Study in Germany: German student visas and permits
A guide for German student visa and immigration requirements for those who plan to study in Germany or carry out academic research.
Who needs a visa to study in Germany?
EU/EEA/Swiss students don’t need a visa to live and study in Germany but most other people will.
If you want to move to Germany for up to three months (90 days), on a summer language course for example, you may or may not need a visa depending on where you live. See this Federal Foreign Office list of countries with a visa requirement to find out if you need one. If you need one you’ll need to apply for a Schengen visa through the German embassy or consulate in your home country. A Schengen visa covers 26 different European countries, see Expatica’s complete guide to German visas and permits for more information.
If you want to stay longer than three months – perhaps because you’re taking a university preparatory course (studienkolleg) or entering a degree course at a university, completing a doctoral degree or on a research project – then you’ll need to apply for one of the national visas below, which will allow you to get a residence permit.
If you come to Germany without a visa or on a Schengen visa but then want to stay on longer, it’s not usually possible to extend it while you’re in Germany.
Visas to study in Germany
There are different types of German student visa:
Student application visa: For those who have not yet been admitted to a university or college
If you’ve applied for a course and have a confirmation letter but have not yet been formally admitted, you should apply for a student application visa. This will be valid for three months to give you time to fulfil the institution’s admission requirements, but you can extend the visa by a maximum of six months if necessary, making a total of nine months in all. Once you have been admitted onto a course, you should apply for a residence permit for the purpose of study at the Aliens’ Authority (see below). You can apply for this permit without needing to leave Germany.
Student visa: For those who have been admitted to a university or college
Once you have an admission letter from the university or college, you should apply for a student visa. These are usually valid for three months and by the end of this time in Germany, you should have applied to get your residence permit from the Aliens’ Authority (see below).
Language course visa: For those who take a language course
These visas are only valid for the duration of the language course and cannot be converted to either a student application visa or study visa once you’re in Germany. If you’re planning on taking a course at a German university after your language course, you have to apply for the appropriate visa before leaving your home country, otherwise you’ll have to leave Germany and apply again from home.
Applying for your student visa
You’ll need to apply for a visa from the German embassy or consulate in your home country. If required, you’ll need to complete a residence permit application form, have valid passport/national ID and provide other documentation, which may include:
- educational certificates;
- motivation letter, explaining why you want to study in Germany'
- proof of German language skills or confirmed place on a language course in Germany (student/student application visas);
- proof of healthcare insurance and financial resources while you’re in Germany;
- a letter confirming admission (for student visas);
- confirmation of a place on a language course (language course visa);
- evidence of what you have been doing in your home country (e.g. education, work, language course visa).
Postgraduate students and scientific researchers
- invitation from the German university outlining the area of research or study;
- letter from the university in your home country;
- your CV;
- proof of income (salary or scholarship).
When you arrive in Germany
Mandatory registering with the authorities: everyone
Everyone needs to register with the local registration authorities (Einwohnermeldeamt) in the first week of arriving in Germany. You’ll need to take your passport/national ID (and visa if appropriate), proof of your address in Germany (eg. a rental agreement from your landlord) and possibly the registration certificate from your course. You’ll be given a confirmation of registration.
Right to residence and residence permits
EU/EEA and Swiss nationals, who may have to provide evidence of sufficient financial resources and healthcare insurance during registration, will receive a right to residence from the registration authorities.
Everyone else will have to report to the Aliens' Authority (Ausländeramt) within three months of arriving in Germany for their residence permit for the purpose of study. You’ll need to take along certain documents, including:
- your passport/national ID (and visa if appropriate);
- the confirmation of registration;
- the registration certificate from the German university;
- a health insurance certificate;
- biometric passport photos.
You may also be asked for proof of financial resources, a medical certificate and any rental agreement. Between four and six weeks later you can collect your electronic residence permit. The permits are usually issued for a year but may be extended.
Family members of students: who can come?
Non-EU/EEA/Swiss relatives (spouse and children) may be able to join you in Germany while you’re a student as long as you have a valid residence permit, sufficient finances, healthcare insurance and somewhere to live, as confirmed by your educational institution. You will have to prove the relationships and they will have to apply for visas, if necessary.
Working in Germany while you’re a student
Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland can work freely in Germany, but for no more than 20 hours a week during term time. Croats may only work to up to 120 full or 240 half days a year and need permission from the authorities until 2015.
Other nationalities are permitted to work up to 120 full or 240 half days a year (including voluntary work) without permits. You can work more hours if employed by the university as a student or graduate assistant; for other types of employment you will need permission from the Agentur für Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency) and the Aliens' Authority to exceed the 120/240 limit. Studienkolleg and language students need permission from these authorities in order to take on any work. Students can’t be freelancers or self-employed.
After your course has ended
EU/EEA and Swiss postgrads
Nationals from these countries can look for work and stay on in Germany without restrictions, with the exception of Croats who will need a work permit until June 30, 2015 – unless you’re an academic and will be taking up a position related to your qualification.
Third-country nationals: Postgraduate residence permits
After you’ve finished your degree in Germany, you can extend your residence permit for up to 18 months to stay in Germany to look for work related to your qualification. During this time you can take on any type of employment, without needing permission from the Federal Employment Agency, in order to support yourself while you’re looking for work. You can apply for this extension from your local Aliens' Authority as soon as you have passed your final exam. You’ll need to take along:
- your passport/national ID;
- proof that you have been awarded your degree (either a university diploma or a letter bearing an official stamp from the university confirming the fact);
- health insurance certificate;
- proof that you can support yourself (eg. bank statements, grant or letter from a guarantor).
If you leave Germany and return to your home country after completing your studies, you can apply via the German embassy for a six-month visa to come to Germany to look for work related to your qualification. To qualify for this visa, you must fulfil certain conditions, including having been awarded a degree and being able to support yourself while looking for work. As soon as you find work, you have to apply to the local Aliens' Authority for a residence permit or EU Blue Card. See Expatica’s guide to working in Germany.
For more information:
- Read Expatica’s complete guide to German visas and permits.
- Contact BAMF Information service:
Monday to Thursday: 9am to 3pm, Friday: 9am to 2 pm
T: +49 911 943 6390 | E: firstname.lastname@example.org
The information given here is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt fur Migration und Fluchtlinge or BAMF).
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