As an international researcher or instructor at the University of Münster, there are some formalities that you need to take care of before and after you arrive. We have put together the most important information in a checklist. In most cases formalities are taken care of in a particular order.
Visa / Entering the country
1. Citizens of the EU, the European Economic Area and Switzerland
Citizens of EU member states, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland normally do not need an entry visa. An identity card is sufficient.
2. Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the USA
Citizens from these countries do not require an entry visa. However, if you wish to stay longer than three months and/or wish take up gainful employment, you will need a residence permit. You can apply for this after you have entered Germany.
The entry visa requirement does not, however, depend solely on your country of origin. It also depends on how long you will be staying in Germany and on the purpose of your stay. You are therefore advised to contact the German Embassy in your home country as early as possible in order to clarify which visa regulations apply to you.
3. Citizens from all other non-EU states
3.1 Short stays of up to three months
If you do not plan to stay in Germany for longer than 90 days per half-year, a Schengen visa (type C visa) will generally be sufficient. Please note, however, that a Schengen visa cannot be extended beyond a three-month stay or converted to a different purpose. If you hold a type C visa, you will have to leave the country after three months at the latest.
To obtain a Schengen visa, you will have to prove that you have sufficient financial resources to cover your expenses during your stay. You must also have adequate health insurance cover (at least 30,000 euros) which is valid in all Schengen states. Please make sure that when you complete your application for a Schengen visa, you state “scientific activity” or “research” as the purpose of your stay. The Schengen visa entitles you to travel freely and stay in all states which are signatories to the Schengen Accord – the so-called “Schengen states”.
Exemptions from visa requirements for short stays
Nationals from some countries can enter Germany without a visa for visits of up to three months. A list of these countries can be found on the website of the German Federal Foreign Office. Please note, however, that after you have entered Germany you cannot apply for a residence permit for a longer stay and will have to leave the country after three months at the latest. If you are yet unsure about how long you will be staying in Germany, you should apply for a student/research visa (type D visa) before departing.
3.2 Stays lasting longer than three months
If you are planning to stay in Germany for longer than three months, you must apply for a national visa for Germany (type D visa) while you are still in your home country or country of residence. This also applies if you are already staying in another EU member state. Under no circumstances should you enter Germany on a tourist visa (Schengen visa, type C). This cannot be extended and only permits you to stay a maximum of three months, after which you will have to return to your home country at your own expense and re-apply for a new (correct) visa there. This also applies to members of your family travelling with you.
The type D visa, initally issued for a period of three months, can be used for short stays in other Schengen states as well. After you have arrived in Germany, you will have to apply for a residence permit on the basis of your visa at your local Foreigners Registration Office.
4. Researcher’s visa (for researchers from non-EU states planning to stay in Germany for more than three months)
Following a reform of the German Immigration Act, a new residence permit was introduced especially for researchers – the so-called “researcher’s visa” and “researcher’s residence permit” (§ 20, Residence Act). The residence permit entitles the holder to carry out research activities at the research institute named in the hosting agreement and to undertake teaching duties.
Hosts can find important information on the Intranet regarding the applicable terms and conditions of hosting agreements.
Applying for a visa
As a rule, you will be asked to provide the following documents when applying for a type D visa:
- Passport (valid for the entire duration of your stay)
- Proof of intended activity (e.g. scholarship, employment contract, invitation or hosting agreement with the university)
- Proof of sufficient financial resources (if not clear from the documents named above)
- Adequate health insurance
- Details of planned accommodation in Germany
- For members of your family: marriage and birth certificates
- Application form (available from diplomatic missions)
As the documents can vary from embassy to embassy, please be sure to inquire in advance at the embassy in your home country about which documents you will need for your visa application.
In Germany, anyone who moves to a new place of residence is required to register with the local authorities. You and the members of your family will have to register at the local Resident Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) within one week of entering Germany or moving to a new address. For your registration you will need:
- an identity card or passport
- form entitled “Registering with the Authorities” ("Anmeldung bei der Meldebehörde")
At the Citizens Office in Münster (Bürgerbüro Mitte), you will receive a:
- certificate of registration which is required for extending your visa or opening a bank account
- police clearance certificate (polizeiliches Führungszeugnis) which the University requires for concluding your employment contract. Foreign employees should submit a corresponding certificate issued in their home country.
At your local tax office (in Münster: the Finanzamt Münster Innenstadt or Finanzamt Münster Außenstadt), you will receive:
- tax income deduction certificate if you have an employment contract with the University of Münster lasting more than 183 days. If you are staying in Germany for a shorter period, the University’s personnel department will apply to the Düsseldorf-Süd Tax Office for a certificate for persons with limited tax liability.
Change of address/Leaving the country:
If you change your address during your stay, you must re-register at the Residents Registration Office in your new district. When you leave Germany at the end of your research stay, you must de-register there as well.
If you are non-EU citizen and wish to stay in Germany for longer than three months, you will have to replace your visa with a residence permit after you arrive. In most cases, it is clear which residence permit applies to your situation – as stipulated by the relevant paragraph of the Immigration Act. In some cases, however, you may be allowed to choose the paragraph named in the residence permit. Depending on your personal situation, this decision can entail advantages or disadvantages.
- Residence permit for the purpose of studying or earning a PhD (§ 16): This paragraph applies to students and doctoral candidates who have enrolled in a course of study leading to a PhD.
- Residence permit for the purpose of employment (§ 18): This paragraph applies to international (visiting) academics who have received a job offer (e.g. employment contract as a research assistant/scholarship). PhD students with employment status are also permitted to choose this paragraph.
- Settlement permit for highly qualified persons (§ 19): This paragraph applies to highly qualified individuals – so-called academic professionals and executives in business, academia and research. Under special conditions, which include grounds for approval and disclosure of the selection criteria by the research institute, a permanent settlement permit can be issued through § 19.
- EU Blue Card (§ 19a): The EU Blue Card promotes inner-European mobility of researchers, which means it applies to non-EU citizens who enter Germany from a third country, as well as anyone who already holds an EU Blue Card and is currently staying in another EU member country. It may also apply to academics who are already in Germany. To be eligible for a Blue Card, applicants must have a degree from a German university, or one from a foreign university which is either recognised or comparable to a German degree, an employment contract and a minimum salary. (Blue Card to work in the EU)
- Residence permit for the purpose of research (§ 20): This paragraph applies to academics with a specific research project. For this purpose a hosting agreement must be signed with the research institute. Further information on the conditions and advantages of this type of visa can be found under “researcher’s visa”.
- Settlement permit (§ 9)
- Permanent EU residence permit (§ 9a)
The German Rectors’ Conference (HRK) has compiled a list of criteria for the various residence permits. Further information is available from the EURAXESS Germany website.
Work permit, employment contract, appointment and salary
Academic staff, visiting researchers and technical staff in research teams do not require any special approval from the German Federal Employment Agency. If you are a foreign national and wish to take up academic employment, the local Foreigners Registration Office can issue you the relevant permit and add it to your residence permit.
Foreigners Registration Office of the City of Münster
Citizens of the European Union and nationals from the European Economic Area and Switzerland enjoy freedom of movement for workers. They do not need any approval to take up gainful employment. Currently, nationals from the new member states (except Malta and Cyprus) do not yet enjoy full freedom of movement for workers. There are, however, exemption clauses provided for researchers in the so-called Researcher Directive.
Information on stays in Germany for research purposes / Researcher Directive
Additional information from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation
Employment regulations for partners
Spouses who are not themselves academics and who wish to work in Germany generally need approval from the Federal Employment Agency. They have to apply for a residence permit at the local Foreigners Registration Office, allowing them to take up employment. There, they have to present a specific offer of employment. The Foreigners Registration Office forwards the application internally to the Federal Employment Agency, which checks whether German nationals or EU nationals have to be given preference. This process can take some weeks or even several months.
Advice from the Dual Career Service at the University of Münster [de]
Concluding a contract of employment / appointment
The conditions of employment for academic staff are provided in an employment contract with the University of Münster. Professors and academics with civil servant status, on the other hand, receive an appointment, i.e. an official document confirming their appointment to the respective position.
Salaries for civil servants are defined by the German Civil Servants’ Remuneration Act and by the relevant state regulations. Professors’ salaries are defined by the Academics’ Remuneration scale. Salaries for research assistants in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia are determined by the applicable remuneration group laid down in the tariff agreement for public service employees.
Freedom of Movement certificate
The Freedom of Movement certificate (Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung) for academics from the EU has been discontinued. Foreign nationals planning to stay in Germany longer than three months are required to register at the local Residents Registration Office.
Opening a bank account
If you stay in Germany for an extended period of time, receive a regular salary or scholarship payments, and have to pay rent and utilities, it makes sense to open a giro (checking) account, which you can do at any bank branch. To open an account, you will need a passport or identity card and the certificate of registration from the Citizens Office. Some banks also ask to see the residence permit issued by the Foreigners Registration Office.
Commercial and savings banks: There is hardly any difference between a commercial (merchant) bank and a savings bank in term of the services they provide. Bank charges can, however, vary. You should therefore inquire about these in advance. After opening your giro account, your bank will issue you a debit card (bank card, savings bank card, EC card) with which you can withdraw money from cash dispensers at your own bank (at no charge) or at other banks (for a fee).
Money transfers: Money transfers from countries outside Europe can be expensive. You should ask your home bank about its charges for such services, and then, if possible, select a bank in Germany with which it cooperates.
List of commercial and savings banks in Münster [de]
Social and health insurance
The social insurance system in Germany covers insurance for old age, unemployment, illness and nursing care. Both the employee and employer pay an equal share of the contributions into the scheme. Contributions to the statutory accident insurance scheme are paid only by the employer.
All employees are responsible for arranging their own health insurance. Therefore, it is important to note the following:
In Germany, health insurance is compulsory for researchers and any members of their family accompanying them. You will need proof of health insurance cover in order to obtain your residence permit and sign an employment contract. Your insurance policy must at least cover any medical treatment in the case of acute illness or accident. In Germany there are two types of health insurance: statutory and private.
Statutory health insurance
There is a uniform contribution rate of 14.6 percent (October 2016) for all statutory health insurance providers, of which the employer pays 7.3% and the employee 7.3%. Employees’ contributions are deducted at source from their gross salary. Statutory health insurance providers are permitted to charge employees an additional individual contribution. Although their services are larged defined by German law, there are differences between the providers, e.g. in the areas of customer service, additional benefits and optional plans. Employees are free to choose their own statutory health insurance provider. If you do not make any choice yourself, the University of Münster will register you with the AOK fund.
Private health insurance
If you earn more than 57,600 euros a year (or 4,800 euros per month) you can sign up for private health insurance. Unlike statutory health insurance, contributions into a private health insurance scheme do not depend on income but rather a variety of criteria which define one’s risk profile (age, gender, profession, state of health) as well as by the insurance cover desired. The more comprehensive the coverage, the higher the premium. Private patients receive invoices made out to them personally. You will have to pay these yourself and the health insurance company will reimburse you later.
More information on health insurance
- If you come to Germany on a scholarship/grant, or are financing yourself, you can only take out private health insurance.
- If you are an EU citizen and have health insurance cover in your home country, you may receive medical treatment in other EU member states – as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland – and have the costs reimbursed by your insurance provider at home.
More information on health insurance for EU citizens
Liability and accident insurance
Anyone who causes damages is obliged to pay for their repair or replacement in full. For this reason, we recommend that you take out private liability insurance. Otherwise you will have to pay for these damages out of your own pocket.
If you happen to have a job-related accident, you are covered by accident insurance taken out and paid for by your employer. If you wish, you may also take out private accident insurance to cover any accidents outside your working time.
Staying in Germany on a scholarship/grant
If you come to Germany on a study or research scholarship, you may be exempt from paying taxes here in accordance with German income tax law. To find out whether and which tax exemptions apply, please contact the scholarship/grant provider. You should also look into whether you will have to pay taxes in your home country on the scholarship money you received in Germany.
Staying in Germany with an employment contract
If your research stay in Germany lasts longer than a half a year on the basis of an employment contract, you are liable to pay taxes in Germany on all the income you have earned worldwide.
Double taxation agreement
To prevent foreigners from having to pay taxes simultaneously in Germany and in their home countries, there exist so-called double taxation agreements with many countries which specify where foreign employees are obliged to pay taxes.
Application for a certificate for employees with limited tax liability [de]
At the end of every calendar year, you can (if you have been staying in Germany for more than 183 days) declare your taxes to the tax office in the town or city in which your reside. This declaration may possibly lead to a reimbursement of some of the taxes you have paid. The necessary forms can be obtained from your local tax office or at the town hall.
German tax law is unique in that it also levies a church tax. Under certain conditions, religious communities can have their church tax collected for them by the state. For the major churches (i.e. Protestant, Roman Catholic and Jewish), church tax (9% of income tax) is collected by the state, along with income tax, and is deducted from an employee’s monthly salary at source. For this reason you must indicate whether you belong to a religious community when you register at your local Resident Registration Office.
More information on taxes at Euraxess
You can receive a pension from the German statutory pension scheme when you reach retirement age, provided you have at least five qualifying years (years when contributions were paid; maternal/paternal leave)
If you have not paid into the system for a full five years and return abroad, you can, under certain conditions, apply to have the pension contributions reimbursed.