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As the title says, I'm a US citizen and I work for a US company. My company has a branch in Germany, and I'll transfer to that branch for 60 days next year. I'll do all the same work I do for the US company, still get paid by the US company, but I get to be face-to-face with my German colleagues.

I have no idea what visa I should apply for. When I look at the German Missions in the United States site, I see two articles:

A Schengen visa is required if you intend to stay in the Schengen area for up to 90 days within a 180 day period for business, visitor or tourist purposes.

and

A residence visa is required if you intend to stay in Germany for more than 90 days for work or study or if you intend to move to Germany permanently.

but I'm trying to work in Germany for less than 90 days, so it looks like neither is applicable?

When I go to the visa navigator page, again it's mentioning the Schengen visa as:

If you want to travel to Germany for a period of up to 90 days – for a visit, as a tourist, on business, or for medical treatment – you will need a Schengen visa.

but again no mention of work here, and when I click on the "Quick Check" it redirects me to here, which eventually asks if I have a binding job offer or no job offer, but again I won't have any German job at all, and I won't be seeking one, either.

I found this similar question, which is almost exactly what I'm looking for, but

  1. The link there is broken,
  2. The content seems to revolve around internships in Germany, which is a kind of work for a Germany institution, and
  3. When I search the document filename (l6019022dstbai381815.pdf) from the broken link, all the associated content is about internships.

It seems like there needs to be some kind of work permit and not work visa, but it's not clear what the permit is, who needs to complete it (again, I won't be working for a Germany company while I'm there!) and what visa I should have to enter with the work permit.

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    I'd say that what you describe is precisely business purposes, and this qualifies as a Schengen visa.
    – Petr
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 16:31
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    Note that while some people need one, as a US citizen, you don't actually need a visa to visit Germany for tourism or business purposes for less than 90 days. Now the big question is "is what you will do business or work". Welcome to the wonderful grey area of immigration law.
    – jcaron
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 22:00
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    Has your employer not advised you of anything?
    – jcm
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 23:11
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    @Chuck if anyone asks, just mention the training and meeting part, not the “same work as in the US” part. And don’t say “transfer”.
    – jcaron
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 1:42
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    I would not use the word "work" at all. Your employer really should be providing more support in this matter, in my opinion. Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 3:44

2 Answers 2

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As a US citizen, you don't need a visa if you stay less than 90 days out of 180 and perform "business activities". Which is not "work".

The list of activities allowed for Germany is listed here.

Note that it says:

the following lists are not exhaustive and are subject to individual interpretation. Both lists are meant as a guideline only and do not constitute legal advice. It is the responsibility of travellers to ensure that any activity conducted falls within the scope of permitted activities. If in doubt, you should take legal advice from an immigration lawyer or specialist

(emphasis mine)

The list provides both activities that are allowed and a few which aren't. If you're lucky you fall clearly in the allowed activities (such as training staff, negotiating contracts...). If you're unlucky you fall clearly in the activities not allowed (which will require a work visa). And if you're in between... Good luck!

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    I'm accepting this answer because it's provided a list of activities that are expressly permitted under a business visa. Notable is the In-company continuing education and training section, which states, Skilled workers employed abroad by an internationally operating group or company for the purpose of in-company continuing education and training in the German part of the group or company. This is my situation exactly, thank you so much for the link.
    – Chuck
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 22:18
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    @Chuck be careful. "All the same work I do for the US company" is not "in-company continuing education and training," even if your presence there is to "be face-to-face with my German colleagues." Some countries are strict about that; I don't know what Germany's attitude is. Your company should get a formal opinion from a German lawyer specializing in employment immigration law. You should consider taking your own legal advice from an independent lawyer, because if you are found to have violated German law it will be you who is saddled with an adverse immigration history.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 10:42
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    @Chuck another thing to think about: income taxation. The money you earn for your work in Germany is likely taxable in Germany. I don't know the details of German law but if there is any de minimis exception, you still surely exceed the threshold by working there for two months.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 0:17
  • @phoog - Yeah, after further consideration and discussion with my counterpart in Germany, he said essentially the same thing: I can get and receive training, but not work. If all I were doing is learning how the company operates, etc., then that would qualify, but probably my role will still be working in Germany. Probably I'll move forward with getting a work visa for me and I'm pushing the company to engage a German immigration lawyer to confirm the class of visa we need and to provide a form letter future employees can carry with them when they go through this program.
    – Chuck
    Commented Dec 11, 2022 at 18:35
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I am not a lawyer nor I do have much knowledge about specific Schengen regulation, but...

From a general point of view, what you describe is a perfect example of business purposes, and thus it qualifies for a standard Schengen visa. It does not matter that you will be doing work for your US employer during your trip; anyway, arguably any business visa imples that you do work for your employer. Standard examples of business purposes are visiting a conference or negotiating with a business partner, but this is anyway your work, i.e. something that you do at a request of your employer and what you get paid for. In your case you are going to Germany to collaborate with your colleagues, which is still a perfect business reason for me. Presumably you employer will provide you with documents needed for the embassy so that the embassy will see that there is a business need.

A different case might be if you go to Germany out of your own will (e.g. your US employer is happy with you working remotely from anywhere on Earth, and you choose to spend two months in Germany, a digital nomad type of trip), this is at very least a shady area in modern visa regulations, — but if it is your employer requirement (and the employer will provide you with needed documents), then it is a business case.

Just two things that seem concerning to me.

First, I would not say that you "transfer" to the Germany branch. The word "transfer" may suggest that you will have a new contract with that branch and be paid by that branch, which is really not a business trip, but a full-scale work. However, you say that you'll be still paid by your US branch, so just say that you are going on a business trip to collaborate with your colleagues.

Second, unless you have a specific project to complete, 60 days might seem a bit excessive for just "meeting your colleagues and collaborating". Maybe the visa officer will not mind and a simple letter from your employer will be enough.

Finally, as an US citizen do you need a visa at all? (Although even if you don't need a visa for a business trip, you most probably still need a visa for work, so a distinction between business trip and work is still important.)

Once again, I'm answering from common sense, not from some specific experience, and hope that more knowledgeable users will give more specific answers.

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