The possibilities for students interested in spending some time in Germany are seemingly endless. The country's home to around 300 education institutions with more than 15,000 different study programs. To make it easier for international students to enroll in some of those programs, the government and universities have created informational websites and web portals (https://www.study-in.de).
Be clear about your educational goals before applying for a visa
Before even starting the visa process, know what your goals are. Do you want to take a short course? Do you want to stay longer and get a degree in Germany? This is important because there are different visas depending on your goals.
A visa for every student
Securing a visa is one of the most important first steps for prospective students from abroad. Germany offers a few different types of student visas, all available by applying through the German embassy or consulate in your home country. Make sure to do this before coming to Germany.
- The Schengen visa allows people to stay in Germany for up to three months per half-yearly period. These visas are ideal for those who are interested in touring around the country or taking short language courses.
- Language course visas cover students' stays for the length of the language course.
- National visas allow students to stay longer than three months and are designed for those who want to pursue academic degrees or more extensive educational research.
- Student applicant visas are for students who want to study in Germany on a longer-term basis but have not yet been admitted to a university. This visa allows them to come to Germany for three months to look for a program. Once they have enrolled, the visa can be converted to a national visa. If they do not enroll in a program within three months, the visas may sometimes be extended but that is up to the discretion of the visa-granting authorities.
Schengen visas cover stays of three months or less
The Schengen visa caters to those students who want to come to Germany for a short course of three months or less. Some students use these visas to take an intensive language course or pursue short academic research projects. If students want to stay longer, in general, they must leave at the end of the three month period and then reapply for a visa from their home country.
Some exceptions do apply. EU citizens are not required to have a special visa to study or stay in Germany. They are only required to register at the local authority, or Einwohnermeldeamt.
Citizens from a small number of non-EU countries may enter Germany without a visa and then apply for a visa to stay and study. These countries include Andorra, Australia, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, South Korea, and the United States.
Language course visas
A student must be enrolled in a language course in order to apply for this visa. The visa length depends on the length of the language course. So for students who may want to take an intensive course that lasts more than three months, this visa would be a good choice. The representative at the German consulate or embassy will likely want to see certification from the language school that you are enrolled, plus a demonstration that you can cover your finances for the length of time you will be enrolled in the course. Proof of health insurance will also be required.
National visas are best for students who want a degree
The best visa option for international students who want to do research in Germany for a year or more is to apply for a national visa. Once accepted, the students should set up an appointment at the German embassy or consulate near their home residence. Germany's Federal Foreign Office has a list showing all of its international locations. The German authorities will likely want a few important pieces of information. They will ask for proof of enrollment from the university, health insurance documentation, plus you will need to demonstrate you have access to at least 659 euro per month for the first year, or 7,908 euro total. This financial support can come from educational grants or family members, but it is important to show the authorities that you will have enough funds to exist as a student in Germany for the first year.
Student applicant visa
This visa is designed for those interested in studying at a higher education institution in Germany who have not yet decided where to try to enroll. The visa lets visitors stay in Germany for three months while they decide where to apply. The visa can be converted into the longer-term national visa once a prospective student is enrolled in a program.
The best advice is to start the application process early. Visa applications may take a few weeks or a few months to be finalized. Better not to leave things too long and risk missing the start date for a school program. Also, follow the visa authorities’ directions closely. The process is designed to meet individual needs so the requirements may change. Follow the instructions of your contact at the consulate and embassy and remember to be patient. The visa application is just the first step to your new life as a student in Germany!