STAY AT WWU AND ASSISTANCE
Under which conditions is the stay of international researchers (doctoral students, postdocs, scholarship holders, professors etc.) at the University of Münster possible?
Generally speaking, the stay of international researchers at WWU is permitted at present. Even if the Corona pandemic makes it challenging to welcome incomings under various points of view, the recruitment of staff from all over the world and the continuation of research cooperations with international scholarship holders is of great importance to the WWU. Therefore, since August 2020, we have expanded and newly developed structures to accompany arrivals and to make them as safe as possible. This also includes the preparation of the following information.
In Germany, research stays fall under the category of essentially necessary reasons to travel and are therefore normally allowed, even during the pandemic, with the required precautions. Special rules apply to persons from "virus variant areas", which are currently affected by an almost total ban on entry and transport (see the questions on the topic of "Entry regulations").
Nonetheless, host institutes and visiting researchers should carefully consider whether a stay is appropriate and necessary at present. The global situation is extremely dynamic and short-term lockdowns, airline cancellations and the more difficult working conditions in the German embassies/consulates lead to a very complex overall situation. In addition, the various regulations at international and national level are constantly changing. The currently valid official rules on departure, arrival, and visits of incoming academics provide the framework for the provisions of the WWU.
How does WWU support international researchers after arrival?
The responsibility for international academics lies with the inviting department. The central administration will provide as much support as possible through guidance and general advice, but cannot include “corona services” such as specific assistance with quarantine cases, etc.
In this context, one should always bear in mind that the journey itself is a high risk factor, especially if it involves passing through different airports and train stations. Therefore, regardless if incoming researchers live in the WWU guesthouses or privately, if they are arriving from risk areas (check for updates on the website of the Robert Koch Institute:
https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Risikogebiete_neu.html), currently they are either obliged to retreat to domestic quarantine for at least 5 days or at least strongly advised to do so. This is prudent even for persons, who produce a negative Corona test result upon arrival.
In case of quarantine, the hosting institute is expected to support the international academics with the necessary initial help (especially shopping, sim card and/or internet access, etc.). It is also useful to exchange mobile phone numbers between the researcher and the host. Especially if the newly arrived person shows symptoms of disease, this will allow contacting a medical doctor or the emergency number. All this should be considered with special attention, if a 10-14 day segregation is necessary for scientists returning from high incidence or virus variant areas.
Who provides information to international researchers apart from the departments?
For further information, contact the specific persons in charge, as follows:
- PhD students = Graduate Centre, Katy Krukar, email@example.com
- Postdocs, scholarship Holders, professors, administrative staff = Welcome Centre of the International Office, Audrey Busch firstname.lastname@example.org and Maria Homeyer email@example.com
- Employment contracts = HR department, Stefan Schurmann firstname.lastname@example.org
- Issues concerning researchers from Brazil = Brazil Centre, Anja Grecko and Katy dos Santos email@example.com
Which entry regulations currently apply to international researchers?
A detailed overview of the EU entry regulations, as applied by the German government, can be found on the webpage of the Foreign Ministry https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/einreiseundaufenthalt/coronavirus . There you will find up-to-date information on all important topics such as entry restrictions, entry registration, compulsory testing and quarantine.
Entry rules at present differentiate between:
- Arrival from countries with unrestricted entry, i.e. EU-member states, countries from the Schengen-associated area (for example Norway, Switzerland and Island) and some Non-EU countries, as indicated on the website of the Federal Ministry of the Interior (only in German): https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/faqs/DE/themen/bevoelkerungsschutz/coronavirus/reisebeschraenkungen-grenzkontrollen/IV-reisebeschraenkungen-im-aussereuropaeischen-luft-und-seeverkehr-einreisen-aus-drittstaat/faq-liste-IV.html#f13738796 (only in German). Please check for latest updates.
Due to the enactment of the Federal Coronavirus Entry Regulations as of 12 May 2021, uniform regulations concerning the Coronavirus now apply in all federal states. The relevant information is published on the website of the Federal Ministry of Health under https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/en/coronavirus/current-information-for-travellers.html. The Corona Regulations of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (https://www.land.nrw/corona) are also based on this federal regulation.
Before planning your stay, you should check whether entry from your country of origin is currently possible from a legal point of view. Normally an entry visa is required for researchers from non-EU countries (check https://www.uni-muenster.de/forschung/en/wissenschaftler/formales/Visum.html). However, several German embassies and consulates operate on a reduced schedule and others are even closed. In some cases, the visa applications have been outsourced to private enterprises, which don´t process all visa categories and often don´t have specific expertise on researcher visas. Especially traveling with family members proves difficult at times.
Additionally, in the case of restricted entry, a proof must be provided that the stay in Germany has an important reason, e.g. a job offer with an employment contract where the "work cannot be postponed or carried out abroad". For more information on this condition, check the following link: https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/faqs/EN/topics/civil-protection/coronavirus/travel-restrictions-border-control/IV-restrictions-applying-to-air-and-sea-travel-outside-of-europe/which-skilled-and-highly-qualified-foreign-workersare-permitted-to-enter-Germany.html .
When applying for a researcher visa based on §18d, a signed hosting agreement https://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/EN/Forschung/Forschungseinrichtungen/08muster-aufnahmevereinbarung-deutsch-englisch.pdf;jsessionid=F42351EFFC32CBD1AB6AE42C69144D6C.internet571?__blob=publicationFile&v=6 , funding proof and/or an employment contract are necessary. For the Blue Card, on the other hand, a “declaration on the employment relationship” (=Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis) https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/downloads/DE/veroeffentlichungen/themen/migration/feg-anwendungshinweise-anlagen/anlage2.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=5 is usually required along with the contract. There are other specific conditions for visas of PhD students. The “declaration of urgency” required in the past is currently no longer necessary, but can still be helpful. You can obtain indications on the preparation of these documents and the different visa categories applicable for researchers from the supporting units at WWU mentioned under point 1. In any case, international researchers should request information from the German embassy or closest consulate in their home country, to find out whether a visa application can be submitted at present and which procedures must be observed at the start of their trip.
OBLIGATIONS BEFORE AND AFTER ARRIVAL
Which obligations do international researchers have before and immediately after their arrival?
Different categories of risk areas
For entry requirements, the following categories of risk areas (RKI website https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Risikogebiete_neu.html) are defined:
- No risk-area
- "high-risk area" and
- "virus variant areas"
Digital entry registration
Persons from high-risk areas (2) and virus variant areas (3) must already fill out a digital entry application before entering Germany (www.einreiseanmeldung.de) and carry the registration certificate with them on entry. If, in exceptional cases, it is not possible to carry out a digital entry notification, travellers must instead fill out the following substitutive notification on paper https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/fileadmin/Dateien/3_Downloads/C/Coronavirus/Infoblatt/2021/Englisch.pdf. Please note that fraudulent entry registration websites are currently in circulation. The operators of these websites pretend to carry out the digital entry registration for travellers and to transmit the data to the authorities; a fee is charged for the services. Therefore, only use the website www.einreiseanmeldung.de for the digital entry application, which is always free of charge. Only the proofs of the digital entry declaration generated by this website are accepted during controls.
Vaccinated and recovered persons do not have to present a negative test result upon entry, unless they come from a virus variant area (https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/coronavirus/faq-reisen-1735032). For non-vaccinated or non-recovered persons, a general obligation to test on entry applies, regardless of whether they come from a risk area or not. If they enter Germany by air, a negative test result must be presented prior to travel. The test must have been carried out at the earliest 48 hours before entry. In countries where there are few opportunities for testing, airlines may offer the tests or have them carried out by third parties.
In addition, the proof of vaccination or recovery from Covid-19 must be presented to the competent authorities after arrival. Incoming travellers need to send the relevant certification to the mail address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The test certificate must be submitted on paper or in electronic form in German, English or French. In principle, procedures of the “Nukleinsäureamplifikationstechnik” (PCR, LAMP, and TMA) and rapid antigen tests are recognised as long as they fulfil the criteria recommended by the WHO (cf. https://www.pei.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/newsroom/dossiers/mindestkriterien-sars-cov-2-antigentests-01-12-2020.pdf?__blob=publicationFile). The test result must be kept for at least ten days after entry and presented to the competent authorities upon request.
Important: To be considered fully vaccinated, the vaccine used has to be approved in Germany. The currently approved vaccines are listed on the website of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute (https://www.pei.de/DE/arzneimittel/impfstoffe/covid-19/covid-19-node.html;jsessionid=B7F0A7A9E1D2FAEE6AEDBF8A960CCD5A.intranet241). Moreover, the second (or last) shot has to be administered at least 2 weeks before departure.
The proof of recovery of a previous infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, must be issued in written or digital form in German, English, French, Italian or Spanish, and be based on laboratory diagnostics comprising a nucleic acid test (PCR, PoC-PCR or other nucleic acid amplification test methods) performed no less than 28 days and no more than six months previously.
Regardless of the test result, there is a quarantine obligation, which the state of NRW applies as follows:
- Persons entering from "virus variant areas" (3) must immediately reach their main or secondary residence or other possible accommodation and completely isolate themselves there for a period of 14 days (calculated from the day of their arrival). This also applies to persons who have initially entered another state of the Federal Republic of Germany. Besides the quarantine, these persons are obliged to send their negative test result by email to the address email@example.com of the Public Health Department of Münster within 48 hours. Moreover, if typical symptoms of an infection with the coronavirus such as cough, fever, cold or loss of smell and taste occur during the time in quarantine, they have to inform this department immediately. A negative test result does not shorten the period of segregation.
- Persons entering the country from "high-risk areas" (2) must immediately reach their main or secondary residence or other possible accommodation and completely isolate themselves there for a period of 10 days. However, they can avoid the isolation starting at day one, if they present a proof of vaccination of recover. If they are neither vaccinated nor recovered, they can be released from the quarantine obligation as soon as they receive a new, negative test result, obtained earliest on the 5th day after entry.
- Persons entering the country from "normal risk areas" (1) who have not been in a "virus variant area" (3) in the last 10 days are exempt from the quarantine obligation, as long as they can present a negative test result which was carried out no earlier than 48 hours before or after entry. These persons are obliged to send the test result by email within 48 hours after arrival to the address firstname.lastname@example.org of the Health Department of the City of Münster. Without this test proof, the person in question must retreat to domestic quarantine for 10 days as well. In this case, she or he can be released from the quarantine obligation presenting a new, negative test result from the 5th day after entry.
These entry rules are subject to change in time, therefore inform yourself about eventual updates. In general, only a few categories of persons are exempt from the quarantine or testing obligation. Further information on entering and returning to Münster: https://www.muenster.de/corona_faq.html.
Even for those entering the country with a negative test result, WWU strongly recommends a domestic quarantine of at least 5 days in order to avoid endangering new colleagues and other fellow human beings. During this time, no visitors from outside the household are allowed. After that, we advise you to take another test to determine whether you are infected with the coronavirus (see questions on "Testing and medical assistance").
For international scientists from normal risk areas and high incidence areas who have already undergone vaccination against the Corona virus, no further quarantine is suggested by the WWU, as long as a negative test was presented upon entry by plane. Nevertheless, vaccinated persons from virus-variant areas are also obliged to comply with the quarantine of 2 weeks imposed by the federal government.
Further questions and answers for people entering the country from risk areas can be found on the website of the Federal Ministry of Health: https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/coronavirus-infos-reisende/faq-tests-einreisende.html#c18621. In addition, compare this information with the most recent ordinance of the Corona Protection Ordinance applicable in NRW: https://www.mags.nrw/coronavirus-rechtlicheregelungen-nrw. Please also note that violations of the Corona Protection Ordinance applicable in NRW are punishable as administrative offences on the part of the competent authorities.
Which testing facilities are available?
Testing centres requiring payment are available at all airports with flights from risk areas. Free-of-charge citizen testing is also available to international researchers once they arrive in Münster, provided they are symptom-free. To find your nearest testing facility, use the following link https://www.muenster.de/corona_testungen.html, where you can find testing centres, pharmacies, and doctors' offices offering this service. Self-tests can also be bought in drugstores and discounters for a moderate price.
Residents of the WWU guesthouses have the option of free self-testing after a minimum of 5 days quarantine and need to follow special regulations, which they and their hosts can find in the “Guest accommodation” section of the Welcome Centre web pages.
All incoming researchers are strongly recommended to install the Corona Warning App developed by the German government on their smartphone. The app is also available in English https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/corona-warn-app/corona-warn-app-englisch and other languages.
COVID-19 TESTING AND MEDICAL ASSISTANCE
Where can international researchers from risk areas carry out a Covid-19 test after arriving in Münster?
(1) If you live in the WWU guesthouses and arrived from a risk area, we strongly recommend you to stay in domestic quarantine for five days after arrival and then undergo another quick test. At your request, this will be deposited in flat by the guesthouse team. This also applies if this regulation is currently not obligatory or if you already have a first negative result of a Corona test. A photo of the test result should be send to the Welcome Centre via the e-mail address email@example.com.
The duration of this quarantine is extended to 2 weeks for persons from virus variant areas and is obligatory.
(2) Researchers from risk areas, who do not live in the WWU guest houses, must currently present or complete a negative test on arrival and report the result to the health office of the City of Münster (see the questions on the topic "Obligations before and after arrival"). Even if you can avoid the quarantine obligation with a negative test result on the day of arrival, we recommend that you seclude yourself for 5 days and take a test for the greater safety of your fellow citizens and colleagues. Self-tests can be bought in drugstores and discounters or ordered online (for example DM, Shop-Apotheke)).
Free citizen testing is also available to international researchers once they arrive on site, provided they are symptom-free. To find your nearest testing option, use the following link https://www.muenster.de/corona_testungen.html, where you can find testing centres, pharmacies, and doctors' offices where you can get tested.
Which options do international scientists have for vaccinating against the Corona virus?
The priority list of different categories of age and medical condition for vaccination has been abolished in Germany since 7 June. Therefore, every person with a stable residence in Germany has the right to be vaccinated in a doctor’s study or vaccination centre. Therefore, also international researchers from WWU can access vaccination, independently whether they are employed or holding a scholarship.
Vaccination centres of the state of NRW
Since 26 June, all people residing in NRW can apply for a vaccination appointment at one of the official vaccination centres (https://www.land.nrw/corona/impfung). An overview of the locations is published here (www.land.nrw/de/corona/impfung). The appointment is available through the medical doctors’ association on the website of the Kassenärztlichen Vereinigung Nordrhein (https://termin.corona-impfung.nrw/home). Take your passport, the registration of your address (the so-called „Anmeldung“) and, if available, the vaccination booklet with you for the appointment. Without the latter, you will receive a substitute certificate from the vaccination centre.
Apart of the vaccination centres, also selected general practitioners can vaccinate their patients. International researchers should therefore – and in order to have a contact person in case of illness – choose a GP as soon as possible after their arrival. Persons with statutory health insurance can proceed as follows:
- Go to this link on the website of the Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Westfalen-Lippe https://www.kvwl.de/earzt/.
- In the section “Arzt- Psychotherapeutensuche”, enter your address in the left field at the top.
- In the right field at the top, select “Allgemeinmedizin”.
- For a doctor who speaks English, now select “English” or another language in the next fields under the keyword "Besonderheiten (beruhen auf Selbstauskünften)”. The system then filters only English-speaking doctors in their area.
If you are vaccinated at a doctor´s study, also bring your passport, the registration of your address (the so-called „Anmeldung“) and, if available, the vaccination booklet for the appointment. Without the latter, you will receive a substitute certificate from the MD.
How to proceed in case of Covid-typical symptoms?
In case you show symptoms, always retreat to voluntary quarantine and get in contact with a medical study or the local Corona hotline (Tel. 0251/492-1077) for a consultation. In severe cases (i.e. if you have high fever for more than one day or encounter respiratory problems) and cannot reach a GP, call the medical emergency number (Tel. 116 117). If you need to obtain a test with symptoms, contact your general practitioner.
If you feel ill with Covid-19 symptoms during the weekend or a holiday, you have the possibility to carry out a PCR-test in of the two following hospitals:
Tel.: 02 51/500 70
Weekends and holidays from 8 am until 10 pm
St. Franziskus-Hospital Münster
Tel.: 02 51/93 50
Weekends and holidays from 9 am until 9 pm
Important: Both facilities don´t carry out testing to release persons from quarantine.