If you are from a non-EU country and are not affected by one of the exemptions listed below, you will definitely need a visa to enter Germany. You will have to apply for the visa at the German embassy or consulate in your home country before coming to Germany.
N.B.! Due to long waiting and processing periods, it can take months for a visa to be issued. You should therefore apply for your visa very early on.
Generally, all non-EU citizens need a visa to enter Germany. However, there are a number of exemptions and facilitations, depending on the stay's purpose and duration, and on the country of origin. Please check whether the following cases apply to your intended stay and your country of origin:
Nationals of Andorra, Brasil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco and San Marino do not need a visa, if they do not intend to take up gainful employment throughout their stay. Certain study-related employments are exempt from this regulation. If you are planning to stay longer than three months, you need to apply for a residence permit at the Foreigners' Registration Office of your place of residence in Germany within the first 90 days of your stay.
Nationals of the following countries do not need a visa to enter Germany, if their stay does not exceed three months (90 days) and if they do not intend to take up gainful employment:
N.B.! Your stay cannot be extended if you have entered Germany without a visa. You will definitely have to leave the country after three months (90 days).
If you are a national of the aforementioned countries and you are planning to stay longer than three months, and/or to take up gainful employment in Germany, you will have to apply for a National Visa before entering the country.
If you are a citizen of an EU member state, of an EEA member state (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) or of Switzerland, you do not need a visa to enter Germany. A valid ID or passport will be sufficient. After entering the country, you will have to register with your local Residents' Registration Office ("Einwohnermeldeamt") within the first 90 days of your stay.
Citizens of these states do not need a visa to enter Germany. If you are planning to stay longer than three months, you will have to apply for a residence permit at your local Foreigners' Registration Office within the first 90 days in Germany.
Please note that all the information here regarding visa requirements have been put together with due diligence, but are subject to change. Last updated: October 2018.
You will find a definitive list of all countries that are required to apply for a visa on the website of the German Foreign Office:
If you are planning to stay longer than three months, do under no circumstances enter Germany with a so-called "Schengen-Visa" (also "Tourist Visa"). This type of visa cannot be extended or converted into a residence permit for studying purposes. When entering Germany with a Schengen-Visa, you will definitely have to leave the country after 90 days!
For longer stays, apply for a so-called "National Visa" instead. Depending on whether you have already been accepted by a university or not, there are two possibilities:
If you have not yet been admitted to study at a university in Lower Saxony or to Niedersächsisches Studienkolleg, you should apply for an Applicant Visa ("Visum zum Zweck der Studienbewerbung" §16 (1a) German Residence Act).
This allows you to enter Germany for three months, in order to meet the admission requirements for a study programme in Germany (e. g. taking a German course). You may extend your visa for up to another six months, if the original period turns out to be too short to meet the requirements. Overall, the maximum length of the stay for application purposes is nine months.
If you are admitted to a university or to Niedersächsisches Studienkolleg within this period, you can apply to your local Foreigners' Registration Office to have your visa converted into a residence permit for study purposes.
If you have already received your admission to a university or to Niedersächsisches Studienkolleg, you should apply for a Student Visa ("Nationales Visum für den Aufenthalt zu Studienzwecken" § 16 (1) German Residence Act). This type of visa is usually issued for the duration of three months. Within this period, you will have to apply for a residence permit at your local Foreigners' Registration Office.
Once you have determined that you need a visa, and which type of visa is right for you, you should apply to the German embassy or consulate in your home country as early as possible. Usually, you will have to make an appointment with your German mission. Please be aware that you may have to wait for a couple of weeks before you can get an appointment!
It is advisable to contact your German mission in advance, to find out which documents will be need for the application, and whether you will be required to present certified translations of certain documents. As a rule, you will be asked for the following documents (and translations, if necessary):
For a student visa you will also need:
Or for an applicant visa:
In this video, Ana from Brasil gives you a summary of what you need to know about visa application: