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 the research cooperation 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 "variant of concern areas", which are normally 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 local lockdowns, airline cancellations and the more difficult working conditions in the German diplomatic missions lead to a very complex overall situation. In addition, the various safety regulations on the 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 specific assistance with quarantine cases etc.
In this context, everyone should bear in mind that the journey itself is a 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_[..]), a domestic quarantine is obligatory or at least recommended. This also applies to vaccinated persons from variant of concern areas or if a negative Corona test-result is presented upon entry. For more information, please see the section "OBLIGATIONS BEFORE AND AFTER ARRIVAL".
Also note that as of 10 September, only high-quality rapid antigen tests from the list of the Paul Ehrlich Institute are recognized (https://www.pei.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/newsroom/dossiers/evaluierung-se[..] ).
In case of quarantine, it is the responsibility of the hosting institute to assist the affected international academics initially with the necessary arrangements (shopping, SIM card and/or internet access, etc.). An exchange of cell phone numbers between the researcher and the supervisor is also strongly recommended. Especially if the newcomer presents symptoms of illness, this can ensure contact with a doctor or the emergency services. All of this should be considered especially for scientists from high-incidence and virus-variant areas, where a 10- to 14-day isolation may be necessary.
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, Sabina Schneider, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Postdocs, scholarship Holders, professors, administrative staff = Welcome Centre of the International Office, Audrey Busch email@example.com and Maria Homeyer firstname.lastname@example.org
- Employment contracts = HR department, Stefan Schurmann email@example.com
- Issues concerning researchers from Brazil = Brazil Centre, Anja Grecko and Katy dos Santos firstname.lastname@example.org
Which entry regulations currently apply to international researchers?
A detailed overview of the EU entry regulations, as applied by the German government, is accessible on the webpage of the Foreign Ministry https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/einreiseundaufenthalt/coronavirus. There you find up-to-date information on all important topics such as entry restrictions, entry registration, obligatory testing and quarantine.
The official 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: https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/faqs/DE/themen/bevoelkerungsschutz/coron[..] (only in German). Please check for latest updates.
- Countries with restricted entry, from where the arrival in Germany is only possible for urgent reasons: all others.
In addition, incoming travel from some countries designated by the RKI as "virus variant of concern areas" (https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Risikogebiete_neu.html;jsessionid=6429D8EF72634C4408A99E7F621632F5.internet062?nn=2444038) is completely interrupted with a few exceptions. Please refer to the websites of the Federal Foreign Office (mentioned above) and the Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) https://www.bmi.bund.de/SharedDocs/faqs/EN/topics/civil-protection/coronavirus/coronavirus-faqs.html#doc13797140bodyText3 for more information.
Please note: for countries of the first category “unrestricted entry”, pandemic protection requirements such as mandatory testing and quarantine still apply (see the FAQs on “Rules of conduct before and after arrival”).
Due to the enactment of the Federal Coronavirus Entry Regulations as of 12 May 2021, uniform regulations concerning protection measures against the Corona Virus 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-informat[..]. The Corona Provisions of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia (https://www.land.nrw/corona) are also based on these federal regulations.
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.htm[..]). However, several German embassies and consulates operate on a reduced schedule and some are even closed. In certain countries, the visa application process has been outsourced to private enterprises, which don´t manage 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/coronavi[..] .
When applying for a researcher visa based on §18d, a signed hosting agreement https://www.bamf.de/SharedDocs/Anlagen/EN/Forschung/Forschungseinrichtungen[..] , 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/[..] is usually required along with the contract. There are other specific conditions for visas of PhD students. The “declaration of urgency” issued by the DAAD/HRK and 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 in their home country, to find out whether a visa application can be submitted at present and which procedures must be observed, before planning their journey.
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 are defined by the German Robert Koch-Institute https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/InfAZ/N/Neuartiges_Coronavirus/Risikogebiete_[..] :
- Normal risk-area
- "high-risk area" and
- "variant of concern areas"
Digital entry registration
Persons from high-risk areas (2) and variant of concern areas (3) must 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 complete the following substitutive notification on paper https://www.bundesgesundheitsministerium.de/fileadmin/Dateien/3_Downloads/C[..]. 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 persons and those recovered from a Covid-19 infection in the past 6 months do not have to present a negative test result upon entry, unless they come from a variant of concern area (https://www.bundesregierung.de/breg-de/themen/coronavirus/faq-reisen-173503[..]). In any case, they have to present their proof of vaccination or recovery. For non-vaccinated travellers, a general obligation to present a negative test result upon entry applies, regardless whether they come from a risk area or not. 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, for those arriving from variant of concern or high-risk areas, the proof of vaccination, recovery from Covid-19 or the negative test result has to be presented to the competent health authorities after arrival. Incoming travellers living in Münster need to send the relevant certification to the mail address email@example.com within 48 hours from their arrival.
The test certificate must be submitted on paper or in electronic form in German, English or French. Please note that only high-quality rapid antigen tests from the list of the Paul Ehrlich Institute are recognised (https://www.pei.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/DE/newsroom/dossiers/evaluierung-se[..]). The test result must be kept for at least ten days after entry and presented to the authorities upon request.
Important: To be considered fully vaccinated, the vaccine used has to be approved in Germany. At present, the four vaccines produced by BioNTech Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson (https://www.pei.de/DE/arzneimittel/impfstoffe/covid-19/covid-19-node.html;j[..]) are included. Moreover, the second (or last) shot must have been received 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 as a positive 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.
Unfortunately, proof of antibody detection alone is not acceptable as convalescent proof of recovery.
Regardless of the test result, in certain cases there is a quarantine obligation, which the state of NRW applies as follows:
- Persons entering from "variant of concern areas" must immediately reach their 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 present a negative test result upon arrival and send it by email to the address firstname.lastname@example.org 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" must immediately reach residence or other possible accommodation and completely isolate themselves there for a period of 10 days. However, they can avoid the isolation, if they present a proof of vaccination of recovery upon arrival. If they are neither vaccinated nor recovered, but have a negative test result upon arrival, they can be released from the quarantine taking a new test on the 5th day after entry and presenting a negative result to the address email@example.com.
- Persons entering the Germany from other countries, who have not been in a "variant of concern area" in the last 10 days, are exempt from the quarantine obligation. However, they must still present their proof of vaccination, recovery or a negative test result upon arrival.
The current entry quarantine obligation applies up to and including 10 November 2021. 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 can be found here: https://www.muenster.de/corona_faq.html.
Even for those entering Germany from a normal risk area 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 people, if they are not vaccinated or recently recovered. 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. 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-[..]. 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 upon arrival?
Testing centres requiring payment are available at all airports with flights from risk areas and in all bigger towns. For more detailed information on testing options after arrival check topic 4 “COVID-19 TESTING, VACCINATION AND MEDICAL ASSISTANCE”.
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-a[..] 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?
Once you arrived in Münster, there are various testing opportunities, even though the offer of the free citizenship Covid-19 test has ended on 11 October 2021. First of all, international researchers, who can prove vaccination with a vaccine that is not accepted in Germany, can take advantage of the Welcome Centre's supervised self-testing facility free of charge.
To check your vaccine use this link to the Paul-Ehrlich-Institute https://www.pei.de/EN/medicinal-products/vaccines-human/covid-19/covid-19-n[..] .
If your vaccine is not recognized, you can register for the supervised self-testing on this website. If the link does not work, you can also send a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For registration, you need to upload your proof of the unaccepted vaccination. Only when your eligibility has been checked, you will receive an info mail about when and where testing will take place.
Enrolled international students and doctoral candidates with not recognized vaccination are still entitled to the free citizenship test and therefore not included in this option. PhD students can also contact the Graduate Centre if they have any queries regarding testing opportunities (email@example.com).
If you are not vaccinated, you still have the option to be tested at various institutions for a fee. To find the nearest testing facility, use the following link https://www.muenster.de/corona_testungen.html, where testing centres, pharmacies, and doctors' offices offering this service are listed. Currently the cost of these tests with an official certification via email is between 10, 00 and 15, 00 Euros. Self-tests can also be bought in drugstores and discounters for a moderate price or ordered on-line.
Which options do international scientists have for vaccinating against the Corona virus?
At present, every person with a stable residence in Germany has the right to be vaccinated in a doctor’s study. Therefore, also international researchers from WWU can access vaccination, independently whether they are employed or holding a scholarship.
With the end of the intensive vaccination campaign this summer, the vaccination centres have been closed. However, there are still special mobile testing options offered to the public on certain days. You find information on these appointments here https://www.muenster.de/corona.html .
Moreover, 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 have a private health insurance, you can also access doctors, who are not in the KVWL’s list.
Once you chose a doctor, contact her or him and make an appointment for vaccination. This might be possible also via the website. For the appointment 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.