative to combat unemployment. Moreover, a concrete job offer is typically required when applying for a residence permit. In certain cases, a residence permit may be granted to expat workers in Germany without Federal Employment Agency approval, depending on specific regulations, intergovernmental agreements, or job categories

Understanding Employment Categories for International Students:

International students studying at German universities have several employment categories available to them, each with its own set of rules and conditions. We’ll discuss these categories one by one.

Zustimmungsfreie Tätigkeiten (Employment Without Approval)

Part-time Work – 120 Full Days or 240 Half Days

Expat students in Germany can engage in employment without the need for formal approval if their work doesn’t exceed 120 full days or 240 half days in a calendar year. To calculate half days, the daily working time should not exceed four or five hours, depending on the regular working hours of other employees in the company.

Student and Academic Assistant Positions

In addition to the aforementioned part-time work, international expat students can also work as student or academic assistants without any time restrictions. These roles are often related to their field of study or involve tasks within university-affiliated organizations.


International students must differentiate between compulsory and voluntary internships. Compulsory internships, integral to their studies and required for degree completion, do not require approval. These internships can also be paid. Voluntary internships, not directly related to their academic curriculum, are subject to approval and may require a change in their residence permit status if they exceed the allotted 120 full days or 240 half days.

Zustimmungspflichtige Tätigkeiten (Employment Requiring Approval)

Studierende an Hochschulen im Ausland (International Students Enrolled Abroad)

International students studying abroad may have limited employment opportunities in Germany. We’ll outline two scenarios where international students can work in Germany without extensive approvals.

Vacation employment

Students enrolled at foreign universities can work in Germany during their vacation for up to three months within a twelve-month period without needing Federal Employment Agency approval if the job was arranged through the agency.


Certain internships organized through international exchange programs by recognized organizations, public institutions, or student associations do not require Federal Employment Agency approval. However, the employer must still obtain approval to ensure compliance with labor laws.

Absolventen deutscher Hochschulen (Graduates of German Universities)

After successfully completing their studies in Germany, international graduates have favorable access to the German job market. They can extend their residence permit for up to 18 months to search for a job related to their qualification. This extension does not require Federal Employment Agency approval if the job aligns with their degree.


This blog has provided an overview of the complex legal landscape surrounding employment for non-EU students, graduates, researchers, and academics in Germany. It is important to note that each individual’s situation may differ, and it is essential to seek personalized advice and guidance from immigration experts and relevant authorities when navigating these regulations. While legal hurdles exist, Germany’s commitment to attracting international talent offers many opportunities for non-EU academics to thrive in its vibrant academic and professional landscape.

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