Find out which type of visa you need and which documents are necessary to get this visa
Before moving to Germany, whether for work or study, it is important to obtain the relevant documents. Whether you need a German visa will depend on your nationality, the reason for your stay and the expected length of stay. These factors will also affect the type of visa you need to apply for.
EU citizens and nationals of Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein (EEA/EFTA) and Switzerland do not need a visa to stay in Germany, regardless of the length of their visit, although they will need to obtain a residence permit. Germany also has a visa-waiver agreement with a number of additional counties. The waiver applies to nationals of those countries who are planning to stay for less than 90 days. Those who come from countries that do not have the visa-waiver agreement will need a short stay visa if they are planning on staying up to 90 days in Germany.
All Non-EU/EEA/EFTA/Swiss citizens who are planning to stay for more than 90 days, will need to obtain a long-stay visa. Long-stay visas are usually sought by students and by those moving to Germany to work. Once they have arrived, these individuals will also need to obtain a Residence Permit.
There are a number of different German student visas including a student applicant visa, language student visa and guest scientist visa. No matter which visa you apply for, you will be required to attend a visa appointment in the German consulate office in your home country, where you will be asked for a number of documents. These documents are used to prove who you are and demonstrate why you want to stay in Germany. Many of the required documents are the same.
Here you can find an approximate list of documents:
There are some documents that are additionally required for certain visas, e.g. for a student visa you will need a blocked account to prove sufficient financial resources and a letter of acceptance.
The process for applying for and being granted a German visa is much easier if you are organized if you give yourself plenty of time and you ensure that you have done everything that is required of you ahead of your visa appointment.
From the time it takes to wait for your booked appointment, to getting the documents ready and then waiting for the actual visa, you need to start the process as early as possible.
In order to be granted a visa, you will need to go to the German embassy or consulate in your home country in order to attend a visa appointment. At this appointment, you may be asked some questions and all your documents will be checked. There are typically a few weeks waiting time for visa appointments. This means it’s best to book as early as possible and use the time ahead of the appointment to prepare for it. Once your visa has been approved it may take up to three months to come through, so make sure you have booked the appointment for at least 12 weeks ahead of the date that you plan on arriving in Germany.
As soon as you know the date of your visa appointment, you need to write up a checklist of what you need to do and a timeline of when you are going to do it. Ideally, you want everything completed well ahead of time. Some things may take longer to organize so do them first. For example, completing the visa application form, setting up a blocked account to deposit funds and organizing your health insurance. Keep an eye on your timeline/checklist and be sure to stay on top of everything. Sometimes it’s the easiest actions that are left till the last minute, such as getting biometric passport photos, so make sure you have everything completed well ahead of time.
You can now complete the visa application form online. Whilst this makes life easier in many ways, it does mean that it’s harder to rectify mistakes once you have submitted it. You can save your progress as you go which means you don’t have to fill it in all at once. Complete each section carefully and check back over the entire thing a few times before you submit it.
Setting up a blocked account is a really important step in obtaining a student visa. A blocked account differs from a normal current account. It is ‘blocked’ because the money cannot be withdrawn before arrival and it cannot be used for any other transactions but monthly disbursements from blocked account to the current account. As of 2020, prospective students will need to have €10,236 deposited into the account, which is the average student living costs for one year in Germany.
Having a blocked account, students receive monthly transactions of €853, which prevents students from spending it all too soon and ensures they have enough money to see out the entire study program. You can set up a blocked account online with the help of digital blocked account providers such as Coracle, Expatrio or Fintiba. There might also be the possibility to open a blocked account in a branch of Deutsche Bank in your home country. All four mentioned are approved by the German Federal Foreign Office. You will need to bring proof of this and proof of your balance to your visa appointment. Read more about the blocked account and a comparison of the providers here.
Health insurance is mandatory for all residents in Germany, including both nationals and non-nationals. It is essential that you can show proof of healthcare insurance in order to be granted a visa. The type of insurance you need will depend on your age and other circumstances. For example, a foreign student who is aged under 30 and is doing a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree will be able to take advantage of discounted student public healthcare insurance. However, a PhD student, a mature student (over 30), a student doing a language course or a guest scientist will need private healthcare insurance cover. Whether you need public or private cover, a reliable digital relocation service will be able to offer you an excellent healthcare package from a trusted insurance partner. Read more about health insurance here.
A week or two before your visa appointment date, thoroughly check all the documents to make sure that everything is in order. If anything is missing or incorrect now is the time to get it corrected before the appointment. Ask someone else to check the documents with a fresh pair of eyes too.
Appointments need to be booked well in advance and if you miss your time, you may have to wait weeks or even months for another one. For those starting a job or enrolling at university, this could mean missing out on wages or study. Research the journey and give yourself plenty of time to get to the German consulate in your home country. Make sure you arrive at the building well ahead of time.
A well-written letter of motivation in some cases is key to successfully gaining a German visa. Write the letter in a formal structure and use it to explain what you will gain from studying in Germany, what your long-term plans are and also try to demonstrate an understanding and appreciation of German culture. Your long-term goals need to benefit not just yourself, but your home county and Germany.
The questions you are asked in the visa appointment will revolve around your plans for study, your future plans, your current financial situation, your academic achievements, your reasons for choosing Germany and your knowledge of the country. Ask a friend to give you a ‘mock’ visa interview so you are fully prepared to answer these questions.
There are several types of visas available to those relocating to Germany. It is important to make sure you secure the relevant visa for your visit. Please be aware, that the German Foreigners Act is executed differently per state, it thus might be that someone being in the same position as you is treated slightly differently just because of living in another area of Germany. Eventually, visa decisions follow case-by-case decisions based on objective criteria.
The student visa is for individuals who have already been accepted into a university course. It is permitted for three months from the date of arrival. All students are then required to apply for a residence permit once they have arrived and this will then allow you to stay for up to two years.
The language student visa differs slightly from the standard student visa. It is aimed at those doing a German language course. These visas are typically issued for three months but can be extended for up to one year, depending on the length of the course.
This type of student visa is specifically designed for those who have not yet applied for a university program or are waiting for their university acceptance letter. Again, this is a three-month visa, but it can be extended by a further six months with a residence permit. Once you have been accepted onto a course you will need to obtain a standard student visa. If you do not get accepted onto a course within nine months you will need to return home.
Some students will need to attend a German Studienkolleg before embarking on a university program. This is necessary if the qualification you gained from the higher education system in your home country is not recognized by the German university system. This means you will be required to do a foundation course at a Studienkolleg and after successful completion, you will be able to apply for your chosen degree program. When it comes to the visa for Studienkolleg students, apart from the standard list of documents, proof of acceptance at a Studienkolleg is necessary for the visa.
Those undertaking a PhD in Germany or taking a paid or unpaid role as a Guest Scientist will need to apply for the Guest Scientist / Visiting Scholar Visa. As well as the standard documents, those who are taking up a Guests Scientist role will also need to show their invitation letter from the German university as well as a letter from their local university which proves they have a job to return to. Proof of financial funds for this visa will vary depending on whether it is a paid role, a sponsored role or a self-funded PhD.
Those moving to Germany for work will need a German work visa. These are only granted to those who have already secured employment. They will typically allow a stay of up to two years and after that point, individuals may need to apply for a Residence Permit or EU Blue Card.