Artists who come to Berlin with the intention to stay longer and need a visa for doing so, sooner or later hear about the mysterious Artist Visa. They start searching for it at the most obvious place, the website of the Foreigners Office – and they find: nothing.
So here you are, here are the answers you were looking for: The Ultimate Guide to the Artist Visa!
Who can get the Artist Visa?
Of course: Artists. Yes, but it is not that simple.
The artist visa, is a special residence permit (a subcategory of the freelance visa, §21), which only can be obtained in Berlin. If you live in another city in Germany, you would have to apply for the “regular” freelance visa.
If you are an artist planning to work on a freelance base, holding a passport from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea or the US, you can apply for that visa in Berlin.
If your passport requires a visa application from your home country, please have a look at your local embassy’s website for details. It is not possible to apply for the artist visa while being on a tourist visa. Also, if you have to apply from your home country, you would apply for either “Freelance” or “Jobseeker”, depending on the individual case.
You must have your main residency in Berlin („Anmeldung“) and you must prove that you are an artist.
Which professions count as „Art“?
That’s a bit hard to say, as in some cases, you’ll have to convince the case manager of your artistic identity. If you’re a painter, a musician, a photographer or a dancer it’s relatively easy. But you also can count as artist for being a graphic designer, DJ, writer etc.
What do I need to prove my artistic qualification?
First of all: Having a portfolio is nice, but don’t invest too much work into it. Nobody will judge the artistic quality of your work. No glossy prints of your photographs are needed and unfortunately, you should not bring your guitar along.
What is most important, is your CV and letters of intent or contracts from potential clients or collaboration partners (job offers). List all projects you’ve ever done or participated in, no matter if you got paid for them or not. This could be exhibitions, movie shoots, shows, book projects, publications and so on. List all types of formal education you went through like universities, art school, as well as short courses you might have done. I can’t stress that enough: Have a very elaborate CV and have someone look over it.
If you have reference letters from previous projects, which prove your qualification, bring them too.
There is a (small) possibility you’ll get asked for your website.
Do not bring: Your mixtape, your painting, your guitar.
Which Documents do I need (checklist)?
- Letters from future clients: Letters or contracts from any person/company/project, intending to work with you in the future
- Diploma(s) (original)
- Biometric photograph
- Application form
- Revenue Forecast form
- Financing Plan form -> all forms here
- Bank statement proving that you have enough money to survive the first couple of month while you built up your network. Generally I’d say not less than 3500-4000€ but that strongly depends on your letters (better letters -> less money needed) and your rental costs. Here as well: The more the better.
- Registration document („Anmeldung“)
- Health Insurance (see below)
- Rental Contract (sublease is okay)
What is adequate health insurance?
For freelance artists doing their initial application (not extension!) the cheap expat health insurances still work. Examples are Mawista, Care Concept etc. Note: This rule is an exception and there is a chance, it might change at some point. Note II: Be aware of the fact, that latest, when you apply for your extension, you need a proper health insurance and the expat ones won’t be sufficient anymore.
What is the difference to the Freelance Visa?
Basically, the Artist Visa is a subcategory of the Freelance Visa. The difference is, that your application will not be reviewed by the Chamber of Commerce, which means, you’ll get your visa on spot, while other freelancers usually have to wait for a couple of weeks until their application has been reviewed. The regulations are a bit more lax compared to the „normal“ Freelance Visa and it’s easier to get accepted. But, it won’t happen, if you’re not an artist, unfortunately. Also, you must be prepared really well.
What do I have to do after I get it?
Step I: Open a bottle of champagne to celebrate. Step II: Go to your local tax office and apply for a freelance tax number. It’s „just“ a long from and they will send the number to you within two weeks and then you can officially start invoicing your clients.
Can I do it alone or do I need assistance?
As said also in other articles, there is a chance, you’ll meet an officer there, who speaks English and is willing to do the interview with you in English. But there is a good chance also you will not. In this case, they will just send you home and tell you to come back another day with an interpreter.
I offer two types of services for the Artist Visa:
- Prior consultation: I meet you and explain the whole process to you in detail and also review your papers, documents and letters and give advice on what should look different, how to improve the CV, how to convince potential clients to write those letters and fill in all the official forms with you. During the whole preparation process, I am available via email for any questions coming up between consultation and appointment.
- Interpreting at the appointment: I go with you to your appointment and assist you in explaining your case in the most beneficial way and interpret all questions that might come up.
I have two years of experience with helping people through their Artist Visa process, so I have seen a lot of different cases and until now, I have a success rate of 100% for clients, who were consulted by me before the appointment and whom I accompanied.