Updated: Nov 22, 2019
My surprisingly straightforward experience obtaining a Youth Mobility Visa.
For about a week after my partner Jason told me he had been accepted to complete his Master's through the University of Freiburg, I lived in this fantasy bubble where I thought I'd pack my bags, move to Germany and I would be free to spend my time drinking beer and eating pretzels. That is, until my friend brought me back to reality.
This friend, Samit, had spent his last few years travelling and living in Europe first for school and then work and knew firsthand that it wasn't as simple as announcing you were moving to a new country, hopping on a plane and living your best life - sadly. There is paperwork involved, stipulations and restrictions to living in a new country and he was excited for me, but advised me to do some research before getting my hopes up.
After my fantasy bubble was necessarily and swiftly shattered, I got to work figuring out how I could make this new adventure possible. Of course, I imagined this to be an impossible task: would I need an employer to sponsor me? How would I find someone in Germany to hire me, someone who knows nothing about me? Would I be able to find work in my field? Would I need to speak fluent German?? But as usual, I worked myself up unnecessarily and a quick Google search dispelled my worries.
Fortunately, as a Canadian under the age of 35 I qualified for what's called a Youth Mobility Visa between Germany and Canada. There are four categories under which you can apply for this visa:
An individual with an established work contract through a German employer
An individual who is seeking an internship as part of their post-secondary education
A post-secondary student planning to travel and work during a school holiday
An individual seeking to explore German culture and tourism while supplementing their income
Since I did not have an established work contract, nor was I a student, I chose to apply under the fourth category: An individual seeking to explore German culture and tourism while supplementing their income. As I understood, this visa category would allow me to live and travel within Germany while authorizing me to work so that I could afford things like food, beer and, more importantly, rent!
Although this was a fairly straightforward visa application process there are a few stipulations and requirements before you can apply. Here are some important things to know:
The visa only covers you for up to one year before you will need to re-apply or go home
The earliest you can apply for the visa is six months out from your requested visa start date. So, if you want to move to Germany in September the earliest you can apply is March
You must be employed by a German employer - this could be an international company with operations in Germany
This visa does not allow you to work as a freelancer or as an au pair (nanny) - these are specific visa categories not covered by the Youth Mobility Visa
You can apply once you have moved, but from everything I have read this seems to be a highly stressful and confusing process
You can mail your application to the German Consulate in Toronto but you will need to visit the Aliens Authority in the city stated on your application soon after you arrive to extend your visa - I have read that this is also a very stressful and confusing process
On top of these stipulations there are requirements before you are eligible for a Youth Mobility Visa. The German Consulate in Canada provides this handy dandy checklist of everything you will want to have in order (literally place them in the order of the checklist - I missed that memo) before submitting your application. Although this checklist is helpful, I want to highlight a few items that require some attention:
Proof of bonds to Canada - I simply wrote the names, addresses and contact information of two individuals who would be living in Canada while I was away and had them sign the document.
Signed letter - I wrote a letter which included the following details: Canadian passport number, German address of my first accommodation, visa category and the reason for my visa application.
Proof of first accommodation - although you have not yet been granted a visa, you will need to show proof that you will have a roof over your head once you arrive in Germany. You will need to book a hostel, hotel or short-term rental. I was fortunate enough to know someone in Germany who wrote a letter of invitation stating that I could live with them until we found an apartment - although the plan was to find an apartment before I joined Jason in Germany.
Travel itinerary - Again, although you have not yet been granted the visa you will need to show proof of plans to enter Germany. You can land in another country, but you'll need to show proof that you will enter Germany by rail or bus. I used the Hopper app to watch flights until they alerted me to the best deal.
Proof of health insurance - For your application you will need to show that you have health insurance that will cover you for the duration of your trip. I was hoping my credit card health insurance would cover this, but unfortunately it did not meet the minimum coverage or the trip duration. I went through my trusted insurance brokerage Bluenose Insurance because I knew I could depend on them to have my back if anything were to happen.
Once I had all my documents in order, I booked my appointment with the German Consulate in Toronto and booked a flight from Halifax to Hamilton through budget airline Swoop and took a bus into Toronto. My appointment only lasted about 10 minutes, long enough for the clerk to ensure I had all the required paperwork and then I was on my way. Two weeks later I received my passport in the mail with my Youth Mobility Visa!
If you're getting ready to apply for a Youth Mobility Visa and have questions let me know in the comments!