Congrats on deciding to study in Germany! As with all new beginnings you are probably going from excitement to anxiety and from being full of anticipation to being overwhelmed. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there! You’ll be fine! So, lets take a deep breath and tackle this step by step!
We put together a guide, on how to apply for your student visa in Germany, so you can start the process of your application organised and hopefully hassle free!
What kind of student visa Germany has to offer?
Lets jump right into it and use the different types of student visas to practice a little German, shall we?
Visum zur Studienbewerbung (student applicant visa)
If you don’t have a confirmation of admission from your university yet, you should apply for this visa. It will give you three months in Germany to either wait for the confirmation or to apply for further universities, until you get into one of them. It can be extended for another three months, in case you need more time. Once you get admitted, you can apply for a student visa.
Visum zu Studienzwecken (student visa)
Your university of choice has already confirmed your admission? Then this is the visa you should apply for. Those visas are valid for three months as well. During this time you will have to apply for an extended residence permit at the Alien Registration Office in the town you are studying in. The guide that follows will concentrate on this case.
Language course visa
If you want to come to Germany to take a language class, you can apply for this visa. It is only valid for the duration of the language course but it doesn’t require to prove any German skills, or any previous academic performance. Note, that it can’t be converted into a student application or student visa once you are in Germany! If you would want to get any of those two visas after, or during the language course visa, you would have to go to your home country to apply for it.
There are a few advantages with this kind of visa. It is especially designed for researchers coming from non-EU/EEA countries to work and stay in the EU, in order to pursue their research. These visas are normally processed faster and also provide advantages for researchers bringing family members with them. People granted the residence title “researcher”, under §20, can also teach at higher education institutions.
What are the basic requirements for a student visa in Germany?
First of all: take your time for the student visa application!
Germany is notorious for its bureaucracy for a good reason and a visa application is a lengthy process. It is also important to choose the right visa for yourself, because you can’t change a visa for another, once you’re in Germany. So keep that in mind when you choose what to apply for! In order to get your visa eventually, you will need the following five things:
1. Good enough financial resources ⚀
Because students are only allowed to work a certain amount of hours, you will have to proof how you’re going to support yourself financially. In order to do so, you will need to provide a document called “Finanzierungsnachweis” (proof of financing). It can take different forms;
- A blocked bank account that holds at least 10 332 € per year available to you
- Your parents’ proof of income
- A guarantee by a permanent resident in Germany to cover your expenses
- A bank guarantee
- A scholarship award notification
Document needed to fulfill that requirement: an official-looking piece of paper from your bank, your parents’s bank or from a scholarship satisfying the minimum financing threshold per year for your time in Germany.
2. University-entry qualification and university admission ⚁
Time to learn your first German compound noun I guess: “Hochschulzugangsberechtigung”. Beautiful, isn’t it? It basically means “university entrance qualification”. This school leaving certificate is mandatory to study at a German university. In some cases, your secondary-school certificate might be insufficient in Germany. So first of all you will need to find out whether that is the case or not. Because if it isn’t valid, you will need to attend a foundation course (“Studienkolleg”) before you are allowed to enroll.
To check if your school leaving exam is valid in Germany, or not visit the DAAD data base. If you type in the country where you gained your school leaving certificate you should have your answer in no time.
If you want to apply for a student visa you will also need the admission confirmation from your university like the enrollment certificate or a letter of admission. You can also provide an official confirmation from the university that you have high chances to be admitted.
Document needed to fulfill that requirement: A letter from your German university stating that you got in and a school leaving certificate recognized by Germany.
3. Sufficient German skills ⚂
Whether or not you will need to proof your German skills and make a test, depends on the classes you want to enroll in and on your existing academic experience with the German language.
If you choose a study program that is taught in German, naturally you will have to prove your skills. You can do so by taking a language test such as TestDaf or DSH.
However, you won’t need to take a separate test if:
- You have a school leaving exam from a German language secondary school
- Passed the Goethe Certificate C2
- Have the German Language Diploma (stage II) from the German Standing Conference of Ministers of Educations and Cultural Affairs
- Or have passed the “telc Deutsch C1 Hochschule” test
If you enroll into an international degree programme or a special post-graduate course, German skills aren’t mandatory in advance. You can enroll into a German classes after your arrival, if you want to.
Document need to fulfill that requirement: a test score-card or an appropriate language certificate.
4. Appropriate health insurance ⚃
It is mandatory to have health insurance in Germany for the whole duration of your stay. There are 2 possible ways to go; public or private. When enrolling into a German university, you will have go public. You will also need the confirmation when applying for your residence permit. It is important to take care of your health insurance situation before you come to Germany. Public health insurance for students costs about 80€/month until you reach the age of 30.
If you fall in the following categories, you are allowed go for (cheaper) private insurance, also called expat health insurance in Germany, or incoming insurance.:
- language students (e.g. in preparation of a language test)
- visiting scientists
- Students above
In some cases the insurance of your home country might be valid. Germany accepts the health insurance of some other countries. Such as all member states of the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Israel, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Macedonia, Montenegro, Switzerland, Serbia,
Tunisia and Turkey.
If you are form any of these countries, all medical treatments should be covered through your current insurance. Figuring out your health insurance is probably one of the first things you should take care of, as you will need it in your application. Far more details on how to get health insurance in Germany for a visa application this way.
Document needed to fulfill that requirement: a certificate from an insurance company satisfying minium coverage requirements.
5. A residence permit (in most cases)⚄
On top of the German student visa, you will have to apply for a residence permit if you are not an EU/EEA citizen and intend to study longer than 90 days in Germany. For the resident permit application you will need to bring the following documents to your appointment at the Foreigners’ Office:
- Confirmation of registration from your local registration office “Bürgeramt” (More info: Meldebescheinigung)
- Confirmation of health insurance coverage
- Student ID from your German university (certificate of enrollment)
- Proof of financial resources if you somehow didn’t show one while applying for a student visa
- Valid passport and current visa, if you have one already
A resident permit is valid 2 years and can be extended if needed. You need to do this application within the first 3 months after your arrival in Germany. Make sure you book an appointment at the Foreigners’ Office in advance then (Book here for Berlin office).
Student Germany visa: Can I work with it?
If you are from a EU or EEA country, you can work in Germany without any restrictions or time limit. Non-EU or EEA students can work 120 full days or 240 half days per year. That means 20 hours per week during the semester. If you’d want to exceed this time limit, you can apply at the
“Agentur für Arbeit” (Job center) authority for a work permit.
Why could my student visa application for Germany be rejected?
Rejection hurts and in case of a student visa rejection it can be really time consuming and nerve wrecking on top! We summarized five major reasons why you could get rejected and how to avoid them.
The grade standards in Germany are high! If the people at the embassy see your grades and think they are not suitable for the German academic world, they might reject you, as they might think you can’t succeed in your studies in Germany. In case you don’t have the best grades, you should
probably try to make up for that in your interview. Convince them why you are the perfect candidate nonetheless.
Insufficient German skills
If they are mandatory and you can’t prove you have them, it could be a reason for rejection. If you are aware that your language skills aren’t good enough, it would be wiser to postpone your application. Better to do your homework properly, than being rejected for that reason!
Irrelevant or inconsistent program choice
To switch careers after finishing a bachelor’s might make sense to you, but to see an applicant with a BA in Fine Arts, applying for a Master’s in Engineering, might seem strange and inconsistent to the people reading the application. Of course it would be easier and recommended to apply for a master’s program, that is related to your undergraduate studies. If you want to switch careers though, justify the change and bring some proof of work experience within the new field.
Unfortunately Germany is targeting some specific groups. You should be young and skilled and have the potential to improve the economic landscape of the country. To avoid being rejected for not fitting meeting these requirements, do some research on where people in your profession are wanted. In case of Germany, anyone with an Engineering and IT background hast great chances.
Bad interview performance
Prepare, prepare, prepare! You interviewer might ask you all sorts of questions and test your German skills. Do a little research on what you can expect in the interview for your student visa application in Germany.
Is there someone i can talk to for guidance?
You can of course decide to talk to immigration specialists. For more general questions, you can also call a dedicated hotline setup by in cooperation with many different German administrations. They can answer your questions in English. More info about this hotline this way.
Alternatively, you can turn to this Facebook group: Problems and Challenges with Ausländerbehorde and Einbürgerungsamt (Berlin). It’s a helpful and active bunch.
My curriculum has a semester or two as part of an exchange program, will my student visa expire then?
Once you have acquired your student visa for Germany, it’s also useful to be aware of how it can be terminated. As mentioned by the German residence act, your visa is usually unilaterally terminated if you leave the country for more than 6 months. However, the same act does plan for an exception to the rule if your university has exchange program abroad. In this case, your residence permit won’t expire. In doubt, you can contact the Immigration office about that via the hotline.
Just make sure to keep your place of residence at a German address as well, even for the duration of your time abroad.
TL;DR: How to approach the German student visa application best?
- Like I already said in the beginning: take your time for the German student visa application!
- Figure out which university you want to apply for and apply.
- Make sure to apply for the right visa. You can’t change it later! With the wrong visa you might be forced to go back home to apply again from there.
- Check, double check, idiot check! Make sure all your forms are filled out correctly and all documents are valid and provided. Your passport for example should be valid for your entire stay.
- Also take some time to arrive in Germany properly! Give yourself enough time to enroll and care of some administrative tasks.
Good luck with your student visa Germany application and feel free to leave any questions in the comments.
Hi Bastien, is it possible to change a language course visa to a work visa once I’m in Berlin?