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Visas for Postgraduate Study in Germany

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.

On this page

Visa types & conditions

Germany's visa system reflects its status as one of Europe's most popular international study destinations.

Who needs a visa to study a Masters in Germany?

Students from the following countries can enter Germany without a visa:

  • The EU, EEA and Switzerland
  • Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the USA
  • Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino (you must not intend to seek separate employment before or after your degree)
  • Albania, Bosnia & Herzogovina, Georgia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro Serbia and Ukraine (you must hold a biometric passport)
  • China, Hong Kong and Macao (you must hold a Special Administrative Region passport)
  • Taiwan (your passport must include an identity card number

International students from other countries (including Bangladesh, India, Nigeria and Pakistan) will need a visa in order to enter Germany.

Residence permits

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.

Visa types

There are two types of German student visa:

  • The Student Applicant Visa (Visum zur Studienbewerbung) allows you to enter Germany for up to three months (six months with an extension) to take part in university admissions processes. You can use this visa to apply for a full Student Visa.
  • The Student Visa (Visum zu Studienzwecken) allows you to enter Germany for up to three months once you have been accepted to study for a Masters (or other degree). You can use this visa to apply for a residence permit for the duration of your course.

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.

Financial requirements

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:

  • A scholarship award or other postgraduate funding you are due to receive for your Masters
  • Personal funds in a 'blocked' bank account (from which money cannot be withdrawn outside Germany)
  • A guarantee from a permanent German resident who agrees to cover expenses on your behalf
  • A statement of parental support showing income and assets that are available to help fund you during your Masters

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).

Blocked bank accounts

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.

Language requirements

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:

  • For courses in German this should be a recognised German language test, such as the TestDaF (taken in your home country) or DSH (taken at universities in Germany)
  • For courses in English this should be a recognised English language test, such as the IELTS or TOEFL

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

Health insurance is a requirement for all international students in Germany. However, you may already be covered by policies in your home country:

  • Students from other EU countries will be covered by their existing European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).
  • Students from Bosnia-Herzogovina, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Morocco, Macedonia, Montenegro, Norway Switzerland, Serbia, Tunisia and Turkey will have their existing public health insurance recognised in Germany.

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.

University insurance

Some German universities provide hospitality packages through their student unions (Studentenwerk). These normally provide health cover alongside catering and accommodation.

Applying for a visa

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):

  • For a Student Applicant Visa you'll need to provide entrance qualifications suitable for a Masters degree (such as a Bachelors degree, or equivalent)
  • For a Student Visa you'll need to provide proof of admission to a German university

Visa application checklist

You'll normally need the following documents and other materials to apply for a visa for postgraduate study in Germany:

  • Proof of admission to a Masters degree at a recognised German university (for a Student Visa).
  • Proof of qualifications suitable for admission to a Masters degree, such as a Bachelors degree or equivalent undergraduate qualification (for a Student Applicant Visa)
  • Proof of financial resources to support yourself whilst you study (see below)
  • Proof of language qualifications required for your course (see below)
  • Proof of health insurance for the duration of your degree
  • Your passport (this must not be due to expire before the end of your Masters)
  • Two passport photos for your visa and residence documents

You can find more detailed information about some of these requirements below.

Cost

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.

Processing time

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.

Outcomes

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).

Residence permits

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.

Registration (all students)

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:

  • Your passport (or other suitable identity documents)
  • Your visa (if you have one)
  • Your tenancy agreement (or other proof of accommodation in the local area)

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.

Collecting a residence permit (EU, EEA and Swiss students)

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).

Applying for a residence permit (other international students)

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:

  • A valid passport
  • Suitable passport photos (for your permit documents)
  • Your visa (this must be a full Student Visa: you cannot use a Student Applicant Visa to apply for a residence permit
  • Confirmation of resident registration (your Meldebestätigung)
  • Proof of accommodation
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of financial resources
  • Your student ID

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.

Permit conditions

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).

Working in Germany

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.

Working hours

The number of hours you can work (and the permit required) will depend on your nationality and visa status:

  • EU, EEA and Swiss students can work in Germany without restriction. However, working more than 20 hours per week will require you to pay German National Insurance (deducted from your earnings).
  • Other international students can work for the equivalent of 120 days per year without a permit, provided they do so for a recognised employer. If you wish to exceed this limit you must apply for special permission from your local Job Centre (Agentur für Arbeit).

Some work you do for (or at) your university may be exempted from these restrictions. Check with your international office to be sure.

Finding work

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.

Working in Germany with your Masters

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:

  • EU, EEA and Swiss students can continue to work in Germany on graduation without needing a separate permit.
  • Other international students can stay in Germany for up to 18 months to seek work after graduating. If you find a job within this period you may be able to apply for a further residence permit and remain in Germany longer term.

Remember that German-language proficiency will be necessary for most jobs in Germany - even if it isn't a requirement for your Masters.

Other useful resources

Hopefully this page has helped answer your questions about visa requirements for postgraduate study in Germany. For further information, see the official resources on the Study in Germany and DAAD websites.

Learn more about studying abroad in Germany

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

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