student visas germany
Student visas will only be granted in Germany to those taking in-person classes. Source: Ina Fassbender/AFP

Germany will not be issuing student visas to international applicants who are enrolled in online-only programmes this year. International students with in-person classes scheduled are not affected.

Education Minister Anja Karliczek said in a statement, “Foreign students who can prove that their studies cannot be carried out entirely from abroad, for example, due to compulsory attendance, can enter the country to begin their studies. But the entry for online or distance learners will not be allowed.”

Students from outside the European Union must receive a “certificate of presence” from their university in Germany to be able to apply for student visas. Germany’s move mirrors a controversial decision earlier this year by the US government to bar international students from entering or living in the US if they are enrolled in online-only programmes. Faced with lawsuits, the Trump administration eventually backed down and reversed the order.

Germany’s Education Minister Karliczek supported the reversal at the time. He reportedly said in July, “Education and research survive because of exchange, especially international exchanges. That is also true in times of a pandemic.”

germany student visas

German dance student Lola Camille Kessner performs as she follows an online class given by her instructor Andrea Hermann on April 14, 2020 in Magdeburg, eastern Germany, during the new coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. Source: Photo by Ronny Hartmann/AFP

Student visas for Germany will be approved for those in hybrid learning courses

Most student visas for Germany would likely still be issued as many universities are adopting hybrid learning this year.

Michael Flacke from the German Academic Exchange Service told SchengenVisaInfo, “For the winter semester, German universities are planning a mix of online and physical classes, and for this ‘mix’ foreign students from outside the EU are allowed to come to Germany.”

DW reported that over 80,000 international students had left Germany by April due to lockdowns and campus closures. Kumar Ashish of the Federal Union of International Students in Germany told DW, “If you are admitted to a college in Germany, they should give you a visa. It is the same in the US — it is the right of the student, if they have received their visa, that no-one can deny it to them.”

Maha El Hissy, a teacher of German as a foreign language at a Munich university tweeted, “When foreign students come to Germany, it is also about the face-to-face exchange and dialogue in both directions. What a shame, Germany, that your doors will remain locked.”

While it’s a disappointment for international students hoping to travel to Germany soon even if they are taking online classes, it may be safer for them not to go abroad this year. Countries like New Zealand and Australia are seeing new spikes in COVID-19 cases; a vaccine is yet to be available. Some US universities are also closing their doors after just one week of in-person classes, as the return of students to campus grounds has caused fresh waves of COVID-19 infections.

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