Been reading on this on many sites, including the official one (of course) and the wording is such that I'm not sure what the exact answer is.

My question:

I have entered Germany as a US citizen (so no visa needed for up to 90 days) and plan to stay for a few years for studying. What kind of visa (if any) do I need to apply for in order to stay in Germany legally? What is the difference between residence visa and residence permit? Do I need to have a student visa to apply for residence permit?

Please be specific in your answer.

  • 4
    Which official site have you been reading and which wording are you concerned about?
    – Relaxed
    May 20, 2017 at 10:15

1 Answer 1


A residence permit is a card you get from an Ausländerbehörde within Germany, a visa is a sticker you get from a consulate before entering Germany. In general, you are not allowed to apply for a permit if you don't hold a long-stay visa (i.e. if you entered on a short-stay visa or without visa) but there are a number of exceptions.

And one of these exceptions covers US citizens so what you need to do now is approach the Ausländerbehörde of your place of residence to apply directly for the permit (specifically: Aufenthaltserlaubnis zu Studienzwecken). By contrast, if you were not a US citizen, you could be required to return to your country of usual residence and apply there for the necessary visa, waiting for the decision outside Germany.

  • Small nitpick: as you know there is a small number of other countries whose citizens enjoy the same exception to the requirement to have a visa before applying for a residence permit; the "if you were not a US citizen" clause is therefore somewhat imprecise. I'm not sure how to improve it without impeding the readability of the answer, however, which is why I'm posting this comment instead of editing the question.
    – phoog
    May 20, 2017 at 15:55
  • @phoog Good point, I changed “would” to “could”.
    – Relaxed
    May 20, 2017 at 17:32

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