Can’t I just hop on the plane and start my new life?
If you are coming from Andorra, Australia, Brasil, El Salvador, Honduras, Israel, Japan, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, South Korea, or the US, then yes, you can totally do things hippy style and hop on a plane without a (visa related) care in the world to start your new life. You can enter Germany without a visa and stay for up to 3 months. You can apply for your student or residency visa once you get here.
If you are coming as a student, you are going to need to have a few documents (see below) in order to apply for your student visa, which you can do either before or after you get here. Because you never know what could hit a hiccup while applying to university here, I would definitely recommend applying for this before even booking your plane ticket. It’s apparently gotten a lot easier to apply than when I applied to start in 2003, but I can’t emphasize enough how much more difficult this process would have been if I were staring at a 3 month visa deadline. (The upside to being here is, however, the time difference: Germans, for the most part, hold horrible office hours, generally a couple hours per week stretched over one afternoon or morning. After setting my alarm for 2 am every time I had a question for the admissions officers, I have learned the meaning of a full night’s sleep. But I digress….)
(If you are a citizen of another EU country, CONRATULATIONS! You are, of course, exempt from all this fun stuff and can pass go AND collect your $200, because you are also allowed to work to support yourself throughout university.)
In order to study here, you are going to need to show that you have sufficient funds to cover support yourself. Unfortunately, foreign students aren’t allowed to work much (legally), so this is probably the biggest obstacle you are going to face. Also, you are going to need to show your acceptance letter from a German university.
What documents do you need for your student visa?
- Documentation showing you can support yourself for at least your first year of school. This can be an financial statement from your parents showing their ability to support you, proof of a scholarship, a deposit into a blocked account, a bank guaranty, or a letter from someone with German residency promising to back you.
- Your acceptance letter to a university (or Studienkolleg, more on that later…)
- Confirmation of your ability to speak German or of your enrollment in a university German course.
Some helpful links:
A link with information regarding student visas (in German): http://www.germany.info/Vertretung/usa/en/05__Legal/02__Directory__Services/01__Visa/__Study__Visa.html
English link from the DAAD (in English):