How to get a student visa in Germany

Obtaining a student visa in Germany can seem complicated. But if you read the requirements carefully, allow enough time and have all the necessary documents ready, you’ll get through the process.

You are busy preparing for your application to your dream university in Baden-Württemberg, gathering documents, studying for your finals, perfecting your language skills – there is a lot to do. But don’t forget to apply for a student visa. If you start this process too late, it can derail your plans.

Who needs a visa?

If you are a student from an EU-country or from Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, or Switzerland, relax. You don’t need a student visa but still have to register for residency once you are in Germany. Please check in advance what kind of documentation you need in addition to your passport/ID.

If you are from Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the USA, Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco, and San Marino, please check with the Federal Foreign Office. You may be exempt from a student visa but make sure that regulations haven’t changed in the meantime. You will need almost the same documentation when you register for residency in your new hometown as you would for a student visa.

Students from all other countries are likely to have to apply for visa. As a first step, ask the International Office at your chosen university in Baden-Württemberg whether you need a visa. If you do, contact the German mission such as the embassy or consulate in your country to find out what documents you need to submit.

What type of visa should I apply for?

There are two types of visas – the student applicant visa and the student visa. Decide which one is right for you.

Student visa

Have you been officially accepted by a university and still have plenty of time (several months) before your studies start? Then your best choice is the student visa. You can apply for a student visa when you study full time at an accredited university, a Studienkolleg, take a German language course in preparation for your studies or complete a mandatory internship for your studies.

It’s best to check with the German embassy or consulate in your country what kind of documentation you need to submit to be sure that the information you have is current. For an overview of the required documentation, see the lists provided by the DAAD or by

The student visa allows you to stay in Germany for three months. Within this span of time, you have to apply for a residence permit to study.

student applicant visa or student visa?

Student applicant visas

What if you are planning to start your studies in the coming semester but haven’t received an official letter from your chosen university yet? Then you can apply for a student applicant visa. A student applicant visa/prospective student visa allows you to enter Germany and stay for three months to get accepted by your chosen university, get settled and obtain a residence permit. You have to show that you have started the application process and have good chances of being accepted by the university for this type of visa.
Again, start the process as early as possible and check with the German mission in your country how long the process takes, what documents you need to submit. Also clarify what rights and responsibilities you have with this type of visa.
Student applicant visas are typically valid for three months and can be extended up to six months. During this period, you have to complete the application process and register for residency. The international office at your chosen university can assist you with information.

Visas to avoid

There are other visas that may sound like they are a good fit, but they aren’t. One example is the language course visa. You may be tempted to apply for it if you take an intensive language course to prepare for your studies at a university. Don’t! Language course visas can’t be converted into student or student applicant visas and won’t allow you to start your studies at a university in Germany.
The same holds true for tourist visas or Schengen visas. You won’t be able to study with the visas. They also can’t be converted. Applying for these kinds of visas won’t help you. Just the opposite: It can make you life a lot more difficult.

Be prepared

Make sure you check the visa requirements carefully and have all the necessary documents, photos, and certificates ready. Also note that you need to provide proof that you can finance your study and living expenses. Many students do this through a blocked bank account.

Here is a short list of documents that are typically required but check with your embassy or consulate:

  • Passport
  • Proof of health insurance
  • Proof of sufficient funds (blocked account or other)
  • Records of previous study
  • Proof of language skills
  • If applicable: letter of acceptance from your chosen university
  • If applying for a prospective student visa: a recognized high school diploma or certificate of completed secondary education and a letter from your chosen university stating that your application is likely to be successful.


Be thorough

Attention to detail is key when you apply for a visa. Check, check, and check again if you have all the necessary documentation, whether your photograph is in the right format, whether your appointment at the consulate or embassy is coming up and whether you have chosen the right type of visa. With great attention to every detail, you will be able to get your visa in time so you can start your studies in Baden-Württemberg.