German visa

Challenges of securing a German student visa

The covid-19 pandemic increased the visa waiting period in most countries. Find out more about international students' experiences regarding the topic.

Moving to a new country is an exciting journey of knowing a new culture, meeting diverse people, and getting closer to your career goals. But it also means dealing with bureaucracy you may not be familiar with.

Expatrio and the Deutsche Gesellschaft internationaler Studierender (DEGIS) conducted a survey in 2021 with around 3,000 international students from over 90 nationalities to gather insights on their relocation experiences in Germany. Even though students' most significant challenge was not dealing with the German bureaucracy, this aspect is still an intrinsic part of the journey to a new life chapter in Germany.

For non-European students, securing a German student visa is one of the essential steps in any student's relocation plan. And as if this process wasn't already challenging enough before the covid-19 pandemic, it became more difficult for international students to secure their German student visas due to increased waiting times.

Regarding the relocation preparation topic, 36% of our survey respondents said that securing an appointment with the relevant German Embassy or Consulate was one of the biggest challenges concerning the visa process. Compared to the 2020 survey, waiting periods have become longer, and 11% more respondents had to wait for more than two months for a German visa appointment.

Other challenges mentioned in the visa process were: 

  • Uncertain waiting duration (21%)
  • Long processing time (20%)
  • Preparing required documents (14%)
  • Expensive visa fee (4%)
  • Analog processes (3%)
  • Other (2%)

A factor influencing visa waiting times is the students' home country. In general, the most common waiting time for a visa appointment increased from two to four weeks in 2020 (46%) to four to eight weeks in 2021 (33%). However, Pakistani respondents reported waiting for over a year for a visa appointment, while most Ghanaians (25%) waited for one to two weeks.

Our survey results also showed an increased fluctuation in visa waiting times, especially regarding the appointments. While in 2020, for almost half of survey respondents (46%), it took two to four weeks for an appointment, the responses for 2021 were more diverse. The most common answer (33%) in 2021 was four to eight weeks to book their date. However, 27% of respondents reported waiting for two to four weeks, and 11% said it took two to three months to secure a visa appointment.

International students planning on pursuing German higher education also need to be more patient when collecting their visa documents. The period between the visa appointment and collection also increased in 2021, with the most common time (39%) being four to eight weeks, while in 2020, students would mostly wait for two to four weeks to collect their visa papers. However, in 2021, the majority of Hong Kongers (47%), Colombians (19%), and Peruvians (25%) waited for four to six weeks.

Suppose you plan to pursue a higher education degree in Germany, and your program starts in the upcoming 2022/2023 winter semester. In that case, we highly recommend you look for a visa appointment as soon as possible. Seek information on your relevant German mission and gather your visa documents, so you can be ready to start your studies in Germany.

If you want to know more about the challenges international students face when relocating to Germany, download our survey report!

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