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, citizens from non-EU countries require a  visa to enter Germany. For stays of up to 90 days in a period of 180 days, nationals of third countries, for which the European Community has waived the visa requirement, do not need a visa. An overview of visa requirements can be found here


For stays of more than three months or stays leading to gainful employment, foreigners are in principle subject to a visa requirement. This does not apply to EU citizens, EEA nationals or Swiss nationals.

Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, Korea and the United States of America may also obtain a residence permit after entry. For all other nationals applies: The visa for a longer stay must be requested in principle before entering the country. In principle, it requires the consent of the competent foreigners authority in Germany. Responsible is the foreigners authority of the place where the foreigner will take his residence. If the approval of the Immigration Office is required in the visa procedure, the procedure can take up to three months, sometimes even longer, since other authorities (such as the Federal Employment Agency) are often involved in addition to the Immigration Office. The diplomatic mission may not issue the requested visa until the consent of the foreigners authority has been obtained.

Visas that entitle to gainful employment often do not require the approval of the Immigration Office, which leads to an acceleration of the visa procedure in these cases.

For immigration law measures and decisions under the residence law for foreigners who are already in Germany, the immigration authorities are responsible. Immigration authorities are not subordinate agencies of the Foreign Office. The Foreign Office can not influence its decisions. Rather, they are subject to the technical supervision of the ministries' interior ministries and senators.

Due to Regulation 265/2010, it is now possible to move freely in the Schengen area for up to three months with a national visa ("D visa") and a valid travel document over a period of six months.



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 Operating instructions on the implementation of the REST Directive into German law are provided by the German Federal Ministry of the Interior (in German).

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), which now acts as the National Contact Point for REST Directive queries, has set up a central e-mail address for requests: rest@bamf.bund.de

Persons who fall under the definition of the researcher (see: Directive (EU) 2016/801 Article 3, No.2) may receive a residence permit according to § 20. The residence permit according to §20 is granted in principle for at least 1 year.

After completion of the research activity, the residence permit is extended by up to nine months for job search (§ 20 (7) Residence Act).


When the researcher already holds a residence permit for research purposes issued by another EU Member State within the scope of Directive (EU) 2016/801 and wants to conduct a part of his or her research project in Germany for more than 180 years days and up to a maximum of one year, a residence permit under § 20b Residence Act can be isued.

The application for the residence permit in accordance with § 20b Residence Act can not only be filed with the local Immigration Office, but also with the BAMF. For the granting of a residence permit in accordance with § 20b Residence Act, it is necessary that the researcher concludes a hosting agreement or a corresponding contract with the receiving research institution in Germany.






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.


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 wishing to carry out research in Germany
    European Commission