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Working as an international student alongside your studies

| Organizational matters

What is allowed, what to consider and what are the possibilities?

In Germany, it is very common to work while studying. According to the social survey of the German Student Union, about 2/3 of the students work. This way, you can earn part of your living and possibly gain some work experience. In addition, studying in Germany can often be easily combined with part-time jobs. For international students, a part-time job can also offer many advantages, but there are a few rules to be observed. Depending on the country you come from, there are different requirements. In the course of this article, we will list these for you and also explain what you should pay attention to concerning internships, which framework conditions you should have in mind and which jobs are particularly suitable for a part-time job.

What applies to international students?

If you come from the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you are practically equal to German students on the labor market. However, they also have to pay higher health insurance contributions if they work more than 20 hours a week. So you should still keep that in mind. In addition, it may be necessary for you to have German health insurance, even if the insurance from your home country is sufficient for your studies.

If you are from another country, you are allowed to work a maximum of 120 full days or 240 half days per year. If you want to work more than that, you need official permission from the Employment Agency and the Foreigners' Registration Office. Whether you receive this approval often depends on the situation on the labor market. In regions with low unemployment, your chances are therefore better. Unfortunately, students who do not come from the EU are generally not allowed to become self-employed or work as freelancers.

An interesting exception to the hourly regulations is working as an academic or student assistant. In this case, you are employed by the university and may work for an unlimited period of time as long as your studies are not endangered. However, this activity must also be registered with the Foreigners' Registration Office.

What applies to language and preparatory course participants?

If you are not yet studying in Germany, but attend a language course or a preparatory course, the situation is different again. You can find out what a Studienkolleg is and how it works in our article. Here, you need the approval of the Employment Agency and the Foreigners' Registration Office for any kind of work, and you are only allowed to work during the lecture-free period. In general, it is important to adhere to the relevant regulations as violation can lead to expulsion from Germany.

What is relevant in the case of internships?

Unfortunately, for students who are not from the EU, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Iceland or Norway, days spent in an internship also count as working days. This means that even if an internship is unpaid, the time spent in the internship is deducted from the 120 full or 240 half working days available. However, internships that are a mandatory part of the study program are an exception. They do not count. If you have already worked 120 days and still want to do a voluntary internship, then you also need an official confirmation from the Employment Agency and the Foreigners' Registration Office.

What are popular part-time jobs and how do you find them?

Once you have clarified the organizational part and know how much you are allowed to work, the next step is to find a job. To do this, it is helpful to sign up for the university's internship and job mailing lists. Here you will regularly receive offers of jobs tailored to students of your study program. In addition, there is sometimes an area on the university website where relevant offers and requests are collected. Postings on campus at collection points such as the so-called 'bulletin board' are also common.

Off campus, many students also work in the catering industry, as temporary help at trade fairs or give private lessons to pupils or younger students. You can usually find such jobs either locally or in general postings on online job sites or in Facebook groups.

What do you need to know about salary, taxes and insurance?

In principle, the minimum wage applies in Germany. Since the beginning of 2021, this is 9.50 € per hour. This is the lowest hourly wage you can get. How much you earn exactly, however, depends on your specific job and your knowledge and experience in this area.

If you have a so-called mini-job and earn up to 450 € per month, then you do not need to worry about a tax number. However, if you earn more than 450 € per month over the course of the year, then you must apply for a tax number from the tax office. As a rule, a part of your salary will be deducted as tax, which you can get back (partially) by filing an income tax return.

In addition, you usually pay social security contributions on your salary in Germany. These are used, for example, for pension and nursing care insurance, but also for statutory health insurance. If you do not work more than three months at a time or less than 70 days in a year, you are exempt from social security contributions. Usually, however, the contributions for students are very low, especially if you work less than 20 hours a week.


Unfortunately, it is not that uncomplicated to have a part-time job as a foreign student. Still, if you follow the most important rules explained here, you should have no problem to earn some extra money for your time at university and possibly even gain some work experience that will look good in later job applications. It is however important that you stick to the rules and do not neglect your studies while working.