For members


EXPLAINED: What you need to know about getting a visa for Germany

Depending on where you're coming from and what you plan to do in Germany, you may need a visa. We've rounded up the answers to some all-important visa questions.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about getting a visa for Germany
A traveller in Hanover main station. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Moritz Frankenberg

Do I need a visa to visit Germany?

This depends on where you’re visiting the country from, and how long for. EU nationals do not require a visa or permit to enter Germany, but will need to carry documentation identifying them as members of an EU state such as a passport or ID card. Non-EU nationals will universally require a visa in order to stay in Germany, but might not need a visa to enter the country. 

Citizens from the UK, USA, Australia, Canada, Korea – and many more – do not need a tourist visa to enter Germany, but will need a visa from the German Consulate in order to stay for longer than 90 days. These visas are issued most commonly for students with a foreign exchange scholarship or people who have already acquired employment in Germany.

A full list of countries from which a tourist visa is not required in order to enter Germany is available here.

If you belong to a country that has not reached a visa liberalisation agreement with the Schengen states, you will need to acquire a Schengen visa to enter any member country of the Schengen area, including Germany. This includes Russia, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Morocco and more. A full list of the countries this applies to is available here. Schengen visas usually expire after 90 days.

READ ALSO: Post-Brexit visa rules: How can Brits move to Germany in 2021 and beyond?

Which visa is right for me?

There are lots of German visa types which you might need to look into to figure out what fits. The most common types are the Tourist and Visitor Visa, the Job Seeker Visa (which gives you the opportunity to search for employment in Germany), the Working Visa (if you have already found employment in Germany), and the Studying and Language Learning Visa (for foreigners wanting to study at an educational institution in Germany). 

You can also get visas for business, medical treatment, and visiting family members who are already residents of Germany. 

READ ALSO: How non-EU nationals can apply for a job-seeking visa in Germany

Do I need to speak German in order to get a visa?

The short answer to this question is: no. You don’t need to speak any German in order to get a starter visa, but you might need to show some intent to learn German. 

For instance, while obtaining a work visa does not come with any requirement to speak German proficiently, it is likely that the German company offering to employ you will have an expectation that you will at least try to learn the language; likewise, if you have got a study visa, the university of your choice will likely expect you to speak some German. 

If you want to progress any further than short stay or entry visas though, expect to be challenged if you haven’t learned the language at all. For permanent residency in Germany (which means your residence only has to be renewed when your passport expires), a minimum B1 language level is required and must be proven by a certified language school. 

An Aufenthaltstitel – residency permit – for Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

However, you are only eligible for permanent residency when you have spent years in Germany and earned sufficient income in the country, so it is unlikely that you will get to this point with no grasp of the language anyway. 

To take it even further, if you want to pursue German citizenship you will also need a minimum B1 level of proficiency in the language. As a German citizen you will no longer need a visa for Germany at all, and will have an official German passport. 

Depending on where you are going, it might be unwise to move to Germany without having a basic understanding of German. In many cities, officials from the Foreign Office conduct their business exclusively in German, so you will need to at least have some dedicated friends willing to translate for you in meetings with them. You will also struggle to obtain accommodation, use public transport, sort out contracts etc if you have not picked up any German language skills. 

How long will it take for me to get my visa?

For a short stay visa it is likely to take up to ten working days to process, but longer stay visas may take months to process. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?

How will I know how long my visa is going to take?

Visa application status tracking is not available, and you are not permitted to send questions regarding the status of your application when it is ongoing. You will be given an indication of how long it might take when you submit the relevant documentation, and you will be contacted when a decision has been made. 

Can I get to Germany with a visa issued from another Schengen state?

This depends on what your purpose is in Germany (work, travel, studying etc). You can always get to Germany using a Schengen visa from another country, but this only qualifies you to stay for up to 90 days (which is allowed for tourists from the UK and US already). If you want to work or study in Germany you will have to apply for a visa even if you have a visa issued by another Schengen state already. 

Can I travel to other Schengen states with a German visa?

Yes, if you are travelling for the purpose of tourism.

What do I need in order to apply for my visa?

You need different documentation in order to apply for different types of German visa. For any kind of visa you will need health insurance issued by a licensed insurance provider. For almost every application process, regardless of the visa type, you will need a visa application form, a declaration that you have provided correct and full details for the German authorities to review, passport photos or your physical passport and copies of previous visas. 

You may also need proof of your intended travel (with a return ticket if relevant), proof of accommodation and proof that you have the financial means to travel. Authorities may also ask for a cover letter and proof of civil status.

You will be informed of other required documentation when you begin the application process, but this will vary based on your purpose in applying for the visa. Those applying for a study visa will require proof of enrolment, whilst those who are employed by a German company will require an employment contract, bank statements and tax returns.

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For members


Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

In Sweden, a sambo is domestic partner – someone you’re in a relationship with and live with, but to whom you aren’t married. If you, as a non-EU citizen, are in a sambo relationship with a Swedish citizen, you can apply for a residence permit on the basis of that relationship. But meeting the requirements of that permit is not always straightforward.

Reader question: How do you meet the requirements for a sambo visa?

An American reader, whose son lives with his Swedish partner, wrote to The Local with questions about the maintenance requirement her son and his partner must meet in order to qualify for a sambo resident permit.

“Their specific issue is that they meet the requirements for a stable relationship and stable housing, but have been told that qualifying for a sambo visa based on savings is unlikely,” she wrote, asking for suggestions on how to approach this issue. Her son’s partner is a student with no income, but whose savings meet maintenance requirements. But, they have been told by lawyers that Migrationsverket will likely deny the application based on the absence of the Swedish partner’s income.

How do relationships qualify for sambo status?

In order to apply for a residence permit on the basis of a sambo relationship, you and your partner must either be living together, or plan to live together as soon as the non-Swedish partner can come to Sweden. Because this reader’s son is already in Sweden as a graduate student, he can apply for a sambo permit without having to leave the country, provided that his student permit is still valid at the time the new application is submitted.

The Migration Agency notes that “you can not receive a residence permit for the reason that you want to live with a family member in Sweden before your current permit expires”. So once your valid permit is close to expiration, you can apply for a new sambo permit.

What are the maintenance requirements for a sambo permit?

The maintenance requirements for someone applying for a sambo permit fall on the Swedish partner, who must prove that they are able to support both themselves and their partner for the duration of the permit. This includes both housing and financial requirements.

In terms of residential standards that applicants must meet, they must show that they live in a home of adequate size – for two adult applicants without children, that means at least one room with a kitchen. If rented, the lease must be for at least one year.

The financial requirements are more complicated. The Swedish partner must be able to document a stable income that can support the applicant and themselves – for a sambo couple, the 2022 standard is an income of 8,520 kronor per month. This burden falls on the Swedish partner.

While the Migration Agency’s website does say that you may “fulfil the maintenance requirement (be considered able to support yourself) if you have enough money/taxable assets to support yourself, other persons in your household and the family members who are applying for a residence permit for at least two years”, it is unclear how proof of this would be documented. On a separate page detailing the various documents that can be used to prove that maintenance requirements are met, there is nothing about how to document savings that will be used to support the couple.

Can you apply on the basis of savings instead of income?

Well, this is unclear. The Migration Agency’s website does suggest that having enough money saved up to support both members of the sambo relationship is an option, but it gives no details on how to document this. It is also unclear whether applying on the basis of savings will disadvantage applicants, with preference given to applicants who can show proof of income from work.

The Local has reached out to an immigration lawyer to answer this question.