Studying in Germany

Updated 2019-08-26 15:07

Germany offers quality education, with 240 state universities and 100 private universities located throughout the country. The country also offers specialising studies like technical schools, business or engineering schools with an emphasis on vocational training that are open for international students.

Most of the universities offer German courses for international students, but there are also many institutes which organise intensive courses for foreigners. All these opportunities are with the purpose of preparing the students for their entrance into the labour market.

 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 through an exchange programme.

Prerequisites for studying in Germany

To register with an institution of higher education in Germany, a general university entrance qualification is needed (secondary school diploma or Abitur in German). For this, you will have to provide your equivalent of a final exam after high school (known as Matura in some eastern countries, maturità in Italy and A-levels in countries like Wales, Hong Kong, and Singapore. 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 an assessment examination, which usually requires attending a preparatory college.

Of course, a good knowledge of German is necessary, usually B1 or B2, depending on the university requirements. Certification requirements are specific and need to be done by a recognised body. Some of the most famous German-language certifications are:

  • Goethe Institut Certification
  • 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

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

If your studies are in English, and you have a different mother tongue, then you will have to provide a certificate for knowledge of English, usually IELTS or TOEFL.

The registration procedures can be complicated and vary between universities. It's best to contact beforehand 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,
  • a detailed description of your school, university or professional curriculum,
  • German language certificate if applicable (TestDaF or other),
  • eligibility test if applicable.

Note that all documents need to be translated in German by a legal translator (the exception might be if your certificates are in English). Additionally, they need to be stamped by a notary (or to contain an apostille stamp to confirm their validity). Application closing dates differ, though, generally, they must be filed before January 15th for the summer semester (beginning in April) or before July 15th for the winter semester (starting in October). However, make sure to check well in advance for your specific programme to be able to respect the deadlines for submitting your paperwork.

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 or less. Tuition fees may vary according to universities or regions. 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. DAAD is one of the largest databases of scholarships, available for citizens of different countries.


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. 


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 have to apply at the admissions office Uni-assist. Note that Uni-assist may have different deadlines and rules than indicated on the university website, so it is convenient to contact their offices beforehand.

Formalities for EU-EEA nationals

Citizens of the EU-EEA can freely come and study in Germany with very few formalities to undertake once they have been accepted. The only step for EU nationals is to respect the university basic entry requirements (secondary school diploma or equivalent, for example). The bureaucratic part of getting a residence is simple and requires a valid passport, proof of enrollment in a German school or university as well as proof of sufficient funds. Furthermore, you will need to legalise 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.

Citizens of the EU-EEA can also benefit from the ERASMUS programme in Germany, which is designed for students of the EEA-EU plus Turkey wishing to study in another 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 for non-EU students who carry out studies in some European state (and then go for an exchange) 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.

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. You will have to provide all the necessary documents to the embassy on time. Therefore, it is advised to apply with the confirmation letter of your application (provided by the universities or institutions like Uni-assist) as soon as possible.


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 international students intending to take German courses in Germany. The visa is valid for the entire duration of the study course only and cannot 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 in Germany

The student visa allows international students to study up to one year in Germany (which then can be extended with a residence permit). 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, to get an internship in Germany, a regular student visa is required. Many internships in Germany are unpaid. However, they offer opportunities for further job opportunities within the same company. Another option for working is a mini-job; however, with the rule that no employee of mini-jobs can earn more than €450 per month.

 Good to know:

You can take up employment in Germany with a student visa up to 90 days and only during the holiday period. Some universities offer apprenticeships for their students.

Gathering documents and preparing for studies is not an easy task, but it is worth it as the German universities offer great opportunities for the studies, for work and for creating a solid network of like-minded professionals

 Useful links: 

DAAD - Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst - Study in Germany
Goethe Institute
4International Colleges and Universities - List of universities in Germany
Deutsches Studentenwerk
Higher Education Compass
Auswärtiges Amt
Uni assist

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.