Passport, Visa & Permits to Berlin


This section is intended for reference only. We strongly recommend that you contact the embassy directly for the most up-to-date information that pertains to your specific situation.


You must have a valid passport to travel abroad. A passport is an official government document that certifies one's identity and citizenship. The process and cost associated with getting a passport can be high, so start the process at least six months before you plan to leave. Your passport must be valid 6 months beyond your intended stay. Minors are allowed to travel on their parents' passports up until aged 15 years.


A visa is a stamp or endorsement placed by officials on a passport that allows the bearer to enter the country. Visas are obtained from the Embassy or consulates.

All documents not in German may need to be translated.

Who needs a visa?

Germany is a member of the Schengen Agreement. There are no border controls between countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. For EU and EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) citizens, an officially approved ID card or passport is sufficient for entry.

    Only nationals of the following non-EU/EFTA countries do not need a visa for entry into the Schengen Area. These visa-free visitors may not stay more than 3 months in half a year and may not work while in the EU:
  • Albania
  • Andorra
  • Antigua and Barbuda
  • Argentina
  • Australia
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Brazil
  • Brunei
  • Canada
  • Chile
  • Costa Rica
  • Croatia
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Macedonia
  • Malaysia
  • Mauritius
  • Mexico
  • Monaco
  • Montenegro
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis
  • San Marino
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles
  • Singapore
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • United States
  • Uruguay
  • Vatican City
  • Venezuela

Schengen Visa

This visa is issued for a short stay (tourism, participation in a summer language course) of up to three months per half-yearly period. Holders of a Schengen Visa must leave the country again after three months at the latest. This means the Schengen Visa is not a suitable instrument if you wish to study, work, or stay in Germany.

There are three basic types of Schengen Visa.
Type A: Airport transit visa
Allows transit in the international zone of airport transit. The visa does not allow access to the Schengen territory.
Type B: Transit visa
Allows the holder to pass through one or more Schengen states in order to get to another state. The necessary duration for this transit cannot exceed 5 days.
Type C: Short stay visa
Allows entry into the Schengen territory for a maximum uninterrupted stay of 90 days over a period of six months. The visa can be issued for single or multiple entry. In the event of multiple entries, the total duration of the different stays spent in the Schengen area cannot exceed 90 days over a period of six months.

An applicant submits a visa application in person to the German Embassy or Consulate-General. The applicant's documents must be truthful and complete. Inaccuracies may lead to the revoking of the visa or residence permit and the person has to exit the country.

    General Requirements (may vary slightly from country to country and what visa is desired):
  • Valid passport (at least 3 months past your intended departure date)
  • Valid health insurance
  • Application form
  • Current passport photos (at least 2).
  • Proof of the purpose of your stay
  • Confirmed lodging
  • Sufficient funds to cover the costs of your stay and a return airline ticket

National Visa

A national visa is issued for stays of longer than three months. This requires first registering, and acquiring a residence permit.


All people should be registered within Germany. If you are staying in a hotel, pension, or hostel they should take care of this for you. Once you have found permanent accommodations you are required to register (Polizeiliche Anmeldung) within 7 days. This is completed at the Buergeramt in your area. You must do this whenever you change address.

    To register, you should present:
  • Passport
  • Visa (if applicable)
  • Copy of the lease or rental agreement

This is a simple registration, but vital as the confirmation form serves as a proof of your address for setting up a bank account, getting a library card, or even getting a mobile phone.

Residency Permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)

Once you have obtained the registration, you may apply for a residency permit at the Auslaenderbehoerde. Citizens of the EU, United States of America, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland may apply for a residency permit after entering Germany without a visa. Citizens of other countries are required to apply and obtain a visa prior to entry (which is also an option for US citizens) at a German embassy or consulate in their country of residence.

You can e-mail or call to set-up an appointment. You may also come in during open periods, but the wait will be longer. Try to be over-prepared and bring any documentation you can think of. There are basic requirements, with more specific documentation required for specific visas, like study or work.

    Basic documentation you should provide:
  • Copy of Diploma for higher Education
  • Monthly Budget
  • Proof of savings
  • Enrollment in a Language Course
  • Resume/CV

Limited Resident Permit

There are two basic resident permits: Unlimited settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) and limited resident permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis). The Limited Resident Permit is only issued for specific reasons for coming to Germany. The rights that are granted depend on the purpose for which the Aufenthaltserlaubnis was issued (e.g. employment, training, recognition of refugee status, temporary protection etc). This can become a long-term stay if you may prove purpose of stay over several years.

Study Visa

It is not permissible to enter the country on a tourist visa for the purpose of studying in Berlin. The visa must be issued before you enter the country.

Study Applicant Visa (Studienbewerber-Visum) - Permits you to enter the country before the admission decision by the university or college, in order to obtain information. This type of visa may also be useful to applicants who wish to improve their language skills in Germany before starting their studies. This visa is limited to three months, but can be converted to a visa for study purposes if you receive your admission from the university or college during this period.

Student Visa - This visa is for accepted students into German university. You must already have a certificate of admission.

Visa for Language Course - This visa is for students of a language course in Germany. This visa cannot be converted into a student visa or a student applicant visa without leaving the country, so apply before entering the country if that is your intention.

  • Valid passport (at least 3 months past your intended departure date)
  • Application form
  • Current passport photos (at least 2). There are also machines at the Auslaenderbehoerde
  • Acceptance letter
  • Proof of the purpose of your stay
  • Proof of German provided medical insurance
  • Confirmed lodging
  • Sufficient funds to cover expenses (usually minimum 700 euro)

During the period of study, students may work up to 90 days or 180 half-days. On completion of studies, the residence permit can be extended up to one year for the purpose of seeking employment. The job must fit with the university qualification and it must be permissible for the job position to be filled by foreign workers. After 2 years, a person with a study visa can apply for a residence permit.

Work Permit

A residence permit only allows you to work (employee or self-employment) if the residence permit expressly entitles you. If you apply for a work visa, the immigration authorities (Auslaenderbehoerde) check whether the general legal prerequisites for foreigners are fulfilled for issuing an Aufenthaltserlaubnis. If these are fulfilled, the immigration authorities request approval from the Bundesagentur fuer Arbeit (Federal Employment Agency). Approval is only given if the job cannot be filled by a German, EU citizen or other employees given preferential treatment (e.g. third-country nationals who have been living in Germany for a longer period of time). This is known as the Priority Principle (Vorrangprinzip).

    Requirements for application:
  • Valid passport (at least 3 months past your intended departure date)
  • Application form
  • Current passport photos (at least 2). There are also machines at the Auslaenderbehoerde
  • Proof of employment or offer of employment (usually an employment contract). If Self-employed: proof of your status, such as membership of a professional or trade body, a VAT number or registration on a trade register
  • Proof of German provided medical insurance

Permanent Residence

After you have been resident in Germany for five years, the Immigration Office can issue a permanent residence permit which guarantees a permanent right of residence. Called a Niederlassungserlaugnis, it has no time or spatial restrictions and allows for employment without having to undergo further approval by the Federal Employment Agency. It usually takes a long period between application and receiving a Niederlassungserlaugnis.

    Conditions to receive a settlement permit:
  • Possession of a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) for at least five years
  • Five years of employment, including payment of social insurance contributions
  • Secure income
  • Sufficient accommodation for you and your family
  • Sufficient knowledge of German
  • Basic knowledge of the German legal and social systems

It is possible for spouses and children to be included on this visa.



German citizenship can only be applied for after being a resident in Germany for 8 years. You must also fulfill conditions.

  • Valid Aufenthaltserlaubnis or Aufenthaltsberechtigung residency permit
  • Livelihood-guarantee of you and your dependents without recourse to social welfare or unemployment benefits (exceptions are made for people under of 23 years)
  • Adequate knowledge of the German language
  • Oath on the German constitution
  • Give up your former citizenship (exceptions under Dual Citizenship)

For spouses of German citizens, the couple must be married for two years and the spouse must reside in Germany for three years before they may apply for citizenship.

A German brochure, Wie werde ich Deutscher (How can I become a German), is an excellent resource. It is also available from the Beauftragten der Bundesregierung fur Migration, Fluechtlinge und Integration.

By Birth

German citizenship is determined by inheritance from parents, not by place of birth. Children with a German mother or father are automatically citizens at birth. But not all children born in Germany are automatically German.

If both parents are foreigners, the child only gets German citizenship automatically from birth if one or more of the parents has been legally living in Germany for a period of 8 years and has a valid Aufenthaltsberechtigung or has had an unbefristete Aufenthaltserlaubnis for a period of three years. At the age of 18, they must choose which citizenship they wish to keep.

Dual Citizenship

Dual Citizenship is possibly for certain countries that have an agreement with Germany. These include:

  • A child born to German parents acquires another citizenship at birth (e.g. based on place of birth, or descent from one parent)
  • If he/she is already a EU citizen or Swiss during naturalization
  • A naturalized German citizen, or a child born to non-German parents (non EU or Swiss) in Germany, obtains permission to keep his foreign nationality
  • A German citizen acquires a foreign nationality with the permission of the German government (e.g. existing relative ties in Germany and property or if the occupation abroad requires domestic citizenship for execution).

Update 6/06/2011


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