International students often need a visa to enter Germany. Sometimes they also need a residence permit. Whether you need these documents depends on which country you are from and how long you intend to stay.
Entering Germany without a visa
Citizens of the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland only need a valid ID card or comparable document to enter the country. As soon as you have found accommodation, you need to make an appointment with the , or residents' registration office, in your university town, where you can be issued with a document stating your right to remain.
If you come from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea or the United States you can enter Germany without a visa. If you stay in Germany for more than three months, you need to apply for a . This can be done at the local foreigners authority (Ausländeramt / ). You can find the one that is responsible for your place of residence here.
The same applies for students from Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino. They may enter without a visa if they do not intend to subsequently work in Germany. Side jobs while you study are excepted from this rule. Nevertheless you should visit a German diplomatic mission in your country (embassy or consulate general) for further information before traveling to Germany.
Exceptions also apply for the citizens of many other countries if they stay for no more than three months and do not take up employment. This time limit cannot be extended.
Entering Germany with a visa
Applicants from other countries will usually require a visa. There are however further exceptions. Detailed information on visa requirements is available here.
If you need a visa, you must apply for it in your home country in good time. Applications must be made to the German diplomatic missions abroad (embassies or consulates general). Depending on the duration of and reason for your visit you may be issued with a Schengen visa or merely a national visa. The Schengen visa is valid for a short visit of up to three months for holidays, language courses and business trips, and cannot be extended. The national visa is intended for longer study visits.
Applying for a visa
To apply for a visa, contact the German embassy or consulate in your home country. You can find the addresses of the German diplomatic missions on the website of the Federal Foreign Office, which also contains information on exactly which documents you will need. The application forms and any necessary documents can usually be downloaded directly from the websites of the diplomatic missions.
If you have already been accepted to a higher education institution, you can apply for a . If you are still waiting for your or have to complete an entrance examination, you should apply for a . Prospective student visas are valid for three months and can be extended by six months if you are accepted to a higher education institution or enrol in a or a preparatory German language course within this period.
Usually required documents:
- Valid passport
- Proof of health insurance
- Proof of sufficient funds
- Records of previous study and language skills
- If applicable: letter of acceptance from your higher education institution
- If applying for a prospective student visa: a recognised higher education entrance qualification
- Possibly a
TIP: It can sometimes take months for a visa to be issued, so it's important to apply early on even if you have not yet been accepted to a higher education institution. You can apply for a prospective student visa and convert it to a residence permit for studying once you are in Germany. Please note: A tourist visa cannot be converted to a student visa later on.