If you now know that you need a student visa for Germany, you should apply as soon as possible, at least three months before your move to the country. To do this you’ll need to contact the local German embassy or consulate in your home country.
You will be asked to provide proof of acceptance, a valid passport, a recent health check and sufficient funds to cover your first year in the country (around €659 – US$870 – per month). Dependent on the embassy, you may also need to show proof that you don’t have a criminal record.
If you are planning to study in Germany for more that 90 days you should apply for a National Visa for the purpose of study rather than a Schengen Visa, which will only allow you to stay in Germany for three months.
As well as your student visa, you will also need to apply for a residence permit on arrival.
How to apply for a residence permit
Once in the country, you will have to register with the local registration authority (Bürgeramt or Einwohnermeldeamt) within two weeks of arrival. Here you must apply for a residence permit for study purposes and will be asked to provide a valid passport (with student visa if you need one), proof of enrolment, proof of residence in the country, health insurance (your university may help with this) and sufficient funds for the first year of your stay (approximately €659 a month – US$870).
Although you will already have been asked for proof of language proficiency as part of your university application, you may need to provide this information again in order to gain your residence permit. For courses taught in German, international students need to provide a TestDaf or DSH score, or, for English-taught courses (most of which are offered at graduate level), you’ll need to provide a TOEFL or IELTS score.
This residence permit is valid for two years, and, if needed, should be renewed before it expires.
Have you considered a student applicant visa?
If you have not yet been accepted onto a university program, you may consider applying for a student applicant visa. This allows you to stay in Germany for three months in order to look for a university program on German soil. If you have not enrolled in this time, you may ask for your visa to be extended, but whether or not this is granted is up to the discretion of the visa authorities. After enrollment, your student applicant visa can be converted into a national visa.
Working in Germany with a student visa
It is legal to work in Germany with a student visa, but students are restricted to the number of days they can work. This is 90 full days each year or 180 half days. International students with a visa are also eligible to work in Germany for up to one year after graduating, as long as the job is related to their field of study. In order to work in Germany, you’ll also usually need a high level of proficiency in the German language.