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I am an Australian who has recently been accepted into a Berlin University. I will be travelling around Spain and Portugal for a month and a half, and then travelling to Albania and Croatia for a few weeks before flying to Berlin. I am wondering how I can obtain entry into Germany and obtain a student visa there?

I have been told that I can't change a Schengen visa to a student visa when in Germany but am confused on how to enter without a Schengen visa. Any advice would be great.

  • You can actually enter without a Schengen visa but in your case you should simply apply for the student visa directly, while still in Australia. – Gala Jun 22 '17 at 15:44
  • @Gala but Australia is among the countries whose citizens can apply for residence permits after entering Germany without a visa. Why should Maverick apply for a visa in Australia? – phoog Jun 23 '17 at 2:37
  • Yeah the German Consulate in Sydney said that we should go there, but the processing time for the visa is up to 10 weeks, and we leave in 3 weeks plus they hold your passport. Also, the Australien.diplo website says that only in 'extreme circumstances' must Australians go to Sydney. – Maverick Jun 25 '17 at 0:47
  • @phoog No reason, I just went by the OP's expressed wishes to get a student visa and didn't thought of that aspect of the rules. – Gala Jun 27 '17 at 12:01
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A brief terminology tip: in the EU, as in many other countries, one cannot get a visa while in the country. The document you get while you're in the country is generally called a residence permit (in Germany, Aufenthaltstitel).

The normal procedure is for the foreigner to get a visa allowing entry into Germany. After entering Germany, the foreigner applies for a residence permit.

Nationals of many countries, including Australia, can enter the Schengen area without a visa for short visits of no more than 90 days in any 180-day period. Most of these countries' nationals can use this visa exemption only for such visits; to apply for a residence permit, they need a visa. However, citizens of a handful of countries, mostly "industrialized" countries with large economies, including Australia, are permitted to arrive using the general short-term visa exemption and then apply for a residence permit.

These rules varying by nationality should explain the inconsistent information you've found. Some specific points:

I am wondering how I can obtain entry into Germany...

Show up at passport control with your Australian passport.

...and obtain a student [residence permit] there.

I believe you will do that at the local Ausländerbehörde, but your school's office for foreign students will surely know the specific details. Do be certain to make your application before your 90th day in the Schengen area. For example, if you spend 46 days in Spain and Portugal, you will need to file your application by your 44th day in Germany. To avoid misunderstandings and other crises, it's of course best to file well in advance of the deadline.

I have been told that I can't change a Schengen visa to a student visa when in Germany...

As noted above, that advice doesn't particularly apply to Australian citizens.

...but am confused on how to enter without a Schengen visa.

Also as noted above, this is normal for Australians, who are exempt from the Schengen visa requirement.

Finally, the rules around residence permits and long-stay visas are set by national law rather than EU law, so they will vary from country to country. The fact that an Australian can go to Germany for study without a visa and then apply for a residence permit does not imply that the same process pertains in, for example, France. In fact, I think it does not.

  • Thanks a lot for your detailed message. So just to confirm... When I arrive in Berlin I will still have about 20-30 days left on my 90-day Schengen count. As long as I go to the office in Berlin with all my correct paperwork and apply there for a residence permit as a student is this all I need to study as an international student? There are no current appointments available at the office so we have been advised to line up early each day until we get in. Is this also true? Again, thanks very much for your help. – Maverick Jun 25 '17 at 0:53
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    phoog, Where can I find the list of the 'handful' of countries whose citizens can enter on the short-term visitor visa and apply for Schengen status? – ouflak Jun 27 '17 at 20:26
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    @ouflak see for example muenchen.de/rathaus/home_en/Department-of-Public-Order/…: "Nationals of the following countries can enter Germany without a visa: Andorra, Australia, Brazil, Canada, El Salvador, Israel, Honduras, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, San Marino and the USA." – phoog Jun 28 '17 at 3:48

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