Despite recent global events challenging its stability, Germany has remained a strong option for many around the world. Those interested in a visa for Germany see a strong economy, a stable democracy & a land of opportunity.
Whether you will be staying temporarily or settling for good, acquiring a German residence permit will be the first and perhaps biggest hurdle to conquer on the way.
This post aims at giving a first overview on the overarching process & requirements, including links to detailed guides per visa types.
Who needs a visa for Germany?
It’s important to differentiate the different categories of people. Some will be visa-exempt, fully or partially.
- EU citizens: Citizens of members states can move, stay and work freely anywhere in the Schengen zone (26 countries). They don’t need any permits to enter and stay in Germany.
- Citizens of “entry-visa-free” countries: Citizens from 62 countries do not need any visa to enter Germany for a short stay, but they will need to apply for a long-stay visa. This means that you could enter the country and get ready for your application in Germany. This makes things generally easier for you because it make job applications, university entry, course enrolling, etc much more manageable.
- Citizens from other counties: Citizens from any other country will need to apply for a short-stay or a long-stay visa from abroad before their trip to Germany. This complicates the process because you’d need to find a language course, university spot, job, etc completely remotely.
You can check where your country stands in this list on the official government portal.
Germany visa: Requirements
Although requirements change depending on the type of visa, and your citizenship, there is red thread common to all German residence permits:
- An application form with plenty of fields to fill-in. Each form differs from visa type to another. In general, aside from the typical personal details, the form requires information about your reason to visit, where you are going to stay, where you are going to work/study. Make sure to obtain the latest form from your local German mission (embassy) abroad, or from the immigration office in Germany. This main form may require additional forms and refer to required supporting documents.
- A valid passport: your passport must comply with the validity rules of the German authorities. It should also be valid for the entire period of your stay, with an additional 3 months on top.
- Sufficient health insurance/coverage: The German authorities want to make sure that your policy covers any illness or accident during your stay in Germany. For long-stay permits, a travel insurance (also called incoming insurance) is enough for the initial application, provided it fulfills the requirements set by the German system. If you are to stay long-term in Germany, you will need to switch to local health insurance when you renew/extend your visa.
- Sufficient funds to support yourself: this is the way German authorities make sure they won’t need to support you financially during your stay. The amount required differs from visa to visa. To prove that you have enough, different methods can be used. One way to is to sign-up for a blocked bank account which a special bank account designed for that purpose in mind. A recent bank statement can be also be enough in some cases.
- A valid reason to stay in Germany: You need to be able to prove that you come to Germany for a reason, that you come here to do something. A job contract, a certificate of enrollment, a profile needed in on the local job market, recognized specialty, etc. It can of course be about reuniting with family, conducting business, etc too.
Types of visa for Germany
If we focus on long-stay visa, this would be the main types, complete with their guides:
- Student & language course visa: This permit is designed to let foreign nationals study at a German education institution for a main curriculum, or simply to learn German. Guide to apply for student & language course visa in Germany
- Work visa: This permit is made for workers who have found a job opportunity in Germany, complete with a written offer from their prospective employer. Guide to apply for work visa in Germany.
- Job seeker visa: This permit is designed for qualified professionals (who can have their profile/specialty/education recognized a desirable on the German job market) to let them enter and stay the country in order to find a job in Germany. Guide to apply for a job seeker visa in Germany.
- Freelance visa: Individuals with attractive profiles for the German economic landscape can also apply for a permit allowing them to work as a freelancers in the country. Guide to apply for a freelance visa in Germany.
- EU blue card: Qualified professionals who fulfill certain criteria can also apply for a blue card, which grants a lot of benefits down the line. Guide to apply for a EU blue card in Germany.
- Family reunion visa: This visa is thought for spouses, relatives & parnters of already established German residents, so they can move to Germany too.
- Guest scientist visa: This permit is for scholars around the world who have received an invitation from a German institution to conduct their research here.
- Training/Internship visa: This visa is conceived for foreigners who have secured an internship or traineeship in Germany.
- Business visa: This permit is for those who might need to stay in Germany longer than 3 months for business purposes.
The visa application process from abroad
The steps involved into applying for a German visa outside Germany looks like this:
- Prepare your application: This means of course filling in the required forms and providing the required documents, with regards to the requirements of your target permit. You will need to have the form signed, and supporting documents in copies and/or in original.
- Make an appointment at your local German mission: It is compulsory to have one to enter the building. You will receive a letter confirming this.
- Attend the appointment: Make sure to bring the confirmation letter with you to enter the building. Be on time with your all your documents in the right order. During the appointment, everything is checked by the worker and your application is formally entered in the system. This takes about 15 minutes. You will pay for your application and in return, you will receive a submission confirmation with relevant details. You passport may be held by the consulate shortly.
- Receive confirmation: your bio metrics data will be collected and you will get your passport, together with a confirmation. Keep everything safe. You are now ready to enter Germany.
The visa application process from Germany
You didn’t need to secure an entry-visa in the first place, so you just took your bags. You have now arrived in Germany. Good. What now ?
1- Get settled
- Do the thing you came to Germany for: find a job, enroll for university, a language course, find freelancing opportunities, etc.
- Registering residence at your local town hall (Anmeldung)
- Securing health insurance for your visa application
2- Book an appointement
You will need to book an appointment at your local immigration office (Einwanderungsamt or Ausländerbehörde).
Since administration is rather slow and appointments taken long in advance, this could be one of the first thing to do when first arriving the country, right after doing your Anmeldung.
Booking an appointment in Berlin is easily done through this link. It’s this option or getting up at 4am to queue in front of the building to obtain one of the rare waiting numbers.
3– Gather all necessary documents
On the confirmation email will be shown all the documents needed for the appointment. Make sure you have those in original and copies. Any forgotten paper, and it’s back to square one. Bring some cash too to pay for the fees.
4- Come to the appointment
Be on time for your appointement and bring a german-speaking friend if you can. The person you will have in front of you might want to prefer to communicate in German. Give out all the required documents and answer a few questions.
This usually takes 10-15min. All those will be checked, and within 3-10 weeks, you should get an email or a phone call to tell you whether or not your visa has been approved. Some people have their visa approved on the spot!
Germany visa fees:
Long stay visa costs 75€ in general, but some exemptions apply.
|Type of applicant for long stay visa (National D)||Fees (€)|
|Applicant receives a scholarship in Germany||0|
|Applicant is a relative to a German citizen||0|
|Applicant is member of a diplomatic mission||0|
|Applicant is from a country with a bilateral agreement||0|
Application fees are not refunded if your application fails, or if you wish to cancel it.
There are unfortunately no rules dictating how long it takes to process an application. It depends on a few factors:
- How many applicants there are to process before you.
- How many workers there are to process application at your local German mission.
- What type of visa your applied for.
- How desirable your profile/application is for German authorities.
- How solid your supporting evidence/documents are.
- Whether or not you applied for an expedite process with your prospektive employer (if applicable).
To be sure to plan enough time to account for long processing times. If you already are in Germany, you may be granted a temporary extension of your current permit, in order to wait for a decision in the future.
Germany visa application FAQ
How do I quickly assess my chances to get a German visa?
An official website lets you quickly assess your chances of getting a visa in Germany. It might be a good place to get real. This way.
I hope this guide on Germany visa helped you to wrap your head around the different topics involved into your future application. I wish you all the best and good luck for yours. Don’t hesitate to ask questions in the comment.Bastien