Despite the challenging economic and political situation, Germany remains a popular destination for immigrants, with welfare benefits, healthcare, and various support initiatives being attractive selling points. The country’s status as Europe’s largest economy and home to many global players across different industries continues to attract jobseekers, students and individuals seeking permanent residence from all over the world.
According to data from the Federal Statistical Office of Germany, in 2020, a total of 1.1 million people immigrated to Germany. The reasons for immigration to the country are varied and include seeking employment or educational opportunities, reuniting with family members, or seeking refuge from political or social unrest in their home countries. Apart from this, there are many other benefits that Germany has to offer to its citizens which catches the attention of people from all over the world. Some of these benefits are mentioned below:
- Germany may have higher taxes, but the cost of living is generally affordable. Rent is comparatively low in comparison to other Western nations, and the standard of housing is high, resulting in a greater tendency for people to lease their accommodations for extended periods. Essential services such as electricity, water, and internet access are generally inexpensive, and dining out or enjoying a beer in a local pub is also affordable.
- Another advantage of the relatively high taxes in Germany is a well-developed transportation infrastructure. The autobahns are regularly maintained and provide convenient travel routes throughout the country. In urban areas, public transportation is more reliable and hygienic than in most other locations.
- Germany has emerged as a popular destination for students and interns from around the world as it has a highly reputable education system and offers affordable fees for foreign students at public universities. Additionally, German businesses treat interns well, and the country has a stable economy that encourages learning. All these factors combine to make Germany an ideal place for ambitious international students to build a life for themselves.
- Germany is the fourth largest economy in the world, and its economy is highly diversified, with a strong focus on engineering, manufacturing, and technology. This means that there are plenty of opportunities for skilled workers, entrepreneurs, and investors.
- The Federal Republic has an extensive social care system for new parents that is very generous. Over a 14-month period, new mothers and fathers can divide paid leave between them. Moreover, the state provides monetary support for taking care of your children until they reach 18 years of age. In addition, as soon as your child reaches one year of age, you are assured a place at a kindergarten, and the expenses are considerably lower than those in nearby countries such as the Netherlands.
Overall, moving to Germany can offer a high quality of life, diverse cultural experiences, strong economy, excellent education system, good work-life balance, and sustainable living options.
Who needs a German visa?
Nationals belonging to the EU, at the present time from 62 countries belonging to the Schengen zone, can enter Germany without a visa for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However, from 2024 onwards, visitors will need to apply for an ETIAS to enter Germany. If you are not a citizen of one of these 62 countries, you will need to apply for a visa to enter Germany.
Additionally, in the event you plan to stay in the country for more than 90 days within a 6-month period or for a different purpose than tourism or business, citizens who are a passport holder of one of these countries, will still need to apply for a visa.
Types of German visas
Germany offers three distinct visa categories for entry into the country:
- Schengen visa: In case your country doesn’t have an agreement with Germany that allows you to enter without a visa, and you plan to visit Germany for a brief period, you will have to obtain a Schengen visa. This visa is categorized as a short-stay visa (category C visa) and it permits you to stay in Germany and all the other Schengen countries for up to 90 days within a span of 180 days. The 180-day period commences from the day you enter Germany or any other Schengen country.
There are three types of Schengen visa available, which differ based on the purpose of travel. These visas allow for one, two, or multiple entries to the Schengen area, and can be used for stays up to 90 days within a 180-day period as mentioned above.
The validity of the visa can also be extended to up to 90 days within one, three, or five years for frequent travelers. If you plan to leave and re-enter the Schengen area during your trip, such as traveling to the UK, you will need to apply for a double or multiple-entry visa.
If you use the full 90-day period, you must stay out of the Schengen area for another 90 days before applying for a new visa and to ensure you do not exceed the 90-day limit, you can use a Schengen calculator to track the days you spend in the area.
- Airport transit visa: If you are stopping over at a German airport and your final destination is a country outside the Schengen area, you will require an airport transit visa (category A visa). It is important to note that this visa only allows you to stay within the airport and does not grant you permission to leave it. If you need to leave the airport, such as to collect your baggage, check-in again, or continue your journey via another mode of transportation, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa instead. So, be extra cautious while applying for a visa appropriate to your needs.
- National visa: If you want to stay in Germany for more than 90 days, and your nationality requires a Schengen visa, then you need to apply for a national visa (category D visa) before traveling. This visa is intended for those who want to stay in Germany for a longer period of time and who plan to apply for residency. You must convert your national visa to a residence permit within three months of arriving in Germany. There are various types of national visas, including joining a spouse or family member, finding a job, studying at a university, conducting research, attending training, working as an au pair, starting a business, or seeking asylum. You should note that the national visa is specific to the purpose of your stay in Germany and can only be converted into the corresponding type of residence permit. For example, a student visa can only be converted into a student residence permit.
Subcategory of visas
Depending on the reason for your trip to Germany, you will need to apply for a specific type of visa. The type of visa you need will vary depending on whether you are visiting Germany for tourism, studying, working, or settling permanently.
The most common types of German visas are:
- Tourist & Visitor Visa: for those who want to visit friends or family, sightsee, or experience German culture.
- Family Reunion Visa: for family members of German residents who want to join them in Germany.
- Job Seeker Visa: for those who want to come to Germany to search for employment.
- Studying & Language Learning Visa: for foreigners who want to attend a language course or study at an educational institution in Germany.
- Working Visa: for those who have already secured a job in Germany.
- Business Visa: for business people who need to stay in Germany for more than 90 days within 6 months for business purposes.
- Airport Transit Visa: for a limited number of third-world nationals who need to pass through a German airport on their way to their final destination.
- Guest Scientist Visa: for scientists or researchers invited by institutions to conduct research in Germany.
- Training/Internship Visa: for nationals of third-world countries attending training or internships.
- Medical Treatment Visa: for foreigners with medical conditions seeking medical treatment in Germany.
- Trade Fair & Exhibitions Visa: for those participating in trade fairs or exhibitions.
- Visa for Cultural, Film Crew, Sports, and Religious Event Purpose: for those participating in cultural, sports, or religious events or as part of a film crew.
German visa application
In order to obtain a visa for Germany, it is necessary to submit an application. Although the process may appear complex, it is in fact simple, and you may seek assistance from your nearest embassy or consulate prior to applying.
The following steps can be taken to apply for a German visa:
- Complete the visa application form
- Prepare the required documents
- Schedule an appointment with the embassy/consulate
- Attend the visa interview
- Submit your biometric data
- Pay the visa application fee
- Obtain your visa.
Complete the visa application form
To initiate the visa application process for Germany, it is essential to confirm that you possess the appropriate visa form. As we discussed above there are 3 different types of visa categories, so make sure that you are cautious before applying.
To complete the application form, one must provide their personal information and required details online via VIDEX, which simplifies the application process for both the applicant and the visa office.
After submitting the form online, it should be printed and signed and carried along while visiting the embassy or consulate.
It is crucial to answer all necessary questions honestly and accurately. The online platform deletes the data if the application process is inactive for 10 minutes. Therefore, before initiating the application process, ensure that you have the necessary documents nearby, such as:
- Your passport.
- Travel itinerary (including flight number).
- German address.
- Hotel reservation (if applicable).
- Letter of invitation (if necessary).
Alternatively, you can download the PDF version of the visa form and complete it manually.
Prepare the required documents
Once you have the printed visa application form, the next step is to gather all the necessary documents. The required documents for a German visa application include:
- A valid passport.
- A fully completed and signed visa application form.
- At least two passport photos taken within the last three months.
- Valid travel medical insurance with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros.
- Proof of accommodation for your entire stay in the Schengen area.
For short stay visas, you also need to provide:
- Proof of planned travel such as a flight itinerary or reservation.
- Proof of financial independence such as bank statements or payslips.
- Proof of financial support like a signed declaration from the person who will cover your costs.
For long stay visas, you need to provide:
- Proof of your purpose of travel, such as an employment contract, letter of admission from a German university, or proof of academic qualifications.
- If applicable, you need to provide approval from the Federal Employment Agency.
- Proof of financial independence.
Schedule an appointment with the embassy or consulate
Typically, you can schedule an appointment online, depending on the availability of the German embassy or consulate in your country. However, in some cases, you may need to visit in person to schedule your appointment.
To apply for your visa, it is necessary to schedule an appointment with the German embassy or consulate nearest to you. Usually consulates are responsible for processing visa applications, but if there is no consulate in a particular country, embassies may also handle this task.
Attend the visa interview
After your appointment for a German visa is confirmed, it is essential to attend your interview at the visa office.
It is crucial to arrive on time since even a slight delay may result in the cancellation of your appointment.
During the interview, you will need to answer questions about your planned trip to Germany, such as the purpose of your visit, the duration of your stay, and whether you intend to visit other locations. You may also be asked some questions about yourself, but the entire interview usually lasts no longer than 10 minutes.
Additionally, during this appointment make sure you provide all the necessary supporting documents.
Submit your biometric data
As part of the visa application process, you will also need to provide your biometric data at the embassy or consulate. If you have already provided this information for a previous German visa, you may not need to do so again. However, if it is your first time applying, an officer will scan your fingerprints after your interview.
Pay the visa application fee
The standard fee for a short-term visa is €80, although this amount may vary depending on the type of German visa you are applying for. Some countries like Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia, and Ukraine are granted a reduced visa fee of 35 euros for short stay and transit visas.
Apart from this, in some countries, you may need to pay the fee online when filling out the application form and bringing your receipt to the interview and in some others, you may be required to pay the fee after the interview.
However regardless of the payment process, the visa fee must be paid when you visit the embassy or consulate for your interview.
Obtain your visa
After submitting your visa application, it will take 10 to 15 business days to receive a response. If your application is approved, you can use the visa to travel to Germany. However, if you applied for a long-term visa, the waiting time may extend to several months.
If your visa application is declined, the rejection letter will explain the reasons why and provide information on how to appeal the decision. Typically, you have one month to file an appeal at the same local mission where you originally applied for the visa.
Some frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Can I extend my visa once I am in Germany?
It may be possible to extend your visa once you are in Germany, but you will need to apply for an extension before your current visa expires.
Is it possible to get married in Germany while on a tourist visa?
Typically, non-EU citizens cannot marry in Germany on a tourist visa. They require a visa that allows them to stay for three to six months. However, if the person intends to marry a German citizen, they may be eligible for a residence permit
What are the requirements for a work visa to Germany?
To apply for a work visa to Germany, you will need to provide a job offer from a German employer, proof of your qualifications, and proof of health insurance.
What are the requirements for a tourist visa to Germany?
To apply for a tourist visa to Germany, you will need to provide proof of your travel itinerary, accommodation, and financial means. You may also need to provide proof of health insurance.
What are the requirements for a student visa to Germany?
To apply for a student visa to Germany, you will need to provide proof of admission to a German university, proof of financial means, and proof of health insurance.