Visa & Residence Permit
We will be happy to advise you individually on the subject of visas and residence permits. To do so, send us an e-mail with a copy of your passport and a document about the planned stay (e.g. letter of invitation, scholarship contract, employment contract) to email@example.com.
We have compiled general information for initial orientation on this page.
Visa & EU Freedom of Movement
Nationals from EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland generally do not require an entry visa. You may enter Germany on your national identity card. Nevertheless, you must register at the Residents' Registration Office within two weeks (see Resident Registration).
Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the USA do not need a visa to enter Germany. However, for stays of more than three months, you will require a residence permit (see "Residence permit") or a relevant visa.
Third-country nationals who need a visa to enter Germany must apply for it at the foreign mission of the Federal Republic of Germany in whose district they have their habitual residence or domicile. An overview of the German missions abroad can be found here. The type of visa for which you must apply depends on the purpose and the planned duration of your stay. You can find out which documents you need for each type of visa from your local German diplomatic mission abroad.
A list of countries whose citizens require/do not require visas to enter Germany can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.
Stays of up to three months Visa for short stays (Schengen visa)
A Schengen visa (also known as a "C visa") is issued for a short-term stay of up to 90 days per half-year. This visa does not allow for gainful employment or doctoral studies. If you apply for a Schengen visa, make sure that you indicate "scientific work" or "research" as the purpose of your stay. Please note that this visa cannot be extended or converted into a residence permit. You must leave the country before the visa expires.
Don't enter Germany with this visa if your stay is longer than three months or if you receive an employment contract.
The processing of an application for a Schengen visa usually takes between two and ten working days (longer in peak travel periods). Usually, fees are charged when the application is submitted. However, scholarship holders of German funding organisations who receive a publicly funded fellowship do not have to pay for the visa on presentation of the relevant certificate. You can find more useful information on the Schengen visa on this website.
- Plausibility and traceability of travel
- Financing the living and travel expenses from own assets/income or by a third person (formal declaration of commitment)
- Status of the visa holder to leave the Schengen area before the validity of the visa expires
- Presentation of a travel health insurance valid for the entire Schengen area and for the entire length of stay with a minimum coverage of 30,000 euros.
Stays of more than three months Visa for long stays (national visa)
A national visa (also known as a "D visa") is issued for a stay of more than three months or when taking up employment. There are different types of national visas for different purposes of stay. The national visa is usually issued for a period of three to six months. After entry, you must apply for a residence permit based on the visa at the local Foreigners' Office.
Depending on the individual Embassy the documents required may differ. Please contact the respective diplomatic mission at the earliest opportunity in order to ascertain which documents you will need for your visa application. Nevertheless, we have put together a list of documents that you usually have to present.
For visas that entitle you to a longer stay or to take up employment, you must expect a processing time of several months. Usually, fees are charged when the application is submitted. However, scholarship holders of German funding organisations who receive a publicly funded fellowship do not have to pay for either the visa or the residence permit on presentation of the relevant certificate.
- Passport (valid for at least three months longer than the duration of your intended stay)
- Proof of your intended activity (e.g. fellowship, employment contract, letter of invitation or hosting agreement from the university)
- Proof that you will be able to support yourself financially if this is not evidenced by the documentation above
- Adequate health insurance cover
- Details of proposed accommodation in Germany
- Marriage and birth certificates of family members
- Application form (available from diplomatic missions)
Citizens of the EU are entitled to the Freedom of Movement permission and do not require a visa or residence title. Nationals of other countries must visit the Foreigners' Office to apply for a residence title if they intend to stay longer than the duration of their visa or visa-free stay (which office of the Foreigners' Office is responsible for you depends on your place of residence, see Resident Registration). The residence permit is always linked to the specific purpose of the stay. In Essen, the Welcome Center of the City of Essen is responsible for international academics according to the articles §18b to 18f AufenthG and not the Immigration Office (see Resident Registration).
previous residence permit if available
1 biometric passport photo
Fellowship award letter, employment contract or hosting agreement with the university (stating the amount of the monthly fellowship or salary)
Proof of health insurance cover valid in Germany
For marital partners/children: German or English translation of marriage and birth certificates
Tenancy agreement (room/flat, at least 12 sq.m./person)
Hosting agreement from the university (only required for a resident title for the purpose of §18d), available via the Welcome Service
Further documents might be required depending on the purpose of your residence title.
The type of residence permit is determined by the purpose of residence and is linked to certain rights. The following residence permits are the most frequently used in the field of research. You can find a detailed overview at the German Rectors’ Conference.
The Federal Ministry of Education and Research also provides an overview.
Residence permit for research purposes (§ 18d AufenthG)
A researcher's residence permit entitles you to work on a specific research project, either with an employment contract, with a scholarship or self-financed. In order to apply, you need a Hosting Agreement, which can be issued by the Welcome Service. After completion of the research activity, the residence permit is extended by up to nine months for job search.
More info on the residence permit for research purposes can be found here.
Residence permit for the purpose of Higher Education (§ 16b AufenthG)
You can obtain a residence permit according to § 16b AufenthG if the planned research activity is part of a doctoral programme as a full-time study programme. This applies to doctoral students who are enrolled at a German university in order to complete a doctoral programme as their main activity. More info on this type of residence permit can be found here.
However, if you are not enrolled at a German university or if the research is not carried out exclusively for the purpose of writing a dissertation, you fall within the scope of § 18d (research purposes). The latter is the case, for example, if you are writing the dissertation under an employment contract. If you use a scholarship to finance your doctorate, you can also obtain a residence permit in accordance with §18d AufenthG in certain cases.
Blue Card EU (§ 18b paragraph 2 AufenthG)
This residence permit is addressed to qualified foreign professionals. Prerequisite for the issuing of the Blue Card EU is a university degree and an employment relationship with a gross annual salary of 56,400 euros or 43,992 euros (as of January 2022) for highly skilled workers in certain shortage occupations (including natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, computer scientists and doctors). The Blue Card EU is issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months, but for a maximum of four years. An extension is generally possible. After 33 months, Blue Card EU holders can obtain a settlement permit if the employment relationship persists.
Residence permit for highly qualified persons (§ 18c paragraph 3 AufenthG)
"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 according to § 18c paragraph 3. This automatically entitles them to take up gainful employment. Spouses usually receive a residence permit as well.
Letter of Invitation
In order to apply for a residence permit and/or register as a Ph.D., a person must present an official written invitation. This invitation is required to be written in German and should include the following information:
- Full name, birth date and place of birth of the international researcher
- Inviting chair or faculty
- Period of stay with a clear start and end date
- Kind of work or purpose of stay (e.g. employee of the faculty, ph.d. student or postdoc with a scholarship)
- In case of employment: Mention of the monthly gross income
- In case of scholarship: Mention of the monthly payment
Fiktionsbescheinigung (Probationary Permit)
A probationary certificate ("Fiktionsbescheinigung") is a temporary substitute document to prove a temporary right of residence. It takes about three to eight weeks to issue an electronic residence title. Should your residence title elapse during this period, a “Fiktionsbescheinigung” (probationary certificate) must be issued.
There are three different types of probationary certificate: “Duldungsfiktion”, “Erlaubnisfiktion” and “Fortbestandsfiktion”.
If you have applied for your extension in good time and now have to wait for the card to be issued, you will usually be given a “Fortbestandsfiktion” (probationary continuation) (§81.4) because your old residence permit will continue to be valid until you receive your new card. It is possible to travel within the Schengen Area and by direct flight to your own country on the strength of this kind of probationary certificate. You will be allowed to re-enter Germany at any time. Whilst you are using a probationary certificate, however, it is recommendable to enquire at the foreign mission (Embassy/Consulate) of the country to which you will be travelling whether you might incur any problems with entry and exit.
Please note that the information provided by the Welcome Service is not legally binding and is not intended to replace information provided by professional experts in the respective field.
We recommend you to also consult the diplomatic mission or your local Immigration Office for more detailed information on your individual case.