When you apply to study in Germany, you’ll need to consider and meet a pretty wide range of requirements that can differ by programme and university. To help you out with this, we’ve put together a step-by-step guide on what you need to know about qualification, visa and language requirements.
If you haven’t decided which programmes to apply to yet, our guide Study in Germany: preparing to apply is a good place to start.
1. Qualification requirements
In Germany, some countries’ secondary school exams are recognised as a ‘university entrance qualification’ and others are not. The DAAD website provides a search tool for finding out whether your secondary school exams are recognised, or if you have to take an additional admissions test. In all cases, it is best to check with your chosen university’s international office for their specific entry requirements, as it is ultimately the university’s decision on whether to accept your application.
If you’re applying from a country whose secondary school exams are not recognised by the German higher education system, you may have to pass an additional admissions test or attend a university preparation programme at a Studienkolleg before enrolling.
Preparation programmes are held at universities and universities of applied sciences, and last approximately two semesters for 28-32 hours per week. They end with a higher education entrance examination that consists of a language test and several subjects relevant to your later degree programme. If you pass the examination, you can then start your programme.There are different types of preparation programmes available depending on the subject you want to study, so be sure to ask for guidance from your university admissions office.
The application process in Germany can vary between different universities and even between different programmes at the same institution. Some will opt for a central application service, through platforms like ‘uni-assist’ or the ‘Foundation for Higher Education Admission’, whilst others require direct applications. The best approach is to check with the international office at your university.
You’ll be able to apply for admission to German universities twice a year, ready to start your studies in either the winter or summer term. In general, applications for winter enrolments need to be made by early July, and applications for summer enrolments by early January. But to avoid missing any deadlines specific to your programme or institution, make sure to check dates on their individual websites. You won’t be limited in the number of applications that you make, however, each application has a fee of around 30-75 EUR, so these can add up quickly!
Regardless of the system you use, you’ll need to provide a number of documents when you apply, including:
- officially certified copies of your university entrance qualification certificate, or certificates of secondary school qualifications you’ve achieved
- a transcript of your subjects and grades, with official translation
- a photocopy of your passport
- a passport photograph
- language proficiency certificate
Only officially certified copies and translations are accepted for university applications in Germany. Official certifications can be issued by the German embassy or consulate in your home country. It is worth gathering these documents in advance, as it may take a couple of weeks to receive a returned translation of your transcript.
Letters of acceptance for the winter term are sent out to applicants in August/September. For summer term enrollments, letters are sent out in February/March.
Once you’ve sent off your university application, it is good to think ahead to what you might need before you arrive in Germany. All international students need to have proof of healthcare insurance when they apply for a student visa and enrol at a German university.
If you are from the EU or EEA, you’ll be able to get a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) which will entitle you to free healthcare in Germany while you’re studying- check out our ‘Good stuff from elsewhere’ section below for more information on this.
The UK is in the process of leaving the EU and so the health insurance guidance for UK students is changing - but we’re here to keep you up to date!
The EHIC is soon going to be replaced by a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). It will cover your healthcare insurance in all EU countries (but not in Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein or Switzerland). You can apply for this on the NHS website, free of charge.
If you already have an EHIC, this will be valid in the EU until it expires. Once your EHIC expires, you’ll be able to replace it with a GHIC.
Non EU Students
If you’re from outside the EU and EEA, you’ll need to register with a German health insurance provider before applying for a student visa and arriving in the country. Health insurance providers in Germany are required to provide cheaper tariffs for students below the age of 29. However, these can still cost up to 110 EUR per month, so it is worth looking at the wide choice of German insurance providers before selecting one.
Private health insurance from other countries is sometimes also recognised in Germany. Speak to your insurance provider to confirm whether this is the case. You’ll need a certificate of this private cover as proof when you apply for your visa and enrol at a German university.
4. Visa requirements
Once you’ve received your acceptance letter, it’s important to check whether you’ll need to apply for a student visa.
EU and EEA Students
Students from the EU, including those from Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, do not need to get a visa before moving to Germany to study.
Students from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Japan or South Korea
You don't need a student visa to study in Germany. However, within two weeks of arriving in the country, you’ll need to register at the local Residents' Registration Office and the Aliens’ Registration Office to obtain a residence permit.
Students from Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco, San Marino or Taiwan
You don’t need a student visa, unless you plan to work before or after your degree. If this is the case, you can apply for a student visa in your home country via your local German embassy or consulate. Both visa holders and non-visa holders will need to apply for a residence permit within two weeks of arriving in Germany.
International students from the rest of the world
If you are from any other country not listed above, you'll need to get a student visa to move to study in Germany. You should apply for this at the local German embassy or consulate in your home country. You’ll need to allow at least three months for your visa application to be processed before you move to Germany, so it’s important to start the paperwork as soon as you receive your university acceptance letter.
To apply for a student visa, you’ll need:
- a completed and signed visa application form
- a passport, valid for more than 12 months
- two passport photographs
- your university acceptance letter
- proof that you have the qualifications needed to move into higher education (e.g. A-Level certificates, IB diploma certificate)
- proof that you have sufficient finances to support yourself while living in Germany (8,700 EUR per year minimum)
- proof of purchase of healthcare insurance
- a criminal record certificate
- declaration of authenticity of the documents you have submitted
Within two weeks of your arrival in Germany, you’ll need to register at the local Residents' Registration Office and the Aliens’ Registration Office to obtain a residence permit.
Before you arrive in Germany, it’s important to plan your accommodation. Most students rent private accommodation during their studies, with monthly costs ranging 550-800 EUR depending on your location. This cost can be reduced though by sharing with other students. Make sure to speak to your university’s international office to see if they can recommend trusted private accommodation.
A small number of student dorms are provided by universities. These individual, on-campus apartments are relatively cheap at around 150-350 EUR per month, but naturally hard to get. Contact your university’s international office to see if international students are able to reserve a dorm.
Good stuff from elsewhere
European Health Insurance Card
More information about the EHIC including application information.