Applying for a Visa to Germany

Wait! In order to correctly understand this presentation, you must correctly understand the word “visa”! English legalese actually only has this one word. German legalese differentiates between two terms: “Visum” and “Aufenthaltsgenehmigung, -titel (= residence permit, residence title)”. Visa is a permission to remain in Germany for a short-term period while a residence permit is for an indefinite permission, which will typically qualify for permanent residency. It is just like the difference between “visiting” and “staying”.

What is a visa?

This question might sound ridiculous but it is not because “visa” is a tricky “false friend” to “Visum”. Visum is a permission to temporarily sojourn in a certain country (national visa, §6 AufenthG) or area (e.g. Schengen visa). When you wish to remain in Germany for an indefinite period then you need a residence permit (Aufenthaltsgenehmigung) – or in English legalese “visa (green card)”. As you notice, the difference is vital!
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What kinds of visa exist?

Generally, visas are classified either as “national visa” or “Schengen visa”. Whereas the Schengen visa has several types

  • Type B: Visa for traveling through,
  • Type C: Visa for short-term sojourn,
  • Type D: National visa for longer-term residence,
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Can I apply by post?

No, you have to apply in person. However, in some countries, where accredited agents exist, you may use their services. It is also worth a consideration to hire a German immigration lawyer. Your application will treated more carefully when a German lawyer has consulted you and streamlined the application and documents to be submitted.
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Do I have to come to the interview in person?

Yes. Every applicant, including the elderly and children, have to take the interview in person.
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Can I bring friends and family with me, if I am to be interviewed?

No. German administration would consider that as an extension of your living room and will not want it! You are generally expected to come alone and maybe with your lawyer. However, minors or elders may be accompanied. Spouses and fiancés are generally welcomed / accepted – especially when both are to be interviewed.
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Do I need to provide translations for all documents?

Yes. You are expected to bring translations of all documents best into German or secondarily into English. If the case deciders do not play "hard ball" with you, they will normally accept English translations. If they want to pick on you, they will stubbornly demand German translations. Strictly formally, this is absolute correct as the language of the German administration is... Make a smart guess! Right, German (§23 I VwVfG).
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How much money do I need to have to obtain a visa? You know my name is not Rothschild...

There is no fixed answer. Your funds are to cover all travel, accommodation and living costs. Please bring as much evidence as possible on your finances, that the authority can better form a picture of your financial standing. The more evidence you bring, the easier it is for the consulate visa staff to make a positive decision. Best when you can show a summary of the last three years. You show it best by bank statements, tax returns. We would also expect to see the historical provenance of large deposits.
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Oh, I will be visiting the consulate and will be able to have a chat to introduce my plea to the consulate. How nice.

Sorry to disturb your dreaming! You will not be received by the consul but rather from a local national that has the function of accepting your application. This will be a mass meeting and procedure. In frequently visited consulates, you will only have a short time window and when you miss it, you will have to reapply. Rumors show that these people are not always very friendly. Whatever they might say to your chances is absolutely irrelevant. The decision maker will typically be a German.
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What are the criteria for granting me a visa?

The main test to pass will be whether you are not attempting to illegally enter Germany, will return home after your visit or if there will a danger for other Schengen States. For practical purposes most important criteria is your objective reliability to voluntarily return home when the visa expires.
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What do I have to say when applying?

The case workers in the consulate, who are typically Germans, will test your case in relation to the reason of your visit and the supplementing documents (art. 14 Visa Code). It might be that the person accepting your application is a local national; consider this person more as the case decider's clerk. The person testing your case will be asking herself whether your story makes sense, does the person / company you want to visit have any connections that relate to your purpose, etc.
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Can you give me an example?

Sure! When a Pakistani sports shoe plant wants to come to Germany to visit an “important” client and this client turns out to be a boy’s sport club with 20 members. This application was with good right denied because the applicant’s story makes no sense. The application for a visa would have been granted when the applicant wanted to visit a domestic distributor and another shoe plant. (N.B. This really happened!)
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What shows reliability to return home afterwards?

The authority will consider your ties to where you are applying from. Such ties are financial (job, real estate, business, etc.) or personal (family members, parents, grandparents, etc.). Finally also the story itself: Is the given reason believable? Do you have enough funds for your travel and return?
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What are the formal requirements?

You have to submit:

  • mandatory application form,
  • your passport (art. 12 Visa Code),
  • permission taking fingerprints when so requested and necessary (art. 13 Visa Code)
  • pay the visa fee (art. 16 Visa Code),
  • produce relevant documents that support your application,
  • proof of a travel health insurance,
Can it be that some countries have it easier getting a visa than others?

Visa facilitation agreements exist for following countries:

  • Albania,
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina,
  • Georgia,
  • Macedonia,
  • Montenegro,
  • Russian Federation,
  • Serbia,
  • Ukraine.
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What benefits do these privileged countries have?

They only have a few: ease in proving the purpose of the travel (Art. 4 Visa Code). Visas are generally more graciously issued for multiple entries / years. The visa fee is generally limited to only € 35, whereas some reasons like family visits might be for free (art. 6 Visa Code). Most interesting is that the procession time is usually ten days. These facilities are typically designed for official delegations, businesspersons, truck drivers, journalists, students of all schools as well as close family members.
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Where do I have to apply for my visa?

Visas have to be applied for prior to entry at the German mission abroad covering your place of residence. This is the place where you have been living the last six months or are expected to remain long term.
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How long does my passport have to be valid if I want to apply for a visa for a trip to Germany?

The passport should be valid at least 90 days after expiration of the visa. It should also contain at least two (consecutive) empty pages where the visa can be inserted.
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How far in advance of my travel date can I apply for a visa?

Three months is a safe time. The consulate is not in the position to grant visas on short notice. If you believe a “little gift” might help, forget it! There are waiting times for the next free appointment of at least 2 - 4 weeks. Processing time for a Schengen visa is supposed to be 5 - 10 days,and for national visa/residence permit at least 2 - 3 months.

How long can I stay with my tourist / business visa in Germany and the Schengen states?

The visa itself stipulates how many days in the given period you can stay in Germany/Schengen. The maximum is 90 days. Your visa will show for sure for how long in your case.
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I want to travel to Germany / the Schengen area several times in the next few months. Can I apply for a visa with longer validity?

The consulate decides what type of visa to issue (period of validity, number of days covered) on the basis of your story and the documents submitted. If necessary, it may issue a visa that entitles the holder to enter the Schengen area on multiple occasions within the given period of validity. Such annual or multiannual visas, which are valid for one or more years, are as a rule only issued to persons who have already been to Germany or other Schengen states several times in the past and whom the mission abroad considers to be particularly trustworthy (e.g. because of their position in the host country). Please note that regardless of the length of validity, visas only entitle the holder to a maximum stay of three months per six-month period, calculated from the date of first entry.
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Where do I apply for my visa?

Apply at the mission of that country of your main destination, where you will spent most nights, this is not necessarily the country you first enter.
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My visa was issued by a German consulate. Can I use it to travel to other European countries? Do I have to enter and leave via Germany or can I do so elsewhere?

Yes, you can. Holders of a Schengen visa (text on the visa reads "valid for Schengen states") or holders of a residence permit of a Schengen state can stay in the entire Schengen area according to the validity of their visa or residence permit for max. 90 days per half year.
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My visa was issued by a mission of another Schengen state. Can I use it to travel to Germany?

Yes. Holders of Schengen visa (text on the visa reads "valid for Schengen states") or holders of a residence permit of a Schengen state can also stay in Germany for up to 90 days per half year.
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I have a German Schengen visa. Do I have to enter and leave via Germany or can I do so elsewhere?

The entry into and departure from the Schengen area can occur at any border crossing. You do not have to enter Schengen via Germany.
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What countries are Schengen states?

Germany, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia and Czech Republic have acceded to the Schengen Agreement and are thus Schengen states. Roughly, to easily remember: continental Europe.
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Does the visa guarantee my entry to Germany?

No. Have you ever heard that a government guarantees something to an individual? Your question is nevertheless well understandable! You should not experience any problems on arrival in Germany. Practically, you will only then experience problems when all of sudden you are under a warrant of arrest – either nationally or internationally.
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What is the latest date that I can arrive in Germany with my visa?

The expiry date will be shown on the visa, but remember that this is also the last day on which you are permitted to stay in Germany and the day that you are to leave Germany!
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Can I use the visa to enter Germany more than one time?

German visas are normally valid for single entry only. If you have a multiple entry visa then you can use the visa for more than one trip to Germany / Schengen within the validity date shown on the visa. A Schengen visa with multiple entries allows the holder to stay at most 90 days within 6 months.
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What if my reason for going to Germany changes?

A visa is normally issued for a specific purpose. If your reason for going to Germany changes, you should inform the visa office that issued your visa. You may be asked to make another visa application.
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For my visa application I need a formal invitation from a relative/acquaintance living in Germany. Where do I get the form?

Not you are to obtain the form but your relative or acquaintance is to obtain and submit it. Typically your relative / acquaintance can usually get the required form for a formal obligation at the German foreigners authority (Ausländerbehörde) of their hometown or from the local agency for public order (Ordnungsamt). Forms are available at the consulate as well.
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Who is responsible for the decision on the granting of a visa?

The competent German consulate decides on the application of any visa. However, a long-term visa or visa to pick up gainful employment will only be issued with the approval of the local foreigners authority in Germany.
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What do I do if my passport and visa are lost or stolen at home?

You must first apply for a new passport and then with the new passport reapply to the consulate for another visa. You will have to pay the fee again as well as again produce all supporting documents.
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What are the fees to obtain a visa?

The visa fee for Schengen visa is € 60. A national visa for residence/work permit a long-term stay in Germany over 90 days costs € 60. The visa for minors costs half as much. The fee has to be paid in Euro or the equivalent amount of the local currency.

Children under six, students at school or a university and accompanying teachers on educational trips, as well as researchers, will be exempted by all Schengen states of the visa fees regardless of their nationality.

Spouses of German citizens and parents of German children (less than 18 years), as well as spouses / children of European citizens do not have to pay a fee.
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I have to travel to Germany several times a year for business. Do I really have to go through this process every time?

Frequent travelers with record of previous travel can apply for multiple entry visa which is issued with a validity for one year. You will be allowed to stay in Germany / Schengen for up to 90 days within 6 months. You will be generally exempted from an interview.
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Who is a frequent traveler?

Frequent travelers, are persons who have applied for a visa and have traveled at least twice to Schengen area or stayed at least once in the Schengen area and once in one of the following countries: Australia, Canada, Japan, or U.S.A. within the last two years.
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I will travel to Germany first on business and afterwards as tourist after my business visit. For which visa do I apply?

Business and tourist purposes are generally just as legitimate. Both can be considered in your application. When doing so, you have to give proof for both reasons.
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