Visa types and residence permits: These are the options

The very first step for any Expat planning to come to Germany is the visa application. Each state uses different types of visas to divide travelers into different categories depending on their intention to travel. For example, skilled workers need a different visa than students to be allowed to enter Germany, and a distinction is also made between job seekers as to which professional qualifications they have. The different types of visas are subject to different conditions that must be met in order to be able to apply for a visa. We will introduce you to the different types of visas, clarify the difference between visas and residence permits, and explain how you can apply for your visa.

Who needs a visa?

Anyone who travels to Germany for vacation usually needs a tourist visa, which is granted up to 90 days for the general Schengen area. Citizens of the EU states and Schengen state administrations do not need a visa for their stay in Germany. Citizens of these states can even enter the country and work in Germany.

All other citizens, in general, must apply for a visa in their home country, before entering Germany. Exceptions are:

  • Australia
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Canada
  • New Zealand
  • South Korea
  • United States of America

Citizens of these countries can make their visa decisions even after entering Germany. Therefore, they need to consult with the immigration authority in the city where they live.

What residence permits are there?

So-called third-country citizens have to apply for a residence permit for their stay in Germany if they want to stay in the country for more than 90 days. A basic distinction is made between temporary and permanent residence permits. Only the settlement permit and the permanent EU residence permit are considered permanent residence permits. While the settlement permit is limited to the federal territory, the permanent residence permit EU entitles its holder to stay permanently and indefinitely and move freely within the EU.

Temporary residence permits have an expiring date and can be extended after this date under certain conditions. Temporary residence permits include:

  • Blue card EU
  • ICT card
  • Mobile ICT card
  • Residence permit
  • Visa

Visa types and categories

The visa is one of the temporary residence permits. A differentiation is made in different types of visas. The main types of visas are:

  • Category A visa: airport transit visa
  • Category C visa: visiting visa
  • Category D Visa: national Visa

While Category C visas entitle you to a short-term stay of up to 90 days, a Category D national visa is issued for long-term stays. It is granted to certain people who study, work, or want to stay permanently in a Schengen country. Detailed information on the different types of visas can be found on the SchengenVisaInfo page, which is available to users in six different languages.

Spouse and family reunification

If you want to bring your family with you to Germany, nothing stands in the way. However, some requirements must be met for spouse reunification. For example, you must be in possession of a residence or settlement permit or an EU Blue Card. You should have sufficient living space in Germany and sufficient financial means to ensure the livelihood of all family members.

In some cases, the spouses must prove that they have at least a basic knowledge of the German language in order to be able to communicate in the new country from the start. This does not apply if you yourself hold an EU Blue Card, work as a highly qualified researcher in Germany, or if you or your spouse are citizens of one of the countries Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea or the United States of America. Also, if the accompanying spouse has a university degree, German language knowledge is not required.

If you and your spouse have a valid residence permit for Germany, your minor children may also come to Germany in accordance with Section 32 of the Residence Act. This also applies to single parents if they have obtained the consent of the second custodial parent.

How to apply for your visa 

You need a visa to enter Germany. You can apply at the German embassy or consulate in your home country. To do this, fill out the application form and bring it along with the required documents (passport, biometric passport photo, recognized training, specific job offer, etc.) to your visa appointment. After a positive examination of your documents, you will receive your passport and visa back from the embassy.

After entering Germany, you must then apply for your residence permit at the local immigration office. If you need help applying for your residence permit or if you are not sure which visa is suitable for you, we will be happy to help you. HereLocation accompanies you to all administrative procedures and actively supports you in all administrative tasks. Contact us now if you need help with the visa application or if you are interested in our other relocation services. We are happy to hear from you!