Getting a German visa or permit

Moving to Germany: Guide to German visas and permits

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Find out which German visa or permit you need to visit, live, study or work in Germany, and how to apply for the correct German visa or permit.

Certain nationalities need to apply for a German visa or permit to visit, live, work or study in Germany. In general, you don't need a visa or residence permit if you're a citizen of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA; EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland. Citizens from outside Europe typically need a German visa or permit to enter or live in Germany. This essential guide will help you find out which German visa or permit you need for your particular situation.

Who can live and work in Germany?


EU/EEA/Swiss nationals

The Federal Republic of Germany is one of 26 countries making up the ‘Schengen' area, allowing free movement for citizens of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. They have one common visa and no border controls between them.

Under the Freedom of Movement Act, if you're a national from one of the countries in the EU or EEA, you also don't need a visa or other permit to visit, live, work or study in Germany.

Swiss nationals also enjoy freedom of movement within the EU but have to apply for a purely declaratory residence permit for Swiss nationals from the Aliens Authority (Ausländerbehörde).

All other EU and EEA nationals can enter, stay and work in Germany with just a valid passport or ID card, although you do have to register with the residents' registration office in the town in which you live within three months of entering the country.

If you don't hold EU/EEA citizenship yourself, but wish to join a close family member in Germany who does, you will, depending on your nationality, have to apply for a visa to enter the country and then you'll receive a ‘residence card' from the Alien's Authority (Ausländerbehörde).

For more information, see our guide for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Germany.

Non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals

Some citizens from outside the EU/EEA and Switzerland will need a German entry visa (a Schengen visa), and almost everyone else will need a German residence permit.

Citizens from certain countries – including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United States of America, plus several countries from central and south America – don't need a Schengen visa to enter Germany for stays of up to three months (90 days) but do need to apply for a residence permit within those three months if they wish to stay longer or to work.

If your country doesn't have an agreement with German, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa to enter Germany and stay up for three months (90 days) or for a permit called a ‘residence title' if you want to stay for longer than three months and/or work here.

Find out if you need an entry visa for Germany here.

Moving to Germany: Getting a German visa or permit

Do you need a German visa or permit?

German short-stay visas: less than three months

Depending on your nationality, if you will be stopping briefly in a German airport (even for a few hours) en route to another destination, you may need a transit or airport visa. It only allows you into the international zone of a German airport.

If you are leaving the airport, even for less than a day, you may need to get the three-month Schengen visa. Schengen visas allow you to enter Germany (or any other country in the Schengen area listed above) for up to three months (90 days) within a six-month period.

You must apply for a Schengen visa at the German embassy or consulate in your country of residence, so check out the website for your own German embassy or consulate. The Federal Foreign Office website has detailed information on all aspects of Schengen visa regulations. You can download a Schengen application form now in German/English, Spanish, French, Russian or Chinese.

If you enter Germany on this visa, you cannot change it to a German residence permit once you are in Germany, except in exceptional circumstances. You will have to leave, apply for the residence permit from aboard and re-enter the country.

German residence permits: longer than three months

If you want to stay in Germany for longer than three months, for whatever reason (eg. to work, complete a vocational training course, or be reunited with your family), you will need to apply for a visa plus residence permit or ‘title' before you arrive – unless you are a national from one of the countries that doesn't require a visa to enter Germany, in which case you can apply from within Germany.

Types of German residence permits

There are several residence permits that apply in Germany:

  • The most common permit is the residence permit, which is usually valid for one year and can be renewed so long as your situation – eg. employment, marriage – stays the same as when you were originally granted the permit.
  • The EU Blue Card is a residence permit with enhanced conditions for highly qualified migrants and their spouses.
  • The settlement permit and permanent EC residence permit, as their names suggest, are both permanent residence permits. They are usually only granted after five years of residence (and if you fulfill other conditions) but they can be issued to highly skilled workers immediately and to other groups after two or three years of residence.


Your reason for wanting to come to Germany and your educational and professional qualifications will determine which residence title you can apply for. You will need to meet some general requirements, including holding a valid passport and being able to prove you have enough money to support you during your stay.

Most people have to apply for a residence permit via the German embassy or consulate in their country of residence. You can find the contact details of yours here.

Family reunification

Unless you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen (or your relative in Germany is), if you want to come to Germany to be with a partner – a spouse or registered/civil partner – or other close family member, you will need your own residence permit. You and your relative must also fulfil other criteria, for example, your relative must possess a residence permit, have somewhere for you to live, and show sufficient finances to support you. In some cases, you will also have to prove that you have basic German language skills, although exemptions apply.

For more information, read our overview on German permits for family reunification.

Studying in Germany

You can get a nine-month residence permit to come to Germany before being admitted to a German university (as long as you have the required qualifications), or a longer one to study in Germany on a full-time university course. You will need to prove that you have the necessary finances during your course and you may have to prove German language proficiency. Most universities have very comprehensive and helpful information about residence permits on their own websites.

Permanent residence in Germany

Once you have been living in Germany for a number of years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit. A permanent residence permit allows you to stay in the country indefinitely but you don't have the same rights as German citizens – you can't vote, for example. If you wish to have the same constitutional rights and legal status as any other German citizen, and you fulfil certain conditions, then you can apply to be naturalised after eight years of residence.

To find out more, see our guide to permanent visas in Germany.

Asylum seekers and refugees

See the BAMF website for information on asylum law.

Electronic residence

Since September 2011, the residence title (the label that was stuck into the passport), residence card, permanent residence card and paper ID cards have been superseded by an electronic ‘credit card' residence title. Existing ‘paper' titles will retain their validity until August 31, 2016.

Getting a visa or permit in Germany: German visas and permits overview

Working in Germany

If you're a national from a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you are free to work in Germany without restriction, with the exception of citizens of the newer member state Croatia, who will need permits potentially up until 2020.

Everyone else can only work in Germany if their residence permit allows it. There is no separate work permit in Germany and the right to work – and to what extent you can work – will be detailed on the residence permit that you apply for before you enter the country (see above).

To read more about working in Germany and to understand which permit you need for your situation, see our guide to work permits in Germany.

For more information:

Contact the German embassy or consulate in your home country, or the BAMF Information service:

Monday to Thursday: 9 am to 3 pm
Friday: 9 am to 2pm
T: +49 911 943 6390
E: info.buerger@bamf.bund.de

Read more:



Expatica

Note: The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the German embassy or consulate in your home country, or from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt fur Migration und Fluchtlinge or BAMF).

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28 Comments To This Article

  • jamal posted:

    on 3rd October 2016, 20:34:02 - Reply

    i am moving in germany with my girlfriend and daughter i have italian carata di sagiorno and uk vister visa for 2 years if i stay in germany what nationalty i can applay british or german?and also wgat german visa i wil get 1st ?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Liza posted:

    on 13th September 2016, 09:02:26 - Reply

    Good day! just a query, how can we get a working permit for seaman that are going to work in river cruises around German area, We have a new principal from Germany that wanted to get a Filipino crew, can anyone help me with my concern?
    Thank you and hoping to hear from people concerned.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our forums or Ask the Expert service.]

  • lizza posted:

    on 24th July 2016, 20:44:45 - Reply

    hey, you should logically apply for a family reunion visa in Nigeria (http://www.nigeria.diplo.de/Vertretung/nigeria/en/04-1_20Visa/Long_20term_20visa/Visa_20-_20Long_20term.html)
    your man or his family should be able to send you a letter of obligation
    All the best

  • Lizza posted:

    on 24th July 2016, 20:50:02 - Reply

    first of all: Don't EVER loose hope!Here is how you can start the process of going and meet your man (https://de.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/marriage/)
    be patient, pray a lot and have faith
  • Joeade posted:

    on 12th July 2016, 13:13:09 - Reply

    I am Nigeria citizen, my son is German citizen but my baby father is German, lives in Uk studying . I want to relocate to Germany with my son for better life for the boy (2years old) and work. What can i do?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Fairy posted:

    on 3rd July 2016, 05:06:15 - Reply

    Hello, I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 3 years now I live in USA and he lives in Germany, I want to be able to go live with him but I am completely lost at where to start and don't even know if we're able to do it because of his living situation. He got diagnosed with Cancer a few months after we started dating, as of now he is in remission, but the effects of the chemotherapy have left him with a lot of mental issues so he is not able to work currently, he is kind of at that giving up on life point and all I want to be able to do is be with him and help him get back on his feet but the constant of me coming to Germany and then leaving is simply not enough and only makes things worse when I leave he doesn't do well. I have been learning German online but would not have a fluent income to support us if I moved there. I am at a complete loss for what to do. I dont know the rules and specifications of moving. Any help or advice is appreciated. thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • daniel posted:

    on 25th April 2016, 22:35:01 - Reply

    am from nigeria married to greece woman i have a long resident pamit 10years i want to work and study in garmany for 2years alone with wife

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Kara posted:

    on 12th April 2016, 11:50:53 - Reply

    Hey Luke!
    I am in the same position as you, a Canadian who came to Germany with a one year 'Youth Mobility Visa' and am now looking to extend. What procedure did you find to look into this? Any information you could find time to pass along would be helpful :)
    Cheers!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Malek posted:

    on 16th March 2016, 01:36:09 - Reply

    Hello,
    I have a question about marriage in Poland.
    I am a Tunisian citizen and I will marry with a polish citizen, but he is working in Germany and we have to be together, how it will be in Germany with the procedures, how it will be with the registration office in Germany, we would like to ask what it will be next after my marriage and move to Germany beside I will marry in the next months, Thank you very much!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Tosh posted:

    on 21st January 2016, 15:28:38 - Reply

    Hey i am in the same position. Do let me know if you find any useful information about how to go about getting a sponsored visa here in germany. my email is letosh@gmail.com

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Loni posted:

    on 30th December 2015, 01:49:50 - Reply

    My boyfriend is now living in Germany and he wants me to come there to lived and get married and i am wondering what is the process of me doing that? He is not a citizen of Germany or any countries in Europe.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Luke posted:

    on 18th November 2015, 00:44:04 - Reply

    Hello,
    I am living in Germany on a one year Working Holiday Visa (Australian Passport Holder) and I am wanting to extend my stay in Germany, potentially with the plan to move here indefinitely.

    My workplace is interested in sponsoring me but I am finding difficult to find information on what they need to do for this to happen, what forms ect.

    Any information or help would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you.

  • fred posted:

    on 8th November 2015, 13:45:26 - Reply

    I am a British citizen and live in Germany how can I bring over my daughter living in Ghana aged 11 to stay in Germany?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on Ask the Expert service]

     

  • JANET posted:

    on 24th September 2015, 07:08:51 - Reply

    my question is can someone assist you in acquiring a visa because in kenya there people calling themselves agents and are helping people attain the short term visas later after you attain the visa and head to Germany they go there and settle searching for jobs is this legal?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • hacen posted:

    on 5th September 2015, 18:02:44 - Reply

    my question that when i had appointment visa i have to bring my children they are less then years?
  • Jade posted:

    on 4th June 2015, 14:55:15 - Reply

    Good day

    My daughter and I will be immigrating to Munich, Germany this year from South Africa.
    We both have got German passports but have not lived in Germany before.
    I have read that on your website that if you have the German Passport work permits and visas are not needed.
    My question is that when we arrive at the Munich airport, is there anything we need to do differently?
    I would also like to know if the rules differ in terms of how much money a person who is immigrating a person can bring with them in their savings account?

    Thank you

    Kind regard

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Enzo posted:

    on 27th May 2015, 00:59:09 - Reply

    is that true?
  • Melven posted:

    on 30th March 2015, 17:19:08 - Reply

    Hello, could any one can help me about applying a work permit in germany? I am not norwegian passport holder but currently living in norway and holding a permanent resident here and got an employment offer in germany, hence i can travel any part of schengen because of my Permanent residency in norway, is it ok to apply a work permit in germany once i arrive the place where i can stay?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • pitho posted:

    on 17th June 2014, 13:26:20 - Reply

    Hello i have some question regarding further study in Germany with Job search Visa. I just complete my Bachelor Degree, I change my Visa Status into Job search Visa, but i wanted to study further but some people told me that i cannot study further and cannot change my visa Status into Student now. I was unknown about that with converting student visa into Job Search visa, we are not allowed to study further in Germany. Do anyone have any idea, is there any way so that we can again make further study, or there is no any option. I just wanted to know, what will be the consequences, because i want to finish my master if i am allowed, if not then i have to think other ways around. I appreciate your answers. Thank you .

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Priyanka Bagda posted:

    on 1st June 2014, 16:11:30 - Reply

    I hold a Kenyan passport. I will be traveling by LUFTHANSA Airline from Nairobi-KENYA to Newark, NJ, USA via Zurich-SWITZERLAND and Dusseldorf-GERMANY. I will be in transit at Dusseldorf airport for about three hours. Will I need a transit or airport VISA. If so, Will I get it at airport or need to get it before travel. Kindly advise. Thanks

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Akram posted:

    on 24th May 2014, 11:00:43 - Reply

    I am Egyptian citizen.I have been married with a german for three years now and we have a son!! We live in Kuwait where i work! I wanna join my family for a short visit to Germany! Do i need a hotel reservation or an invitation?!. Notice that i have taken the visa 4 times before my marriage got registered in Germany as a tourist not a family member!! I feel it is more complicated as i am a family member now! Or do u advise me to just apply as a tourist visa and just disregard the whole family member thing! And if i did do u think there will be a problem if somehow they found out about my marriage and that i applied for a tourist visa !!

    Thanks a lot

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • phunmie posted:

    on 20th May 2014, 11:19:52 - Reply

    I want to work and live in Germany with my two kids.what should i do first?is it to get Schengen visa to enter Germany,then extend or get residence title?pls,i really need a detailed how-to-do-it process as i want to come and stay legally.prompt response will be appreciated.

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Giang posted:

    on 8th April 2014, 07:35:28 - Reply

    i meant a visa for work and maybe marriage,so somehow can do it in Germany, not in embassy of my country?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Giang posted:

    on 8th April 2014, 07:28:17 - Reply

    im not living in Germany but i want to come there, get a visa must register in embassy from here or somehow can do in German,
  • Halal posted:

    on 14th January 2014, 01:13:14 - Reply

    Non -eu citizen I have a student permit of stay in italy and i want to move to germany because i found a work there
  • Ro posted:

    on 10th May 2013, 13:53:47 - Reply

    I would just like to stay here and take care of my 98 year old grandmother.
    The amt said 6months is all they can give but there must be a loop whole.
    What kind of a country doesn't allow you to take care of your family
  • Moi posted:

    on 22nd April 2013, 14:20:56 - Reply

    Proof of basic knowledge of German? I don't know a single person (myself included) who has ever been asked for this (and this is across 3 different BL in Germay)
  • Sterling Michols posted:

    on 7th April 2013, 19:15:56 - Reply

    The information regarding permanent residence based on employment is outdated as of July 2012, when the Blue Card was introduced. Rules have been eased, allowing more non-Eu foreigners holding a college degree to obtain residency. There does not seem to be any mention of this in the article.