An employee (Arbeitnehmer*in/Angestellte*r) is someone who is in an employment relationship and who is bound by instructions. Bound by instructions means that the person cannot determine themselves what, when, where and how they work, but rather that this is specified by the employer. The employee is integrated into the employer's company organisation. In the cultural sector, this applies to orchestra musicians and actors who are employed by an ensemble and subject to social security contributions.

It may be advantageous for artists and creatives to work as salaried employees. This has consequences with regard to the obligation to pay health insurance, pension insurance, accident insurance and unemployment insurance contributions. In addition, labour law provides for extensive rights for employees, from which self-employed persons cannot benefit or can only benefit to a limited extent: Employees may, for example, be entitled to a minimum number of days off as well as to continued payment of their salary (Entgeltfortzahlung) in the event they or their own child fall(s) ill, etc.
Information on social security for employees will soon be available in the Social security section.

Residence status
Whether a person may take up employment depends on the residence status of the artist and is stipulated in the residence documents or the ancillary provisions.


An actress has a residence permit pursuant to Section 21 (5) German Residence Act – Freelance activities. She receives an offer to work as an employee at a theatre for one season.

The artist in this example has a residence permit that is limited to freelance activities (pursuant to Section 21 (5) German Residence Act – Freelance activities). This means that she is only allowed to work as a freelance actress. In this case, employment is only permitted subject to application to and authorisation from the Foreigners' Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde). This means that the actress must consult the Foreigners' Registration Office and apply for an employment permit pursuant to Section 18 German Residence Act – Employment.

  • Formally recognized asylum seekers (Section 25 German Residence Act – Residence on humanitarian grounds) and persons with subsidiary protection status (Section 24 German Residence Act – Granting of residence for temporary protection) with a residence permit or artists and creatives with a settlement permit have full access to the labour market. They may take up employment. The residence documents include a reference that states "Gainful activity permitted" ("Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet") or, in individual cases, "Employment permitted. Self-employment permitted after authorisation by the Foreigners' Registration Office" ("Beschäftigung gestattet. Selbstständigkeit nach Erlaubnis der Ausländerbehörde gestattet"). No further permission from the authorities is required to take up employment.
  • Persons with a residence permit that was issued for a specific purpose and not on the basis of a formally recognized asylum application do not have full access to the labour market. Their stay is tied to a particular purpose, which is stipulated in the ancillary provisions of the residence documents. An employment relationship presupposes that the individual has a residence permit pursuant to Section 18 German Residence Act – Employment.
  • Asylum-seeking artists and persons engaged in the cultural sector with a temporary residence permit (Aufenthaltsgestattung) or persons with exceptional leave to remain (Duldung) are not allowed to work in Germany during the first three months of their stay. After four years, they can usually take up any occupation. In the meantime, the ancillary provisions specified in the residence documents must be observed.

The Foreigners' Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) is responsible for issuing employment permits (Beschäftigungserlaubnis). To obtain such a permit, the person seeking employment must submit an employment contract or the "job description" form (Formular "Stellenbeschreibung") – completed by the future employer – to the Foreigners' Registration Office. Additional documents are also required, such as proof of health insurance cover, proof of lease costs, etc. The application is subject to a fee (in Berlin, for example, up to 100 euros depending on the complexity of the case).

Detailed information on the requirements and documents to be submitted is available online from the Foreigners' Registration Offices (Foreigners' Registration Offices search page on the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge) website). Examples of information provided by the authorities in Berlin can be found here.

As a rule, the approval of the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit (BA)) is also required. This agency is consulted automatically by the Foreigners' Registration Office when a person applies for an employment permit for a specific position. 

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