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Unless you are a citizen of an EU member state or of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland (countries of the EEA), you must within the first three months, apply for a residence permit with the Immigration Office responsible for the town where you study.
A residence permit for study purposes can be granted for a maximum period of two years and can afterwards be extended for another two years at a time. In order to obtain this permit, you have to prove that your living expenses for this period are covered, and that you pursue your studies in an orderly manner. To prove the latter, you must show regular study and exam results, and you may not exceed the average duration of studies (the average of all students) for your specific field of studies by more than three semesters. The maximum time you can stay in Germany for study purposes is ten years.
Note on how to calculate average duration of studies: The average duration of studies refers to all students; as regards your residence permit, as an international student you are allowed three additional semesters. If you are thinking of finding employment in Germany after graduating, you should aim not to use all that time, if possible, as employers do look at how long applicants need to complete their studies. You should aim not to exceed the standard duration for your field of studies (e.g. six semesters for a Bachelor’s degree and 4 semesters for a Master’s degree, as a rule) by more than a few semesters.
The authority in charge of granting a residence permit is the Ausländerbehörde or Immigration Office in the town where you are registered as having your residence. In Frankfurt, this is the
Rebstöcker Straße 4
60326 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49 (0)69 212 42485
Make sure you apply in good time for the residence permit or any extension – in any case do it before your visa / residence permit expires, otherwise you will be considered an illegal alien.
When you arrive in Germany, you first have to register with the Bürgeramt, which transmits your data to the Immigration Office. Please allow about two weeks for such transmission of data. Then you must go to the Immigration Office, where you will be issued a number, which allows you to make your application. Should you not get a number on the day you go to the Immigration Office, you will be given an appointment and will be told which documents to bring.
If you need to extend your residence permit during your studies, most Immigration Offices (such as the Ausländerbehörde Frankfurt) will automatically issue an invitation for an appointment a few weeks before your current permit expires. In this case, simply wait for this invitation.
Please bring the following documents to your appointment with the Immigration Office:
- a filled-in application for a residence permit
- 1 biometric passport picture
- a valid passport
- proof of accommodation (you can get a form from the Ordnungsamt – the "office of public order“ – or the Bürgeramt, the registration office. You do not need a form if you are in possession of a rental contract in your name)
- a certification of studies or proof that you have been admitted to a university / to the preparatory college Studienkolleg / to a preparatory German course
- proof of financial resources
- proof of health insurance (not just a travel insurance)
You can access further information and application forms here.
Financing your studies
Please make sure that your living expenses are covered. It is assumed that this is the case if your income is at least (currently) € 735 per month (€ 8,820 per year).
How can you prove that your living expenses are covered?
- You show a Declaration of Commitment pursuant to § 68 Residence Act (that is, a German resident declares to cover your living expenses (>> further information) or
- you pay a security deposit (€ 8,820) into a blocked account or
- you provide a bank guarantee (€ 8,820), such a guarantee has to be renewed on a yearly basis, or an employment contract. If your income as shown in the employment contract is less than € 735 per month, only such lower amount is accepted as security and the difference must be provided for by different means. If your employment contract is for less than one year, the residence permit can only be extended for a shorter period of time).
Changing your study subject
A residence permit for study purposes is issued for a specific study subject. If you change your study subject, this is considered a change of the purpose of your stay in Germany. Changing your subject is permitted during the first three semesters, and you must inform the Immigration Office without delay of such change. Changing your study subject at a later point may affect your residence permit. Please consult the International Office in good time. Provided that your study and exam results can be transferred to the new subject to a sufficient extent, it may be possible to change the subject.
If you plan to study abroad, you must inform the Immigration Office in advance. If you then do not return to Germany within six months, your German residence permit becomes invalid, even if you are just one day late!
Postgraduate, additional and complementary studies
If, after completing your undergraduate studies (Bachelor or state exam), you want to add a postgraduate, additional or complementary studies course of no more than two years, your residence permit will have to be converted accordingly. Such conversion is generally granted provided that the overall duration of your stay in Germany does not exceed ten years.
- Master’s studies that further develop your Bachelor’s studies or that complement your chosen profession (e.g. economics for engineers)
- A second course of postgraduate studies (Zweitstudium), provided that the German diplomatic mission confirms that both degrees are necessary for you to take up your chosen profession in your home country (e.g. medicine + dental medicine for becoming an orthodontist)
- PhD studies, provided the university confirms that there is academic interest in the doctoral thesis, or that a PhD degree will improve the chances of finding employment, or that a PhD degree in addition to the studies is customary for certain study subjects
Provided that you have completed your studies within the 10-year period, you can apply for a change of your residence permit for the purposes of doing your PhD. In this case, the overall time of residence may not exceed 15 years as a rule.
You can get further information and advice from the Immigration Office and the International Office.
Finding a job after graduating
After you have successfully completed your studies, you can apply for an extension of your residence permit by up to 18 months in order to find a job that matches your degree.
Once you have found a job matching your degree, you are entitled to a residence permit pursuant to § 18, 19, 19a and 21 Residence Act in conjunction with § 27 number 3 Employment Regulation.
A job is considered matching your degree if it usually requires an academic degree, irrespective of the study subject, and if it necessitates the skills acquired during the university studies, at least partly or indirectly.
You can find further information from the Immigration Office and here.
Residence permit for employment purposes
You will need to provide the following documents:
- 1 passport picture
- application for a residence permit
- proof that your living expenses are covered
- proof of health insurance
- proof of accommodation
- employment contract, or draft thereof, with a detailed job description and monthly salary
- form “job description“ (available from the Immigration Office) filled in by your employer
Other types of change of purpose of your stay
Changing the purpose of your stay in Germany without leaving the country first can only be considered if you are legally entitled to such change, for example by getting married to a German national.
Subsequent immigration of family members
As a rule, the subsequent immigration of family members is possible. The Immigration Office will issue a residence permit for spouses and for underage unmarried children. The subsequent immigration of family members always requires sufficient accommodation and coverage of living expenses.