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To enter and stay in the Federal Republic of Germany, foreign citizens generally need a valid, recognized passport and a residence permit. 

A visa is considered a separate residence permit that applies to your entry into the country and the initial period of your stay. Germany's residency laws differentiate between:

  • Schengen visas, which are for short stays (up to three months), and
  • National visas, which are for longer stays involving a purpose defined in the residency laws

During the application process, you must already specify the eventual purpose for which you plan to use your visa (looking for employment, for example).


How can you apply for a visa?

Visas for short-term or extended stays are issued prior to your entry into Germany by an embassy, consulate, or Germany's diplomatic representation abroad. For short-term stays, visas can be issued by the diplomatic representation of another country in the Schengen Area, as well.

When staying (for tourism purposes, for instance) for up to three months within a six-month period, citizens of certain countries are exempted from the visa requirement, provided that they are not seeking work.