Guide to Student Visas for PhD in Germany
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Guide to Student Visas for PhD in Germany

Written by Mark Bennett

If you’re an international student headed to Germany for your PhD, you may need a visa. This guide will explain who needs a visa to study in Germany, the different types available, and how to apply.

Do I need a visa to study in Germany?

Germany is a popular destination for international study in Europe, and the government is keen to encourage this!

Students from the following countries can study in Germany without a visa:

  • The EU, Iceland, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and Norway
  • Australia, Canada, the UK, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the United States (you will need to apply for a residence permit to stay more than three months)
  • Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino (you must not intend to seek separate employment before or after your degree)

International students from all other countries will need a visa to study in Germany.

Types of visa in Germany

There are two types of visa for PhD students in Germany:

  • If you’re waiting to be formally accepted onto a PhD programme or you still need to complete an entrance exam, you should apply for a prospective student visa. This allows you to enter Germany for three months to complete your admissions. It can be extended for up to six months if necessary. Once you are accepted onto a PhD programme, you can apply for a residence permit.
  • If you’ve already been accepted by a German university, you can apply for a full student visa. This is usually valid for three months, during which time you should apply for a residence permit.

Regardless of your visa requirements, you will also need to register your presence in Germany once you arrive:

  • Students of all nationalities should visit their local resident’s registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) within one-week of arrival. Here you can obtain a confirmation of registration (Meldebestätigung) proving you are living in Germany legally.
  • Non-EU / EEA students must also visit the local foreigner’s authority (Ausländeramt / Ausländerbehörde) before their student visa expires to apply for a residence permit.

What you’ll need to apply for a visa in Germany

You’ll usually need the following documents to apply for a German student visa:

  • A valid passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds (currently €11,208 per year)
  • Proof of language proficiency in the language your thesis will be written in
  • Academic transcripts from your previous degree(s)
  • A letter of acceptance from your university (only applicable if you are applying for a full student visa)

A German student visa will cost approximately €75. It’s important to apply for your visa as early as possible – applications can take several months to process. You can always apply for a prospective student visa if you haven’t yet been accepted onto a PhD programme. This can be converted to a residence permit once you are in Germany.

Residence permits

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland do not need a residence permit to study in Germany. If you are from one of these countries, you can make an appointment your local resident’s registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), where you will be issued in a document stating your right to remain in Germany.

If you are from any other country, you will need a residence permit to stay in Germany for more than 90 days. This can be obtained from the local foreigner’s authority (Ausländeramt / Ausländerbehörde). You can find the office responsible for your local area on the website for the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Applications for residence permits generally take between four and six weeks to process. They are usually valid for up to one year but can be extended. You will need documentation from your university confirming that you are continuing to meet the requirements of your programme in order to extend your residence permit.

The initial application fee for a residence permit is up to €110. It costs up to €100 for an extension.

Once you’ve secured a visa and/or residence permit for your stay in Germany, you’re ready to start enjoying everything Germany has to offer. Check out our guide to living in Germany for a sneak-peek into what life is like for international students.

Think you’re ready to find the perfect project for you?

Search our database of PhD programmes in Germany.

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Last Updated: 20 November 2023