Entry conditions and visas

Living in Europe, Working in Europe | Entry conditions/visas | Germany

On the subject of entry and residence in Germany, different rules apply to citizens of the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland on the one hand and citizens of so-called third countries on the other:



Nationals of the European Union, as well as citizens of the European Economic Area and Switzerland and their family members, do not need a visa for entry or a long stay permit.

For entry, only a valid passport or identity card is required (§ 2 Abs. 5 FreizügG). After entering Germany, you (as well as a German citizen) have to register for residence at the registration office of the city you live in within three months. The obligation to register is regulated differently in the individual federal states and is linked to moving into an apartment or a room in Germany. This also applies if the residence is also maintained abroad. In some cases, the obligation to register may also apply to shorter stays, which is why prior information must be provided on the websites of the municipality in which the apartment is to be occupied.

One exception concerns family members of EU and EEA citizens who are not EU, EEA or Swiss citizens themselves: they need a visa to enter Germany in accordance with the provisions applicable to foreigners to whom the Residence Act applies. In Germany, you will then receive a so-called residence card from the Immigration Office (§ 2 Abs. 4 S. 2 FreizügG).

Swiss nationals and their family members also enjoy freedom of movement within the EU. However, you must apply for a special (purely declaratory) residence permit Switzerland (§ 28 AufenthV).

Which Local Immigration Office is responsible, depends on the future residence in the federal territory.


In general, nationals of a so-called third country, this means neither nationals of a Member State of the European Union, nor of the European Economic Area nor of Switzerland, require a visa for entry, or a residence permit for a longer stay. The visa is usually obtained from the German diplomatic missions abroad. Depending on the length and purpose of your stay, you will need a Schengen visa (research stay of up to three months) or a national visa (research stay of three months or more).

For third-country nationals who need to enter by visa, a stay beyond the validity of the visa must be authorized. This requires a residence title. This also applies to foreigners who were allowed to travel for up to three months without a visa. Depending on the country of origin, the necessary procedures vary according to your country of origin.

Who wants to enter for a longer stay, must register after entering the local immigration office. Subsequently, the visa, which serves only for entry, is replaced by the residence permit.

If you would like to work in Germany, you will find corresponding information on our page Work permit.


On 1 August 2017, the EU Directive on students and researchers, (REST Directive, Directive (EU) 2016/801) was implemented into German law.

Among other things, the law regulates the residence of internationally mobile researchers from third countries in Germany.

The most important change: the granting of a residence permit for the purpose of employment pursuant to § 18 AufentG (in conjunction with § 5 BeschV) is not anymore possible for researchers. In accordance with the new German Residence Act, the following residence permits can be applied: § 19a Blue Card EU, § 20 Research.

For doctoral candidates both § 16 Higher education studies and § 20 Research can be applied.


Residence permits are distinguished as follows:


The regulation of immigration of "highly qualified foreigners" has not changed either. "Highly qualified" are "scientists with special expertise, teachers and scientific staff in a prominent position". They are allowed to immigrate if they have a job offer and can immediately get a permanent residence permit. This automatically entitles them to take up gainful employment. Spouses usually receive the same residence permit.




The German Rectors' Conference (Hochschulrektorenkonferenz - HRK) has preparad a detailed overview of the various residence permits for researchers from non-EU countries, which should help foreign researchers, as well as inviting and advisory bodies at German universities and research institutions, to choose the right residence permit. The current version of the leaflet takes into account the changes that came into effect on 1 August 2017 in Germany. For the time being, the leaflet is available in german only. From Auust 2018 on, it is planned to provide an English translation.


Further information

  • Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)

    Information on residence permits and application procedures for researchers from third countries

  • Information on visas and entry regulations

    Information on visas and regulations for entering Germany as well as the requisite application forms
    Federal Foreign Office

  • EU Immigration Portal
    Information for non-EU citizens on immigration to Germany
    European Commission