Getting a German visa or permit

Moving to Germany: Guide to German visas and permits

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Do you need a visa to go to Germany? Find out which German visa or permit you need for immigration to Germany, including German visa requirements and preparing your German visa application.

Certain nationalities need to apply for a German visa or residence permit to visit, live, work or study in Germany. Before visiting or moving to Germany, it's important to check Germany's visa requirements otherwise you could be denied entry.

In general, you don't need a German visa (short term) or residence permit (long term) if you're a citizen of the European Union (EU), European Economic Area (EEA; EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) or Switzerland. Citizens from outside Europe generally need to apply for a German visa or permit before coming to Germany.

This guide explains who needs a German visa to go to Germany and the conditions for immigration to Germany. It also explains Germany's visa requirements and how to prepare your German visa application. 

Do you need a visa to go to Germany?

German visa requirements for EU/EEA/Swiss nationals 

The Federal Republic of Germany is one of 26 countries making up the ‘Schengen' area, allowing free movement for citizens of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland. They have one common visa and no border controls between them. If you're a national from one of the countries in the EU or EEA, you also don't need a visa or other permit to visit, live, work or study in Germany.

Swiss nationals also enjoy freedom of movement within the EU but have to apply for a purely declaratory residence permit for Swiss nationals from the Aliens Authority (Ausländerbehörde).

All other EU and EEA nationals can enter, stay or work in Germany with just a valid passport or ID card, although you do have to register with the residents' registration office in the town in which you live within three months of entering the country. The contact details and location of your German city’s registration office can typically be found on the city’s official website. Make sure to bring a valid EU/EEA passport, as well as your rental contract or proof of residency.

If you don't hold EU/EEA citizenship yourself, but wish to join a close family member in Germany who does, you will, depending on your nationality, have to apply for a German visa to enter the country and then you'll receive a ‘residence card' from the Alien's Authority (Ausländerbehörde).

More is explained in our guide for EU/EEA/Swiss citizens moving to Germany.

German visa requirements for non-EU/EEA/Swiss nationals

Germany's visa requirements differ for those coming from outside the EU. Certain non-EU citizens will need a German entry visa (a Schengen visa), and almost everyone else will need a German residence permit to stay longer than 90 days.

Citizens from certain countries – including Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the US, plus several countries from central and south America – don't need a Schengen visa to enter Germany for stays of up to three months (90 days). However, if they wish to stay longer or work, they will need to apply for a German residence permit within those three months from inside Germany.

If your country doesn't have an agreement with Germany, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa to enter Germany and stay up for three months (90 days), or for a permit called a ‘residence title' if you want to stay for longer than three months and/or work here.

Find out if you need a German visa to enter Germany here.

Moving to Germany: Getting a German visa or permit

Types of German visa

Short-stay German visa: less than three months

Depending on your nationality, if you will be stopping briefly in a German airport (even for a few hours) en route to another destination, you may need a transit or airport German visa. It only allows you into the international zone of a German airport for a maximum of 12 hours. There are some airports, however, for which an airport visa isn't required to pass through the International Transit Area, such as Cologne/Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich.

If you are leaving the airport, even for less than a day, you may need to get the three-month German Schengen visa. This also applies to leaving the International Transit Area of the airport to check in again or pick up luggage. Schengen visas allow you to enter Germany (or any other country in the Schengen area listed above) for up to three months (90 days) within a six-month period.

You must apply for a Schengen visa at the German embassy, consulate or mission in your country of residence (find contacts here). The Federal Foreign Office website has detailed information on all aspects of Schengen visa regulations. You can download a Schengen application form in German/English, Spanish, French, Russian or Chinese, or pick up a copy from your country's German embassy or consulate.

You must submit your completed German visa application in person to the embassy or consulate office in your country. If you plan to go during peak travel seasons, it’s best to begin the application process as early as possible, as wait times can accumulate in embassies. It takes between two and 10 business days to process a 90-day German visa.

If you enter Germany on this visa, you cannot change it to a German residence permit once you are in Germany, except in exceptional circumstances. You will typically have to leave Germany, apply for the residence permit from aboard and then re-enter the country.

Long-stay German visa: longer than three months

If you want to stay in Germany for longer than three months, for whatever reason (eg. to work, complete a vocational training course or be reunited with your family), you will need to apply for a German visa plus residence permit or ‘title' before you arrive – unless you are a national from one of the countries that doesn't require a visa to enter Germany, in which case you can apply from within Germany.

It can take up to several months to obtain a long-term German residence permit, so it's important to start the process early.

Types of German residence permits

There are several German residence permits that allow non-EU citizens to move to Germany for longer than three months:

  • The most common permit is the residence permit, also needed for general employment, which is usually valid for one year, except for certain cases, such as an unlimited employment contract, in which case it can be up to three years. It can be renewed so long as your situation – eg. employment, marriage – stays the same as when you were originally granted the German residence permit.
  • The EU Blue Card in Germany is a residence permit with enhanced conditions for highly qualified migrants and their spouses. This application is easier to obtain than for regular employment, as it is often expedited by the employer, but it includes a minimum salary requirement of EUR 47,600 per year, except for certain highly-sought occupations such as doctors and engineers, in which case it is EUR 37,128. This visa is usually valid for four years, and it also allows the spouse to live and work freely in Germany. Read more in our guide to German work permits
  • The German settlement permit and permanent EC residence permit, as their names suggest, are both permanent residence permits. They are usually only granted after five years of residence (and if you fulfill other conditions) but they can be issued to highly skilled workers immediately and to other groups after two or three years of residence.


Most people have to apply for a residence permit via the German embassy or consulate in their country of residence. You can find the contact details of your closest German embassy or consulate here. Since 2008, the fee for all types of German visa is EUR 60.

Your reason for wanting to come to Germany and your educational and professional qualifications will determine which German residence title you can apply for. You will need to meet some general requirements, including holding a valid passport and being able to prove you have enough money to support you during your stay.

Below are some other reasons or purposes under which you can be eligible for a German residence permit.

Working in Germany

If you're a national from a country in the EU, EEA or Switzerland, you are free to work in Germany without restriction. Everyone else can only work in Germany if their residence permit allows it.

There is no separate work permit in Germany and the right to work – and to what extent you can work – will be detailed on your German residence permit that you apply for before you entering the country. To understand which permit you need to work in Germany, see our guide to German German work visas and permits.

Family reunification permits in Germany

Unless you are an EU/EEA/Swiss citizen (or your relative in Germany is), if you want to come to Germany to be with a partner – a spouse or registered/civil partner – or other close family member, you will need your own German residence permit. You and your relative must also fulfil other criteria, for example, your relative must possess an official German residence permit, have somewhere for you to live, and show sufficient finances to support you. In some cases, you will also have to prove that you have basic German language skills, although exemptions apply. Additionally, any dependent children applying under the purpose of family reunification cannot be older than 16 years, otherwise, they may be required to apply on the basis of another purpose, such as studying.

The government also passed a rule that expedites the visa process for family members of German visa applicants. This is intended to prevent the separation of families, resulting from the previous extra administration and consequent delayed acceptance sometimes experienced for family members' applications.

More information is provided in our guide to German permits for family reunification.

Permits to study in Germany

If you haven't been accepted to study at a German university yet, you can get a three-month, non-working German student applicant visa to come to Germany and fulfil the admission requirements, as long as you have the required qualifications (such as a certified proof of secondary school completion or other degree).

After successful admission, you can then apply for a regular German student permit to study in Germany on a full-time university course, which also includes authorisation to work 120 days per year. If you’ve been admitted to a university prior to coming to Germany, you’ll need to apply for Germany’s three-month student visa, which can be converted into a German student residence permit within three months.

You will need to prove that you have the necessary finances and health insurance coverage during your course and you may have to prove German language proficiency. Most universities have very comprehensive and helpful information about residence permits on their own websites. Read more on studying in Germany and how to get a German student visa.

Permanent residence in Germany

Once you have been living in Germany for a number of years, you can apply for a permanent residence permit in Germany. The typical requirement is five years although there are exceptions, such as for spouses of German citizens or graduates from a German university with a temporary work visa.

A German permanent residence permit allows you to stay in the country indefinitely but you don't have the same rights as German citizens, for example, you can't vote. If you wish to have the same constitutional rights and legal status as any other German citizen, and you fulfil certain conditions, then you need to apply for citizenship in Germany. Read more in our guide to permanent visas in Germany.

Citizenship in Germany

Foreigners can apply to be naturalised after eight years of Germany, after which they will be granted German citizenship and have the same rights as German citizens, such as the right to vote. The time requirement can be reduced in certain situations, for example, it's only seven years if you have taken a German integration course. Conditions are explained in our guide to German citizenship.

Asylum seekers and refugees

More than one million people have applied for asylum in Germany in the last two years, accounting for 60 percent of all first time applicants in EU Member States. To control the influx, in early 2016 German parliament introduced regulations for asylum seekers in Germany, including new requirements for jobs, education and permanent residency. The Asylum Procedure Act can be viewed here, or visit the BAMF website for information on asylum law.

Electronic residence

Since September 2011, the residence title (the label that was stuck into the passport), residence card, permanent residence card and paper ID cards have been superseded by an electronic ‘credit card' residence title. Existing ‘paper' titles will retain their validity until August 31, 2021.

Getting a visa or permit in Germany: German visas and permits overview

German embassy contacts

Contact the German embassy or consulate in your home country, or the BAMF information service, to ask about the German visa or residence permit application for your individual situation.

Monday to Friday: 9 am to 3 pm
Friday: 9 am to 2pm
T: +49 911 943-0
E: info.buerger@bamf.bund.de

Read more



Expatica

This information is for guidance only and you should seek specific advice from the German embassy or consulate, or from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt fur Migration und Fluchtlinge or BAMF).

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Updated 2017.

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29 Comments To This Article

  • Suresh posted:

    on 14th February 2017, 10:48:41 - Reply

    Hi I am Indian and working in Malaysia from past 5 years. How can I get long term work visa in Germany? Please guide/help

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • mehrudin posted:

    on 10th December 2016, 18:30:48 - Reply

    i am a citizen from Kosovo, recently i got a permit to work in Germany but i don't have a visa, i need to know if i am able to travel to Germany (by plane) with just my work permit or do i need to have a visa my work permit to travel and work,

    i hope you understand my question and are able to answer me, thanks in advance

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • jamal posted:

    on 3rd October 2016, 20:34:02 - Reply

    i am moving in germany with my girlfriend and daughter i have italian carata di sagiorno and uk vister visa for 2 years if i stay in germany what nationalty i can applay british or german?and also wgat german visa i wil get 1st ?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Liza posted:

    on 13th September 2016, 09:02:26 - Reply

    Good day! just a query, how can we get a working permit for seaman that are going to work in river cruises around German area, We have a new principal from Germany that wanted to get a Filipino crew, can anyone help me with my concern?
    Thank you and hoping to hear from people concerned.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our forums or Ask the Expert service.]

  • lizza posted:

    on 24th July 2016, 20:44:45 - Reply

    hey, you should logically apply for a family reunion visa in Nigeria (http://www.nigeria.diplo.de/Vertretung/nigeria/en/04-1_20Visa/Long_20term_20visa/Visa_20-_20Long_20term.html)
    your man or his family should be able to send you a letter of obligation
    All the best

  • Lizza posted:

    on 24th July 2016, 20:50:02 - Reply

    first of all: Don't EVER loose hope!Here is how you can start the process of going and meet your man (https://de.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-services/marriage/)
    be patient, pray a lot and have faith
  • Joeade posted:

    on 12th July 2016, 13:13:09 - Reply

    I am Nigeria citizen, my son is German citizen but my baby father is German, lives in Uk studying . I want to relocate to Germany with my son for better life for the boy (2years old) and work. What can i do?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Fairy posted:

    on 3rd July 2016, 05:06:15 - Reply

    Hello, I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for 3 years now I live in USA and he lives in Germany, I want to be able to go live with him but I am completely lost at where to start and don't even know if we're able to do it because of his living situation. He got diagnosed with Cancer a few months after we started dating, as of now he is in remission, but the effects of the chemotherapy have left him with a lot of mental issues so he is not able to work currently, he is kind of at that giving up on life point and all I want to be able to do is be with him and help him get back on his feet but the constant of me coming to Germany and then leaving is simply not enough and only makes things worse when I leave he doesn't do well. I have been learning German online but would not have a fluent income to support us if I moved there. I am at a complete loss for what to do. I dont know the rules and specifications of moving. Any help or advice is appreciated. thank you

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • daniel posted:

    on 25th April 2016, 22:35:01 - Reply

    am from nigeria married to greece woman i have a long resident pamit 10years i want to work and study in garmany for 2years alone with wife

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Kara posted:

    on 12th April 2016, 11:50:53 - Reply

    Hey Luke!
    I am in the same position as you, a Canadian who came to Germany with a one year 'Youth Mobility Visa' and am now looking to extend. What procedure did you find to look into this? Any information you could find time to pass along would be helpful :)
    Cheers!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Malek posted:

    on 16th March 2016, 01:36:09 - Reply

    Hello,
    I have a question about marriage in Poland.
    I am a Tunisian citizen and I will marry with a polish citizen, but he is working in Germany and we have to be together, how it will be in Germany with the procedures, how it will be with the registration office in Germany, we would like to ask what it will be next after my marriage and move to Germany beside I will marry in the next months, Thank you very much!

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Tosh posted:

    on 21st January 2016, 15:28:38 - Reply

    Hey i am in the same position. Do let me know if you find any useful information about how to go about getting a sponsored visa here in germany. my email is letosh@gmail.com

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Loni posted:

    on 30th December 2015, 01:49:50 - Reply

    My boyfriend is now living in Germany and he wants me to come there to lived and get married and i am wondering what is the process of me doing that? He is not a citizen of Germany or any countries in Europe.

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on our Ask the Expert free service.]

  • Luke posted:

    on 18th November 2015, 00:44:04 - Reply

    Hello,
    I am living in Germany on a one year Working Holiday Visa (Australian Passport Holder) and I am wanting to extend my stay in Germany, potentially with the plan to move here indefinitely.

    My workplace is interested in sponsoring me but I am finding difficult to find information on what they need to do for this to happen, what forms ect.

    Any information or help would be very much appreciated.

    Thank you.

  • fred posted:

    on 8th November 2015, 13:45:26 - Reply

    I am a British citizen and live in Germany how can I bring over my daughter living in Ghana aged 11 to stay in Germany?

    [Moderator's note: You can also post questions on Ask the Expert service]

     

  • JANET posted:

    on 24th September 2015, 07:08:51 - Reply

    my question is can someone assist you in acquiring a visa because in kenya there people calling themselves agents and are helping people attain the short term visas later after you attain the visa and head to Germany they go there and settle searching for jobs is this legal?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • hacen posted:

    on 5th September 2015, 18:02:44 - Reply

    my question that when i had appointment visa i have to bring my children they are less then years?
  • Jade posted:

    on 4th June 2015, 14:55:15 - Reply

    Good day

    My daughter and I will be immigrating to Munich, Germany this year from South Africa.
    We both have got German passports but have not lived in Germany before.
    I have read that on your website that if you have the German Passport work permits and visas are not needed.
    My question is that when we arrive at the Munich airport, is there anything we need to do differently?
    I would also like to know if the rules differ in terms of how much money a person who is immigrating a person can bring with them in their savings account?

    Thank you

    Kind regard

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Enzo posted:

    on 27th May 2015, 00:59:09 - Reply

    is that true?
  • Melven posted:

    on 30th March 2015, 17:19:08 - Reply

    Hello, could any one can help me about applying a work permit in germany? I am not norwegian passport holder but currently living in norway and holding a permanent resident here and got an employment offer in germany, hence i can travel any part of schengen because of my Permanent residency in norway, is it ok to apply a work permit in germany once i arrive the place where i can stay?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • pitho posted:

    on 17th June 2014, 13:26:20 - Reply

    Hello i have some question regarding further study in Germany with Job search Visa. I just complete my Bachelor Degree, I change my Visa Status into Job search Visa, but i wanted to study further but some people told me that i cannot study further and cannot change my visa Status into Student now. I was unknown about that with converting student visa into Job Search visa, we are not allowed to study further in Germany. Do anyone have any idea, is there any way so that we can again make further study, or there is no any option. I just wanted to know, what will be the consequences, because i want to finish my master if i am allowed, if not then i have to think other ways around. I appreciate your answers. Thank you .

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Priyanka Bagda posted:

    on 1st June 2014, 16:11:30 - Reply

    I hold a Kenyan passport. I will be traveling by LUFTHANSA Airline from Nairobi-KENYA to Newark, NJ, USA via Zurich-SWITZERLAND and Dusseldorf-GERMANY. I will be in transit at Dusseldorf airport for about three hours. Will I need a transit or airport VISA. If so, Will I get it at airport or need to get it before travel. Kindly advise. Thanks

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Akram posted:

    on 24th May 2014, 11:00:43 - Reply

    I am Egyptian citizen.I have been married with a german for three years now and we have a son!! We live in Kuwait where i work! I wanna join my family for a short visit to Germany! Do i need a hotel reservation or an invitation?!. Notice that i have taken the visa 4 times before my marriage got registered in Germany as a tourist not a family member!! I feel it is more complicated as i am a family member now! Or do u advise me to just apply as a tourist visa and just disregard the whole family member thing! And if i did do u think there will be a problem if somehow they found out about my marriage and that i applied for a tourist visa !!

    Thanks a lot

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • phunmie posted:

    on 20th May 2014, 11:19:52 - Reply

    I want to work and live in Germany with my two kids.what should i do first?is it to get Schengen visa to enter Germany,then extend or get residence title?pls,i really need a detailed how-to-do-it process as i want to come and stay legally.prompt response will be appreciated.

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Giang posted:

    on 8th April 2014, 07:35:28 - Reply

    i meant a visa for work and maybe marriage,so somehow can do it in Germany, not in embassy of my country?

    [Moderator's note: You can post questions on our Ask the Expert free service]

  • Giang posted:

    on 8th April 2014, 07:28:17 - Reply

    im not living in Germany but i want to come there, get a visa must register in embassy from here or somehow can do in German,
  • Halal posted:

    on 14th January 2014, 01:13:14 - Reply

    Non -eu citizen I have a student permit of stay in italy and i want to move to germany because i found a work there
  • Ro posted:

    on 10th May 2013, 13:53:47 - Reply

    I would just like to stay here and take care of my 98 year old grandmother.
    The amt said 6months is all they can give but there must be a loop whole.
    What kind of a country doesn't allow you to take care of your family
  • Moi posted:

    on 22nd April 2013, 14:20:56 - Reply

    Proof of basic knowledge of German? I don't know a single person (myself included) who has ever been asked for this (and this is across 3 different BL in Germay)