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Obtaining a Visa for Germany

While Germany doesn’t offer popular migrant visa programs, like Australia or the US, there are some kinds of visas expats may be interested in. Applications mostly depend on two factors: nationality and reason for moving. Our guide features a handy overview of German visa requirements.
There are various kinds of visa for Germany, allowing you to travel, work, study, or join your family.

In the previous part of our guide on visas for Germany, we have talked about visa requirements according to your nationality. Of course, how to get a German visa also depends on your reason for moving there. Below, we are going to introduce various types of visas.

Tourist Visas

If you’d like to travel to Germany for business or leisure, but are not exempt from Germany’s visa requirements, a Schengen visa is just what you need. As mentioned on the previous page, a Schengen visa permits you to stay in Germany and other European countries for up to 90 days. However, you should consider that a Schengen visa has to be obtained from the embassy of your main destination.

For example, if you are a citizen of China and would like to spend a month in Germany and two weeks in France, you have to apply for a Schengen visa for Germany via the German Embassy in Beijing. But if you are planning to spend three weeks in France and one week in Germany, you need to hand in your application at the French Embassy.

Employment Visas

If you want to move to Germany to work for a local company or to run your own business, you need a visa that includes a residence as well as a work permit. Your visa application mainly depends on whether you can fulfill the requirements for getting a work permit. The regulations concerning employment permits can be rather complicated. Therefore we explain them in detail in our separate guide to getting a German work permit.

Generally speaking, you should be aware that your potential employer must prove that there was no suitable candidate from any EU member state available. In many cases, the company also has to obtain special permission from the Federal Employment Agency to hire you. Therefore, getting a work visa can be tricky. However, as of August 2012, Germany promotes the so-called “Blue Card” program. Well-qualified, well-paid employees from outside the EU can thus get a visa plus work permit more easily. 

As of August 1, 2012, foreign graduates with a degree from a German or other recognized university can obtain a six-month job-seekers visa to look for a job while living in the country. You must be able to support yourself and may not do any freelance work during this time.

Student Visas

Applicants in need of a student visa mainly need to prove two things: First, they must have been accepted by one of the officially recognized universities in Germany. Furthermore, they need enough funds to finance their stay (e.g. student grants, scholarships, bank statements, a large security deposit with a German bank…). A student visa also allows you to work up to 120 days per year in order to make some money on the side.

In most cases, prospective students apply for their visa from outside the country. However, citizens of selected states can also get their student visa within three months of their arrival. They have to make an appointment at the local Aliens Authority for this purpose. Please note that this exception is only valid for students from:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • San Marino
  • United States

There are also working holiday programs for young people (i.e. age 18-30) from Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and Taiwan. If you are in possession of such a visa, you can travel the country for up to 12 months and take on some temporary jobs. Please contact the respective German Embassy or Consulate for more details on working holiday visas.  

Family Reunion Visas

If you are the spouse or child of an expat living in Germany, things can get a little more complicated. (Spouse means husband, wife, or same-sex partner in an officially recognized civil union.) In order to obtain a visa, you have to fulfill the requirements for a residence permit for family reunions. This is fairly easy if the person already living in Germany is:

  • an EU national
  • a highly-qualified immigrant with a special permit (e.g. “Blue Card”)
  • a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, or the US.

However, if none of this applies to your spouse, partner or parent in Germany, the following regulations usually apply for your family reunion visa:

  • You have to prove that you are indeed related to the person in Germany.
  • The other party must be able to support you financially.
  • Dependent children must not be older than 16 years.
  • Spouses must have a basic knowledge of the German language.
  • Work permits for traveling spouses are not automatically granted together with the residence permit.

For more information on the visa application process and any necessary paperwork, please contact the German Foreign Office, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, or the nearest German mission.

Please apply for your visa as early as you can. Bureaucracy moves rather slowly, and you must figure in some time to collect all the required documents for your visa application. Also make sure that your passport or other travel document is still valid. Your visa for Germany won’t be much use if you are planning to travel with an old ID.


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