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Considering a Masters abroad in Germany? You may need a student visa to enter the country, as well as a residence permit to live and study there during your degree.
This page explains how the German immigration system works for postgraduate students, with simple information on visa conditions, applications, processing times and other requirements.
Germany's visa system reflects its status as one of Europe's most popular international study destinations.
Students from the following countries can enter Germany without a visa:
International students from other countries (including Bangladesh, India, Nigeria and Pakistan) will need a visa in order to enter Germany.
You'll also need a residence permit to live in Germany during your degree. Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland can collect this automatically. Students from other countries must apply for it within 90 days of arrival.
There are two types of German student visa:
Note that other German visas will not be appropriate for Masters study in Germany. A tourist visa or language course visa will allow you to enter the country for a short period (to visit or to learn German) but these cannot be used to apply for the longer term residence permit you'll need as a postgraduate student.
Students from outside the EU / EEA may also be able to apply for a Schengen visa whilst studying in Germany. This is separate to your German Student Visa and allows you to travel through or make short stays in other European countries within the Schengen Area.
You'll need to show that you have access to at least €8,700 per year to support yourself whilst studying in Germany. To do this you'll provide a document called a Finanzierungsnachweis when you apply for your visa. This can take various forms:
Money you expect to earn by working in Germany during your degree won't count towards your evidence of financial support (you can't use an employment contract as your Finanzierungsnachweis).
If you're using personal savings or deposits as evidence of financial resources you may be asked to place the money in a 'blocked' account. You won't be able to access the money until you arrive in Germany (ensuring it really is reserved for your studies). Both the Deutsche Bank and Fintiba offer blocked account services.
The traditional language of instruction in Germany is, unsurprisingly, German. However, many postgraduate courses are offered in English.
You may not need to provide any additional language qualifications if you are a native German or English speaker (or if you have already completed a higher education course in the appropriate language). Otherwise, you may need to submit a language test certificate with your visa application:
You may also be able to apply for a Student Applicant Visa to take German language classes (and / or sit a test). Alternatively, you can study German through the Goethe Institut (an official organisation offering German language training in various countries) or an approved online service such as Deutsh-Uni-Online (DUO).
Health insurance is a requirement for all international students in Germany. However, you may already be covered by policies in your home country:
Other students will need to hold private health insurance or purchase specific health insurance for the duration of a Masters degree. This normally costs €80 per month for students under 30, or €160 for older students.
Some German universities provide hospitality packages through their student unions (Studentenwerk). These normally provide health cover alongside catering and accommodation.
You should begin your visa application at a German embassy or consulate in your home country.
Both types of German study visa will require you to demonstrate that you are entering the country as a student (or prospective student):
You'll normally need the following documents and other materials to apply for a visa for postgraduate study in Germany:
You can find more detailed information about some of these requirements below.
The standard fee for a German student visa application is €75. Note that you may have to pay some additional charges to collect your residence permit once you arrive in Germany.
It can take several months to issue a student visa, depending on the workload at the embassy and the quality of the application materials you provide. Your university's international office (Akademisches Auslandsamt) may be able to provide additional advice for students from your country.
If your application is successful you should be able to collect your visa from the German embassy or consulate you applied to. You can then use it to enter Germany and register as a resident.
If your application is unsuccessful you will be notified but will not be able to enter Germany for the time being. Depending on the reason for your visa rejection, you may be able to apply again (but will normally have to pay an additional fee to do so).
Your visa will allow you to enter Germany to begin your Masters (or prepare for your application). However, it will only allow you to remain in the country for three months.
To stay for longer (and complete a full two-year German Masters degree) you will need to register with the local authorities and obtain a residence permit.
Students of all nationalities should visit their local Resident Registration Office (Bürgeramt / Bürgerbüro ) within one week of arriving in Germany.
Here you will receive a document called a Meldebestätigung which confirms that you are living legally in the local area. To obtain this you will need to present:
Once you have your Meldebestätigung you can use it to gain a residence permit. How you do this depends on your nationality and visa status.
If you're a student from another EU country, an EEA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland, you won't need to make a separate application for your residence permit. Instead, you can collect it from the Resident Registration Office, once you have registered.
In some cases you may be asked to present your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or provide evidence of financial resources (such as a bank statement, scholarship or other means covered above).
Students from outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland will need to go to a separate Alien Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) to apply for their residence permit.
You must do this in person before your visa expires (usually within three months of being issued) and will be required to present the following:
You should already have some of these materials, having used them to apply for your visa. Others should be available from your university, or given to you at the Resident Registration Office.
The fee for a residence permit application is normally €110.
Your German residence permit will be valid for up to two years. This should be long enough to complete a Masters degree, but can potentially be extended if your circumstances require (and you are making satisfactory progress with your course).
All students are entitled to carry out some employment whilst studying for a Masters (or other degree) in Germany. Opportunities also exist to extend your residence permit and work in Germany after you graduate.
The number of hours you can work (and the permit required) will depend on your nationality and visa status:
Some work you do for (or at) your university may be exempted from these restrictions. Check with your international office to be sure.
It's common for students at German universities to work on and around their campuses, taking up part-time employment in coffee shops, bars, professional services and similar.
You can usually find these jobs advertised by your university or its student union (Studentenwerk). Bear in mind that some knowledge of German will probably be helpful (or required) for most jobs.
As a postgraduate you may also be able to get involved with more senior work for your university. Student Assistants (Hilfswissenschaftler) or Graduate Assistants (Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft) fulfil various roles, including teaching, mentoring, working in library services or assisting university staff with research tasks.
Germany is an excellent place to begin a career, with a range of employers in science, engineering and other fields. As a Masters graduate you'll be well placed to take advantage of these and could benefit from generous post-study work opportunities.
Your right to work in Germany after graduating depends on your nationality:
Remember that German-language proficiency will be necessary for most jobs in Germany - even if it isn't a requirement for your Masters.
Our guides explain Masters study and student life in Germany. We've also looked in detail at postgraduate fees and funding and current German university rankings. Finally, don't forget that you can search for a Masters in Germany right here on FindAMasters.com.
Last updated - 19/11/2018