german student visa
Source: AFP/Toshifumi KITAMURA

As Brexit slowly makes the prospect of studying in the UK increasingly undesirable, while the US continues to draw up one unfriendly immigration policy after another, many are looking elsewhere for a quality tertiary education. One country at the top of this list is Germany. As a country that hosts some of the best universities in the world — like LMU Munich, Heidelberg University and the Humboldt University of Berlin — also revered as a cultural and economic powerhouse, Germany seems like an excellent study alternative. First things first: you need to get a German student visa.

Before booking your flight, you may need to apply for a visa to legally reside in the country for the duration of your studies. There are three different types of German visas for study purposes:

  • Language Course Visa (Visa for Language Learning) – This is for those who want or need to learn the German language in Germany.
  • Student Applicant Visa (Visum Zur Studienbewerbung) – This is for those who want to study in Germany but have yet to find the right programme or still haven’t received the confirmation letter from their respective university
  • Student Visa (Visum Zu Studienzwecken) – This is for those who have already been accepted to a German university.

This article refers to the last option. Here’s what you need to know:

1. Your nationality decides which type of visa application you’ll need

According to QS, citizens of the following countries generally don’t need a student visa, subject to performing certain requirements:

  • Applicants within the European Union (including Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein): No need to obtain a German student visa before entering country.
  • Applicants from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan, South Korea: No need to obtain a German student visa before entering country. However, within two weeks of arrival in the country, students must register at the local Residents’ Registration Office and the Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländeramt) for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis).
  • Applicants from Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco, San Marino or Taiwan: German student visa required only if you plan to work before or after your studies.

If you’re from anywhere else in the world, you’re going to need a German student visa and should proceed with the following steps.

2. Obtain letter of offer

The first step is to get the education institute to send you an original acceptance letter to the course you wish to attend throughout your German study experience – this doesn’t include night, weekend or correspondence courses. This is the requirement for the German government to consider you as a “university student”.

Education institutes include state or state-recognized higher learning institutes (university, school of education, art school or university of applied sciences), as well as a comparable training school, cooperative education school or a state-recognized preparatory college programme.

3. Obtain proof of financial support

German law requires that student visa applicants submit proof of “a secured means of subsistence during residence”. This comes up to 861 euros per month or 10,332 euros per year. To prove this, you can deposit the security payment into a blocked account, which will not allow you to withdraw funds until after you arrive in Germany.

For this purpose, students can work while studying, but only subject to employment not exceeding 120-full or 240-half days per year.

4. Obtain all other documents

Once you’ve received your official acceptance letter and proof of financial support, you should also prepare these following documents:

  • Completed application form
  • Valid passport
  • Two photographs
  • Transcript of academic record
  • Certificate of German or English language proficiency (depending on medium of course)
  • Health insurance
  • Certified declaration for authenticity of documents submitted
  • Proof of criminal record

5. Submit application to the German embassy

Now you’re ready to schedule an appointment for a visa interview, in which you’ll need to hand over your visa application documents. The consular officer will further question you to determine whether you’re a potential visa candidate – you should answer all questions honestly and accurately.

6. Apply for a residence permit

Within two weeks of arriving in the country, student visa-holders must register with the local Foreigners’ Registration Office (Bürgeramt or Einwohnermeldeamt) to apply for a residence permit for study purposes.

Bring along the same documents you used to apply for the visa as well as the fees for the residence permit – check the current rate beforehand so you know you have enough cash to pay.