How to get financial support due to COVID-19 as a student in Germany

What you need to know about receiving financial aid for international students.

We should now be heading into the final months of the pandemic, with a vaccine beginning to be rolled out across the world. But the Coronavirus pandemic will continue to affect international students in Germany for a little while longer. For many international students in Germany, 2020 has been a really tough year, especially financially.

Thankfully, the German government is providing two forms of financial help to international students to help them make a success of their time in Germany: KfW loans and direct student grants. The government is also relaxing some residency rules for students already in Germany. We’ll run you through the basics.


The KfW Student Loan

One of the two main options for students looking for extra financial help during the pandemic, the KfW Student Loan is secure and good value for money.

What is the KfW Student Loan?

KfW Student Loans are low-interest loans given to students enrolled at a German university to help them with their living costs. It’s a monthly payment and can be used to finance any type of university degree. Once you’ve finished receiving the loan, there’s a period when you are only charged interest and do not need to start paying it back – that usually lasts between 18 and 23 months. After that, you’ll need to start making modest repayments.

Who is eligible to apply for KfW loans?

Anyone who is between the ages of 18 and 44, studying at a German university, has a registered address in Germany, and has studied for fewer than 10 semesters. The loans are not means-tested, which means you can get one regardless of your parents’ income. They are also available for every type of university degree in Germany, from undergraduate degrees right through to doctorates.

How long does a KfW loan last?

If you’re under 24 years old, then you can get 14 semesters' worth of KfW loans – that’s 7 years of studying. If you’re between 24 and 34 that goes down to 10 semesters; for those between 34 and 44, it’s down to 6 semesters, and support is not available for people over the age of 44. For graduate studies or doctorates, a maximum of 6 semesters’ support is available.

How much could I get with a KfW loan?

You can receive up to €650 a month for the duration of the loan. The maximum amount you can receive over your whole period of education is €54,600 – that’s 14 semesters’ worth.

How do I apply for a KfW Student Loan?

Applying is straightforward. There’s an online application form, and then you will need to provide a few other documents – ID, certificate of study, visa, etc. Instead of sending the application directly to KfW, you should send it to one of their ‘distribution partners’, which are mostly banks or the Deutsches Studentenwerk.

How will I receive my KfW's payments?

The money is deposited in your bank account on the 1st working day of each calendar month.


Grants for students (Zuschüsse für Studierende)

For those in financial need because of the coronavirus pandemic, the German Ministry for Education is providing grants for students in acute financial stress: Zuschüsse für Studierende.

What are the BMBF grants for students?

The BMBF-provided student grants are a non-repayable financial aid for students studying in Germany who are facing financial difficulty because of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike the KfW grants, the BMBF grants are for students in an emergency situation who need money immediately.

How do the grants work?

The grants are intended to support people while they are studying. The current round covers November 2020 to March 2021: the winter semester. The grants provide students with €500 a month for the semester period and are administered by the German Student Union.

Who can apply for a grant?

Anyone who is studying at a German university – no matter whether they are a German or international student – can apply. Unlike with the KfW student loans program, there is also no age limit. Although all students can apply, the grant will only be given to those who are in severe financial need, because, for example, they have lost their part-time job, haven’t been able to find a new one, have lost freelance work, or are no longer able to be supported by their parents because of the pandemic.

How much support can I get?

How much support you can receive depends on how much money you have in your bank account at the time of application. If you have less than €100, you can receive €500, with €100 taken off that amount for every €100 more you have - that means if you have between €400 and €499 in your bank account, you can get €100.

How can I apply? When do I have to submit my application?

Applications are made on an online portal. To apply, you’ll need your certificate of enrolment, ID, a bank account in Germany, and proof that you are in a coronavirus-related financial emergency. That usually means submitting your bank statements. You can submit your application right up until the end of each month.

If I am an international student, will the grant have a negative impact on my legal situation in Germany?

No. The grant will not have any impact on your status as an international student.


Will any of this affect my residency or health insurance?

As an international student living in Germany, I can no longer finance my studies due to the pandemic, and I have to renew my residence permit soon. What happens if I cannot provide proof of sufficient funds?

The first thing to do is to contact your local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde). You should be fine, as the Federal Ministry of the Interior have recommended to the German states that they do not ask for proof of sufficient funds from students already in Germany if they are having financial difficulty because of the Coronavirus pandemic.

Due to current travel restrictions, I cannot yet enter Germany and am taking online courses instead. Do I still need to have health insurance in Germany?

No. Although you will need to activate your health insurance when you eventually do move to Germany, you do not need to keep it active or to pay for it while you are not able to be in the country. You can find further information here.