There’s lots you’ll need to think about before deciding to study abroad.For instance, what it will cost and how you’ll be able to fund it. So let’s talk money.
If you require a visa (Arrival) to study in Germany, you will probably already be asked when you apply for it how you plan to finance your studies in Germany. At the latest when you enter Germany you will need to provide proof of funding if you want to have your visa converted into a residence permit at the foreigners’ registration office.
You will have to prove that you have at least 10,332 euros per year at your disposal (as per WS 2021/22). From 1 January 2023, the amount will be 11,208 euros per year. You can do this in various ways, such as showing a scholarship or proof of your parents’ income and financial assets. Most international students provide this proof by demonstrating that they have sufficient funds in a blocked account.
Contact the German embassy in your country in good time to find out how to provide the required financial evidence.
If you are from an EEA country, you will not need to provide financial evidence, unlike your fellow students from other countries. Nonetheless, this can give you an idea of how much money you will need – though this will depend on various factors: which city you live in, the cost of living there, and how much you will have to pay for rent. In some cases, the sum of around 10,000 euros mentioned above may not be enough to spend a year living in Germany.
We have listed the key costs you can expect to incur in your daily life in the section Everyday life. In addition, you will have to pay for health insurance and, possibly, tuition fees. Most students get financial support from their parents to pay for all of this. The second most important source of income is to earn money yourself while studying.
The following graph shows how international students in Germany fund themselves:
2016; single, international degree-seeking students; selected answers; multiple responses possible; Source: DSW/DZHW 21st Social Survey
Half of all international students earn at least some additional money to cover the cost of living in Germany.
How much and whether a person can work depends mainly on the country they are from. All students from EEA countries and Switzerland have free access to the employment market and are subject to no legal restrictions here. As a rule, however, you can only maintain your student status if you do not work more than 20 hours per week during lecture period. Otherwise you will have to pay compulsory insurance (Social insurance contributions and taxes).
Note: If you have a part-time job, you will also need German health insurance
The rule for everyone else is that they can work for 120 full days or 240 half days per year without the consent of the immigration office. If you want or need to work more, you will require a permit. This also applies if you want to work on a self-employed or freelance basis. One exception is a job as a hall of residence tutor or as a research or student assistant at the university. Though such work is not subject to any time limits, you must notify the immigration office nonetheless.
If you want to get a job, first seek permission from the immigration office.
Having a scholarship to cover at least some of your living expenses makes life considerably easier for any student. A not insignificant 15 percent of international master’s and bachelor’s degree students obtain such funding. And among exchange students the proportion even exceeds two thirds.
Unlike in many other countries, it is not usually universities that award scholarships. In Germany it is for the most part foundations and organisations for the promotion of young talent that provide funding to support students. Though the prerequisites you need to meet can vary considerably, you will always need good overall grades in your final school-leaving certificate.
The leading scholarship provider for international students is the DAAD. It is represented via its network in numerous countries around the world, so you can seek advice there directly. Its scholarship database provides details of all the main funding options.
Students wishing to spend only one or two semesters abroad can often apply for a scholarship from their home university or to take part in national or international mobility programmes – like the Erasmus+ programme for students from 34 European countries and many partner countries all over the world.
Check whether your university offers the Deutschlandstipendium. This scholarship supports talented and high-achieving students.
There is no central body to which you can apply for a scholarship. You will need to find out for yourself which organisations offer scholarships and apply to them directly.
Internships are a good way to get some work experience and make useful contacts while still enrolled at a higher education institution. But what legal regulations apply to them?
A voluntary internship counts as a proper job even if it is unpaid. This is no big deal for Europeans as they can be exempted from compulsory insurance (Social insurance contributions and taxes) in the same way they can with a “mini-job”.
If you are not from an EEA country, however, each day of your internship will count towards the 120 days that you are permitted to work in total. If you exceed this limit, you will need the consent of the immigration office. The exception are internships that are a compulsory part of your course of study, in which case you are allowed to work more.
Finding the right internship for yourself
Internships often pay little or not at all, so the work will need to have concrete benefits for you. Clarify in advance or during your interview what matters most to you: which responsibilities you can assume, what you can learn, how independently you can work, how long the internship will last, and who will be your contact person.
The DAAD has compiled a list of links to programmes that arrange internship places (only in German).
You will have many opportunities to find a part-time job while you study. Typically, international students work in cafes, bars and restaurants. Around a third of students who get a part-time job work as a student assistant (known in German as a “HiWi”). The advantage of this is that you stick close to your subject area. As a HiWi, you might work in the library, assist your professor, or give tutorials to other students.
To get a job as a HiWi you should talk to your professor directly, ask in the secretary’s office or check any job vacancies that may be posted on a blackboard. Such jobs are also advertised at university job portals.
Of course, the internet is also a useful tool when it comes to finding a job: a whole series of dedicated online job websites are available, such as that offered by Germany’s Federal Employment Agency. You may also find the job portals on offer at your higher education institution or student service organisation interesting.
The obvious time to do part-time work (except as a HiWi) is during the lecture free period. Otherwise, there is a risk that you will need to study longer than planned and thus lose time.
As you no doubt already know from your home country, anyone who earns money is obliged to pay tax. And this is no different in Germany. That said, there are so-called mini-jobs here in which you will currently not earn more than 450 euros per month. At present, this minimum wage amounts to 10.45 euros per hour, and will be raised to 12 euros per hour from October 2022 (520 euros per month). In this case you will not have to pay any tax.
This is how much you can earn in a mini-job
(from October 2022)
The same applies to social insurance contributions – for example to health, nursing care, pension and unemployment cover. You will have health and nursing care insurance in any case. You will pay no additional social insurance contributions if you have a temporary mini-job, and you can be exempted from pension insurance.
No matter how much you earn, you will be exempted from these insurance contributions if you work not more than 20 hours per week. You will also remain exempt if you occasionally work more during the lecture free period. In total, however, you must not work more than 26 weeks (182 days) per year, as otherwise you will no longer count as a “full-time student” and will have to pay taxes and insurance contributions.
You can work up to 20 hours per week without paying insurance contributions
Please note, however, that international students from a third country are not permitted to work more than 120 days (240 half days) per year without permission from the immigration office.
In order to work you need social insurance card. Your first employer must apply for this on your behalf.
As a rule, international students are not eligible for state support like BAföG grants. There are exceptions, nevertheless: such as for those with recognised refugee status or permanent right of residence.
The situation is different for citizens from EEA countries and Switzerland. Under certain circumstances – for instance if they have already been working in Germany for some time – they may be entitled to a BAföG grant.
In both cases, it is advisable to seek advice from the BAföG office, as the prerequisites are complicated.
In certain cases, students from the EEA and Switzerland are also entitled to social security benefits such as housing benefit, especially during situations such as pregnancy or illness.
But what happens if something goes wrong? The best place to seek support is at your student service organisation or at the university’s international office. Most student service organisations have set up hardship funds that can offer short-term assistance in an emergency or provide you with a bridging loan.
Postgraduate students from the EEA can apply in certain cases for a state student loan (only in German).
“The scholarship was competitive and challenging as we had to write proposals and motivational letters and submit our curriculum vitae for screening.”
Jemimah Allen Choji, 33, is from Nigeria and is studying theatre, film and media at Goethe University in Frankfurt/Main on a DAAD scholarship.
The academic standard is excellent, impressive and interesting. Germany has a great educational standard which I believe is one of the best in the world.
More infos: www.study-in-germany.de/funding.