If you have gained admission to study at a university in Germany, you will need to find out whether you need to apply for a German student visa. Many students do not need a student visa to study in Germany, but just need a residence permit. If you do need a visa, be sure to apply as early as possible, as the process may take a few months.
Do you need a German student visa?
Applicants within the European Union (including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein):
If you are applying to study in Germany from within the EU (including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein) you do not need to obtain a German student visa before entering the country.
Applicants from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, South Korea:
If you are from any of these countries you do not need a visa to study in Germany. However, you will need to register at the local Residents’ Registration Office and the Aliens’ Registration Office (Ausländeramt) to obtain a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) within two weeks of arrival in the country.
Applicants from Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco, San Marino or Taiwan:
If you are from any of these countries, you will only need a German student visa if you plan to work before or after your degree. In this case you should apply for the visa in your home country via your local German embassy or consulate. Both visa holders and non-visa holders will also need to apply for a residence permit within two weeks of entry. Students from Taiwan must have a passport which includes an identity card number.
Applicants from the rest of the world:
If you are from any other country not listed above, you will require a student visa for Germany. You should apply for this via the local German embassy or consulate in your home country. The typical fee for a visa is €60 (~US$65).
How to apply for a student visa for Germany
If you need a student visa for Germany, you should apply as soon as possible, and at least three months before your move to the country. To do this you’ll need to contact the local German embassy or consulate in your home country.
The documents you typically need are:
- Completed application form
- Valid passport
- Two photographs
- Letter showing you’ve been accepted by a German university
- Transcript of academic record
- Certificate of German language proficiency or proof that you intend on attending a language course in Germany (if studying in German)
- Proof that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while living in Germany (€8,000 per year, which is ~US$8,670)
- Certificate showing you’ve purchased health insurance
- Declaration of authenticity of documents submitted
Dependent on the embassy, you may also need to show proof that you don’t have a criminal record. One of the ways in which you can prove you have sufficient funds to study in Germany is by depositing a security payment into a blocked account – this means you cannot withdraw the money until after you arrive in Germany.
If you are planning to study in Germany for more than 90 days you should apply for a National Visa for the purpose of study rather than a Schengen Visa, which will only allow you to stay in Germany for three months.
As well as your student visa, you will also need to apply for a residence permit on arrival.
How to apply for a residence permit
Once in the country, you will have to register with the local Alien Registration Office (Bürgeramt orEinwohnermeldeamt) within two weeks of arrival. Here you must apply for a residence permit for study purposes. The documents you’ll need are similar to those needed for the visa:
- Proof of valid private or public health insurance
- Certificate of enrolment from your university
- Proof of sufficient finances
- Valid passport
- Current visa, if you have one
- Certificate of health (if applicable)
- Your tenancy agreement (if applicable)
- Biometric passport photos (if applicable)
- Residence permit fee (check the current rate beforehand to make sure you bring enough money)
Although you will already have been asked for proof of language proficiency as part of your university application, you may need to provide this information again in order to gain your residence permit. For courses taught in German, international students need to provide a TestDaf or DSH score, or, for English-taught courses, you’ll need to provide a TOEFL or IELTS score.
This residence permit is valid for two years, and, if needed, should be renewed before it expires. Residence permits initially cost €110 (~US$120) and then the fee is €80 (~US$87) for each extension.
Students from the EU/EEA (as well as Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein) do not need a residence permit, but must register with the local Einwohnermeldeamt or Bürgeramt (registration authority) within a week of their arrival. You’ll need your registration document from your university for this. EU students also need to prove they have enough money (€8,000 per year), statutory health insurance if under 30, and proficiency in their course’s language of instruction. Certain countries have bilateral agreements with Germany, which mean insurance policies in the student’s home country will be applicable in Germany.
Have you considered a student applicant visa?
If you have not yet been accepted to study at a German university, you may consider applying for a student applicant visa. This allows you to stay in Germany for three months in order to look for a university program on German soil. If you have not enrolled in this time, you may ask for your visa to be extended to six months, but whether or not this is granted is at the discretion of the visa authorities. After enrollment, your student applicant visa can be converted into a national visa. To apply for this type of visa, you’ll need to provide proof of your application to a German university.
Working in Germany with a student visa
It is legal to work in Germany with a student visa, but students are restricted to the number of days they can work. This is 120 full days each year or 240 half days. (If you take a job as a student assistant or research assistant at your university, it’s usually no problem to exceed the 120-day limit. However, you must inform the Alien Registration Office if you do.) Students from the EU can work for up to 20 hours per week without the need for a work permit.
If you want to stay in Germany to seek work after your degree, international students with a residence permit can extend it to stay in Germany and seek work for up to 18 months after graduating, as long as the job is related to their field of study. Graduates from EU/EEA countries can stay on to seek work without any restrictions or permits. After two years of employment in Germany, it’s possible to apply for permanent residency status. It’s definitely beneficial to be proficient in the German language when seeking work in Germany, but not always essential.
This article was originally published in July 2014. It was updated in February 2016.
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