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German Visa for Expats

A move to Germany is your chance for expat life in a well-organized, modern country with a rich historical heritage and great regional diversity. Our InterNations Expat Guide on Germany provides you with all you need to know about favorite expat destinations, visa types, and transportation.
Make sure to secure a valid visa before moving to Germany.

Entry Visa for Short Visits

Whether or not you need a visa for entry into Germany when planning a short (tourist) visit depends on your 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.

Which Visa Is Right for You?

You typically need 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 work purposes or longer than three months. Please note, while your visa allows you to enter Germany, you will need to have it replaced with a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) during the first three months of your stay. There are, however, some nationalities that do not require a visa prior to entry in Germany including US Americans and Canadians. You can find a full list of who does or does not require an entry visa on the Federal Foreign Office website.

Keep in mind that the application process for a short stay visa requires between two and ten working days, while visas for a longer stay or for the purpose of finding a job might take several 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.

  • Schengen 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.
  • Jobseeker’s visas are designed for foreign graduates with a university degree equivalent to that of a German degree. This visa allows them to stay in Germany for a maximum of six months while looking for employment, as long as they can prove that they can support themselves during this time. 
  • Family reunion visas are an option for all non-Germans wishing to join a spouse or parent who is living in Germany. The requirements for, and success of, your visa application depend of whether your spouse/parent is German, an EEA-national, or from a third country, as well as their own legal status in and reasons for being in the country.   
  • 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. If you complete your studies successfully you can extend your residence permit for up to 18 months to seek employment in Germany. 

Please note, visas for employment, but also family reunion, study, au-pairing, and language courses, are also referred to as the national (D) visa.

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.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Daiki Saito

"When my company decided to send me to Essen, I took a quick look at the local community and said: Please do!"

Cristina Fernandez

"On InterNations I did not only meet interesting people but I also found a flat near Bochum and settled in quickly. A great platform."

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