Germany at a Glance
German Visa for Expats
Once you have picked out a region where to live in Germany, you must make sure that moving to Germany is a valid option for you.
There are several types of visa requirements needed for entry into Germany, which vary by nationality. As the list is very long, check if your home country belongs to those whose citizens require a tourist visa for a stay of fewer than 90 days. Foreign nationals from the European Union and the Schengen area countries do not need a special entry visa for Germany.
It is generally recommended to apply for whichever visa pertains to you before entering Germany. The following are types of visas for people planning on staying in Germany for longer than three months. Keep in mind that the application process will take one to three months. Please enquire with the nearest German embassy or consulate which visa applies to your case and which documents you need for a successful application.
- Business visas are similar to tourist visas, as they are only valid for 90 days, but can be used to move about freely in the EU/Schengen countries. You will need to submit a copy of your hotel reservation(s) and return ticket with the application. Often, you are also required to submit bank statements, proof of health insurance cover, and business references.
- Employment visas are required for every non-EU citizen who plans to work in Germany. You need to already have a job lined up before coming into Germany. In that case, you have to present a copy of your work agreement to the respective German mission. However, the citizens of selected countries (e.g. the US or New Zealand) are allowed to enter Germany without an employment visa and look for work, provided they have enough money to support themselves.
- Permanent residence with German spouse is an option for all non-Germans married to a German citizen. Your marriage certificate will be needed for application. Once the residence is granted, the non-German spouse is a legal permanent resident of Germany.
- Relatives / friends visas are required when visiting a friend or relative in Germany. You need a copy of the letter from the host or two to three addresses of relatives you are planning on visiting, stating that they are willing to take responsibility for you while you are in Germany. You may also have to hand in bank statements, proof of health insurance, or references.
- For a study visa you need an acceptance letter from the German university or study-abroad program you are planning to attend. Evidence that you have sufficient means to support yourself while studying in Germany is required as well.
- Airport transit visas are only applicable to citizens of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syria, and Turkey. This visa enables these citizens to remain in the transit area of the airport only.
More information on visas, foreigners’ registration and obtaining residence permits after your arrival in Germany can be found in our Germany: Visa and Administration section or in our article on living in Germany. We feature more background info on how to get a German visa, how to get a residence permit, as well as customs and import restrictions.