Historic castles and towns, stunning scenery, Christmas markets or simply beer, bread and sausages: Germany has it all and so much more. In recent times, Germany has attracted almost 40 million tourist per year with a considerable percentage of these visitors coming from outside the greater European area.
For most Europeans a visit to Germany is simply a matter of booking a flight or ferry but, since becoming a Schengen Member state in 1995, for many visiting foreigners it will be necessary to acquire a Schengen Visa for Germany.
Many of the world’s nations are referred to as “third countries” by both European Union and Schengen Area officials. Generally speaking, a “third country” is any country outside the EU and Schengen Area and citizens of these nations require a Schengen Visa to visit Germany or any of the other twenty-five Schengen states.
Listing all “third countries” would be a lengthy process and it is easier to define which nationalities do NOT require a Schengen Visa for Germany. These are:
- Citizens of any Schengen Area member state.
- Citizens of any of the European Union member countries.
- Citizens of countries on the EU visa liberalisation list.
The visa liberalisation list comprises around sixty nations around the globe who have a reciprocal arrangement with both EU and Schengen Area authorities and the list includes Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, America and Canada.
Citizens of countries who do not qualify under any of the previous criteria are termed “world citizens” and, as such, must secure a visa when visiting any Schengen Member state.
Purpose of Schengen Visa
The purpose of any visa is to check a visitor’s background and to ensure (as far as possible) that there is no risk involved in admitting the visa holder. It is both a security measure to detect any potential risk of criminal or terrorist activity and to ensure the visa holder is not intending to illegally remain in the country.
Once granted, a Schengen Visa is a seal of approval on the holder’s trustworthiness and honesty. A Schengen Visa has a limited time span of just three years whereupon it must be renewed if any further visits to the Schengen Zone are planned.
More than 15 million Schengen Visas are allocated annually and each one follows the same 90/180 rule. This rule specifies that the holder is entitled to enter and remain in the Schengen Area for a maximum period of 90 days in a 180-day time span. The clock on the 180 days starts ticking from the first day spent in the Schengen Area but the 90-day allowance can be broken into several visits or used in one block of time.
Using shorter time periods is best suited to tourists or business people on short visits while a longer block of time is more likely to be used by students. Stays of longer than ninety days are not covered by a standard Schengen Visa and, in such cases, it is necessary to acquire a Student Visa or National Visa for the country in question.
Pleasure, Business or Study?
A Tourist Visa is the most common form of German Schengen Visa and is used by millions of world citizens every year. However, it is not the only type of visa available and which one is most suitable depends on the main reason for the visit.
Deciding on which visa is most suitable depends upon:
- Purpose of the visit
- Length of intended stay
- Onward travel plans
In the majority of cases the Tourist Visa will be the likely candidate but this is just one of many forms of visa available.
The list includes visas for the following purposes:
- Holidays and Tourism
- Airport and Seaport Transit
- Training/Internship Visa
- German Language Short Course Visa
- Recognition of Professional Qualifications Visa
- Trade Fair and Exhibitions Visa
- Cultural, Sports and Religious Events
- Visiting Family and/or Friends
- Delegates on Official Business
- Medical Purposes
All of the listed visa types fall under the 90/180 rule with the exception of the German Language Short Course Visa which can be extended to up to one year subject to certain criteria.
Application and Support Documents
Applying for a Tourist/Visitor Schengen Visa for Germany is not a quick and easy process. It involves completing a detailed application form and collecting a not insignificant amount of supporting documents. The short-stay Tourist Visa is one of the easier application procedures but even this entails amassing the following paperwork and copies of documents:
- Completed Schengen application form (in English or German), dated and signed.
- Two identical, recent photographs conforming to passport standards.
- Current, valid passport no more than ten years old.
- Banks statements covering the preceding three months.
- Confirmation of sufficient (€30,000) Schengen Travel Insurance.
- Proof of booked accommodation showing relevant dates of any bookings in Germany.
- Letter of official vacation leave from employer. (Not applicable to unemployed applicants).
- Confirmation of civil status (marriage, birth or death certificates depending on circumstances).
- Driving license or recent utility bill as proof of residence.
- Apart from being less than ten years old, the passport supplied must also contain a minimum of two blank pages for the Schengen Visa and be valid for a minimum of three months after the last date in Germany or the Schengen Area.
Additionally, applicants are required to supply a letter detailing the main reason (or reasons) for the visit to Germany and any plans for excursions within the country or in other Schengen countries.
Once all required paperwork has been collected it will be necessary to attend a personal interview in order to complete the application process.
Typical Schengen Visa Interview
The personal interview is the last, and most important, step in the application process. It is the applicant’s responsibility to locate the correct German embassy, consulate or visa processing centre and arrange the interview and not that of the German authorities. The chief purposes of attending in person are:
- To allow the official in charge to personally evaluate the applicant.
- To verify the applicant’ identity.
- To check all documentation and information supplied.
- Answer any questions that may arise.
The interviewer may also ask a range of questions covering the applicant’s personal life and family background among other topics. Punctuality and honesty in answering questions are key to a favourable outcome so an applicant should prepare for the interview as much as possible beforehand. Finally, an applicant’s fingerprints are taken for the record and payment made in full for the visa being sought.
Applications for a German Schengen Visa should be made no earlier than six months before the date of travel as these will not be considered. While it is possible to have a visa application approved within fifteen days it is far more prudent to apply around three months before the first travel date to allow for possible problems or delays.