There are 13.3 million foreign nationals living in Germany as of December 2022, according to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany. With a thriving job market, bustling metropolises and diverse landscapes, it’s no wonder that Germany is proving popular with expats.
Have a read of our blog for an overview of some of the different types of visas available if you want to study, live or work in Germany. Be sure to organise the documentation for your application well in advance of your move, as the process can be timely and require lots of organisation.
Please note that the visas described are not an exhaustive list and to always check the individual requirements for the kind you need.
Whether you need a visa for living in Germany depends on various factors, such as your nationality and how long you’re staying in the country for.
For example, EU/EEA citizens do not need a visa for living, working or studying here, but need to register their residence within three months of arriving in Germany.
If you’re not an EU/EEA citizen, then the rules are slightly different. For citizens of specified countries, you do not need a visa to enter Germany if you’re staying for less than 90 days – check this page for the full country list.
Choosing to stay in Germany for more than this period will mean you need a visa, though which type differs based on your individual circumstances. There are also some countries that aren’t exempt from needing a visa for travelling to Germany, so be sure to research this beforehand so you know what process you need for follow.
Having your documentation organised is essential during the visa application process, helping to make it smoother and less stressful. Below are some examples of the documents you could need when applying for your visa:
Satisfactory health insurance coverage
Proof of accommodation
Visa application form
When applying for your visa, you will usually have to book a Germany visa appointment at your closest embassy, making sure to bring all of your required documentation with you.
Along with submitting your application, in most cases you will need to pay a fee for a long-stay visa, which can range from €37.50 for minors to €75 for adults. The visa application process can take anything from two working days to a few months, depending on the type of visa.
If you wish to study in Germany, then you may need to obtain a student visa. This is contingent on factors such as how long you wish to remain in the country, as well as your nationality; you must also register your residence within 1-2 weeks of entering Germany.
Although people from the EU and other selected countries do not need a visa to study here, it is still a requirement to register your residence in the country after entering.
There are three types of student visas that can be applied for:
This visa is applicable to people who are interested in coming to Germany to learn the language. It allows you to stay in the country for up to 12 months, but with stipulations. For instance, you will not be allowed to work during this period, and must have proof that you’re enrolled on an intensive language course for a minimum of 18 hours weekly.
This visa is necessary for those who are going to be studying in Germany for longer than 90 days. One of the requirements when applying for this visa is that you must first be accepted onto an official university course.
With this visa, you're able to work part-time for 120 days in the calendar year, though it does exclude some countries. Alongside your visa, a residence permit is required, which is valid for up to 9 months.
A student applicant visa is for prospective students who are in the process of applying for university, but don’t yet have an acceptance letter or certificate of admission.
The visa is valid for three months, and can be extended for a further six months.
There are a variety of different work visas if you’re thinking about finding employment here. Below are some types of visas available for those looking to relocate to Germany for work.
The general employment visa is suitable for anyone looking to work in Germany for a period of longer than three months. It's important to note that this is only available if the role hasn't already been filled by an EU/EEA national.
This visa option is relevant for skilled professionals that will enable them to work in Germany. Eligibility criteria include that you must possess an employment contract and either have completed the necessary academic or vocational training.
If you’re an experienced IT professional who wants to work in Germany, then this visa could be for you.
Designed specifically for IT specialists, some of the requirements for this visa include having evidence of a minimum of three years of professional experience within the past seven years in the industry as well as an offer of employment.
Germany also offers a visa for freelancers and the self-employed if they meet some prerequisites, which incorporates:
Visa for self-employed individuals: for this visa, examples of requirements include are that your project has to be sufficiently funded and have an economic interest.
Visa for freelancers: if you wish to freelance in Germany, then amongst other things, you must prove that you have the financial means to support yourself and your work portfolio amongst other things.
There are various kinds of residence permits depending on your purpose for being in Germany, such as whether you’re working, joining a family member, or studying.
The permit is a requirement for non-EU/EEA nationals who want to remain in the country for longer than 90 days. It will be allocated to you for a specific time period depending on your visa type; the criteria will also differ per residency permit, so ensure you check this when you apply.
You might also consider a permanent residency permit if you want to stay in the country long-term, with criteria including having had residency in Germany for 5 years and having sufficient financial means. Do thorough research into what information and conditions you need to meet if you wish to apply for this so that you follow all the correct steps.
For some more information about what to prepare before your move abroad, check out our blog here.
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