For international students in particular 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. Things are different for the majority of Europeans who practically stand on equal terms with German students and have free access to the job market.
International students who do not come from the EU or EEA are allowed to work 120 full or 240 half days in a year. To do this they do not need authorisation from the Employment Agency, i.e. the German authorities.
International students who do not come from the EU cannot go self employed or work freelance!
If you want to work more than 120 full or 240 half days you need the approval of the Employment Agency and the Aliens Department. Whether you receive the approval depends on the situation of the job market in your place of study. In regions with high unemployment you will have little chance of working more than 120 days.
One exception, however, is the occupation of academic or student assistant. As long as your studies are not impaired by it, this work can be carried out for an unlimited period of time. The Aliens Department must still be informed if you wish to work as an academic or student assistant!
If you attend a language course or study at a preparatory college the regulations are stricter than for normal enrolled students. You are only allowed to work with the approval of the Aliens Department and the Employment Agency - and only during lecture-free time.
Basically students from the European Union and the EEA 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.
Students from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Czech Republic and Hungary can work in terms similar to the German students.
In Germany several different types of social contribution as well as taxes are deducted straight from your earnings. The rules for students are, however, often generous. You pay either lower contributions or none at all.
Every employee in Germany has to pay taxes. The amount depends on your income. If you have a so called "mini-job" earning 520,00 € per month, you do not have to pay taxes. If you earn less than 10.347,00 € a year you will get back the taxes you have paid at the end of the year if you submit an income tax return to the tax authorities.
Health insurance/nursing care insurance
Even if they have a side job students are usually insured as students and not as employees. In that case they do not have to make any income related contributions towards health insurance. Under some circumstances, if they work more than 20 hours a week, students have to pay a contribution to health insurance. Clarify this beforehand with your employer!
Students do not normally pay unemployment insurance contributions. This means, though, that they cannot claim unemployment benefit if they lose their side job.
If you work in Germany you usually need an income tax number. This can be obtained from the citizens' administration office where you live. However, there are minor occupations, so called mini-jobs, for which you do not need an income tax card.
Basically: different types of employment require different social insurance contributions.
Minor occupation = 520 Euro job = mini-job
If, as a student, you have long term employment for which you do not earn more than 520 € per month, the so called mini-job rule applies: you do not have to pay taxes and you can choose not to pay contributions towards the state pension. The employer, however, does pay pension contributions for mini-jobbers so that their claim to a state pension is secured. Students can supplement the employer's contribution with their own voluntary contributions.
If you do several mini-jobs at the same time the total income must remain below 520 €, otherwise you have to pay taxes.
More than a minor occupation
In Germany, if you regularly earn more than 520 € per month in your job, you will need an income tax number. This means that certain deductions will be made automatically from your salary; for students these are the pension insurance contributions and taxes. As a rule, students get back the tax they have paid at the end of the year. For this they have to submit an income tax return to the tax authorities.
What percent of your income is deducted as a pension insurance contribution depends on the amount of your income. If you receive between 520 and 1.300 € the pension insurance contribution is reduced. The contributions increase gradually and as of 850 € per month students pay the full pension insurance contribution of 9.3 %.
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 lecture-free time
During the term holidays special rules apply for students. Jobs taken on during the term holidays are subject to income tax but normally students get back the taxes they have paid at the end of the year via the income tax return.
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. If you work self-employed you don't need an income tax card. 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 not allowed to work self-employed!
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