Apply for a (Student) Visa for Germany - Part 1

In order to study at the International Graduate Center or generally in Germany as a foreigner, you may need to apply for an appropriate visa. This usually raises a lot of questions, the process seems complicated and confusing – but don't worry, there are competent authorities in Germany as well as in your home country, that can advise you on applying for a visa.

Visa and passport

In this article, we present some current information (as of August 2021) that will provide guidance when it comes to visas for Germany. You can obtain binding information on visa requirements from the German consulate in your home country. Here you can find the German Consulate in your Country:

1. Visa requirement and residence permit

Whether you need a visa, depends on the purpose and duration of your planned stay as well as your nationality. Nationals from the European Union, the European Economic Area and Switzerland are exempt from the visa obligation. If you come from one of the associated countries, you do not need a visa to study in Germany. All you have to do is register at the Residents' Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) in your new place of residence after your arrival.

Then there are certain countries whose nationals do not require a visa to enter Germany in the first instance. However, if their stay in Germany is to last longer than 90 days, a residence permit (Aufenthaltsgenehmigung) must be applied for in good time, depending on the purpose of the stay. This applies to nationals of Australia, Great Britain, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea, the USA, Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino. Any national of these countries who wants to stay longer than three months, for example to study, must register at the Residents' Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) after arriving at their new place of residence and apply for a corresponding residence permit with the competent Foreigners' Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde). It is nevertheless helpful to obtain information about any documents you may need abroad, well in advance of leaving your home country. There are also specific regulations for the above-mentioned countries, for example if you want to work in Germany after completing your studies.

Nationals of all other countries must already be able to present a visa when entering Germany; visas are compulsory. You have to apply for a visa at the German consulate in the respective home country. The issuing of such a visa can take several months, so you should allow sufficient time before the planned departure. On the website of the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt), you will find the visa regulations for all countries as well as the addresses of the German consulates abroad. The German consulate in your home country will help you with questions regarding your visa application.


2. International students – applying for the right visa

If you want to entry Germany to study from a country for which a visa is compulsory there are two types of suitable visas. It is important to not simply enter as a tourist, because a tourist visa cannot be changed into a student visa! If you have not yet acquired admission to a university, you can apply for a visa for study application (Visum zur Studienbewerbung). This visa enables you to meet the requirements for university admission in Germany (for example a language course) to choose and to secure a place at a university. The study application visa is valid for three months and can be extended for another six months. If you acquire admission to a university within this period, you can then apply for a residence permit for study purposes (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zu Studienzwecken).

If you have already acquired a place at a university and want to enter Germany to begin your studies, you can apply for a visa for study purposes (Visum zu Studienzwecken). This visa is usually valid for three months, during which time you must enter Germany and apply for a residence permit for study purposes (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zu Studienzwecken) at the Foreigners' Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your new place of residence.

Next week part 2 will follow with the topics documents and scheduling.

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