Residence Permit

Unless you are a citizen of an EU member state or of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, or Switzerland (countries of the EEA), you must apply for a residence permit with the Immigration Office responsible for the town where you study within the first three months.

A residence permit for study purposes can be granted for a maximum period of two years and can be extended afterwards for another two years at a time. To obtain this permit, you must demonstrate that your living expenses for this period are covered and that you are pursuing your studies in an orderly manner. This includes showing regular study and exam results and not exceeding the average duration of studies for your specific field by more than three semesters. The maximum time you can stay in Germany for study purposes is ten years.

Note on calculating the average duration of studies:

The average duration of studies applies to all students, but as an international student, you are allowed three additional semesters. If you plan to seek employment in Germany after graduating, it is advisable not to utilize the entire duration, as employers consider the time taken to complete studies. Aim to stay within the standard duration for your field of studies (e.g. six semesters for a bachelor's degree and four semesters for a master's degree) with only a few additional semesters.

The authority responsible for granting a residence permit is the Foreigners' Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) in the location where you are registered as a resident. In Frankfurt, you can contact:

Rebstöcker Strasse 4
60326 Frankfurt am Main
Tel.: +49 (0)69 212 42485

Click here to access the application portal of the Foreigners' Registration Office.

Make sure that you apply for the residence permit or any extension well in advance—ideally before your visa or residence permit expires. Failure to do so may result in you being considered an illegal alien.

Upon arrival in Germany, your first step is to register with the Citizens' Adminstration Office (Bürgeramt), which will transmit your data to the Foreigners' Registration Office. Please allow approximately two weeks for this data transmission. Afterward, you must visit the Foreigners' Registration Office, where you will be assigned a number to proceed with your application. If you do not receive a number on the same day, you will be given an appointment and told which documents to bring.

If you need to extend your residence permit during your studies, most foreigners' registration offices such as the one in Frankfurt will automatically send you an invitation for an appointment a few weeks before your current permit expires. In this case, you can simply wait for this invitation.

Please make sure to bring the following documents to your appointment with the Foreigners' Registration Office:

  • a completed application for a residence permit
  • 1 biometric passport photo
  • a valid passport
  • proof of accommodation (e.g. from the Ordnungsamt or Bürgeramt, or using rental contract in your name)
  • certification of studies or proof of admission to a university, Studienkolleg (preparatory study program), or German-language course
  • proof of financial resources
  • proof of health insurance (not just travel insurance)

Once your documents have been successfully verified, you will be issued an electronic Residence Permit (eAT), resembling a bank card. You can find additional information and application forms by clicking here.

Please make sure that your living expenses are covered. It is assumed that this is the case if your income is at least (currently) € 934 per month (€ 11.208 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 (€ 11.208) into a blocked account or
  • you provide a bank guarantee (€ 11.208), 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 € 934 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).

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.

If you are doing your doctorate at a research institution, i.e. you have an employment contract with the university or a research center, since March 1, 2020 you can also apply for a residence permit for research purposes in accordance with § 18d AufenthG. You must not be enrolled at the university as a doctoral student and your research work may not be carried out solely for the purpose of writing the dissertation.

You can get further information and advice from the Immigration Office and the International Office.

After you have successfully completed your studies, according to § 20 (1) AufenthG, you can apply for an extension of your residence permit by up to 18 months in order to find a job appropiate to your degree.

Once you have found a job matching your degree, you are entitled to a residence permit pursuant to §§ 18b (1) and (2) (blue card), 18c (3) and (21).

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.

The desired employment is appropriate if the activity, regardless of the field of higher education, generally requires an academic degree and the knowledge acquired through higher education is at least partially or indirectly required.

For more information, please contact the immigration office here.

You will need to provide the following documents:

  • 1 passport picture
  • passport
  • 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

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.

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.