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. 


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.

It’s true….. Everyone is moving to Berlin!


About the Author: Kathleen Parker dedicates her time to helping English speakers settle into life in Berlin. Through her company Red Tape Translation, she offers phone interpreting for English speakers who are reticent to make German phone calls, and accompanies Australians, Kiwis, Canadians, Brits, South Africans, Americans, and many other international Berliners to their appointments at the immigration office, the job center, real estate agencies, and banks.

Red Tape Translation is a Solutioner at G1obals

Red Tape Translation will be attending the G1obals event tonight: perfect for expats living in Berlin, newcomers, anyone looking for friendly faces or access to English language services. If you’ve just moved to Berlin, come along to Franke Brasserie, Bar & Lounge from 7pm. Tickets cost 5 EU for G1obals members, and 10 EU for non-members.

Click here for Event Details

And when you get there, come over and say hi to Red Tape Translation!

About the Author: Kathleen Parker founded Red Tape Translation to help English speakers cut through the red tape upon arrival in Berlin. Kathleen accompanies Berlin newcomers to their appointments at the foreign office, job agency, real estate agencies, or any other appointment. She also offers inexpensive German phone interpreting.

German Phone or Skype Help by Red Tape Translation

German to English Interpreting and Translation

Use Red Tape Translation to Make Important Phone Calls in German

Red Tape Translation just got a great rap in Elliot Herman’s blog, Lost in Translation. Kathleen was able to find a simple solution to a problem that was driving Elliot crazy. New apartment, new lights,new stove — installation necessary! Without speaking a word of German, Elliot was having a bit of difficulty getting an appointment with an electrician. Having tried Language Line, a telephone interpretation service, Elliot was floored to discover that the cost of using an interpreter there was as much as $3.95 per minute.

Kathleen Parker has a much better solution for  simple everyday translation problems. Book a block of Kathleen’s time in advance (minimum 1 hour for 29.95EU per hour) and use the time to communicate however you need. If it’s a simple phone call, you organize a time with Kathleen at Red Tape Translation on Skype, give her the details of your translation issue, and she’ll make the call for you. While you’re present on Skype to answer questions, she’ll communicate with whoever you need to talk to, and keep you updated as the call progresses. It’s not quite conference calling, but for everyday matters, it’s an enormous help. Book the appointment, organize the technician, talk to your landlord or coordinate an event. Skype will keep a record of the time Kathleen spends helping you out, and if there’s time left over, you can use it later when your next issue comes up. There are no time limits or expiration dates on prepaid time.

Red Tape Translation can help you

  • book a hair appointment
  • organize a technician or tradesman
  • plan an event in Germany
  • deal with the phone, electrical or gas company
  • book a removalist company
  • organize or interview cleaners
  • get your piano tuned
  • get quotes for services or repairs
  • book a table at a restaurant
  • organize printing or other business services

Visit Red Tape Translation or call 0157 79326759 for more information.


About the Author: Kathleen Parker is the founder of Red Tape Translation, a company that offers affordable interpreting solutions to expats in Berlin. Clients moving to Berlin commonly use Red Tape Translation Telephone Time to get set up in their new apartment.