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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Confusing Process of Getting a Student Visa

After being accepted to graduate school in Germany, I posted a to-do list on my blog listing all of the things I have to do before the semester starts in Germany. I formatted it with nice little check boxes next to each item on the list, making it appear like I could easily just work my way through each item one-by-one until everything was taken care of.

Well, like all things bureaucratic in Germany, it has not quite worked out that way. You see, I have run into this annoying paradox as I have tried to procure three specific documents: the official student enrollment from the university, my student visa, and German health insurance.

Here are the documents required to get each of these three things:

Official Student Enrollment

- Visa
- Health insurance

Student Visa

- Official student enrollment
- Health insurance

Health Insurance

- Official student enrollment

Okay, so if each of these things requires at least one of the other, where does one start? Here is how I did it.

1. Sign Up for Health Insurance

After receiving my official acceptance letter from the university, I go to a TK office, one of the most popular public providers of health insurance in Germany. I show her my acceptance letter and tell her I need student insurance. She has me fill out the forms and gives me a letter saying that I am "signed up" for insurance starting October 1st.

2. Submit Paperwork to University

Next stop is the university. I hand over all of my paperwork accepting the spot in the program, along with my letter from the health insurance. Everything looks good so far.

3. Receive Temporary Enrollment from University

One week after turning in the paperwork, I receive a temporary student enrollment from the university. On the document, it says that it is only effective until October 13th, and that I can only receive my official enrollment once I show the university my student visa.

4. Officially Enroll in Health Insurance

Now that I have my temporary enrollment, it is enough to prove to the health insurance that I am a student. This means that I can now become officially enrolled in German public health insurance. I submit all of the paperwork along with a bio-metric picture of my face for my health insurance card.

5. Apply for Student Visa

After receiving my health insurance card in the mail, it is finally time to head to the dreaded Ausländerbehörde (foreigner's office) to apply for my student visa. I bring a letter of enrollment in German health insurance, the temporary enrollment card from the university, a bio-metric picture of my face, and a fistful of cash.

6. Show University My Student Visa

Once I get my student visa, I need to bring it to the university. Once they see it, they can issue me my official enrollment. Yay! We're almost done!

7. Show Health Insurance Official Enrollment

The health insurance provider is not very trusting, and they need me to prove one last time that everything worked and that I received an official enrollment. So, I bring this into the office for them to make a copy of. Now we are officially done!

So, that is how it should all work. I am currently between step number 4 and 5 as I wait for my health insurance card in the mail. Once I get it, hopefully everything goes smoothly in the foreigner's office. Wish me luck!

If you are an expat, have you ever run into such confusing bureaucratic issues?


  1. Yes, I have experienced this recursive cycle - simply moving here to join my husband, whom I had married six years previously, required this. I needed a work permit and Visa in order to get health insurance, but to get health insurance I needed both a job and a work permit, and in order to get a job I needed both health insurance and a work permit/Visa. My German husband who is also a business owner said the German motto should be "If we can make the whole process more convoluted by adding another layer of bureaucracy, why not do so?"

    Good luck with the rest of the process!

    1. I figured it was like that with other types of visas as well... Silly Germans.

  2. OMG what a process!! Good luck! I hope it all works out for you :) Germany is just gorgeous!

  3. I had a terrible time enrolling in the local uni this past year. I was insured through my program with a legitimate, well-known private German insurer, and originally my uni told me it was fine, then as I was trying to enroll they changed their minds and told me I had to go to the local AOK branch to have them issue me a document that basically said, "Yes, this is real insurance." It was a huge hassle.

    1. I love the run-around when one person tells you something is fine, then the next one says no, then the original person changes their mind... Yeah, I have been there before. Let's just hope that it all continues to work out in the end!

  4. LOL. This process is ridiculous but sounds a lot like Germany! Good job for sharing it as it sounds complicated!


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