If you’ve been reading my blog posts at all, you know that I’ve been stressed out of my mind about obtaining an Artist Visa, here in Berlin. WELL, guess what? This Thursday, I was granted the visa for a year and I couldn’t be any more excited and grateful. I am overwhelmed with all sorts of good feelings, and I am ready to truly begin my journey here. BUT, before I do that, I would like to share my experience. Maybe you’re reading this and have questions, maybe you’re confused about the process, maybe you just need some positivity. Well, here you go! (Anything in blue is a direct link, so click away.)
- First of all, do not waste time by holding off on making an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde. It can take a while, depending on the season. Just don’t risk it. I couldn’t get an appointment for a month, and if you have to start working right away, a month can be a long and grueling time to wait. It’s very easy though, and the site is in both german and english. Here is a direct link to booking an appointment. You’ll get an email confirmation and a ready to print checklist of what you will need to bring with you:
- Valid Passport
- 1 current biometric photo (You can get these done at any of the “Fotofix” photo booths around Berlin.
- Financing Plan
- Revenue Forecast
- CV & Portfolio
- Health Insurance
- Registered residence in Berlin
- Business Plan is not required, however, I strongly recommend you have one. My case worker was very happy to have me offer it to her along with the other paperwork.
- Letters of intent
- Now that you have an appointment, ask a german friend to come with you as your translator. Obviously if you speak german well enough, you can go by yourself. But, if you don’t, I recommend it. Some people at the Ausländerbehörde do speak english, but others do not. Also, you don’t want to assume that they’ll speak english just to accommodate you.
- Jump on the Health Insurance train. This can be quite confusing actually. I was confused for days, and many people will have their own experience with what the Ausländerbehörde will accept. Don’t assume the bare minimum will cut it, because it won’t and you will be denied if your health insurance is not adequate enough. To my fellow women, remember to cover pregnancy on your health insurance. Even if you, like myself, are not planning on having any babies in the near future, it is required. Dental is tricky, it is not mandatory but your case worker might hold it against you if you do not have dental coverage. Also, they do not accept travel insurance. If you need help, I strongly recommend reaching out to John Gunn. He will answer all of your health insurance questions as he is a health insurance broker but will NOT charge you for his services. He’s also really friendly. John will point you into the right health insurance plan and even help get the right paperwork needed for your visa appointment.
- Print out your Bank Statement. This is very important! Your case worker needs to make sure that you won’t become a burden because you don’t have any money left. If you know anything about the social benefits in Germany, you know that they do not want people taking advantage of them. And by people, I mean us expats. Worried that you don’t have enough? Maybe you have some nice family members or friends that can deposit some money into your account for a few days? I had a little over $6,000 in my US account and I believe that if I had more I would have been granted a Visa for a longer duration.
- Write up a Business Plan. I didn’t use their Business Plan form, but I did make sure to include all of their bullet points in mine. Also, having it in german is even better. I used google translate, which isn’t the best, but it’s better to show them that you are trying to integrate yourself into the german culture than not. Again, this is not required and she didn’t ask me for it, but she did keep it with her while she was making her decision. Things I listed in my business plan: Mission Statement, Objective, Artist History, Market Analysis, Compay Description, Organization & Management Structure, Marketing & Sales, Products or Services, Funding Requests or Needs, Financial Projections, Financing Plan.
- Print up your CV. Remember that a CV is not a resume, it is lengthier and should really highlight you as an asset to the artist community. (Include in German as well.)
- Get working on that Portfolio! I included my logo, press photos, band flyers, press write-ups, recommendation letters and CV. Make it look nice! This is one of the major selling points.
- VERY important: Letters of intent. This isn’t even mentioned as a requirement, however, it is extremely important. As you know, I am a musician, so I wrote to various music venues asking if they were interested in booking me and when I got confirmation, I printed those out. This is proof that you are wanted in Berlin. I printed out the emails themselves and my case worker was fine with that. Maybe you know some german artists here who can write up a letter stating that they are interested in working with you. I recommend 2 letters minimum. I brought 5. You can also reach out to the craigslist artist community if you don’t have any gigs lined up. Lots of people check it out daily, I definitely do.
- Financing Plan & Revenue Forecast. For the financing plan, I used the form from the website but I also included a paragraph about it in my business plan. For the revenue forecast, I simply made an excel sheet in english and in german for a year. It included income, taxes, health insurance, rent, phone bill and living costs for each month. This should show them that you have thought out your future and are prepared to make a living off of your art.
The day of my appointment, my boyfriend and I arrived 30 minutes early with our german friends. (My boyfriend also had an appointment but for a different type of Visa, a work visa.) We followed the signs to the appropriate building and waiting rooms and waited for our numbers to pop up. You’ll get that information in your confirmation email. My number came up on the board a bit earlier than the scheduled appointment time, so I was glad I was there early. As soon as I got to my designated case workers office, I introduced myself in german and my friend introduced himself as my translator. Smile, and be friendly. Try and show that you want to be a part of the German community, trust me, she was pleased to hear me speak a little german. We sat down and she asked about the type of Visa I was applying for and asked for the application. Lucky for me, she noticed I didn’t really speak german and asked if I would like the interview conducted in english. My german friend said yes. She was then able to direct all of her questions to me, with the occasional translation with my friend for something she didn’t understand. The things she asked for were: Application with biometric photo, passport, health insurance (which she stared at for ages), diploma, photos (Portfolio) and job offers. When she asked me about my diploma I told her I did not have one, as I am a self taught musician, however that’s when I offered her my business plan. She accepted this. I then remembered about all the work I put into my financing plan, so I pulled that out and handed it to her. She accepted this as well. Then she told us that she would have a look over everything and would call us back.
Waiting for my number to pop up again was nerve wrecking. I had no idea what would happen, even though I was quite optimistic. You just never know… About 30 minutes later, my number popped up on the board. I took a deep breath and opened the door. As I walked inside she spoke in german to my friend and handed back all of my paperwork that she had looked through. Then, she handed me my passport with a glorious Visa sticker inside. I must say, my heart did a little dance as I reached for it. And that was it, she gave me a card so that I could pay the fee and I was on my way. Thank you, Universe!
I felt like Pinocchio, “I’m a real boy, A REAL BOY!” Well… Artist.
I hope this post helps you, and I am happy to answer any questions that you may have. I have definitely looked to other bloggers about their experience, and it helped me the most. Best of luck!
“If your heart is in your dream
No request is too extreme
When you wish upon a star
As dreamers do”