Residence Permit for International Students in GermanyIf you have been accepted into a German educational institution, chances are you will have to get a student residence permit to enrol.

What Is a German Residence Permit for Studies?

A student residence permit allows you (as a non-EU citizen) to live in Germany while you pursue studies in a German university. It is issued by the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Authority) and is valid for one to two years. A student residence permit can be extended for the duration of the program, as long as your studies progress normally.

You have to apply for a student residence permit after you enter Germany. This means you also need to obtain a student visa from the German embassy or consulate in your home country before you are allowed to travel to Germany. However, certain nationalities (USA, Australia, Japan, Canada, etc.) are exempt from the entry visa.

Do I Need a Residence Permit to Study in Germany?

The requirements for a German student residence permit depend on your nationality, as follows:

Nationality Student visa/residence permit requirements
  • European Union countries
  • Iceland
  • Liechtenstein
  • Norway
  • Switzerland
You do not need a visa or residence permit.

Simply register with the local residents’ registration office, if you intend to live in Germany for longer than three months.

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Great Britain
  • Brazil
  • El Salvador
  • Honduras
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Canada
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • San Marino
  • South Korea
  • United States of America
You do not need a student visa from the German Embassy/Consulate.

Within 90 days of entering Germany, you have to apply for a student residence permit at the local Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Authority).

  • All other nationalities
You have to apply for a student visa at the German Embassy/Consulate or a visa application centre in your country.

After you receive the visa and enter Germany, you also have to apply for a student residence permit at the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Authority).

Types of German Residence Permits for Studying

The main reasons you can get a German student residence permit are:

  1. Residence permit to attend university. If you have been accepted into a German university and you can immediately begin classes after entering the country. (E.g all your degrees are recognized and you speak the required language adequately).
  2. Residence permit to attend a Studienkolleg (preparatory college). If your previous degrees are not recognized in Germany, you have to attend preparatory college and pass a test called the Feststellungsprüfung. After this, you can enrol in your university of choice.
  3. Residence permit to attend a language course. This type of residence permit can be issued for a maximum of one year and allows you to complete an intensive German language course if it is needed for your studies.

How to Apply for a German Residence Permit for Studies?

You have to apply for your student residence permit after you enter Germany. The process is as follows:

  1. Find the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Authority) in your area.
  2. Register your address.
  3. Obtain health insurance.
  4. Prepare your documents.
  5. Submit the application to the Ausländerbehörde.
  6. Pick up your student residence permit card.

Remember: Before before you can travel to Germany and apply for a student permit, you need a student visa from the German Embassy (unless you are visa-exempt).

Step 1 – Find a Local Ausländerbehörde

As soon as you get to Germany, you have to locate the Ausländerbehörde – you will see it referred to as the Foreigner’s Authority or Immigration Office. This is where you have to submit the application for a residence permit. It is basically where you head to for most procedures regarding your residence as an international living in Germany.

Visit their website or contact them to learn whether you need an appointment for your residence permit application. They may also have the required documents and forms listed.

Step 2 – Register Your Address

Your next step is to register your address at the residents’ registration office (Bürgeramt or Bürgerbüro in German). You must register your address within 14 days of entering Germany and get a Registration Certificate (Meldebestätigung). You need the Meldebestätigung not only to apply for the residence permit but to open a bank account as well.

You can get the Meldebestätigung within a day. The documents required for the appointment at the Bürgeramt are:

  • The Proof of Residence Certificate (Wohnunggeberbestätigung). Your landlord should provide you with such a certificate when you move in. Or alternatively, you could print out the form from the website of the Bürgeramt and ask them to fill it out.
  • The Registration Form. You will complete this at the Bürgeramt.
  • Your passport.
  • Your visa (if you needed one to enter).

Step 3 – Obtain German Student Health Insurance

There are two health insurance options for international students in Germany:

  • Public (statutory) health insurance, if you are under the age of 30.
  • Private health insurance, if you are over the age of 30.

Once you have health insurance cover, you must obtain the health insurance certificate to submit along with your application.

Step 4 – Prepare the Required Documents for a German Student Residence Permit

The documents required for a German student residence permit application at the Ausländerbehörde include:

  • Residence Permit Application Form. You can download this from the website of the Ausländerbehörde or obtain it in person at the office.
  • Your passport.
  • Your student visa (if applicable).
  • One passport-size picture. The picture must have a plain background and 35mm x 45mm dimensions.
  • Proof of financial means. Depending on your situation, this could be:
  • Health insurance certificate.
  • Certificate of enrollment or letter of approval from your university (if applicable).
  • Proof of enrollment in a German preparatory language school (if applicable).
  • Proof of conditional acceptance into a German university (if applicable).
  • Residence Registration Certificate.

Step 5 – Submit Your  Documents to the Ausländerbehörde

Once you have all the required documents, on the date of your appointment, you must submit them to the Ausländerbehörde to apply for your student residence permit. You will also enter an interview with an immigration officer.

Make sure you have enough money with you to pay for your residence permit. Some immigration offices accept credit or debit cards, but not all.

Once you submit your application, it takes around 5-6 weeks to receive your student residence permit.

Step 6 – Picking up Your Student Residence Permit Card

About four to six weeks after you submit your application, you can pick up your student permit card (elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel) at the Ausländerbehörde. The card usually holds your picture, name, and biographic information.

Cost of Germany Student Residence Permit

The cost for a German student permit is:

Category Fee
First issuance€110
Permit extension€100
If you have a scholarshipFree of charge
If you are a Turkish national up to 24 years of age€22.80
If you are a Turkish national over 24 years of age€37

Duration of German Student Residence Permits

Your student residence permit is valid for one to two years. You can extend it, provided that your studies are on the right track and you will finish during the standard timeframe. To extend your German student permit, you need a confirmation letter from your school that your studies are progressing regularly.

You have to submit the request to extend your student permit at the Ausländerbehörde before your current permit expires.

Working Rights With a Student Residence Permit in Germany

As an international student in Germany, you can work part-time (20 hours per week) during the semester and full-time (40 hours per week) during breaks. This means that during a year, you can work a maximum of 120 full days or 240 half-days without requesting approval from the German Employment Agency.

However, there are exceptions to the 120-day rule for certain working categories, such as student assistants or mandatory internships.

Here are your working options if you have a student residence permit in Germany:

Part-Time Job

You can take a part-time job in Germany. Your job should ideally be related to your course of study, but this is not mandatory. You can also work at local restaurants or cafes, as a babysitter, at a shop, etc.

You can only work 20 hours per week or 120 full days per year.

Internship

If you have to complete an internship as part of your study course, then the hours you work during the internship do not count towards the 120-day rule. If you are applying for an internship at your own will, then you are allowed to work only part-time.

Student Assistant

The 120-day rule does not apply if you find work as a student assistant at your university. But remember that you still have to inform the Ausländerbehörde that you have been offered a student assistant job and you want to work more hours.

Freelancing and Self-Employment

As an international student, you are not allowed to do freelance work or take up self-employment without requesting approval from the German Immigration Authority and Employment Authority.

If you meet the requirements, then you can request to switch to a German freelancer visa before finishing your studies. The Ausländerbehörde and Employment Agency will decide whether to grant you your request.

Naturally, if your request is approved, you can work as many hours as you wish, without restriction.

After Graduating

After graduating, you have two options if you want to remain in Germany once your student residence permit expires:

  • Apply for a residence permit for job seekers – if you do not have a job offer.
  • Apply for a residence permit for working – if you have a job offer.

Switching to a Job-Seeker Residence Permit

After you graduate (but before your student residence permit expires) you can apply for a residence permit as a job seeker. This permit allows you to stay in Germany for another six months after graduation, during which time you can look for employment.

If you find a suitable job and meet all the requirements, you can convert it into a work permit and stay in Germany indefinitely.

Switching to a Work Residence Permit

If you have a job offer as soon as you graduate, then you can simply switch your student permit into a work permit. The German residence permit for employment is issued for two years, with the possibility of extension (as long as you still have a job).

If you meet the requirements set by the immigration authorities, then you can also apply for a residence permit and work as a freelancer in Germany.

Graduates of German universities have a facilitated path to the settlement permit.

Settlement Permit for International Students in Germany

As a graduate of a German university, you become eligible for settlement after only two years of working in Germany. Eight years after that, you also become eligible for German citizenship.

The German settlement permit allows you to:

  • live in Germany indefinitely without applying for extensions.
  • change employers or professions.
  • have access to state social security and benefits.
  • move freely in the EU/EEA.

In contrast, other international workers (who do not have a German degree) have to work in Germany for at least five years to become settled residents.