for your German freelance visa application.
This is an essential point of the application for a freelance residence permit. How to get it and what to avoid - in this article.
Let me stop briefly on two important points before we start.
What do you need Letters of Intent for?
LoIs (Letters of Intent) serve as a guarantee that you are an experienced professional and you will be hired by German companies. They tell the caseworkers of the Immigration Authority that you will be able to sustain yourself. Basically, they are like employment contracts. Yeah, you can’t get an employment permit without an actual contract, right?
What should a LoI include?
As mentioned above, this letter is a kind of job contract. Imagine what should be in a job contract, and here you get the LoI checklist:
should be written in German (because we are in Germany)
clients should be German companies/private people. You can have LoIs from non-German companies, but they shouldn’t prevail in those from Germany
the description of the work should correspond to what you’re applying for
it would be nice to see the reasons why the company wants to work with you
hourly or project-based pay
approximate duration of the contract.
You can even have an unsigned fee contract (Honorarvertrag) or a service contract (Dienstleistungsvertrag) to add more value to the client’s intent.
How to Get Letters of Intent
See the process as a job search if you’re coming from full-time employment or as promoting yourself and your service/business abroad if you were doing this business in your home country before.
1. Prepare your proposal/offer
Prepare a pdf with a pitch and services, a portfolio for creatives, including the price list, pointing out your intent to settle in Germany. Update your website and LinkedIn.
2. Search for leads
Start searching for leads online and offline. There’s plenty of opportunities right now.
LinkedIn: a great source of b2b leads
Bumble Bizz: it works like a dating app - you swipe left or right. Perfect for informal networking and even finding friends.
Networking events: you can find them on Facebook, Eventbrite or Meetup.
Coworking spaces: beatahaus in Kreuzberg, Wonder Coworking (for women) in Prenzlauer Berg, St. Oberholz on Rosenthaler Platz… you name it. Many of them host events as well.
Friends of the friends: the great power of vitamin B (Bekanntschaften - Acquaintances)
3. Send your proposal if a lead is interested
Send your portfolio you prepared as well as the link to your website. Remember to change some details in case you deal with different fields of clients. Many people prefer using Canva to create their business proposal - there’re a lot of templates!
4. Don’t be a beggar
Be a professional from abroad: show your expertise and talent first. You don’t need this piece of paper from them to get your freelance visa, but they do need you as a professional.
5. Follow up
When people and companies show interest, remind them of your intent to reside in Germany that you stated in your initial proposal. Mention that you’re in the process of getting a freelance residence permit here and that an intentional letter with an unsigned contract will support the German authorities in their decision to allow you to work for those German companies.
6. Have a template of a letter of intent at hand in case they ask
Point out that a letter of intent is not binding at this point and the future client doesn’t risk anything by showing their intent to work with you.
What to Avoid in Letters of Intent
Words like anstellen/einstellen: they mean to hire. Use zusammenarbeiten instead - that means to cooperate/collaborate.
Das Gehalt is also for an employment contract. You should find Honorar in the letter of intent instead.
Ausländerbehörde as an addressee in the head of the letter is bad manners. It should be yours there.
The working hours for one company should not exceed 80% of your total working time. Otherwise, it’s Scheinselbstständigkeit - quasi-self employment.
Don’t fake letters of intent. When you come back in a year or two to prolong your freelance residence permit they might ask you about the reasons you never worked with the company XYZ that wanted you so badly. They can understand it by seeing your bank account statements you will need to show them.
Don’t go on Facebook ex-pats groups asking for LoIs. We’ve been there for many years and seeing yet another freelancer-to-be begging for those papers makes us sad. If you don’t have any projects and gigs to do, is freelancing in Berlin really for you?
I got my initial freelance residence permit back in 2016 and many things may not be true anymore. I applied as a freelance language teacher and showed printed out emails from E-Bay Kleinanzeigen where I placed my ad offering private lessons. Someone approached me with the request and hourly pay, and that was ok for the Ausländerbehörde at that time.
When I applied for an add-on as a translator, I had a letter of intent from Expath - they know how to write them, and an actual unsigned contract with Red Tape Translations.
When I got my extension, besides my tax statement and bank statements, I showed new contracts with old and new clients. When private students reached out to me, I drafted 2 copies of confirmation, saying thanks for their request and stated the lesson price, cancellation policy and let them sign it. I also file them to show on my extension interview.
These are essentials you need to know about Letters of Intent for German freelance visa or "artist visa" application.
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Disclaimer: The article is not legal nor tax advice. It’s solely based on my own experience.