German visa questions and a question about Goethe Institut stipends
September 20, 2011 11:24 AM   Subscribe

I want to take some intensive language classes in Germany for 6-7 months. I'm not affiliated with a university, and I have a bunch of question about visas and one short question about stipends from the Goethe Institut.

My first questions are all about visas. I think I've heard it makes more sense to enter Germany without a study visa (I'm American) and then apply for one once I'm in country. Does that make sense? I'll be arriving in Berlin in January, so it shouldn't be peak tourist time. Also--if I should apply in Berlin--any tips for getting in and out of there efficiently? Other visa questions: I'll be studying with the Goethe Institut which only offers classes in 1 or 2 month chunks, so to prove that I'm going to be a student there for 6 or 7 months, am I going to have to pay for all of those classes upfront? Also, I'll be renting a room from some friends in Berlin, which means I'm not going to have my name on any electric bills, etc. How do I prove my (temporary) residency? And, finally, is it kosher to apply for a 7 1/2 month visa if I've only got plans to be there for 7 months at most, just to give myself a little wiggle room?

My question about stipends is really short. Several people have told me that the Goethe Institut gives out stipends sometimes, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to apply for one, because I can't find a page about it on their web page or an application anywhere. If you happen to know how I start that process, I would be very grateful.

Thanks for all your help.
posted by colfax to Travel & Transportation around Berlin, Germany (3 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I did this and currently live in Berlin, feel free to memail if you have more questions, this stuff gets complicated!


Definitely apply when you're in Germany. Thats what everyone does, don't make your life any harder than it has to be. Also, once you're in Germany you have to apply within three months.

The Ausländerbehörde is where you do all your visa stuff, and itfucking sucks in lots of interesting ways. Ask them for an appointment by email, and keep in mind that your appointment may be a month from the day you request it. Without an appointment, if you just show up, you have to get in line about 2 hours before it opens - considering it opens at 7 am, is in the middle of nowhere, and its going to be Winter - you DO NOT want to do this. Also, you should be able to communicate with them in German or bring someone with you who can - they may or may not speak English and if you get unlucky, they will not hesitate to send you home. (Sending people home is like their hobby.)

No, you don't need to pay up front for your language classes. However, the classes do have to be "intensive" which, if I recall, is like 20 hours in course work per week (this can include homework). I signed up for a 3 month course at my local Volkshochschule and promised to take more classes when that was done, and that was fine. Speaking of, are you definitely stuck with Goethe institute? That thing costs an arm and a leg, the Volkshochschule is government run, costs peanuts, and my classes there were totally passable. I paid like 120 euros for a 5 day/week 3 hours/day 3 month course, which is an awesome deal, and you get to meet people that you wouldn't meet at Goethe.

As for proving your residency, you need to register (anmelden) at your local Bezirksamt (neighborhood Government building thingy.) The slip they will give you is your proof. In order to anmelden, ask your friends to write up a subletting lease for you and have everyone sign it. (I'm not 100% sure that this is sufficient though.)

As for the duration of your visa - you're getting a "language learning visa." If you tell them that you plan to enroll in a University afterwards, the standard duration of all such visas is 2 years. Just do that and you'll have plenty of wiggle room.

Also beware that they're really really anal about health insurance. You need very specific health insurance to get your visa. ALC seems to specialize in providing all the paperwork that you need for getting the German government off your case, though I'm sure there's others.

Also, I did all this more than 2 years ago, so things might have changed - YMMV!
posted by tempythethird at 4:09 PM on September 20, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh to be clear, when I say that they "won't hesitate to send you home," I didn't mean kicking you out of the country and back to the US. I kept not having the right papers for my health insurance and they told me to come back with the right papers in 3 weeks, 3 times! Each time they'd give me a temporary "micro-visa".
posted by tempythethird at 4:23 PM on September 20, 2011

Thanks so much for your answers. I'm really grateful for your help. I'm going to read all your links and do a bit more research and then will probably send you some memail, if that's okay.
posted by colfax at 5:09 PM on September 20, 2011

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