Visa, residence permit and registration
If you are a citizen of an EU member country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland you can enter, stay and work in Germany without a visa or other paperwork. You only need to bring your passport with you.
If you are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea or the USA, you can also enter Germany without a visa for 90 days. To stay for longer periods or to start working, you will need to get a visa that allows you to work, as well as a residence permit. Because waiting times for appointments can be long, it is strongly recommended to enter Germany with a visa that allows you to work.
Citizens of all other countries need a visa to enter Germany.
As a postdoc, you will need to get a National Visa (D-Visa) at a German embassy or consulate. Check the requirements and regulations with the embassy or consulate of your country or in the country that you are going to apply. You should also check with the International Officer which type of visa best suits your status.
Please do this well in advance, because the application process typically takes several months for a longer stay in Germany. If you are coming with your family, you should apply for your visa and that for family members at the same time.
Generally, a visa only entitles the holder to entry and residence for a maximum of 90 days. To engage in gainful employment for longer periods or to continue a fellowship, you must apply for a residence permit.
Important note: If you arrive with a tourist visa, you will not be able to exchange your visa, extend it or apply for a residence permit. This will result in you having to leave the country in order to apply for the appropriate visa.
You can find more information about visa regulations here.
Please note that all non-EU citizens need a valid residence permit to start their postdoctoral position. Only if you have been in Germany for more than 5 years or you are a family member of a residence holder do you not need to apply for a resident permit.
There are several types of residence permits. For international scientists who want to conduct a research project at a recognized institution, there are special residence permits with more relaxed requirements for issuance and other advantages, such as permission for family reunion and the employment of family members. They also may provide entitlement to parental benefit and child benefit. The residence permit for research purposes also enables you to carry out teaching work as a scientist. You can furthermore spend a limited period carrying out research in other EU states without requiring an additional residence title there.
Once the research contract or the admission agreement has expired, you can apply for your residence permit to be extended for up to nine months so that you can seek employment in Germany. Your future job must match your qualifications.
You should apply for the residence permit at the Immigration Office with time in advance, at least 2 months in advance. Our International Office will assist you regarding this matter and take care of the application procedures.
Once in Germany and once you have your appointment, you need the following documents for the application:
- two biometric passport photos
- Residents’ Registration Office registration card
- verification of employment (a contract of employment, admission agreement or confirmation of fellowship will usually suffice or – if these are not yet available – a letter of invitation from the institute showing the amount of monthly payments, gross and net)
- (rental) contract (stating the floor space in square metres) or proof of your accommodation in a hall of residence or guesthouse
- proof of health insurance for the whole of your stay (or better still, for longer). International health insurance is not sufficient
All international and national researchers moving to Germany from other places need to register at the Resident Registration Office responsible for the area you live within your first 14 days in Cologne. This is an important step, because many procedures depend on this process. Once you register, you receive a confirmation of registration (Meldebescheinigung), which you will need to extend your visa, apply for a residence permit, or even open a bank account.
Our international officer can assist you to arrange an appointment for you and fill in the forms, but you have to register personally at the Residents’ Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt). Upon request, our International Officer can go with you. To register, you need the following documents:
- passport or identity card for EU members
- visa if you needed it to enter in Germany
- letter from your landlord stating that you have moved in (Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung)
If you moved to Cologne with your family, you additionally (apart from the documents mentioned above) need:
- birth certificates
- translated marriage certificates (if married)
To register your family, they also need to go to the registration office in person. In case you have children, you should also apply for child allowance (Kindergeld) at the same time.
After your registration, you will receive your tax identification number usually by post. Keep this safe, because it is an important document and is valid for the whole of your residence, no matter where you live or how long you stay.