How to Get a German Youth Mobility Visa

So, you’re a Canadian who wants to live in Germany? Welcome to the Deutsch expat family 🇩🇪

I hope this step by step helps you more effectively than sifting through Government websites. If you’ve come here and you’re not a Canadian citizen, I highly recommend checking out Goats On The Road as they have an extensive, multi-country guide. Alternatively, please read on as a lot of the requirements are similar or identical!

Hannah is a citizen of England so she didn’t have to get a visa, yet (Brexit?), but I had to go through the process. That means you can be confident this guide is accurate backed not only by research, but by human experience 😁

Contents

1. The Requirements
2. The Process in Canada
3. The Process in Germany
4. Conclusion and Overview

The Requirements

Firstly, are you eligible for a youth mobility visa? According to the Canadian YMA government site:

The Youth Mobility Agreement between Canada and Germany offers a unique opportunity for young people (between the age of 18 and 35 inclusively at the time of application) to complement their post-secondary education, acquire hands-on work experience, and improve their knowledge of the other country’s language, culture and society. An applicant must be a citizen of Canada and holding a valid Canadian passport and also cannot be accompanied by dependent family members.

Canadians can apply for Youth Mobility visas while in Canada up to 6 months before departure or once they arrive in Germany. There are four options for the Youth Mobility visa and you can apply for each option one time. Technically, you can live and work in Germany for four years consecutively if you are approved each year.

The categories are dependant on your needs, situation, and your ability to convince others you’re a good employee (harder if you don’t speak any German).

Category 1: Young professionals who wish to obtain further training under a contract of employment and increase their knowledge of Germany’s culture and the German language
Category 2: Young Canadians who wish to do an internship in Germany as part of their studies or training
Category 3: Canadian post-secondary students who wish to engage in an occupational activity during their academic vacation
Category 4: Young Canadians who wish to stay in Germany for tourism and cultural discovery purposes while being authorized to work to supplement their financial resources.

WARNING! There are certain jobs that you CANNOT do with a youth mobility visa. If you want to do these certain jobs, you need a different visa. “You are not allowed to work freelance, or as a self-employed contractor. In addition, you are not allowed to work as an Au Pair. If you want to work as an Au Pair, you must apply for an Au Pair visa.”

I pondered for a while whether or not I should apply for the visa before leaving. What if I got rejected while in Deutschland and had to leave? What if my visa didn’t come before my flight date? Eventually, I decided to apply within Germany; it’s far cheaper, no flights would need rebooking, and I could apply in person. I’ll get into a more detailed reasoning in the next section.

The Process in Canada

If you want to apply within Canada, there are specific steps you must follow. You can apply in person at the German Consulate in Toronto, or by mail.

The German Missions in Canada has made a checklist to ensure you have everything needed before sending off your application. If any part of the application is incomplete or incorrect, it may be rejected without prior correspondence. Be diligent!

Here is a list of things you need before mailing your application:

The German Missions in Canada website is fairly comprehensive and I highly recommend reading most, if not all, of the information.

BUT beware as there are a number of conditions:

  • The number of separate charges is annoying. You have to send a bank draft or mail order with your application in order to pay a €120 processing fee, plus shipping, AND whatever it costs (usually around $70 CDN) to have your signatures notarized if you aren’t in the GTA. On top of everything mentioned, once you arrive in Germany, you have to pay €100 at the German Alien’s Authority for the visa authorization.
  • There are only a certain number of approved notaries for this application and your documents must be signed by one (if sending it by mail). I didn’t want to haul myself to the consulate in Vancouver and miss a day of work.
  • They have to keep your passport for the duration of the application process and are “not responsible” if it goes missing in the mail. Yikes. 
  • When you get accepted by the Consulate in Toronto, they can only issue you a 90 day visa anyways! You have to go to the local German Alien’s Authority to extend the visa regardless (the extra €100 fee I listed above). Note: to be approved, you require a German address which is registered by your local Kundenzentrum (more on this process is in the following section). 
  • You have to show that you’ve booked flights and train tickets already?! It’s ridiculous considering you haven’t even received the visa yet.
  • You can’t talk to anyone about issues you have, questions, or clear up any doubts that you’re not a convict trying to illegally immigrate to Germany. 

Okay, I made that sound difficult and annoying. However, I know people who went through the mailing process without being rejected. On the other hand, I know others who didn’t get their acceptance in time and had to rebook their flights which costed a large chunk of travel change. Overall, if you live near one of the larger cities required for your notarization, it should be fairly simple. Make sure to use the government’s mailing recommendations exactly as specified to avoid any confusion or delays. It costs more to send Xpresspost, but it is the safest way to ensure your personal information and passport will be handled correctly.

The largest reason I did not use the mailing service was money. I calculated it for myself and with mailing, both country’s fees, passport photos, travel, and notarization, it would cost approximately $480 CDN compared to the in-Germany cost of approximately $180 CDN 🙃

You save $300. With flights as low as €13, there’s your trip to Austria! BOOM.

The main downside of receiving your visa in Germany is time. You can’t start working legitimately until you have your visa and it will take 3-4 weeks. You must physically go to your local Fachbereich Ausländerangelegenheiten (department of foreign affairs/Alien’s Authority) following the registration of your flat at the nearest Kunendenztrum. This process is coming up next so you can compare the options!

The Process in Germany

If you’ve been reading so far, you may be thinking this process is a breeze compared to the mailing-in-Canada option. Not quite.

I will give you the full spiel so you can decide what option is right for you.

The first step is getting a flat if you haven’t already found one. Getting a flat before you arrive might be difficult as landlords often like to meet their future tenants. Lots of people stay in hostels until they can find a suitable living arrangement which is fine, but you won’t be able to register for your visa without a legit address.

The second step is to register your flat at the nearest Kundenzentrum. This can be done one of three ways.

  • Book an appointment online for the same day at 7am via the centre’s website (an example here).
  • Walk in and book the next appointment available and hope to receive an early date.
  • Walk in an hope you’re even luckier for a same-day appointment

Before you can actually register your flat, you need two specific forms signed by you and your landlord: the flat registration and a personal information form. These are available at the Kundenzentrum upon request. If no one can speak English and the google translate option isn’t working well, show them this form! You should be good to go from there.

side note: registration costs €12 payable by cash or card at publicly accessible machines.

Once registered, you will receive a form signed by someone at the Kundenzentrum the same day. Don’t leave without it! Hold onto this for the duration of your stay because you need it to use local services like libraries. Also, having backup documents is always a good idea.

The next step is applying for your visa at the Ausländerangelegenheiten. This can be done in two ways:

  • Email the nearest location to book an appointment. If the appointment is for a month or two later, politely reject this offer and ask when you can walk in as Canadians are only permitted in Germany without a visa for 90 days.
  • Walk in the same day and take a number. If you’re doing this, get there when it opens and be prepared to wait anywhere between 1.5 and 5 hours. Some locations aren’t open every day and have limited walk-in hours. You can find your local Alien Authority’s contact information, days/hours of operation, and other helpful information on their website.

If you email them beforehand, you will be sent a document to fill out. I recommend this as it will save you time in the waiting room (they make you fill out extra documents outside).

The document will be labelled:

Antrag auf Erteilung/Verlängerung eines Aufenthaltstitels
Application for the issue / renewal of a residence permit
Demande de délivrance / de prolongation d’un titre de séjour

Good luck 😐

This next bit is probably the most important piece of information I could give you. Be 100% positive you have all the necessary documents. This might be a “no brainer,” but even one missing piece will result in hours of your life wasted. There are notable differences between the mailing option and the in-house option. Prime example, I brought all the documents the German Missions in Canada requires and the German government worker literally used one. Out of the whole damn stack, they only took ONE piece, which was the application form. German bureaucracy is far from perfect. Therefore, your experience could be different—so I recommend bringing everything regardless. ALSO, don’t assume everyone speaks English well or even at all. Organization will be your salvation. To extend, they wanted different things than German Missions Canada. They needed the address registration, the extra document mentioned above, proof of purpose in Germany, actual proof of health insurance from the provider, and actual proof of financial stability. The mailing option only requires that you sign documents saying you have it—the German government wants concrete evidence.

The officials pressed me as to WHY I was in Germany. I told them: field hockey. This was NOT a sufficient answer as I had no contract to prove my story. They asked if I was being paid to play for the club and I said no (because that requires a DIFFERENT VISA) but that they paid me for coaching like they would anyone else—which is true. I didn’t have any job contracts, though, and had to explain to multiple people what the visa even is. The term “working holiday visa” clicked for them, but the two are not the same. I had all the documents from Canada which ended up being helpful as they knew where to look on their system for clarification. Anyways, I thought I could register my address at the same time I applied for the visa, which I couldn’t do without the sheet from the Kundenzentrum, so the Alien’s Authority sent me out. I hastily emailed my club and host family to ask for letters of invitation. The annoying part is that with the YMA, Canadians are allowed to travel, work, and live in Germany without any of these commitments. They asked me about ten times WHY I was here. I don’t know, why the hell not?

The second time I went in, I presented the letter from the club and it pretty much solved all my problems. The lady remembered me, which was good, and the process continued without any further issues. This leads me to the point where I stress the importance of having bank information and your health insurance policy. I printed out the actual policy wording on top of the certificate World Nomads emailed to me in case they wanted proof that my coverage was sufficient. As far as finances go, I went to my Canadian bank before leaving and requested stamped copies of my financial documents. THIS IS SO IMPORTANT. The German government may DEMAND you book a flight literally a year in advance if you do not have sufficient funds or proof of stable employment. Even though the visa only requires you to have the equivalent of €3000, they don’t care; if you don’t have outbound travel plans, €3000 is not enough to prevent suspicion that you want to stay longer than your visa allows. What if that’s all you have but aren’t certain of your future plans? If you can’t convince them you will leave, find a cheap flight to another country and book a hostel for a few days to “prove” you’re travelling around Europe after your German experience. If you have upward of €7000 and plan to do small jobs, you should be fine no matter what.

A teammate that came with us, who plays in a different area of Hamburg, had some serious issues with her health insurance. I’ll quickly share this as it may happen to you. As I said before, German bureaucracy is a struggle. She applied at a different Alien’s Authority and they would not accept her health insurance because it was not signed by her provider. World Nomads is an online company so this wasn’t possible to prepare beforehand, but they sent her an online equivalent. The lady handling her application would not accept the document without a live signature. What do you do if this happens? Go to the next closest Authority and pray. She ended up having to pay an extra €300 for German health insurance and it took her almost 3 months to sort it out. My advice? Make German friends ASAP who won’t mind translating a not-so-ideal situation. Her host family helped her get everything she needed.

Another side note: I took my passport photos (which are actually 35mmx45mm—not standard Canadian passport size) in Canada at Walmart for $30. I found out later that Germany has public photo booths that can do the same thing for €10. You can find these in train stations!

Okay, so you’ve made it with all your documents and the government worker says you’re approved! Yay! Now what? You must pay €100 at a machine in the waiting room and bring the receipt back to the official. They will give you a different receipt and tell you that a letter will come to your address. They will recommend you put your name on the mailbox so the mail carrier knows you live there. The letter will take approximately 3 weeks. Once you receive it, you have to go back to the same Authority and pick up your visa that will live in your passport.

The letter you receive will include your online ID that you can use right away for online transactions, work, and banking. This ID is used on an app, but is not an equivalent to your visa. You will get a personal PIN and PUK. The PIN is for your login and the PUK is the secret number you’ll need to verify your identity or reset your password, etc. Keep that safe! Along with your Visa, you should receive a permanent resident card. It will have your information and picture on it (similar to a driver’s license) and can be used as ID in the entire country.

Conclusion and Overview

I’ve made both options sound difficult and frustrating; they honestly can be, but aren’t always. Often people experience hiccups with visas—it’s part of travelling. Be prepared, organized, and study the language at least a little before you go to make things as easy as possible.

Overview of needed things:

  • Passport with at least 2 blank pages
  • Health Insurance
  • Photo 35mmx45mm
  • Documents
  • €3000 or more
  • Letter of Invitation from a Job or Other
  • Flight details (if applicable)

WHAT IF you get rejected? Take solace in the Schengen Agreement. You can try a similar process for, let’s say, France, which is even cheaper than Germany, and move/live freely between the entire region. Some countries in the region are not part of the EU and you cannot work in different countries with a single Schengen visa because of the different requirements of each nation. But if your goal is solely to travel, this is a perfect alternative.

I hope this article has helped you! The more I researched this process, the more I realized it wasn’t as simple as I had been lead to believe. Always read the fine print! Although, with patience, diligence, and the proper documentation, you will likely have no issues!

Good luck, sailors! Keep working hard 💪

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