Visa and residence permit:
Information for international doctoral students
Before traveling to Germany, you should check what requirements apply for entry into Germany and your stay abroad. Some students from specific countries need a visa and must meet financial requirements and show proof of insurance. Should you require a visa, make sure you apply for it as early as possible. Waiting times at embassies and consulates are often very long and visa processing can take up to three months.
Before entryWhat is a visa?
A visa is an entry permit. Candidates who are not citizens of a member state of the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland usually need a visa in order to enter Germany and study in Göttingen. The Federal Foreign Office of Germany provides a list of all countries whose citizens require a visa to enter Germany.
You can apply for a visa in person at a German consulate general or the German embassy in your home country. Generally, applications are also available in the language of your home country.
To submit your application, you must make an appointment with the consulate or the German embassy. As part of the appointment, which you must make in person, a short interview will take place in which you will be asked about the details in your application.
When making your arrangements, bear in mind that the waiting period for an appointment can be many months. The demand for visas for Germany is very high in many parts of the world, and as a result, many German embassies abroad are overburdened. Arrange an appointment as early as possible in order to receive your visa in time before you start studying/working in Göttingen.
Please also note that we cannot assist you in obtaining an appointment. We have no influence on the work of the German embassies abroad.
The processing time for a completed and personally submitted application can take up to twelve weeks.
As a future doctoral student, you should apply for a Visa for the Purpose of Study (Visum zu Studienzwecken §16b) in your home country.
If you receive an employment contract, you should apply for a Visa for the Purpose of Research (Visum zum Zweck der Forschung §18d) instead. The visa for the purpose of research requires a “Hosting Agreement”, which will be provided to you by the International Student Office.
Please note: A tourist visa (“Schengen Visa”) cannot be converted into a visa for the purpose of study or research. A Schengen visa is not equivalent to a residence permit and cannot be used for study or research.
German national visas are issued for entry for a planned stay of more than 90 days (“D visa”). The visa is usually valid for 3 to 6 months, at least for 90 days from the date of entry into Germany and can then be converted into a residence permit for study or research purposes in Göttingen.
Under exceptional circumstances, a study applicant visa can be issued for the purpose of applying and preparing for doctoral studies. This can be turned into a residence permit for the purpose of applying to study for a limited period of time, during which you can find a supervisor and apply for admission to a doctoral programme. Once you are admitted to a programme, you would then convert the limited permit into a residence permit for study purposes.
The documents required for a visa application may vary from country to country. Please inform yourself as early in the process as possible via the website of the website of the German embassy in your home country which documents you need to enclose with your application.
In addition to the application for a visa, which you must submit in duplicate, the following documents are usually required for a successful visa application:
- > Hosting agreement
- > Notification of admission
- > Valid passport
- > Proof of health insurance
- > Proof of financing
- > Proof of accommodation
- > Up to four biometric passport photos
You will need a “hosting agreement” if you have an employment contract with the University as a doctoral student, for example, as a “research associate” or if you are employed in a research training group. Please contact the International Student Office – we will provide you with this document.
The hosting agreement is an official document that may be presented to German embassies and immigration authorities in which the University of Göttingen states that you will be provided with the necessary resources to carry out your research project. It does not by itself establish a legal relationship between you and the University, but it does provide you with the legal entitlement to be granted a visa according to the Residence Act (§18d „Aufenthalt zum Zweck der Forschung“).
This is the formal notification of admission that you have received from your future Göttingen faculty or graduate school. Please note that the letter of acceptance from your future supervisor is generally not sufficient.
Your passport should be valid for three months beyond the end of your planned stay.
You need proof of valid health insurance in order to apply for a visa for study purposes and obtain a residence permit.
Before you arrive in Germany, you must first take out travel health insurance that is effective during your trip and for the first few weeks after your arrival—it should be effective at least for the duration of your visa. You must provide proof of this when applying for the visa.
After your arrival, you must obtain German health insurance for the duration of your stay.
When applying for a visa, you must prove that you can finance your living expenses in Germany for at least 12 months. You must prove financial means of up till now 11,208€/year.
The typical way to prove the availability of funds for the visa application is via a blocked account (Sperrkonto). Financing through a scholarship, a guarantor or a sponsor is also possible. Please contact the German Embassy in your home country or here to find out which financing options are suitable for you and what evidence must be submitted.
Please note that a student part-time job in Germany is not sufficient for self-financing and will not be recognised as proof of financing.
In order to apply for a visa, it may be necessary to prove that you have accommodation in Göttingen, such as a signed rental agreement, for at least the first few months.
The Accommodation Service of the University of Göttingen can help you find accommodation.
After entryResidence permit
Your visa for study purposes allows you to enter Germany, but not to remain for an extended period. You must apply for a residence permit at the immigration office in Göttingen. You must submit this application in person within 90 days of entering the country.
The application requires, among other things, a matriculation certificate, registration at the local residents’ registration office and German health insurance, which you should obtain before submitting the application.
You can arrange an appointment directly with the immigration officer responsible for your case. The officer is assigned based on the initial letter of your surname.
They may be reached during the telephone office hours of the immigration office*
Monday and Tuesday, 14.00 to 15.30.
- Students A - G, J Junior Office, Tel. 0551 400-3202
- Students H, I, K, R, S Ms V. Duntemann, Tel. 0551 400-2308
- Students L - Q Ms Mathusczyck, Tel. 0551 400-2181
- Students T - Z Mr Ische, Tel. 0551 400-2688
- Goethe/Erasmus Ms Noll, Tel. 0551 400-2071
- Students VEs Ms Rozeck, Tel. 0551 400-2163
*Note, if you live beyond Göttingen city limits, your immigration office is in the Landkreis Göttingen (County Göttingen) Offices, which is located across the street from the Göttingen immigration office.
For the residence permit, you will need documents similar to those required for a visa. The documents listed here are those that are typically required; however, your individual situation may require different documentation:
- hosting agreement
- completed application form
- certificate of matriculation from the University of Göttingen
- proof of financial means
- proof of health insurance
- rental agreement
- confirmation of registration by the residents' registration office
- valid passport
- visa for entry for the purpose of studies
- biometric passport photo
- handling charge
A residence permit, like a visa, is issued for a specific purpose. The residence permit comes after the visa:
As a doctoral student, if you entered Germany with a visa for the purpose of studying, you would obtain a residence permit for the purpose of studying, in accordance with section §16b of the Residence Act (“Aufenthaltsgesetz”).Residence permit for study (§16b)
The residence permit assumes that you will devote the majority of your time to studying or working on your dissertation. Gainful employment and part-time student work are permitted up to 120 full days or 240 half days per year. Exceptions apply for work as a research assistant at a German university in parallel to your doctorate. Please consult the Immigration Office for more information.
A German residence permit according to §16b allows you to travel within the Schengen area to a limited extent – for instance, for conferences and research, or as a tourist. The stay in other Schengen area countries is limited to 90 days per 180 days.
The residence permit is typically issued for an initial period of two years. You can then apply for an extension at the Immigration Office. This is usually granted without any issue if you resubmit the original documents and proof required for your first permit (including proof of financing) and can also prove that you have been studying steadily or have made substantial progress in your work since the last application. When deciding upon your application, the Immigration Office will also obtain a statement from the University, which must confirm your progress. If you encounter any problems with this process, please first contact your graduate school programme, which serves as liaison to other individuals and institutions.
- GAUSS (Georg-August University School of Science)
- GFA (Forest and Agricultural Sciences)
- GGG (Göttingen Graduate School of Social Sciences)
- GSGG (Graduate School of Humanities)
As a general rule, you should have completed your doctorate by the end of 5 years.
Your residence permit is tied to the purpose of your stay. Before completing your doctorate, a change of purpose is possible with restrictions (for example, acquiring a residence permit for the purpose of gainful employment as a skilled worker with a university degree according to section §18b of the Residence Act). Please consult the Immigration Office to do this.
Once you have completed your doctoral studies, your residence permit can be extended for up to 18 additional months. You will then have the opportunity to look for suitable employment after which, if successful, you can obtain a residence permit for the purpose of gainful employment.Residence permit for research (§18d)
This residence permit assumes that you will devote the majority of your time to studying or working on your dissertation. Gainful employment at the host institution, usually the University of Göttingen, is permitted for an unlimited period of time. Please consult the Immigration Office for more information.
A German residence permit according to §18d allows you to travel within the Schengen area to a limited extent – for instance, for conferences and research, or as a tourist. The stay in Schengen area countries is limited to 90 days per 180 days.
As a rule, the residence permit is issued for the same length of time as the hosting agreement. The residence permit can be extended by means of a new hosting agreement if the other conditions for granting a residence permit are fulfilled (in particular, securing means of funding).
Before completing your doctorate, a change of purpose is possible with restrictions (for example, acquiring a residence permit for the purpose of gainful employment as a skilled worker with a university degree according to section §18b of the Residence Act). Please consult the Immigration Office about this.
After completion of your doctorate and expiry of the hosting agreement, your residence permit can be extended for up to an additional 6 months. This gives you the opportunity to seek suitable employment after which, if successful, you can obtain a residence permit for the purpose of gainful employment.
A residence permit is usually granted for 2 years. Contact the Foreigners' Registration Office by e-mail about 6 weeks before the expiry date and apply for an extension. You will have to submit the form also filled out to apply for the initial granting, and prove that you are still enrolled at the university, that your employment contract is still running or that you remain affiliated with the university as a visiting researcher (enrolment certificate, employment contract, hosting agreement). You must also prove that you have suitable accommodation on site, sufficient health insurance and that you can cover your living expenses.
Please note: Once your residence permit is up for renewal, you must once more prove that you can cover your living expenses. To do so, cash, regular income or a combination of both are most common. Do NOT collect money from acquaintances and relatives in order to transfer it back once the extension of your residence permit has been granted. This constitutes a deception, which can be discovered on the basis of your banking transactions and lead to the immediate loss of your residence permit!
- Study in Germany
- Federal Foreign Office: Visa regulations, visa procedures and application procedures
- Federal Foreign Office: FAQs on visas and application procedures
- DAAD (Information Brochure)