Doing it all yourself

Being a “free mover”

If you are a student at the University of Bonn and would like to spend time abroad without being tied to the rules of specific exchange programs, you can plan and organize your trip yourself as a “free mover.” Getting recognition for your study achievements will not be a problem if you liaise with your relevant department.

Key facts

If you would like to spend a semester or year at a foreign university during your degree program at the University of Bonn, you can apply independently to study there as a so-called free mover, also frequently known as a visiting student, study abroad student or non-degree student.

Unlike participants in exchange programs, free movers will have to cover their own tuition fees at their host university. Tuition can be relatively expensive abroad, particularly in the US and Canada, so it is important to think about potentially obtaining funding at an early stage.

You will also need to sort out the application procedure and the recognition of your study achievements yourself, meaning that you must set aside enough time to plan and prepare. If you are intending to spend a significant stretch of time abroad (6 to 12 months), you should start planning 18 months in advance.

The benefits

You have free reign and flexibility in determining where you go, how long for, and what you do there

You are not limited to the exchange programs and partner universities offered by the University of Bonn

Organization and first steps



Your first step is to find the right host institution. Do you already have some specific ideas about where you want to go?

Ask teachers and fellow students in your department for their recommendations. Read the testimonials in Mobility Online. Do some Internet research and browse the websites of potential host institutions. Does their profile match your academic discipline or research project? Do they offer a suitable range of courses that would also be available to you as a “free mover?”

Read the information provided by their international offices: How much does tuition cost? How do you apply, what criteria do you need to meet, and what deadlines are there?



Free movers will generally need to submit the following documents when applying to a university:

  • Curriculum vitae
  • Letter of motivation
  • Transcript of Records (overview of subjects studied and grades obtained)
  • Language certificate
  • Reference

Enrollment conditions and application procedures for visiting students vary not only from country to country but also from university to university. You should always double-check with the universities themselves.

Applying to your host institution

Once your application to the foreign university has been accepted, you will usually need to provide additional documentary evidence before you can be formally admitted.

Evidence and support

Many universities (particularly in the US) have their own insurance schemes, which are often compulsory. However, we would recommend taking out an additional international health insurance policy in Germany. Please visit the website of your future host university to find out the exact requirements.

Universities in the US and Canada, in particular, require a letter from your bank confirming that you are able to fund your stay abroad. With the bank letter, your host university wants to make it clear that it will not need to be responsible for you should you get into financial difficulties.

Unless you were already asked for these at the application stage.
Language tests (e.g. TOEFL) are usually required, especially in the US and Canada. You can find information on language certificates on the Organizational matters page.

You will need a student visa to study in another non-European country, which you can apply for from the relevant embassy or consulate once you have been officially accepted by the foreign university.

A number of institutions offer free assistance with organizing a stay at selected universities:

  • GoStralia232 and GoZealand3434: support with organizing a stay abroad at selected universities.
  • Institut Ranke-Heinemann4545: the German branch of IDP Education Australia represents all Australian universities in Germany and provides free advice and support to help students choose a suitable university in Australia.
  • IEC (International Education Centre)5656: support with organizing a stay abroad at selected universities in Australia, New Zealand, the US, the UK, Malaysia, Singapore, China, Canada and Spain.
  • College Contact7878: support with organizing a stay abroad at selected universities in 36 countries worldwide (including the US, Australia and Canada).
  • College Council8989: support with organizing a stay abroad at selected universities in English-speaking countries.
  • World of Students: Support with organizing a stay abroad at selected universities in 30 countries worldwide
  • wearefreemovers: Database to help you find a suitable university that accepts free movers (the list is constantly updated and is not exhaustive).

After Brexit

Specific regulations apply to visas and tuition fees for all stays in the UK that begin on or after August 01, 2021.


Students spending up to six months in the country will not require a visa. From October 01, 2021, you will need a valid passport to enter the UK. If you are staying for several semesters or an entire degree program, you will require a student visa, which you can apply for no more than six months before your study visit starts. Before you can apply for a visa, you will need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS), which is issued by your host university.

More information:

Tuition fees

Students also have to take out suitable health insurance. From the start of 2022 onward, you will be able to have the costs of this reimbursed if you can prove that you are covered by a European health insurance policy.

More information:


Most countries charge tuition fees, details of which can be found on the relevant universities’ websites. There are numerous scholarship schemes, some specific to individual countries, that can help to fund your stay abroad.

Recognition of study achievements

You will still be able to have your study achievements recognized if your stay abroad is not part of an exchange program. Here too, you will ideally pick courses that match your course of studies in terms of their content. Degree program managers or their colleagues in the respective examination offices will generally be responsible for anything to do with recognition.

Of course, you can and should always use your stay abroad as an opportunity to expand your horizons and also take courses that your home university does not offer.

You can find information and valuable tips for getting your achievements recognized at the site studying abroad and recognition by the German Rectors’ Conference.


Avatar Scharf

Hannah Scharf

Study abroad advisory


Poppelsdorfer Allee 53

53115 Bonn (Germany)

Office hours

Please make an appointment via eCampus

  • Tuesdays (in person)
    10:00 am - 12:30 pm

  • Thursdays (phone or zoom)
    01:30 pm - 04:00 pm

  • and by appointment
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