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Germany offers quality education, with 240 state universities and 100 private universities located throughout the country. Technical schools, business or engineering schools (Fachochschule) with an emphasis on vocational training are also available to foreign students. Several other schools and language institutes offer German courses for foreigners.  

 Good to know:

Over 10% of all enrolled students in Germany are international students. The majority of them arrange their stay themselves and 15% enter via a co-operation or exchange programme.

Prerequisities for studying

In order to register with an institution of higher education in Germany, a general university entrance qualification is needed (secondary school diploma or Abitur in German). A certificate that would allow you to study in your home country and that is recognized in Germany will do. Additionally, many universities may require minimum grade point averages or eligibility tests. If you have already studied for two to four semesters in your home country, this period will qualify you for entry to higher education in Germany.

In case your qualifications are not sufficient, you must take as assessment examination, which usually requires attending a preparatory college.

Of course, a good knowledge of German is necessary, except if the purpose of your stay is to attend German courses for instance. In all other cases, you should hold one of the following German language certifications:

  • DSH – The Deutsche Sprachprüfung für den Hochschulzugang is usually taken at the local university.
  • TestDaF – Test Deustch als Fremdsprache can be taken in your country.
  • ZOP – Zentrale Oberstufenprüfung
  • KDS – Kleines Deutsches Sprachdiplom
  • GDS – Großes Deutsches Sprachdiplom (most difficult one)

Check with the university, which language certificates are accepted. Most of these tests you can take either in a Goethe Institute abroad or directly in Germany. For more information about German assessment tests, visit the Goethe Institute website

Registration procedures can be complex and they vary between universities. It’s best to contact the international student offices of the chosen school or university (Akademisches Auslandsamt or Studentenwerk) and provide the necessary documentation to proceed with your application, usually including:

  • a copy of your secondary school diploma or equivalent,
  • official or certified German translation of your diploma,
  • passport-sized photo,
  • detailed description of your school, university or professional curriculum,
  • German language certificate if applicable (TestDaF or other),
  • eligibility test if applicable.

Note that application closing dates differ, though, generally, applications must be filed before January 15th for the summer semester (beginning in April) or before July 15th for the winter semester (beginning in October). However, make sure to check well in advance to be able to respect the deadlines for submitting your paper work.

German universities used to be free in the past, however, some tuition fees have recently been introduced. A full semester in a German university costs around €500. Tuition fees may vary according to universities or regions, but tuition fees tend to gradually rise.
You can find out more information about scholarships in Germany directly through your current school or university or through the German embassy or consulate in your area. Your host institution may also offer scholarships or grants. Do not hesitate to contact them for further information.

 Important:

The information provided above only concerns registration procedures with a German school or university. According to your country of origin, you may need to apply for a student visa at the German embassy or consulate in your home country. 

 Attention:

Always check, where you must apply. For some courses you must apply directly at the university, others have to be submitted to the foundation for the allocation of study places (Hochschulstart, formerly ZVS) and, in some cases, you can apply at the admissions office uni-assists.

Formalities for EU-EEA nationals

Citizens of the EU-EEA can freely come and study in Germany with very few formalities to undertake, provided that they comply with basic entry requirements (secondary school diploma or equivalent for example). A valid passport, proof of enrollment in a German school or university as well as sufficient financial guarantees are required. 

Citizens of the EU-EEA can also benefit from the ERASMUS programme in Germany. The ERASMUS programme is designed for students of the EEA-EU plus Turkey wishing to study in an other EU-EEA country. Diplomas and degrees obtained abroad in the framework of the ERASMUS programme are valid in your home country via the European Credit Transfer and accumulation System (ECTS). ERASMUS grants are also available to students who carry out studies in another european state via the programme.

You can find more information about the ERASMUS programme and the ERASMUS grants available directly through your home university or by visiting the European Commission website.

Do not forget to legalize your status in Germany by applying for a residency certificate ("Meldebescheinigung") within eight days after arrival. You can apply for your certificate directly at the city hall of your German locality.

Formalities for non EU-EEA nationals

If you are a citizen from outside the EU-EEA, you must apply for a student visa at the German embassy or consulate in your home country. 

There are three kinds of student visas: visa for language courses, temporary student visa valid up to three months and the student visa per se. 

 Important:

Do not enter Germany on a tourist visa – once in Germany you will not be able to transfer it into a residence permit.

Visa for German language courses

Visas for language courses are granted to foreign students intending to take German courses in Germany. The visa is valid for the entire duration of the study course only and can not be exchanged for a regular student visa. To apply for a language course visa, you must file your application to the German embassy or consulate in your home country. The application documents' checklist includes:

  • a valid passport plus two passport-sized photos,
  • proof of registration in a German language institute,
  • financial guarantees or scholarship attestation, and
  • payment of visa fees. 

Student temporary visa (Studienbewerber-Visum)

If you have not received your admission receipt from your host school or university in Germany, and if you need to take admission tests directly in Germany, you can apply for a temporary student visa (valid up to three months). Once you have been admitted to your school or university, you can apply for a regular student visa at the German immigration office. The visa documents' checklist is the same as for the language course visa. 

Student visa

The student visa allows foreign students to study up to one year in Germany. Applications must be filed at the German embassy or consulate in your country of residence. The application documents' checklist includes:

  • a valid passport plus two passport-sized photos,
  • a copy of your secondary school diploma (or equivalent) or your eligibility test,
  • financial attestations or scholarship attestations,
  • copies of all your degrees and diplomas,
  • proof of registration with a German school or university and
  • payment of visa fees. 

Internships in Germany

There is no internship visa per se in Germany, as it is considered as part of one's curriculum. Therefore, in order to get an intership in Germany, a regular student visa is required. Many interships in Germany are unpaid.

 Good to know:  

You can take up employment in Germany with a student visa up to 90 days and only during holidays. 

 Useful links: 

DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst - Study in Germany www.daad.de
Goethe Institute www.goethe.de
4International Colleges and Universities - List of universities in Germany www.4icu.org
Deutsches Studentenwerk www.internationale-studierende.de
Higher Education Compasswww.hochschulkompass.de
Auswärtiges Amt www.auswaertiges-amt.de
Uni assist www.uni-assist.de

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