Visa and Residence
As a general rule, foreigners require a visa to enter the country. The visa can usually be obtained at a German mission abroad and we recommend to apply for a visa as early as possible. Depending on the duration and purpose of your stay, you either need a Schengen or National Visa.
Citizens of the European Union (EU) and the European Economic Area (EEA) neither require an entry visa nor a residence permit for stays of longer duration.
Which visa should you apply for?
Schengen Visa (C Visa)
- Valid for a maximum stay of 90 days
- Does not allow you to take up employment or (doctoral) studies
- Schengen Visa are not renewable and you cannot follow up with an application for a residence permit. You are required to leave the country after expiry.
National Visa (D Visa)
- If you plan to stay for more than 90 days, you will need to apply for a National Visa
- If you intend to take up employment in Germany, you will need to apply for a National Visa
- The processing time for a National Visa can take several months
- It is possible to convert a National Visa into a residence permit for long-term stays after your arrival in Germany
In which cases do you not need to obtain a visa?
EU and EEA Members
Citizens of EU and EEA member states generally do not have to obtain a visa. If you intend to stay for more than 90 days, you will need to register at the Civic Services Office in Bonn after arrival.
Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Switzerland, USA
Citizens of these states do not need to obtain a visa in order to enter Germany. Yet, it will be necessary to apply for a residence permit if you intend to stay for more than 90 days. You can apply for a residence permit at the Immigration Office in Bonn after your arrival.
Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco, San Marino
Citizens of these states may enter Germany without a visa, but are not allowed to take up employment. If you intend to stay for more than 90 days, you will have to apply for a residence permit at the Immigration Office in Bonn after your arrival.
Albania, Bosna and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia
If in possession of a biometric passport, citizens of these states are allowed to enter Germany without a visa. Yet, they are not allowed to take up employment. If you enter Germany without a visa, it will not be possible to apply for a residence permit later on. Biometric passports of Serbian citizens issued by the Serbian Coordination Point (Serbian: Koordinaciona uprava) are not acceptable.
Attention: If you enter Germany without a visa, you are required to leave the country after 90 days.
Citizens of all other countries are generally required to obtain an appropriate visa before entering Germany. For possible exceptions, please consult the German mission abroad in your home or residence country.
Important to Note
- The entry and residence regulations are subject to regular modifications. In order to avoid unpleasant surprises, we strongly recommend to review the regulations before travelling to Germany on the website of the German Foreign Office.
- A visa and a residence permit are two differentdocuments. A visa allows you to enter Germany for a certain period of time (90 days) and a specific purpose. If you intend to stay for more than 90 days, you will have to apply for a residence permit after your arrival in Bonn.
- Visa are bound to a specific purpose (e.g. employment or studying). If you intend to take up employment in Germany, you are generally required to obtain a visa that will allow you to do so.
- If your planned stay will not exceed a period of 12 months, you may ask the visa officer to issue a visa that is valid through the entire period of your stay. In this case, you will not have to apply for a residence permit after your arrival in Bonn.
- If you have questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to consult the team members of the Welcome Center.
Information by the German Foreign Office
Werderscher Markt 1
While a visa only allows you to enter Germany and stay for up to 90 days, a residence permit is required for long-term stays. Citizens of EU and EEA member states are exempt from this regulation. They only need to register at the Civic Services Office after arrival in Bonn.
In Germany, there are different types of residence permits available. Which type of permit is suitable for you depends on the purpose and duration of your stay, your family status and your level of income. Ideally, you should inquire on suitable residence permits in your home or residence country even before you apply for a visa.
What types of residence permits are available for international researchers?
Residence permit for the purpose of education (§ 16 Residence Act)
(Language) students, university applicants and students, as well as doctoral students usually receive a residence permit for the purpose of education in accordance with §16 Residence Act. Doctoral students may also be issued a residence permit for research purposes (§ 20) if their dissertation is produced in the context of research activity that is subject to a hosting agreement with a research institution. Under particular circumstances § 18 may also apply to doctoral students.
Residence permit for the purpose of pursuing gainful employment (§ 18 Residence Act)
A residence permit is generally granted to foreign employees under § 18 and may also apply to employment in science and research. The condition for granting such a residence permit is the existence of a definite job offer.
Residence permit for highly-qualified persons (§ 19 Residence Act)
Highly-qualified persons are defined as academics with particular, specialized knowledge, or academic teaching personnel and research staff in leading positions. They may enter the country if they have a job and are immediately eligible for (indefinite) leave to remain. This automatically authorizes them to engage in gainful employment. Marital partners usually obtain the same type of residence permit.
EU Blue Card (§ 19a Residence Act)
This residence permit is intended for academically qualified foreign persons. The EU Blue Card is granted on condition that the individual has a university degree as well as an employment contract that pays a gross salary of 46,400 EUR, or 36,192 EUR for highly qualified persons in occupations facing a shortage of skilled labour (e.g. natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, academics and similar professionals in information and communications technology, as well as physicians). After 33 months, and provided that the employment contract is ongoing, holders of the EU Blue Card can be eligible for (indefinite) leave to remain. If language skills are proven to be at Level B1 then (indefinite) leave to remain can be granted after just 21 months.
Residence permit for research purposes, “Researcher Directive” (§ 20 Residence Act)
Foreigners may be granted a residence permit for research purposes if they have concluded an effective hosting agreement with a recognised research institution to conduct a research project. Research institutions are classified as “recognised” if they have successfully completed the relevant recognition procedure at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Nuremberg. Doctoral students who are writing their dissertation as part of a research project can also be granted a residence permit under § 20 (cf. residence permit for the purpose of education, § 16).
How to apply for a residence permit?
You can apply for a residence permit at the Immigration Office in Bonn after your arrival. We strongly recommend to make an appointment at the Immigration Office as soon as you have registered at the Civic Services Office. Appointments can be made exclusively online (please see below: Civic Services and Immigration Office).
The Immigration Office usually requires the following documents:
- Filled-in application form for a residence permit (available from the immigration office)
- Passport (please make sure your passport is valid for the planned duration of your research stay)
- One biometric passport photo
- Employment contract, hosting agreement or certificate of stipend including the monthly salary or stipend to proof sufficient means of living
- Proof of adequat health insurance
- Confirmation of registration at the Residents' Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt)
- For spouses / children: marriage license, birth certificate
Please inquire if any additional documents are necessary when making the appointment.
In which cases can you not apply for a residence permit?
- If you entered Germany with a Schengen Visa, you are not allowed to apply for a residence permit. In this case, you will have to leave the country after 90 days and apply for a National Visa in your home or residence country (after a certain waiting period).
- Citizens of the following states, if they entered Germany without a visa: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia
The German Rector's Conference has compiled a very useful brochure introducing the different types of residence permits:
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has compiled an interesting brochure on the topics of entry and residence:
Civic Services and Immigration Office of the City of Bonn
For international researchers coming to Bonn, the most important city authorities are the Civic Services Office and the Immigration Office. At the Civic Services Office you can not only register, change your address or deregister, you can also take care of many other issues. At the Immigration Office you can apply for a residence permit or, if applicable, for an extension.
Civic Services Office
City of Bonn - Civic Services Office
Berliner Platz 2
Phone: +49 (0)228 776677
You are required to make an appointment online or bytelephone.
City of Bonn - Immigration Office
Phone: depends on inquiry
You are required to make an appointment online.
The Immigration Office has a team catering to the needs and questions of international researchers and expats. The staff members speak English. Please find more information here.