All you need to know to be prepared for Germany
The German university system is amongst the best in the world, with over 300 public universities including both traditional academic institutions and Universities of Applied Sciences. German universities are committed to both excellence in research and internationalism. Consequently, a large number of internationals study for a Doctorate or take a Guest Scientist residency in Germany, either being granted a scholarship, being employed or also being completely self-funded.
Guests scientists, sometimes known as visiting scholars, play an integral role in the German university system. All German universities offer positions for international researchers/scholars, and also welcome international PhD students. Each year in Germany 28,000 students complete a doctorate, 5,000 of those have an international background.
Scholarship holders, PhD students and international Guest Scientists in Germany will find DeGiS network as a vital source of information, support and advice to help them when planning the move to Germany and during their time of studies.
There are two routes to gaining a PhD in Germany, either on a Structured PhD Programme or via an Individual Doctorate. As well as proving academic excellence, applicants will also need to demonstrate a suitable level of German language proficiency in order to apply. Applications are made directly to the university. Once an offer has been made prospective students will often need to open a blocked account and gain health insurance before applying for a visa. These are essential steps and no visa can be acquired without them. Read more in our visa section.
International PhD students will often need to open a Blocked Account and deposit sufficient funds to prove they can cover their living costs for the duration of their studies. This account needs to be opened before a visa will be granted. Guests Scientists usually do not need a Blocked Account but will need their invitation letter from the university, proof of agreed payment or allowances or a scholarship contract in order to apply for a visa.
It is mandatory by law that all residents of Germany have health insurance, and this includes Scholarship holders, PhDs and self-funded Guest Scientists. Most of the population have public healthcare insurance whereas this is not always possible in case you are a scholarship holder, PhD or self-funded guest scientists. Therefore, please read our health insurance guide with particular attention:
If you have an employment contract in Germany or if you are an international PhD candidate and have been covered by statutory health insurance from any European country in the past, you can conclude statutory health insurance. All other scholarship holders, international PhD candidates, and self-funded guest scientists who do not have an employment contract only have the option of taking out private health insurance in Germany.
For the private health insurance cover, you can opt for one of the most prominent providers:
Please be advised that those tariffs may not cover all the treatments you wish to have covered (like the inclusion of pre-existing conditions, preventive assessments, existing pregnancy & childbirth, high-quality tooth treatments, etc.). Please also pay attention that depending on the local Foreigners Office handling the residence permit application, the above-mentioned tariffs might not be accepted as they do not qualify as a so-called “substitutive” health insurance, so basically they do not offer the coverage on the same level as the public health insurance. Therefore, DeGiS always recommends concluding a “substitutive” private health insurance for a stay of more than 6 months. Several providers do offer a product qualifying as such, but only a few tailor them to the special need of internationals, one of them being the DAAD group insurance and the other the DeGiS group insurance which was developed together with Care Concept.
If you are a scholarship holder at a partner organization of the DAAD, it is possible to insure yourself in the DAAD’s group insurance. The price for this tariff is €160 including a basic private liability and accident insurance. The advantage of this tariff is, that also persons over 55 years of age can insure themselves, also if they suffer from chronic pre-existing conditions (excluding HIV, cancer, kidney failure, blood disease or multiple sclerosis). More information and the application can be found here.
The DeGiS group insurance, developed together with Care Concept is open to every scholarship holder and usually offers a comparably cheap price with comparably high coverage. It can be concluded up to the age of 34 and starts from €69,62 per month with the maximum price of €95,68. If desired by the applicant, a private liability and accident insurance from Care Concept can be added for an additional cost or concluded separately with another provider. More information in different languages and the application can be found here.
If you are a scholarship holder with Max Planck Society or Humboldt Foundation, you can also apply for private health insurance coverage with Flex Med Global starting at €166,55 per month with the possibility of also getting insured if pre-existing conditions would exclude the scholar from other alternatives. For scholarship holders of Max Planck Society, there is also the possibility to conclude a product offered by Mawista and Hallesche, which exemplarily costs €213,38 per month for a 30-year-old scholar and €219,48 for a 35-year-old one.
There are many different providers and possibilities for health insurance coverage. DeGiS strongly advises international scholarship holders, PhDs or self-funded Guest Scientists to compare the available options and make a sound decision based on the price and coverage. In case of questions, applicants can contact the dedicated DeGiS insurance department (Referat 4: Visum & Versicherungen) for further information under firstname.lastname@example.org.