Requirements for Living, Working or Studying in Germany
What Documents do you need to enter Germany?
Visa for Germany, Residence Permit Germany & other Permits
Germany’s immigration laws are complex and confusing for many people, not just foreigners but also for natives.
If you decide to live, study or work in Germany, you may need to obtain a visa, residence permit and/or work permit. German embassies are busy places, so you may have to spend quite some time putting together the required documents and standing in queues before it’s your turn.
For some permits you need to make an application in your home country, so it is a good idea to begin this process well before travelling to Germany.
The Welcome Center Germany can only give you an overview of the essential legal requirements and application processes that you must adhere to, if you want to live, study or work in Germany.
The subject is so complex, it is impossible to give more details on every possible scenario, but we trust this guide will help you decide what you need to do before you can move to Germany.
Should you decide to relocate and live in Germany, it is likely you will need to follow the process in the sequence set out in this guide. Each step is based on documentation from the previous one, with a few exceptions:
1. Residence Permit Germany: Every person staying in Germany for more than 3 months must officially obtain a residence permit. This ruling only excludes EU citizens and citizens of the following countries: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. When you have completed your residence registration, you must apply for a residence permit at the local immigration office (called “Ausländeramt”).
1. Residence Registration: If you decide to stay and live in Germany for more than 3 months, you must register at the local residence registration office (called Einwohnermeldeamt).
2. Visa Germany: EU citizens and some other nationalities do not need to apply for a visa for Germany. You may have to wait a while before getting your visa Germany application approved. The type of visa you are applying for will also affect your residency rights, so be clear about you are applying for. It will depend on your country of origin, whether you have to make an application for your visa in Germany itself, or can apply for a visa for Germany before arriving in the country. You can check the exact visa requirements here.
3. Work Permit for Germany: As soon as you have obtained your residence permit for Germany, you are able to apply for a work permit. This is done at your local labour office (called Arbeitsamt). EU citizens and citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland do not require a work permit in Germany.
Be warned: Germany is very bureaucratic, where every document seems to require form filling in triplicate! You will have to get used to standing in queues and waiting your turn. Before setting out on your German adventure, it may not just be useful but also essential to get the following documents sorted out:
• a passport that must be valid for the entire period you plan to spend in Germany
• proof of your financial resources (for example savings, grants etc)
• visa for Germany (not a tourist visa), if applicable
• if you plan to study, you will need a notification of university admission or confirmation of application at a school or college
• originals and notary certified translations of your birth certificate, secondary school leaving certificate, any academic qualifications you may have and your insurance documents. You can obtain certifications at German diplomatic and consular missions. Look up prices for this service online before you go – both embassies and consular missions accept exact cash only and the various services can add up to quite a lot.
• confirmation of health insurance cover or, if you are a student from the European Union, a European health insurance card will suffice.
• a book of vaccination certificates, if you have one. Check at the German embassy or consular mission in your home country if you need any vaccinations before entering Germany.
• an international driving license if you require one (EU citizens do not need one).
Regulations are subject to frequent changes, so check with German embassies, consulates, immigration offices and the Germany Ministry for Foreign Affairs what the latest requirements are – it is best to do this online and via emails rather than by phone. These institutions are flooded with immigration requests and you may find German officials are not particularly friendly as a result.
Be assured, they are equally unfriendly to German citizens applying for passports etc, so don’t feel intimidated by German authorities! If your legal situation is a complex one, you may be better off hiring a lawyer or immigration expert to deal with your application process, represent your interests and give you advice.