Legal Requirements and Application Procedures
It will depend on your nationality, if you require a visa to enter Germany. Rules and regulations governing entry into Germany change frequently, so we can only provide you here with the most common categories and latest updates:
Nationalities allowed to enter without visa for any purpose:
EU citizens and those of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Nationalities allowed to stay for up to three months without a visa:
Citizens of Albania, Andorra, Antigua, Argentina, Australia, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Republic of Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Mauritius, Macedonia, Mexico, Monaco, Montenegro, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Serbia, the Seychelles, Singapore, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Taiwan, the United States of America, Uruguay, the Vatican and Venezuela. These citizens may also apply for their residence permit Germany after entering the country without a visa.
Citizens of the above mentioned countries can enter Germany without a visa, as long as they do not intend to do any paid work or self-employed work. If you plan to stay longer or wish to work in Germany, you must apply for a visa. It should be possible for you to file your application from your embassy or consulate in Germany.
Nationalities that need a visa for Germany for any purpose
If your nationality is not one of the aforementioned, you will need a visa, even if you only intend to stay for a short time. This regulation covers most African countries and also many Asian nationalities.
You can find even more information on visas on the German Ministry for Foreign Affairs website and your country’s German embassy’s website.
Visas are designed to cover a specific purpose of your time in Germany, for example tourist and student visas, visas for business and so forth. It will depend on the purpose of your visit what type of visa you need to apply for and this is also true for the different types of residence permits Germany requires; the only difference is that visas are issued outside of Germany, before you enter the country.
Once you have arrived in Germany you may receive a residence permit for the specific purpose you stated in your visa application. You will not be able to change the purpose of your stay once you have entered the country. If you entered Germany on a student visa, you won’t be able to obtain a work residence permit. Should you need to change your residency status, you will most likely have to first leave Germany, then apply for a different type of visa. You should consider therefore very carefully indeed, what reason you give for your visa application, as this can have expensive and time-consuming consequences later.
It’s not all bad news: citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America can obtain a visa or a residence permit for Germany after entering the country.
Citizens of all other countries intending to stay longer must apply for visas at their nearest Germany embassy or consulate before entering Germany.
Documentation and Waiting Times
Contact your local embassy or consulate for the exact requirements, but to make a visa Germany application, you must produce some or all of the following documents (originals or certified copies).
- your passport with at least 3 months validity beyond the end of the visa period you are requesting; your passport must still have two blank pages available for the visa.
- 2 recent passport photographs
- proof of adequate means of financial support during your stay, such as bank statements for your savings account for example
- a letter from your place of study or your employer. Self-employed applicants must produce a letter from an accountant, solicitor, bank manager or local Chamber of Commerce to confirm their professional status.
- relevant application form(s) – the number depends you the applicant’s nationality
- proof of medical/health insurance
- proof of the purpose of your visit and/or hotel reservation and/or a return travel ticket
Be sure to check the exact requirements on your local German embassy’s website.
You must apply at least 6 weeks before you plan to depart. If you apply for a visa while staying in another country, not your home country, applications for your visa for Germany will be referred to the German embassy at that country, and this may delay the process further.
The Schengen Area
Schengen is a place in Luxembourg where the original treaty for free circulation of citizens among its member states was signed in 1985. The Schengen Area includes 26 member states as well four countries outside of the EU.
As of April 2013, the Schengen countries are as follows: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Germany signed the Schengen Agreement, which allows residents free circulation within Schengen Area countries. A visa granted in any one of these countries will be valid in the whole Schengen Area. Travelling within the Schengen Area is legally the equivalent of travelling within Germany itself. This means, if you enter Germany with a tourist visa, you are permitted to stay in Germany and/or any other country in the Schengen Area for up to 90 days during any 6-month period.
- While you are permitted to leave the Schengen Area and return as many times as you wish to within the 6-month validity of your visa, the total amount of time you are permitted to stay in the Schenger Area must not exceed 90 days.
- If a Schengen country has granted you a visa, it is valid in all other member countries.
Countries falling outside the Schenger Area include Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland, Romania and the United Kingdom. Having said that, Bulgaria, Cyprus and Romania are scheduled to implement the Schengen Agreement over the next few years, commencing 2013.