For many visitors, entering Germany will be a straightforward procedure, especially for those who wish to stay fewer than 90 days.

Here's what you need to know about visas and entry requirements.

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Visa-free travel to Germany applies for many nationalities

Germany is part of both the European Union and the Schengen Area, a bloc of 27 member nations that allows freedom of movement. EU citizens do not require a visa to visit Germany for any amount of time, but they will need to carry a valid passport or national identity card.

Many non-EU nationals, including citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK and the USA, who are visiting Germany as a tourist do not require a visa for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However, your passport must be valid for three months beyond your intended departure date and it must have been issued within the last 10 years.

Germany's Auswärtiges Amt (Federal Foreign Office) website has an official list of visa exemptions for short-term stays. Check this list well ahead of your travel departure date in case you do need to organize a visa before your trip.

If you’re arriving in Germany from a Schengen member nation, you do not have to show your passport or go through customs – no matter your nationality. If you're arriving from a non-Schengen country, full border procedures apply.

A small blonde boy looks delighted with the prezel he's holding in the centre of Munich
Germany is part of the Schengen Area, a group of European countries that allows easy movement across borders © SbytovaMN / Getty Images

How do I get a visa for Germany?

Non-EU nationals who are not eligible for a short-stay visa exemption will need to apply for a Schengen Visa before traveling to Germany. Applications for a Schengen Visa must be filed with the embassy or consulate of the country that is your primary destination in the Schengen Area. It’s recommended that you apply at least 15 days in advance but no earlier than six months before your intended date of arrival.

Staying longer than 90 days means more paperwork

EU nationals who wish to stay in Germany longer than three months must register with the authorities at the local Bürgeramt (citizens' registration office).

Non-EU nationals who plan to stay in Germany longer than 90 days, including those who wish to work or study, will require a visa. As a general rule, you will need to contact your nearest German embassy or consulate before entering Germany, and begin your visa application well in advance.

There is a working holiday visa program for some nations

If you’re aged between 18 and 30 years old and a citizen of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, Hong Kong SAR, Taiwan or Uruguay, you may be eligible for the working holiday visa programme, which allows you to work and travel in Germany for one year. Young Canadians have access to a similar scheme called the Youth Mobility Visa.

The working holiday visa is a bilateral agreement and the specific conditions of your visa will depend on your citizenship. As a general rule, working holiday visas should be applied for before arrival in Germany, though in some cases it may be possible to apply at the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) after entering the country.

A hiker sits at a viewpoint looking across a green valley towards a castle on a hill
Visa extensions can be tricky to come by © Westend61 / Getty Images

What if I want to extend my stay in Germany?

You’ll need a pretty good reason to be granted an extension to your stay in Germany (or the Schengen Area) – the simple fact you’re having a good time is unlikely to cut it. If you aren’t granted an extension, you will need to leave the Schengen Area within the time frame of your visa. 

To avoid potential penalties for overstaying, use the Schengen Area calculator to make sure your planned stay is in line with the 90/180 rule. It can be more confusing than it first seems and it’s important to get it right.

From 2024 there will be new requirements when entering the EU

After a number of delays, the EU’s Entry/Exit System (EES) is due to be fully operational in 2024. This new automatic monitoring system will register the entry and exit data of non-EU nationals at external EU border crossings, with the aim to increase security and make it easier to identify those who are overstaying in the EU.

While the EES won’t affect visa requirements, it will mean one less stamp in your passport – the system will replace the need for the manual stamping of passports. For more information about the EES visit the European Commission website.

This article was first published Jul 30, 2021 and updated Jul 23, 2023.

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