You need to apply for a visa at the responsible German diplomatic mission in your home country before entering the Federal Republic of Germany. The visa only enables you to enter Germany – if you plan on staying longer or you wish to start working here, you will need to apply for a residence permit after entry.
EU nationals do not require a visa for entering Germany, even if they want to stay for more than 90 days or start working. However, it is necessary to register with the local municipal office (German only) after arrival.
Futhermore, citizens of certain other countries are also exempt from having to apply for a visa. However, very individual rules apply in that matter (list of countries exempt from visa requirement).
Citizens of all other countries require a visa before entering Germany.
There are two main types of visa:
C-Visa- (short stays ≤ 90 days)
The C-Visa cannot neither be prolonged nor transformed into a residence permit. Working also is not possible. Therefore, this visa is only recommendable if you are planning to stay for fewer than 90 days and do not plan to start working.
D-Visa (national visa for longer stays > 90 days)
With a D-Visa you can apply for a residence permit after entry. There are different types of D-Visa. For all of them, you will have to provide proof of sufficient financial funds in order to sustain yourself.
- Study visa with admission to a German university
- Study visa without admission
- Study visa with a prior language course or internship
You have to apply for your visa at your local German diplomatic mission abroad before entering Germany. If you apply for a visa that would allow for you to stay for a longer period of time or to start working, processing time can take up several months. The local Foreigners' Office in Germany needs to approve of the application.
You will get more information on how exactly to apply for your visa and which documents are required from your local German diplomatic mission abroad (German only).
With a residence permit you are allowed to stay in Germany for more than 90 days and possibly to start working. However, in order for that to happen, it is vital that you apply for the correct visa category beforehand.
Higher education studies, language courses (§ 16b AufenthG)
This paragraph is addressed to students and can also apply to doctoral students who are registered for a PhD. In this case, the main purpose of stay should be to carry out a PhD. Alternatively, § 18d AufenthG may also be applicable for doctoral students.
Blue Card (§ 18b AufenthG)
This residence permit is addressed at qualified foreign professionals. In order to qualify, you need a university degree and a valid employment contract with a certain gross minimum salary (click here for details). For highly qualified professionals in certain professions in great demand (e.g. scientists, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists and medical doctors) other minimum salaries may be applicable.
Research (§ 18d AufenthG)
This paragraph is aimed at researchers who already have a research project. Already planned mobility activites as part of research activites can be taken into account in advance, so that subsequent visa applications are not necessary (§§ 18e, 18f AufenthG). Usually, the research institute needs to have signed a hosting agreement with the applicant.
You must apply for the residence permit at your local Foreigners' Office (German only). The residence permit is issued in form of an electronic residence permit (eAT). Processing time usually takes up about 6 to 8 weeks. Since travel can be restricted during this time, it is recommended to apply for a prolongation of your residence permit about 10 weeks before expiration. For an eAT for study purposes you will need the following documents:
- a passport that is valid for at least 15 more months (even better if longer, so that the residence permit can be issued for two years)
- 1 passport photo
- the current letter of admission or an enrolment certificate with details of subject and semester
- proof of sufficient financial funds with a monthly minimum of the maximal BAföG amount (click here for details; German only) or a scholarship certificate from a scholarship provider
- proof of health insurance
IMPORTANT: the insurance must cover the same services that a German statutory health insurance covers
Click here for more information.
If your spouse wishes to travel to Germany with you, they will usually be granted the same rights of residence as you have. This right will expire when your own right of residence expires.
A residence permit for a spouse will usually be granted if it is apparent that the subsistence of both partners is assured without the need for social welfare support and these have adequate living space and health insurance cover.
Under the law as it stands, children only have a legal right of residence in Germany if both their parents are holders of a residence permit, the child has not yet reached 16 years of age, and in case its accommodation and financial support are suitably provided for. In other cases, the Foreigners' Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) will make a decision at its own discretion.