Student visa & residence permit for Germany

If you want to come to Germany to study as a non-EU citizen, you will have to overcome a number of bureaucratic hurdles before beginning your studies. One of these hurdles is the application for a German visa. To make the procedure easier for you, the following article provides you with all the information you need to ensure a smooth application process.

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Student visa application steps

If you are an international student who has applied at a German university and successfully received the letter of admission, your next step will be the student visa application process. As a matter of fact, every international student needs to obtain a student visa to study in Germany. Exceptions are students from EU member states, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Switzerland. Students from all other countries must have a visa to study in Germany and here is how to get it in three easy steps:

Step 1: Choose the right visa type

There are different types of student visa, which you can apply for at your local German embassy. Your first task is to define, which student visa type will be the right one for your personal situation:

German student visa

This is a standard student visa type for the regular international student, who has already been accepted to a German university. Internationals accepted to a Studienkolleg fit into this visa category as well.

German student applicant visa

Sometimes German universities have an entrance exam, where the student must be present personally. If this sounds familiar to you and you were invited to an admission exam, the German student applicant visa is the right choice for you. Student applicants are not yet allowed to study in Germany, and this type of visa is only valid for the university application process. However, once you are accepted by a German university, you can then apply for the student residence permit in Germany.

German language course visa

As the name implies, this type of visa is intended for those internationals, who are planning to take intensive German language classes in Germany lasting between three months and one year. Please note that in case you do a preparatory language course before your studies, you need to apply for a student visa and not a language student visa.

Don’t forget that, depending on the visa type, your documents for the application may differ. For this reason, defining the right visa type is very important during your visa application process.

Successful application of German student visa

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Step 2: Set an appointment in advance

When preparing your visa application, make sure to make your appointment as early as possible: The date of the appointment may be one or two months before your planned date of travel. However, you must remember that the embassies have limited time slots. If you miss an appointment, you will have to wait for a later appointment, potentially delaying your arrival in Germany. Therefore, making an early application will allow you time to organise any documentation you may require.

The processing time for a student visa application depends on the personal case of each student but takes at least 4 weeks. At many German embassies, the date for the visa application can be set via an electronic appointment reservation system. Please check the website of your local German embassy to see if this is the case for your country.

Step 3: Checklist of the student visa application documents

Collecting the documents for the student visa application is one of the most challenging parts during the application process. Here is the checklist of the documents every student needs for the successful visa application:

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For German student visa

  • University admission letter
  • Certificate of German language proficiency or confirmation for the DSH language course
  • Original and copy of the school leaving certificate, bachelor’s degree with grades (if applicable)
  • Motivation letter & CV

For student applicant visa

  • Exam invitation or conditional admission letter from the university
  • Original and copy of the school leaving certificate, bachelor’s degree with grades (if applicable).
  • Letter from uni-assist
  • Motivation letter & CV

German language course visa

  • Confirmation of a recent language course registration
  • Receipt of the payment for your language course
  • Motivation letter & CV

Important: Double-check all your documents before you go to your appointment! The student visa application fee is 75€.

Step 4: Read all the embassy information carefully

Finally, please make sure to read all the updates your local German embassy announces on its website. It may be information regarding new regulations of the blocked amount, additional documents for applicants or any other updates related to the student visa application. To avoid any delays during the visa process, we recommend keeping yourself up to date and always stay positive and confident. Good luck during your visa application!

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Residence permit in Germany

After your arrival in Germany, you have several months before you must extend your visa and obtain a residence permit: A student visa is generally only valid for three to six months. After that, you have to go to the Ausländerbehörde (foreigner’s authority) in your city in Germany and apply for a residence permit. This procedure is very similar to the visa application process. The only difference is the authority where you must apply. After a successful application, the German Foreigners Authority will issue a long-term residence permit in accordance with the purpose of your stay. The following steps will help you to apply:

Step 1: Don’t forget to apply in time

After arriving in Germany, please make sure you find the place called Ausländerbehörde in your city map and save it for later. This is the place where you will apply for the residence permit. Make sure to check their website as well, because there you will find how to arrange the appointment. Since every city has its own regulations, we recommend you double-check directly with the Ausländerbehörde in your city. At the same time, you can also directly check if there are any special requirements imposed by them. Most of the foreigners’ offices have an online appointment system so that you can schedule an appointment and start preparing documents right away. On the website of the foreigners’ office in your city, you can also find the residence permit application form, that you need to fill in prior to your apppointment and take it with you. Alternatively, the application form could also be sent to you after the confirmation of your appointment. This also varies from city to city.

Having trouble finding your nearest Ausländerbehörde? The website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees offers a finder for Ausländerbehörden (foreigners’ authorities) here.

Step 2: Checklist of the documents for the residence permit

To obtain a residence permit in Germany, every student must be able to present the following documents:

To sum up, you need to be thorough and punctual during the whole process of your residence permit application. But as long as you prepare all requirements and documents well and bring everything to your appointment, very little can actually go wrong. Just keep in mind that the process is not very difficult, and you can easily get your extended residence permit for the time of your studies. Enjoy your stay in Germany!

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Last update: November 6, 2023