Earning money alongside studying is a way of life for many students in Germany. For lots of international students a side job is an important means of subsistence. However, for students who do not come from the EU or EEA countries, work is restricted. Mostly, knowledge of German language skills are often required.
International students who do not come from the EU, EEA or Switzerland are allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days in a year. To do this, they do not need authorisation from Aliens Office. If you want to work more than 120 full or 240 half days, you need the approval of the Aliens Department.
International students who do not come from the EU cannot go self employed or work freelance.
One exception, however, is the occupation of academic, student assistant or tutor at the Studentenwerk. As long as your studies are not impaired by it, this work can be carried out for an unlimited period of time. However, the Aliens Department must still be informed.
Basically, students from the European Union, the EEA and Switzerland stand practically on equal terms with German students and have free access to the German job market. You are regarded as a regular student and not as an employee if your job during term time contains no more than 20 hours a week.
An important note: As soon as EU-, EEA-students and students from Switzerland take up a student part time job or a paid internship, they have to apply for German health insurance. Only a few countries offer to keep students insured when they take up a part time job or a paid internship. Ask your insurance fund about it.
If you do not come from the EU, the EEA or Switzerland and have an internship in Germany, it counts as normal work – even if the internship is unpaid. Every day of your internship will be subtracted from your 120 days.
For example, if you have already worked 120 days (240 half days), you must get authorisation from the Aliens Department to be allowed to do an internship.
The only exceptions are internships that are a compulsory part of your studies.
If you work in Germany, you need an income tax number. This can be obtained from the tax office where you live.
Basically: different types of employment require different social insurance contributions.
Minor occupation = 450 Euro job = mini-job
If, as a student, you have long term employment for which you do not earn more than 450 Euro per month, the so called mini-job rule applies: Mostly, you do not have to pay taxes and you can choose not to pay contributions towards the state pension.
Mini-jobs are advertised by the employer in the mini-job centre. If you do several mini-jobs at the same time, the total income must remain below 450 Euro, otherwise you have to pay taxes.
More than a minor occupation
In Germany, if you regularly earn more than 450 Euro per month in your job, certain deductions will be made automatically from your salary; for students, these are the pension insurance contributions and taxes. If the income remains below the basic tax-free amount, the income tax paid can be refunded via the income tax return.
What percent of your income is deducted as a pension insurance contribution depends on the amount of your income.
Students who work less than 20 hours per week can remain insured by their student insurance. When working more than 20 hours per week, students will have to pay contributions to pension insurance, as well as health and unemployment insurance.
Working during term holidays ("lecture-free time")
If the employment of students is limited exclusively to the lecture-free period ("semester break"), it generally remains exempt from social insurance. The amount of income and the duration of the weekly working time are irrelevant.
The employment has to be limited by contract in advance or limited accroding to the type of employment.
If the job is carried out only during lecture-free time, students do not have to pay any additional health insurance contributions, even if they work more than 20 hours a week.
During term holidays, the obligation to pay contributions towards the state pension may not be applicable: this applies if the employment is limited to a maximum of 3 months or 70 working days per year.
Casual work, contract for services, freelance or self-employed
Sometimes students are offered work on a freelance basis. In this case, your employer or contractor will ask you to submit an invoice, or you agree on a contract for services.
The income you earn in this manner is not taxed for the time being, but at the end of the year you must declare the income to the tax authorities on your income tax return.
Attention: international students who are not from the EU or EEA are usually not allowed to work self-employed!