Visas cover both short term and long term stays in Germany. For some nationalities, a visa is always required to enter Germany, regardless of whether you’re planning a short or long term stay. The type of German visa you apply for depends on the purpose of your visit.
Do I need a German visa?
Your nationality and how long you intend to stay determine whether you need a visa to enter Germany.
German visa not required
Nationals from the European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden do not need a visa to enter Germany, regardless of the length of stay. If you wish to study or work, you will need to register your address.
For many nationalities, the European Community (EC) has also abolished the visa requirement for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period. The Federal Foreign Office provides an overview of visa requirements for entry into Germany. If your country has been exempted from visa requirements, you can enter Germany without a visa and stay for up to 90 days. If you wish to stay longer or to work, you will need to apply for a long stay visa before you travel and a residence permit once you are in Germany.
New from 2022: ETIAS
Note that from 2022, a new system will apply for visitors coming to Europe from visa exempt countries: ETIAS. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. This electronic system keeps track of visitors from countries who do not need a visa to enter the Schengen Zone. The system involves a detailed security check for each applicant to determine whether they are allowed to enter the Schengen Zone. ETIAS is expected to be in place by the end of 2022 and will be mandatory for all countries that are Schengen visa-free.
German visa necessary
If your country is not exempt from visa requirements, and your stay in Germany will be 90 days or less, you must apply for a Schengen (short stay) visa.
Even if your country is exempt from visa requirements, if you intend to stay longer than 90 days you will need to apply for a long stay visa from your home country before coming to Germany. Exceptions to this are nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America. Citizens from these countries may enter Germany without a visa and then apply for a residence permit from inside Germany.
Citizens of all other countries planning to stay in Germany longer than 90 days must first apply for a long stay visa at their local mission before travelling to Germany.
Requirements to enter Germany
You must meet certain requirements to enter Germany, even if you do not require a visa:
- The purpose of your trip to Germany must be plausible and comprehensible.
- Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your stay in Germany.
- You must be in a position to finance your own living and travel costs.
- You must be prepared to leave Germany before the visa expires (e.g. have a return flight booked).
- You must be covered by travel health insurance.
- You must not pose a threat to security or public order.
German visa types
There are three different kinds of visa in Germany:
1. Schengen visa (for short stay visits)
If your country does not have a visa exemption agreement with Germany and you are coming to Germany for a short stay, for instance for a business trip, holiday or to visit relatives, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa. This short stay visa (category C visa) is valid for up to 90 days within a 180 day period in Germany and the entire Schengen area. The day you enter Germany or another Schengen country marks the start of the 180 day period.
Which countries are in the Schengen area?
The Schengen area is an area comprised of 26 European states that have abolished passport control at their shared borders and have adopted a common visa policy.
Countries in the Schengen Area
Single, double or multiple entry
The Schengen visa comes in three different forms, depending on the holder’s reason for travel: it can be used for one, two or multiple entries to the Schengen area. You can, therefore, use it for one, unbroken 90-day stay, or for two or more stays not exceeding 90 days within 180 days. For frequent travellers, it is also possible to extend the validity to 90 days within one, three or five years.
If you will be leaving and re-entering the Schengen area during your visit (e.g. if you want to travel to the UK, which is not part of the Schengen area), you will need to apply for a double or even multiple-entry visa. The Schengen visa application form asks you to specify which type you are applying for.
If you stay for the whole 90 days, you will need to exit the Schengen area for another 90 days before you will be eligible for another Schengen visa.
If you have a multiple-entry Schengen visa you may need to calculate how many days you have spent in the Schengen area to ensure you do not go above the 90-day limit. This Schengen calculator is a handy tool to check how many days you have spent in the Schengen area.
2. Airport transit visa
You will need an airport transit visa (category A visa) if you are making a stopover at an airport in Germany and your final destination is a country outside the Schengen area.
The airport transit visa does not permit you to leave the airport. If you need to exit the airport to pick up your baggage, check-in again or continue your journey via another means of transport, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa. Check if you require an airport transit visa.
3. National visa (for long stay visits)
If you want to stay in Germany for longer than 90 days, and your nationality requires you to obtain a Schengen visa, you will need to apply for a national visa (category D visa) before you travel.
The national visa (nationales Visum) grants entry to Germany on the basis that you will be applying for a residence permit. It enables you to enter Germany as a potential resident and stay while you apply for residency. You will need to convert your visa into a residence permit within three months of arriving in Germany. You can find out more about this process on our residence permit application procedure page.
Types of national visa
The German national visa is most commonly granted for the following purposes:
- To join a spouse, partner or family member in Germany.
- To take up a job as an employee or become a freelancer.
- To conduct academic or scientific research.
- To look for a job.
- To study at a Germany university or other higher education institute.
- To attend training.
- To work as an au pair.
- To start a business as an entrepreneur.
- To seek refuge or asylum.
It is important to note that the national visa is linked to the specific purpose of your stay in Germany and can be converted only into the corresponding type of residence permit. For instance, a student visa must be converted into a student residence permit. Once you have completed your studies, you will be given the option to apply for a different type of residence permit (e.g. a working residence permit).
If the purpose of your trip changes before it has been "fulfilled" (for instance, before you complete your university course), you will most likely need to leave Germany and apply for a different kind of visa from your home country. This is why it is important to first carefully consider the reason you give on your visa application. If you are not sure which situation best applies to you, check with your local mission (consulate or embassy).
Depending on your reason for applying for a German national visa, you will need to fulfil certain criteria and present different documents at your visa interview. Your local German mission can advise you as to which visa best suits your purpose and what you need to prepare for your application.
German visa application procedure
Unless your country has been exempted from visa requirements, you must apply for a visa before you travel to Germany.
Where can I apply for a German visa?
For both short stay and long stay visas, you need to apply in person at the German mission in your home country. You can contact a German mission in a neighbouring country if there is no German mission in your country. You can find a list of German missions on the Federal Foreign Office’s website.
What documents do I need for my German visa application?
Your visa application must be submitted together with specific documents. It is advisable to check with your local mission before your visa appointment so you know exactly what you need to prepare.
Required documents for German visa application
- Valid passport.
- Visa application form, fully completed and signed.
- Passport photos (minimum of two), taken within the last 3 months.
- Valid travel medical insurance, with a minimum coverage of 30.000 euros.
- Proof of accommodation for your entire stay in the Schengen area.
Additional documents for short stay visas
- Proof of planned travel, such as a flight itinerary or reservation (for short stay visas).
- Proof of financial independence, such as bank statements or payslips, or proof of financial support, such as a signed declaration from the person who will cover your costs.
Additional documents for long stay visas
- Proof of your purpose of travel, for instance an employment contract, letter of admission from a German university or proof of academic qualifications.
- Approval from the Federal Employment Agency (if applicable).
- Proof of financial independence (if applicable - see below)
Open a blocked bank account
If you are applying for a long stay visa and you won't have any income in Germany, you need to prove you will be able to support yourself financially for the duration of your stay. The most common way of doing this is to open a blocked bank account in advance of your visa appointment. This is a special type of bank account that requires the account holder to deposit a predetermined lump sum of money, which can then only be withdrawn in small monthly amounts.
Schedule a visa application appointment
To submit your visa application, you will need to make an appointment at your local German mission. You must bring all the required supporting documentation to this appointment.
Visa application fees
|Type of Visa
|Schengen visa single entry (90 days)
|Schengen visa multiple entry (90 days)
|Schengen visa children 6-12 (90 days)
|Schengen visa children 0-6 (90 days)
|Transit visa (ages 12 and above)
|Transit visa children (6-12 years)
|Transit visa children (0-6 years)
|National visa (aged 17 and above)
|National visa minors (0-17 years)
Note: Services such as legalisation of documents may incur extra costs.
Reduced visa fees for certain nationalities
The EU has agreed to grant nationals from Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine a reduced fee of 35 euros for short stay and transit visas.
Processing time for German visas
For short stay visas, the average processing time is between two and 10 working days. If you apply for a long stay visa you should expect a longer waiting time of up to several months, so make sure to submit your visa application with plenty of time. Expect longer waiting times during the holiday period.
Can I work on a German visa?
It depends on the type of visa you apply for. As a foreign national, you are not permitted to work in Germany unless your expressly stated purpose when applying for a visa was employment.
How long is my German visa valid for?
German visas are valid for anywhere between three and 12 months, depending on the type of visa you applied for.
- Schengen visas are valid for a maximum of 90 days (within 180 days) from your arrival date. The Schengen visa is not valid before the arrival date you provide on your visa application.
- An airport transit visa is valid for the period of time it takes you to transfer between flights in a German airport.
- National visas are usually issued for three months but can be valid up to 12 months, depending on your reason for requesting a visa. The national visa will cover you while your residence permit application is processed.
In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to extend your visa (see below). Otherwise, if you wish to stay longer in Germany, you will need to return to your home country and apply for a national visa.
Can I extend my German visa?
It is possible to extend the validity of visas only in exceptional cases, such as a natural disaster. This must be done at the foreigners’ office (Ausländerbehörde) covering your area of residence.
Fees for extending a German visa
If your German visa extension is on the grounds of compelling personal reasons or late entry, it costs 30 euros. You do not have to pay fees if your visa extension is due to a force majeure (e.g. natural disaster) or for humanitarian reasons.
What happens if my German visa application is rejected?
If your German visa application is rejected, you will be notified by your mission that your application has been unsuccessful. You will be informed of the grounds on which it was rejected and have one month to appeal the decision by writing to the German mission. Your application will then be reconsidered.
If the mission still finds reasons why you do not meet the conditions for obtaining a visa, it will set these out in writing. You then have the option to appeal this decision by filing an action within one month at the Administrative Court in Berlin.