Reporting to the authorities
International students who are new to Germany first need to settle a couple of important bureaucratic matters.
If you have found a room or apartment in Germany you will need to register with the registration office within a week. The registration, or change of address notification, with the registration office is mandatory for everyone who moves into an apartment or moves apartment in Germany. Once you have successfully registered you will receive a registration document. This provides confirmation that you are registered at the address indicated. You need the registration document on various occasions, such as when opening a bank account or applying for a library card.
You need the following documents to register:
- ID card or passport, with a visa if required
- rental agreement or confirmation by the landlord that you have moved in
You may sometimes also need other documents, such as your registration certificate. The International Office will be able to provide more information on the precise documents you need. They can also provide the address of the registration office.
Students from the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland do not need a residence permit. They receive a document confirming their right of residence when they register with the registration office. In some cases they will also need to prove that they have health insurance and that they can finance their studies.
Anyone who does not come from these countries will need to register with the foreigners' authorities and apply for a residence permit. The residence permit is provided for a specific purpose, similar to a visa. International students need a residence permit for study purposes, if they have already received a university place. Otherwise, you can apply for a residence permit for application, which can then be converted.
Residence permit: What documents do I need?
You need the following documents to apply for a residence permit:
A residence permit for study purposes is always issued for two years. It needs to be extended well in advance of the expiration date. The extension depends on whether you are studying on a regular basis, i.e. sitting exams and obtaining credit points. The registration office checks whether you are taking your studies seriously and that you will be able to complete them within an appropriate time frame.
The "Information on the Statutory Frameworks Applicable to Entry and Residence of Foreign Students and Academics" leaflet provides more information.
Other important matters
- Bank account: a German bank account will let you manage regular payments, such as rent and insurance, much more easily. Most banks provide free current accounts for students, so-called student accounts.
- Modes of payment: cash tends to be used for payments more often than in other countries, especially for smaller amounts. Payment using debit cards is also popular and standard for everyday purchases, such as shopping at the supermarket.
- Driver's licence: foreign driver's licences remain valid in Germany for stays of up to six months, but you may need a German translation or an international driver's licence. Non-European driver's licences lose their validity after six months and a German driver's licence will need to be obtained.