Beware of Paying Too Much for your Berlin Artists Visa


There are consultants in Berlin charging between 750EU and 900EU to prepare your paperwork and talk you through the process of getting an Artists Visa (Freelance Visa) in Berlin. Red Tape Translation was surprised to discover that some consultants will offer to fill out your paperwork for you, potentially influencing your answers on the application form to ensure that you will be defined as an artist, and issued a work permit on the spot.

While Red Tape Translation can certainly understand the appeal of avoiding bureaucracy, I find the practice concerning for a number of reasons:

  1. It is against the law in Germany to offer legal advice unless you are qualified to do so. The law is called the German Legal Services Act. Read more about that here: If someone is filling out your paperwork for you and influencing your answers to fulfill certain legal requirements, they should be registered and qualified to do so.
  2. Manipulating your answers regarding work activities to make sure you fulfill the requirements to be considered an “artist” could be considered fraudulent.
  3. No-one can guarantee with 100% certainty that your Artists Visa or Freelance Visa will be approved.
  4. There are qualified English speaking immigration lawyers who charge much, much less.

The German Legal Services Act is there for your protection. If you’re given questionable legal advice from someone who is not registered and qualified, and you suffer as a consequence, you might be out of pocket, or you might not get to stay in Germany.

If you want a cost-effective and safe solution to getting your Berlin Artists Visa, or any other type of work permit, here are some much cheaper options:

  • Contact Red Tape Translation or for general advice about freelance work permits, artists visas, or residency permits at a fraction of the cost.
  • If you want case-specific legal advice about your situation, contact an English speaking immigration lawyer. Red Tape Translation has plenty of recommendations. You’ll still be saving a LOT of money, and you’ll have the security of knowing that the person giving you this advice is qualified and registered to do so.

If you do decide to go ahead and pay 750EU or more to work with a consultant who claims they can help you get your Berlin artists visa, first ask them whether they are qualified and registered to complete your paperwork for you and give you the advice they’re offering. 

Getting Married at the Standesamt in Berlin: What to Expect on the Day


Red Tape Translation was thrilled to interpret at a civil wedding ceremony for the very first time today. Getting married in Berlin can be nerve-wracking if one or both partners holds foreign nationality. Couples from all over the world get married at the Standesamt in Berlin, however, if one or both of the partners don’t understand German to a high enough level, you’re required to bring an interpreter with you. If the interpreter isn’t already sworn in at the Standesamt, you’ll need to pay an extra fee. 

Here’s a run down of how a Berlin civil marriage ceremony works:

You’ll have already met with the civil servant to hand in your documents and register your intent to marry. You may have handed in a declaration of name after marriage as well. When you arrive, (15 minutes early of course!), your civil servant will take everyone’s identification (this includes the interpreter) and tell you to wait until the ceremony begins. 

The civil servant will welcome you and hold a brief speech with a few personal words and advice about married life. They will then go over your name declaration with you, if you have submitted one, confirming which name you have chosen for your new family.

Next come the wedding vows, the “I do” or “das Jawort”. Both of you will be asked in turn (the man goes first) whether you choose freely to enter into marriage with the other. Assuming that the answer is in both cases affirmative, the civil servant then confirms that you are legally wed. At this point, if you’ve organized it in advance, you might choose to play music or have a reading.

A transcript will then be read out, which has all the important information such as the wedding date, the personal details of each partner, and the personal details of witnesses or the interpreter. You will all be required to sign the transcript, as well as additional paperwork regarding the name you may have chosen. The civil servant will wish you well, and you’ll have time for a few happy snaps.

That’s it, you’re done! Time for a champagne.

If you’re thinking about tying the knot in Berlin, talk to Red Tape Translation about taking an interpreter with you to your registration appointment and to your civil wedding ceremony.

Not Every Freelancer in Berlin Can Get an Artist’s Visa

Clowns are OK, though.

Clowns are fine, though.

Red Tape Translation has been reading a lot of blog posts lately written by Berlin expats who obtained their freelance artist visas and want to share their knowledge with the world. Most of them are incredibly helpful and well-meaning, but there is one discrepancy which might cause a bit of confusion on the Berlin freelance scene, and we’d like to help clear it up.

The term “freelance” is not quite the same thing in German as it is in English. Do you work for yourself? Make your own hours? Have more than one client and bill them? In Germany, you are self-employed, and you may or may not be further defined as freiberuflich (freelance) as well. Some types of work are considered trades (gewerblich) and require a business registration “Gewerbeanmeldung” and the payment of trade tax (Gewerbesteuer). Others are “freelance” professions, activities or services of a “higher art” that sometimes require a higher level of education.

Within this “freelance” category, there are professions in the industries that you’d typically get an artist’s visa for. An artists visa looks just like the normal self-employment work permit, but certain professions have been pre-approved for fast processing, which makes it easier to get. The most common fields of work that Red Tape Translation sees every day are: artists, musicians, actors, graphic designers, film-makers, and language teachers (particularly English teachers). It seems that in Berlin, applicants working in these fields get to bypass a spot of bureaucracy and, should all your ducks be in a row and they are satisfied with your application, you get your permit on the spot at your first appointment.

However, if you’re a “freelance software developer” or “freelance IT analyst” by your own definition, you probably won’t get your visa on the spot. You could get a work permit for self-employment (call it a freelance work permit if you like), but your application won’t be approved instantly, instead, it will be sent away to the Senatsverwaltung. They’ll check that Germany has an economic interest in your field. They’ll make sure you can support yourself. They’ll see that all your ducks are in a row, that you’ve got the right type of health insurance, a financial plan, some capital, some offers on the table, etc. The whole process can take 6-8 weeks.

One very common question is this: I now have an artist’s visa or freelance work permit, but what kind of work am I actually permitted to do? Can I stretch the boundaries? You’re permitted to do exactly what is listed on your work permit. So if you are a part-time clown, part-time English teacher, and part time app developer, make sure it all gets written on your work permit. Then you can have fun explaining your activities to the Finanzamt.


Red Tape Translation helps English speaking Berlin expats with bureaucracy and communication in German. Most of our work consists of telephone interpreting, certified English to German translations, and on-site interpreting at visa appointments at the Auslaenderbehoerde in Berlin.

Red Tape Now Offers Certified Translations


Red Tape Translation is thrilled to announce we now offer certified translations from English into German. Birth certificates, academic transcripts, divorce decrees, you name it, we now have a certified translator on board who can translate and certify them for you.

The system in Germany can seem a bit confusing at first. There are different words used in different states, such as “beeidigte Übersetzer”, “vereidigte Übersetzer”, “ermächtigte Übersetzer” “beglaubigte Übersetzung”, etc. If you receive information from a public authority, an agency, or a government department that contains one of these words, you might need a sworn or certified translation. 

When might I need a certified or sworn translation?

Public offices in Germany may request certified translations of documents for residency permit applications, marriage applications, etc. If you’re getting married in Germany, for example, and your certificates are issued in another language, certified translations may be requested from your Standesamt.

This is because translation is an unprotected industry, and anyone can offer translation services without qualifications. This raises some questions about whether accuracy is guaranteed, and public authorities sometimes want confirmation that the translation will be accurate. 

Please note that “Certification of Documents” is something completely different.

How It Works

The German-English-German translator (who has studied, passed an examination, and is sworn in by a court) translates your document and then signs and stamps it with a declaration certifying that the translation is complete and accurate. They will also indicate whether they used a copy or the original document to perform the translation. This certified translation is accepted Germany-wide.

Which documents require a certified translation?

This depends entirely on what you’re applying for, and what the government body requests. Every department, office, and authority is different and every application form has varying requirements. To find out exactly what you need translated, and how, contact them directly and ask.

The most common documents for certified translation from English into German include: 

Birth Certificate

Death Certificate

Marriage Certificate

Divorce Decree (Decree of Dissolution of Marriage)

Certificate of No Impediment

Academic Transcript

Academic Degree Certificate 

If you need a certified English – German translation for an application process or ceremony, the best way to get a quote from Red Tape Translation is by sending a scan or a photograph of the document in its entirety (every page). 

Red Tape Translation helps English speakers settle in Germany in one of three ways: appointment help, telephone help, and German – English – German translation. Kathleen Parker started Red Tape Translation in 2012 and is most commonly found either attending appointments at the Ausländerbehörde or helping English speakers make German phone calls.

Seven Common Mistakes Made at the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin


Red Tape Translation loves helping new Berliners from all around the world with their visa appointments at the Auslanderbehorde in Berlin. While the majority of our clients leave the immigration office with a smile on their face and a shiny new German work permit in their hands, sometimes it doesn’t always go to plan. Here are some really common mistakes that we hope you’ll avoid when you’ve got plans to visit the friendly grey building in Wedding.

1. Not registering your address in Berlin before you go.

You won’t get past the doorman if you don’t have your Anmeldebestaetigung with you. Get it at the Buergeramt and bring it with you to your appointment, or they will send you away. Talk to Red Tape Translation and take an interpreter with you if you’re not sure how to go about it.

2. Not having the right type of health insurance.

There are lots of different types of health insurance out there, so how are you supposed to know which kinds are accepted? Talk to a broker who knows what they’re doing. They don’t even take a commission, so you have nothing to lose. If you are going for a freelance/self-employed permit, make sure the health insurance you buy is recognised in Germany and accepted by BaFin, and bring the certificate and all accompanying documents with you. For some types of permits, traveller’s health insurance is fine.

 3. Showing up on a Wednesday or a Friday.

The Auslaenderbehoerde, like many public offices in Germany, has limited working hours. They are as follows: Mon – Tues 7am til 2pm, Thurs 10am til 6pm. The foreigner’s office is appointment only on Wednesdays and closed on Fridays. But if you book with Red Tape Translation and try to get us to come with you on a Wednesday or a Friday, we’ll set you straight!

4. Incomplete application forms

If you’re just dropping off your application for a German work permit without an appointment, make sure it’s complete. Expect delays and back and forth postal correspondence should you forget to sign the application form, for example.

5. Not bringing cash for the payment machine.

Once your permit has been approved, you have to pay for it using the payment machine on the first floor, which only accepts cash or German EC cards, no credit cards. If you don’t have cash on you, the closest ATM is a fairly long walk away. Don’t get caught out.

6. Expecting to get your permit on the spot


Red Tape Translation is always thrilled when this does happen, and mostly it does. But don’t be distraught if something goes wrong. Sometimes, they’ll want to see an extra document you don’t have with you, even if it’s not listed on your appointment information sheet. Sometimes, the rules change. And for some types of visas, the office has to send them away to the Department of Economics and Trade, or the Senate Administration, for approval.

7. Anxiety

We know the feeling! It feels like your whole fate is hanging on this one appointment. Red Tape Translation has seen quite a few tears, shaking hands, and even a panic attack or two. Whatever happens, the police won’t come to the office and escort you into quarantine. You can always revisit the office, drop in a missing document, or try for another visa if things don’t go to plan the first time around.

Visa Loophole or IT Glitch? Booking Appointments at the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin



Red Tape Translation received an interesting question about booking appointments at the Ausländerbehörde (LABO), and we thought we’d throw it out there for discussion. 

An American citizen was not able to get an appointment before his current visa expired. Those pesky appointment times go like hotcakes, and sometimes, there isn’t one available for 6-8 weeks.

Luckily, that’s not such a huge a problem. If you can’t get an appointment before your current permit runs out, your current permit will remain valid until the date of your appointment. Whatever working conditions currently apply to you will also apply until your appointment. All you have to do is print out the appointment confirmation and carry it around with your passport, should anyone ask. You can read that on the official LABO website here.

Prima! “That’s a load off”, thought our American friend. But as he flicked through the official appointment calendar, he noticed that he could book an appointment for June 2014, thus extending his current permit for twelve whole months without a single nod of approval from the Ausländerbehörde. Could this actually be true? Doubtful, he visited Die Beauftragte für Integration und Migration, a place where foreigners can get advice about everything immigration and integration. On his first visit, the case worker there agreed that this was true. A second visit proved less helpful.

In the meanwhile, Red Tape Translation emailed LABO to see what the official word there was. Could the American really extend his current permit for twelve months just by booking an appointment? A Fiktionsbescheinigung (bridging visa) would have given him three months max. The email response from our contact at the Ausländerbehörde was unfortunately completely irrelevant to the question at hand.

Red Tape Translation then turned to a legal source, Andreas Moser, a German lawyer with a special interest in international and immigration law. Andreas explained that if it was possible to book and confirm an appointment through the LABO website, then our friend has done everything right. But, if LABO later notices an IT glitch or a loophole, they could always cancel his appointment and rebook it an an earlier date. Additionally, this twelve month extension might not prove extraordinarily useful. For example, the extension is not suitable for travel outside of Germany – he couldn’t explore Europe and hope to get back in to Germany. Also, a university or an employer might hesitate to accept his appointment booking confirmation as a valid visa, which could cause problems at work or school in Berlin. So aside from buying himself some time, he might just be prolonging the inevitable.

Please note: A tourist visa in Berlin is not necessarily a residency permit (Aufenthaltstitel). It is not clear whether you can “extend” a tourist visa by booking an appointment. Best to be safe and get your official sticker!

About the Author: Kathleen Parker attends appointments at the Ausländerbehörde with English speakers who need a translator in person at the Auslanderbehorde. She can also be found at the Arbeitsagentur, Bürgeramt, Standesamt, and other meetings, and she offers German – English translations.

Buying an Apartment in Berlin


Red Tape Translation just finished an interesting project, interpreting for a meeting with a foreign investor and a real estate developer in Berlin.  

The potential for growth within the real estate market in Berlin is major, and investors are flocking to the city to make the most of wonderful acquisition opportunities in popular metro areas of Berlin. Not only in the thriving centre but also beyond the city ring in leafy residential quarters, there are some very special investment opportunities: apartments in wonderful old buildings that are being refurbished, as well as brand new modern style housing complexes.

If you’re buying a new or refurbished property in Berlin, you may be included in the design process, working in collaboration with the construction developer. While some apartment features might be standard, there are also plenty of decisions to be made about the details within your Berlin apartment, such as:

  • Room division measurements and properties
  • Light fixtures
  • Door and window fittings
  • Flooring materials: wood planks, parquet flooring, tiles, or carpet
  • Bathroom tiles, fittings, and accessories
  • Kitchen setup
  • Electricity solutions


The developer might set up appointments for you with specialized service providers and vendors to help you customize your Berlin apartment, and there will be plenty to talk about with the development team regarding the floor plans. If you need a friendly face to help you communicate in German while you’re in Berlin, talk to Red Tape Translation.

Based in Berlin, Germany, Kathleen Parker is an interpreter and translator who founded Red Tape Translation to work with English speakers living in Berlin. Kathleen’s clients are predominantly British, Australian, Canadian, and American: Berlin residents who need help with German while getting settled in at the beginning of their Berlin adventures.