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Frequently Asked Questions

This page should answer most of your questions about living and studying in Germany. However, if you have any questions or remarks left, please contact us. Your cooperation is most appreciated.

More FAQs can be found at study-in.de life.

Why should I continue my university education in Germany?

German institutions of higher education have a centuries-long tradition of academic excellence. There are more than 300 institutions of higher education spread all over Germany with 82 universities, 136 universities of applied sciences (“Fachhochschulen”) and 46 colleges of music and fine arts. There is a very wide spectrum of study options. In the last few years inter-disciplinary science and research have become significantly more important.

Since the mid 90’s German universities have developed new study opportunities of specific interest and relevance for international students as courses and lectures are held in English with comprehensively designed study programs, international degrees and an academic support system provided by tutors and mentors. No tuition fees are charged (some exceptions apply).

What are the degrees offered by German institutions of higher education?

  • Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Master of Arts (M.A.) for non-technical subjects
  • Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.), Master of Science (M.Sc.) for technical and science-oriented subjects
  • Bachelor in Business Administration (BBA), Master in Business Administration (MBA) for economic and business management
  • Bachelor of Computer Science, Master of Computer Science
  • Bachelor of Social Work (B.S.W.), Master of Social Work (M.S.W.)
  • “Diplom” (4-5 years, not comparable with Diploma courses in NZ) for economic and business management, technical and science-oriented subjects, degree is being phased out
  • “Magister” (4-5 years) for humanities and social sciences, degree is being phased out

Can I study in Germany in a language other than German?

Yes! For those whose proficiency of the German Language does not allow to study in German, there is a wide variety of International Degree Courses, where the language of instruction is English, at least in the first semesters. German language courses are offered before and during the program. Many postgraduate courses are designed and conducted entirely in English. However, the language spoken off campus is German.

What are ‘International Degree Courses’?

In order to give more consideration to the interests of international student applicants, German institutions of higher education have introduced courses with an international perspective. Students can study for a Bachelors or Masters degree. Courses for undergraduates take 6 to 8 semesters, leading to a Bachelors degree. Postgraduate courses take 3 to 5 semesters leading to a Masters degree. In certain courses it is possible to obtain a PhD with 6 additional semesters. The academic standard of these courses is very high and the same number of seats is open to international and German students. The medium of instruction is English, German and/or bilingual.

What is the difference between a University, a “Fachhochschule” and a Technical University?

All degree programs lead to a Bachelors or a Masters Degree or the German equivalent. The “Fachhochschulen” (University of Applied Sciences) are generally more oriented towards the practical use of theoretical knowledge. Most of their degree programs are in the field of engineering, natural sciences and business administration. Degrees in the field of humanities, social sciences are seldom offered at the “Fachhochschulen”. They maintain close contacts with industry and offer extensive opportunities for internships. On the other hand, “Fachhochschulen” do not award the title of PhD. If you are certain you do not want to pursue an academic career (university teaching etc.) but instead you want to gain as much practical experience as possible, a “Fachhochschule” might be the right place for you to study.

How do I gain a doctorate in Germany?

As soon as you have chosen a topic area, you need to find a professor who will act as your academic supervisor (“Doktorvater” or “Doktormutter”). The fastest and easiest way to get in contact with a German professor is through personal contacts of professors at your home university and their networking. Other possibilities are through scientific publications and searching the net, e.g. at http://www.higher-education-compass.de and at http://www.bildungsserver.de/index_e.html

Once you have an academic supervisor for your doctoral thesis, you will generally be required to enrol at the relevant university for a number of semesters. Please inquire as soon as possible about whether the degree you currently hold qualifies you for a doctoral program. German universities are increasingly creating special programs for foreign doctoral candidates which have been specifically designed to meet the needs and interests of international applicants. These special measures primarily involve preparation, guidance-counselling and the provision of favourable research conditions. Not only can the thesis often be written in English or another world language, but study-integrated German language courses also help students overcome the language barrier.

What are “Graduiertenkollegs” (Research Training Groups)?

The “Graduiertenkollegs” (Research Training Groups) are university institutions funded by the DFG. Doctoral candidates pursue their thesis work in the framework of a systematic and interdisciplinary study program and in joint groups of researchers who co-ordinate their research activities. Check out the list of Research Training Groups available.

What about libraries and computer facilities at German universities?

German institutions of higher education usually have extremely well-stocked libraries and archives where you can work in the quiet atmosphere of reading rooms. You do not need to buy all the recommended and mandatory reading material for your seminars. However, popular books are often out on loan. All institutions have set up computer facilities with individual access where students can work and use printing and scanning facilities. At all institutions, students are provided with email accounts at least, and frequently entire student accounts on the system.

How much money do I need to finance my stay in Germany?

You are strongly advised to assess your financial resources realistically. Although there are no tuition fees to be paid, you should have enough funds to cover your cost of living for the entire duration of your study. You should estimate with monthly expenses of no less than € 700. You should not plan on financing your studies by working in Germany, because your student visa and residence permit do not allow you to be gainfully employed for more than 90 days (180 half days) in a given year. If you do not finance your studies through own means but are sponsored by a third person (parents, relatives etc.) your relation to the sponsor has to be stated clearly and proven. Your sponsor has to give an explicit declaration of sponsorship.

Am I allowed to work while studying in Germany?

As a full-time student you are allowed to work part-time for 90 days (180 half days) in one year without a work permit. However, you have to contact the respective employment office, which cites and states the necessary conditions. If you are a DAAD scholarship holder and would like to earn some extra money besides studying, you need to get permission from the DAAD first.

Will my spouse be allowed to work in Germany?

Yes, under certain conditions. If your husband or wife wants to work in Germany, he or she should let that be known when applying for the visa. Spouses who accompany guest researchers can receive a limited residence permit and a working permit if they submit an application. This should be done as soon as possible so the application will be put in priority sequence.

What about child care and schools?

Every uni in Germany has a creche and kindergarten run by the local student service organisation (Studentenwerk). Their facilities are open to children of current students, but not of staff. For very young children, between the ages of one and three, all-day care is possible at day nurseries. But as with all-day kindergartens, it’s hard to find free spots here. So-called “Day Mothers” (Tagesmütter) often provide day care in their own homes. You and the day care provider can agree on when you will drop off and pick up your child, and you aren’t bound to the specific times of other day care institutions. Babysitters, who charge an hourly fee to look after children, often advertise their services on notice boards found in supermarkets or kindergartens. Information about kindergartens, ‘Tagesmütter’ and other day care options is available at youth offices, or city and municipal administration offices.

Children between three and six can attend the kindergarten. No one will force your child to go to kindergarten, but if you (or your child) would like to, registration takes place usually in the spring. Even so, most kindergartens will accept children later if there’s still room. Kindergarten costs vary. Public ones cost between EUR 70 and 120 a month; private ones between EUR 150 and 300. Every child in Germany over the age of three has the right to a place in a kindergarten and can spend mornings there until about 12:30 p.m.

While kindergarten is optional, school is not. Every child between the ages of 6 and 15 has to attend school. There are no charges, although parents must pay for basic teaching materials, including books in some of the federal states. Other federal states have “Lehrmittelfreiheit”, which means that all school text books are provided on loan to the students.

Do I have to pay taxes in Germany?

Whether you need to pay taxes or not depends on the duration of your stay in Germany as well as your status. If your stay in Germany does not exceed six months, you are not required to pay taxes. But if your stay is a longer one, you have to pay tax: Income taxes will be deducted from your income or fellowship. The employer, your host institute, pays these directly to the state. There are exceptions. Fellowships in amounts up to 2,000 euro are tax free. If your stay in Germany is shorter than half a year, taxes must be paid in your home country. Instructors and researchers who come to Germany for two years can also pay taxes at home, but a prerequisite is that your activities in Germany concern themselves solely with teaching. Germany has entered agreements with a variety of countries regarding tax law. These so-called double taxation agreements determine in which country taxes must be paid. Those who have paid some tax must file an income tax return at the end of every year. That can be done from home if you’ve returned to your home country when the end of the year rolls around. Filing an income tax return almost always pays off, since most of the time the taxpayer has paid too much and is entitled to money back.

Is my Driver’s Licence valid in Germany?

In general, the rule is that foreign licences are valid for six months. However, if your residency is abroad, you have it easier since your driver’s licence has no time limits. If you do claim a residence in Germany, you can legally sit behind the wheel for half a year. After that, your licence must be transferred. With some countries, this transfer requires the theoretical and driving tests, which are administered by driving schools. You can find out what regulations apply to your home country by asking the driver’s licence department of your city or district administration office. In order to transfer your licence, you’ll need.

  • your driver’s licence
  • a passport photo conforming to biometric passport requirements
  • proof of residency registration
  • a declaration that the license is still valid
  • passport or identification card

Am I safe in Germany?

There are areas in every city that women or men should avoid – in Germany as well. Caution is well advised, but fear isn’t called for. Germany is a relatively safe country, even though a country without crime has yet to be discovered. But if you follow a few rules, it’s relatively safe – for a woman or a man – to go about daily life in Germany. Depending on the neighborhood, it can be wise to avoid dark and deserted areas. Parking garages often have parking spaces near the entrance designated for women. A woman should only meet a man she doesn’t know well in a place where other people are present. When looking at a new apartment, always be sure a companion is there with you. In an emergency you can call the Police from any mobile phone or telephone booth free of charge by dialling 110.

What’s the weather like in Germany?

Life in Germany also means to cope with seasonal weather changes. The country lies in a rather cool westerly wind zone between the Atlantic and the continental climate in the east. Extreme weather changes tend to be rare. The average winter temperature is between 1.5°C in the lowlands and minus 6°C in the mountain areas (not to worry, all flats and houses in Germany are equipped with heaters). July is the warmest month of the year with an average temperature of 18° C in the lower regions and 20° C in the sheltered areas of southern Germany. You can pursue leisure activities in accordance with the prevailing seasonal weather. Winter offers skiing, not only in the Alps to the south, but also in the hills and lower mountain ranges. Summer can be pleasantly spent on the beaches of the North Sea and Baltic Sea.

Is there any difference between living in eastern or western Germany?

The Berlin Wall fell on a November night in 1989 and the two German States reunited in 1990. Today, the differences between the “Ossis” from the east and the “Wessis” from the west are still noticeable, although they are increasingly fading. Young people, in particular, no longer grow up with the awareness of a divided identity. Indeed, much has become more modern in the east: This part of Germany has been undergoing a process of modernisation since German unification. Students will find smaller universities in the east which have the advantage that much more direct contact between academic staff and students is possible. [Lebenshaltungskosten und Löhne]

Can I bring pets to Germany?

If you can’t bear leaving your pet behind, you can take it along with you to Germany. But you must ensure that the animal is vaccinated against rabies, at least 30 days before crossing the border. In this case, vaccination must not date back more than twelve months and six months for cats. A tax is levied on dogs, which can be paid through your bank after registering the animal at the local town hall.

What about mobility in Germany – can I travel the country?

Yes, you can! You don’t actually need a car in Germany — even though driving may be fun if somehow different from driving in NZ!

The country has an excellent public transport network, and if you’re enrolled as a student at a German uni, your Semesterticket will probably give you access to a sizeable chunk of it. Bus and rail will take you to practically every village. The trains run by Deutsche Bahn AG, the S-Bahn suburban rail networks and the tram and underground lines (U-Bahn) are to be found all over Germany. Busses and taxis are also available. Deutsche Bahn’s InterCity trains commute regularly between the major cities, as do the high-speed ICE trains and long-distance busses. Domestic flights are also an option, but unless you travel the entire length of the country, you should always opt for trains instead. All major cities have airports, with the larger ones servicing international routes. One means of transport is particularly popular with students and many places have established special lanes and parking opportunities for it: the bicycle. Cycling is an ideal way to get around, especially in smaller towns. You can quickly reach any destination you like. Student districts also usually have the necessary infrastructure, from the cycle repair-shop to the specialist stores for racing bikes.

Do I need a visa and what do I need to consider when applying for one?

Visa regulations change quite frequently, so the information given out here is but a very rough guide.
As a NZ national, you do not require a visa to enter Germany for a period up to three months and if you do not plan to take up gainful employment requiring a work permit. For study, you can at present enter on a visitor visa and then convert it to a study visa. If you intend to enter Germany to work or to carry out research at an institution of higher education, you need to apply for a visa beforehand. It’s important to remember to apply for a visa well in advance. Please contact the German Embassy for information on documents required to apply for a visa.

If you are not a NZ national, please contact the German Embassy to check the list of countries whose citizens require visas to enter Germany.

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