There are all sorts of reasons why you might want to leave Australia and study for a while in Germany. Whether you’re studying the German language or doing an exchange year, or simply heading to an institution that’s perfectly suited to what you want to do, the German university system is an option of international standing.
However, if you want to study there, you’ll need to register properly. Every country has its own requirements concerning who can and cannot live and study in the country.
Australian citizens don’t actually need to get a visa in advance of their trip,¹ but they do need to apply for a residence permit, which is in effect a student visa or study permit, once they’re in Germany.²
If you have a place at a university, then everything should be fine - but you’ll still need to go through the correct administrative process. This article is a guide to how to make that happen.
Australians in general don’t need a visa to visit Germany for up to 90 days.³ But for Australians seeking to stay for longer, or for people from other countries outside the European Union, there’s a range of visas available from the German government. Here are a few of the most useful ones:
- Tourist/visitor visa. This is needed by people who want to visit Germany but are from a country that doesn’t have an agreement with Germany like Australia’s.
- Job seeker and working visas. These are the visas you need to get if you want to work in Germany. For a working visa you’ll be expected already to have a job offer, or to have work lined up as a freelancer. There are more criteria you’ll have to meet for the job seeker visa, and it’s only valid for six months.
- Business visa. Again, Australians don’t need one, but citizens of some countries need to get one of these if they want to visit Germany for business reasons.
- Student visa. Everyone from outside the EU wishing to study in Germany needs a permit of some sort. Citizens of some countries need to get their visa before they go, but Australians can sort out the paperwork once they’re already in Germany.
This article is just about what you need to know as an Australian student wanting to visit Germany.
When you apply for your resident permit, you’ll fall into one of 4 categories. It should be nice and clear which one applies to you.²
- Normal student. This is if you’re planning to study in Germany for a degree (but not a PhD).
- PhD or research. For more advanced types of study, this is the one for you.
- Language course. This falls under the “student” category too: if you’re coming in order to learn German. It’s slightly different depending on whether you’re doing this to prepare for further studies in Germany, or simply to learn the language.
- Student exchange. If you’re taking part in an exchange scheme, the visa application process will be slightly different again.
People from pretty much anywhere are potentially allowed to come and study in Germany:¹ most of the time, the individual will be more important than where they’re from, with the most important point being whether they’ve been accepted onto a course.
EU citizens don’t need to apply for a German visa, because they have the right to live and study in Germany automatically. Australian citizens do need to get permission, but they can apply after they’ve arrived in the country. The same rule applies to citizens of a few other countries, including Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and the US.²
Here’s an overview of what you’re required to provide when you apply for your student residence permit in Germany.²
|Document||Number of copies||Normal student visa||PhD/research student visa||Language course visa||Student exchange visa||Details|
|Completed application form||2 copies||x||x||x||x||Fill in the form with details about you and your family. If you don’t have a copy, you can download it here.|
|Recent passport photo||2 copies||x||x||x||x||They need to be a frontal view of your face with a white background, and measure 35 x 45 mm.|
|Passport||Original plus 2 copies||x||x||x||x||It needs to be valid for at least 3 months longer than you intend to stay|
|Proof of visa status in Australia||2 copies||x||x||x||x||This won’t be applicable if you’re an Australian citizen|
|Evidence of health/travel insurance valid in Germany||2 copies||x||x||x||x||It should include details about coverage - which should include at least €30,000 and repatriation costs|
|Proof of means of subsistence||Original plus 2 copies||x||x||x||This is evidence that you have enough money to support yourself during your time in Germany - that means at least €720 for each month. You could submit Australian bank account statements for the last 3 months, proof that you have a blocked German account (i.e. a special account for just this purpose)³ with enough money in it, or proof that you’re being funded by a German institution. PhD/research students don’t need to provide this, but their invitation letter does need to include information about the payment they’ll receive.|
|Admission, (conditional) acceptance or invitation letter (as applicable)||Original plus 2 copies||x||x||x||x||This should come from the German university, research institute, language institution or school where you’ll be studying. Letters for PhD and research students should confirm the conditions of the stay including payment and health insurance. Language course letters need to show that you’ll be studying for at least 20 hours per week. If you’re doing a language course as preparation for further studies, you specifically need to have a letter from the university, not just the language institution.|
|No-objection letter||Original plus 2 copies||x||x||This is to prove your home or local institution is OK with your study in Germany. For PhD/research students, this should come from your local university or research institute. For exchange students, it should come from your school.|
|Personal cover letter||Original plus 1 copy||x||The letter should explain why you’re staying in Germany|
|Motivation letter||Original plus 1 copy||x||This should explain why you want to take the language course. It can be in English or German|
|Curriculum vitae||Original plus 2 copies||x||Your CV (or resume)|
|Proof of your academic qualifications||Original plus 2 copies||x||x||For PhD/research students, your degree certificate. For language students, proof of whatever academic qualifications you hold|
|High school diploma or graduation certificate||Original plus 2 copies||x||Only if you’re doing a language course as preparation for further studies. This is to prove you’re entitled to university admission|
|Proof of proficiency in the language of the course||Original plus 2 copies||x||You need to be able to prove you can speak the language in which you’ll be studying|
|Proof of previous German language study||Original plus 2 copies||x||E.g. a certificate from your previous language school. Only if applicable|
|Formal letter of obligation from a German resident, for the duration of the application’s stay||Original plus 2 copies||x||Known in German as a Verpflichtungserklärung. A German resident (or business) has to promise to cover costs related to your stay in Germany⁴|
|Letter of consent from your parents||Original plus 1 copy||x||Proving your parents agree to the exchange|
|Invitation letter from German host family||Original plus 1 copy||x||Proving you have a family to stay with|
|Proof of the exchange programme||Original plus 2 copies||x||Proof from both Australian and German universities|
Here’s a step-by-step guide to the order in which to do things.
- Get an offer. As you’ll see from the table above, whatever type of student you are, you’re required to already have something confirmed from the education establishment where you want to study. So the first thing to do is apply there, and get an invitation, acceptance, or conditional acceptance.
- Sort out health insurance. The table also shows that all visa applicants need to be covered when it comes to healthcare in Germany- this is a legal necessity. And you’ll need to begin work on this even before applying for your visa. Look out for special deals for students.
- Assemble your documents. You don’t need to apply for the visa before going to Germany, but do you really want to get there and realize you’ve left a load of important paperwork on the other side of the world? Sadly you need to start planning for your application while you’re still in Australia so you can make sure you take all the right documents with you.
- Go to Germany. It might feel weird to make such a big journey without your residence status already being sorted, but that’s how it works. Have a safe trip!
- Register your address, and so on. Before getting your residence permit, you’ll need to get a few other things sorted. You’re obliged to register where you live at the Bürgerbüro so that you’re officially in the system. You should also get set up with a bank account.⁵
- Get a residence permit. Now’s the time: once you’re in your new home, make an appointment at the local foreigners’ office (auswärtiges Amt)
That’s the process: good luck!
The short answer is yes. As part of your application, you’ll need to prove you can support yourself financially, and in order to help with this you’re permitted to work up to 120 full days per year during your studies, or 240 half-days.⁶
There’s no student visa application fee as such, because you can come to Germany without applying for one. However, your residence permit will cost a fee in most cases. It could be up to €110, or €80 to extend it.⁷,⁸,⁹
By the time you’ve got your German residence permit, you’ll already have been in the country for a few days at least, and hopefully you’ll be sorted with a bank account. But how are you meant to get any money into that bank account?
It might sound like a stupid question, but dealing with money internationally can seem frustratingly complex, and be bizarrely expensive. Your bank back in Australia will probably charge you a large fee to transfer your money over to Germany - and that’s without even factoring in the exchange rate.
In sum, it’s a good move to shop around for the cheapest option when it comes to setting up your finances in Germany. For that initial transfer you need to make, don’t expect your home bank to have all the answers.
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Now, back to what you came here to read.
Good luck with getting your residence status sorted as an Australian studying in Germany. The process might sound complex, but so long as you’re well prepared, you should get by just fine.Sources:
All sources accessed 14 May 2019
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