Visa regulations

Entering and Staying in Germany

Foreigners wishing to stay in Germany require permission just as they do for entry into Germany. The following types of entitlement are issued.

Visa

Generally speaking, all foreigners, except EU citizens, nationals of EEA countries and Swiss nationals, must have a visa for stays in Germany. A visa is not required for semi-annual visits of up to three months for nationals of those countries for which the European Community has abolished the visa requirement. A current list of countries where a visa is compulsory or from where entry into the Federal Republic of Germany is unrestricted can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.
Embassies and consulate-generals (foreign representations) of the Federal Republic of Germany are responsible for issuing visas. Visa applications should be submitted to the foreign representation in the individual's home country or in the country where the applicant normally lives or has his place of residence.
In addition to the Schengen visa for travel through Germany (transit visa), there is a Schengen visa for stays of up to three months from the first date of entry (short stays). The visa for short stays may also be issued for several stays with a period of validity of up to five years. Note that the duration of stay must not exceed ninety days within a period of one hundred eighty days. The European Commission offers an online tool for calculating the travel days for a Schengen short-stay visa.
This type of visa is required mostly by foreign business associates of German companies. The German foreign representations generally require a letter of invitation from the German business associate to be presented.

Residence permit

Generally speaking, foreign nationals require a residence permit for stays of longer than three months, or stays which result in employment. Exceptions to this are EU citizens, nationals of EEA countries and Swiss nationals.
Nationals of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, the United States of America and the United Kingdom may also apply to the applicable aliens' registration office for a residence permit after entry into Germany. For all other nationals: an application for a residence permit for a long-term stay must generally be submitted to the applicable foreign representation prior to entry into Germany. A residence permit is usually issued for a specific purpose and for a limited period. In most cases, the purpose of the stay is to seek training (studies, a language course, to attend a school, etc.) or intended employment (as an employee or self-employed). The purpose of the stay may, however, also be of a family-related, international legal, humanitarian or political nature.

EU Blue Card

As from 1 August 2012, under the EU Blue Card system, foreign nationals with recognized university degree or a degree comparable to a German degree have easier access to the labour market. To obtain the EU Blue Card, they must furnish proof of their qualifications as well as a concrete job offer that would provide annual gross earnings of at least 56,400 (in year 2022) euros. In the case of highly qualified foreign nationals with a background in mathematics, the natural sciences or technology as well as medical doctors, the EU Blue Card facilities and arrangements also apply, provided they are offered the same salaries as comparable German employees and their annual gross earnings woud be at least 43,992 (in year 2022) euros.

Settlement permit

A settlement permit is always issued for an unlimited period and with no conditions attached. A settlement permit entitles the holder to be employed, and can be issued with an additional stipulation only in those cases expressly permitted under the Residency Act. However, a settlement permit will be granted only in association with a series of prerequisites in accordance with § 9 of the Residency Act such as e.g. that the individual must have held a residence permit for five years, must be able to guarantee a means of livelihood, must have been pay compulsory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension fund for at least 60 months, must have a sufficient command of German, etc. In certain cases (EU Blue Card holders, self-employed, skilled workers, etc.), a settlement permit can be issued earlier than after five years of residence.

Long-term EC residence permit

The long-term EC residence permit is a residence permit for an unrestricted period. The legal foundation of the long-term EC residence permit is Council Directive 2003/109/EC of 25 November 2003 on the legal status of third country nationals entitled to long-term residence. Foreigners are issued with a long-term EC residence permit after five years of legal residence in a member state of the European Union or Germany. This permit includes the right to secondary movement in a different member state and, like the settlement permit, as a rule largely ensures third country nationals receive the same treatment as the country's own citizens e.g. in terms of access to the labour market and social services.
Updated: 5th May 2022