Entry conditions and visas
As a general rule, foreigners require a visa to enter the country and a residence permit ("Aufenthaltserlaubnis") for stays of a longer duration. The visa can usually be obtained from German missions abroad. Depending on the duration and purpose of the stay, you either need a Schengen visa (research stay lasting up to three months) or a national visa (research stay lasting more than three months).
Citizens of the European Union as well as the European Economic Area and Switzerland neither require an entry visa nor a permit for stays of a longer duration. If you are planning to spend a longer period of time in Germany, the only thing you usually have to do is register at the local Residents' Registration Office. Regulations regarding the requirement to register vary between federal states. In general, you are required to register when you move into a flat or room in Germany. This also applies if you retain your residence abroad. In some cases you may be required to register even for short-term stays; we therefore recommend that you see the website of the municipality where you intend to take up residence for more information.
For foreigners, who have to enter on a visa, any stay exceeding the period validated by the visa must be authorised. In order to do this you have to have a residence permit. This also applies to foreigners who are eligible to enter the country without a visa for stays of one to three months. The required procedure varies according to your country of origin.
If you want to enter the country for a longer stay, you must register with the local Immigration Office after your arrival. Subsequently your visa, which is only valid for entering the country, will be replaced by a residence permit. Residence permits are distinguished as follows:
Language students and school pupils, university applicants and students, as well as doctoral students usually receive a residence permit for the purpose of education in accordance with §16 Residence Act. Doctoral students may also be issued with a residence permit for research purposes (§ 20) if their dissertation is produced in the context of research activity that is subject to a hosting agreement with a research institution. Under particular circumstances § 18 may also apply to doctoral students.
A residence permit is generally granted to foreign employees under § 18 and may also apply to employment in science and research. The condition for granting such a residence permit is the existence of a definite job offer.
Highly-qualified persons are defined as academics with particular, specialised knowledge, or academic teaching personnel and research staff in leading positions. They may enter the country if they have a job and are immediately eligible for (indefinite) leave to remain. This automatically authorises them to engage in gainful employment. Marital partners usually obtain the same type of residence permit.
This residence permit is intended for academically qualified foreign persons. The EU Blue Card is granted on condition that the individual has a university degree as well as an employment contract that pays a gross salary of 49.600 EUR, or 38.688 EUR for highly qualified persons in occupations facing a shortage of skilled labour (e.g. natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, academics and similar professionals in information and communications technology, as well as physicians). After 33 months, and provided that the employment contract is ongoing, holders of the EU Blue Card can be eligible for (indefinite) leave to remain. If language skills are proven to be at Level B1 then (indefinite) leave to remain can be granted after just 21 months.
Foreigners may be granted a residence permit for research purposes if they have concluded an effective hosting agreement with a recognised research institution to conduct a research project. Research institutions are classified as "recognised" if they have successfully completed the relevant recognition procedure at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Nuremberg. Doctoral students who are writing their dissertation as part of a research project can also be granted a residence permit under § 20 (cf. residence permit for the purpose of education, § 16).
The German Rectors’ Conference has prepared a detailed overview of the potential residence permits available in respect of criteria such as target group, issuance conditions, duration/term, family reunion, etc.
If you would like to work in Germany, this is where you can find information.
- EU Immigration Portal
Information for non-EU citizens on immigration to Germany
- Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
Information on the EU Blue Card
Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
- Information on visas and entry regulations
Information on visas and regulations for entering Germany as well as the requisite application forms
Federal Foreign Office