Information for international students (english)

International students in particular must deal with a lot of formalities before setting out to study in Hamburg. In addition, advice is required during their studies and, above all, after graduation. Here you can find out which steps to take on your path towards gaining a degree and how to embark on a career in the Hanseatic City of Hamburg.

Information for international students (english)

Hamburg Welcome Center

Special local administration service for qualified professionals.

Hamburg Welcome Center attaches great importance to caring for and advising qualified professionals and executives. For this reason, we provide international executives, experts, academics, self-employed persons and their families with a wide range of information for new citizens, in addition to offering special services pertaining to aliens and registration law. This special service is available by appointment only. When arranging an appointment, you’ll be notified of the documents required to deal with the matters listed below.

​​​​​​​Address:

Hamburg Welcome Center
Adolphsplatz 1
20457 Hamburg
Tel.: +49 (40) 428 54 – 5001
Fax: +49 (40) 427 90 – 1662
E-Mail: info@welcome.hamburg.de
Web: www.welcome.hamburg.de / www.english.welcome.hamburg.de

How much does it cost to study in Hamburg?

State universities

Several types of contributions must be paid at the start of each semester: contribution to Studierendenwerk Hamburg; contribution to student self-government; administrative costs contribution. Higher education institutions that have a semester ticket also charge for the cost of using public transport for six months; a contribution to a hardship fund is also payable.

Private universities

Tuition fees are an important pillar in the funding of private universities. For this reason, the fees charged by private universities are considerably higher than those at state-run higher education institutions. For further information, please contact your chosen university.

Can I earn a livelihood by working part-time?

Job opportunities are restricted owing to the time required for study and the legal restrictions applicable to foreign nationals regarding taking up employment.

International students should therefore assume that they will be unable to fund their studies from this source of income alone. After all, the time required for study and the legal restrictions applicable to foreign nationals regarding taking up employment restrict their opportunities to work. However, most international students fund their studies in part by working temporarily out of term-time or even during term.

The 19th Social Survey 2009 revealed that international students earn € 430 on average per month. Students from non-EU Member States may work for up to 120 days per year without requiring a work permit (or alternatively up to 240 half working days). Part-time work typically performed by students (such as working as a tutor at a higher education institution, in a student residence or in the ConAction project run by Studierendenwerk Hamburg) does not count towards the number of work days permitted. Internships that are a compulsory part of your degree programme do not count either.

For more information about the 19th Social Survey on international students please visit: Internationalization of Study – Foreign Students in Germany – German Students Abroad. Results of the 19th Social Survey prepared by HIS Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH (Higher Education Information System) on behalf of the Deutsches Studentenwerk. Published by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). Bonn, Berlin, 2010 and http://www.sozialerhebung.de/download/19/Soz19_International_engl_INTERNET.pdf .

(Click on link to download PDF file)

What scholarship opportunities does Hamburg offer?

Financial support is offered by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), several countries of origin and the Federal State of Hamburg. A number of students are eligible for benefits pursuant to the Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG); some gifted students are awarded scholarships by foundations.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) offers strong international students scholarships for study trips to Germany. Applications must usually be submitted directly to the DAAD long before starting your degree programme.

Countries of origin sometimes fund scholarships for temporary periods of study abroad, for example in Germany. This is particularly the case for students from EU Member States.

Merit scholarships and examination grants funded by the Federal State of Hamburg are available to international students already studying in Hamburg. Please contact your university for further information about these and other scholarship opportunities, some offered by other donors such as the Ditze Foundation.

Some international students whose principal residence is in Germany may receive funding pursuant to the Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) in the form of a grant and a loan. To see if you qualify, check: http://www.studierendenwerk-hamburg.de/studierendenwerk/de/downloads/finanzen/Info-Blatt8BAfoeG.pdf

There are also a number of foundations that offer scholarships to gifted students. For more information see:“ http://www.studierendenwerk-hamburg.de/studierendenwerk/de/finanzen/ihr_weg_zur_studienfinanzierung/foerderung_studenten_ausland/foerderung_studenten_aus_ausland.php und http://www.studierendenwerk-hamburg.de/studierendenwerk/de/finanzen/ihr_weg_zur_studienfinanzierung/stipendien_inland/StipendienfrStudierendeausdemeuropischenAuslandundausderEU.pdf

In addition, one-off payments can be applied for in the event of financial distress. For further information, please contact Studierendenwerk Hamburg or Diakonisches Werk Hamburg, which has an “ecumenical emergency fund for international students”.

Can I extend my study trip after graduation to pursue continuing education?

Residence permits are always issued for a specific study programme and a certain degree. If applicants wish to pursue continuing education, a new residence permit must be requested specifying the new purpose. Once you have received admission to post-graduate studies, please apply to the Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) for an extension.

Your chances of approval will be greater if you completed your first degree quickly; the maximum permissible duration for educational stays in Germany is usually ten years.

Can I work in Hamburg after graduation?

According to Section 16 Paragraph 4 of the Residence Act (AufenthG), residence permits can be extended for 18 months for the purpose of finding a job following graduation, provided the applicant has sufficient funding for the transition period.

The subsequent extension of your residence permit for the purpose of looking for a job requires that the job matches your degree. For more information, please contact the Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) or Hamburg Welcome Center.

Can my school-leaving certificate or academic degree be recognised or credited here?

The reason for which recognition is required determines which office is responsible for taking the decision:

  • Recognition of school qualifications for study purposes: apply to the higher education institution of your choice with a certified copy of your certificate, which will automatically be assessed. If you already know that you need to take the assessment test (Feststellungsprüfung), please contact the Ministry for School and Vocational Education (Behörde für Schul- und Berufsbildung).
  • Crediting previous study achievements for immediate access to a higher semester: please contact the specialist advisors in your chosen university department regarding whether your previous study achievements can be credited before applying for a place at university.
  • Recognition of a Bachelor degree as a requirement for a Master’s programme: please apply to the higher education institution of your choice with a certified copy of your certificate, which will automatically be assessed.
  • Graduates from higher education institutions abroad wishing to enter the labour market: please contact the Central Recognition Office.

Information on using an academic title gained abroad: please contact the Ministry of Science and Research Hamburg (BWF), Department C34, Hamburger Straße 37, 22083 Hamburg, Phone: +49 (0)40 42863-4296. This ministry can also tell you which office is responsible for recognising qualifications for the purpose of starting work in an occupation regulated by law.

The Central Office for Foreign Education of the Standing Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs has published a list of countries with details of equivalences in the area of education and training. This list will tell you which school-leaving certificate from your country of origin is required to gain access to higher education in Germany and whether your academic qualifications equate to those in the German system.

External links

Information system for the recognition of international qualifications

Information system for the recognition of international qualifications

What must I consider if I wish to change subjects?

It you need to change subjects, this should be done at the earliest stage possible. Make sure you research your new discipline thoroughly before deciding to change subjects.

In accordance with Section 43 of Hamburg Higher Education Act, students may only change subjects after commencement of the third semester if this change is substantiated and express permission granted by the university. Cases in which priorities between major and minor subjects are altered or in which academic achievements gained in the previous subject can be credited to the new degree programme are generally less problematic.

Make sure you research your new discipline thoroughly before deciding to change subjects. Please contact the general study advisors at your university for further information about changing subjects. If your residence permit for study purposes contains an entry specifying your previous degree programme, you must contact the Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) soon after changing subjects to register the change. Do not wait until you next require an extension. Remember to take a certificate attesting your university’s approval of the change to the Foreigners’ Registration Office.

What level of German do I need to study in Hamburg?

Most degree programmes in Hamburg are taught in German. To ensure your studies are a success, you must have an excellent level of German before starting your degree programme. Before enrolment – possibly even before applying for a place at university – you must pass a generally recognised standard examination proving your German language skills.

Use of foreign academic titles

Here you will find a summary of the general and special provisions pertaining to the use of foreign degree titles, as well as a reference to the detailed information document issued by the Ministry of Science, Research and Equality, available for downloading. »

Authorisation to use titles arises directly from the statutory general authorisation in § 69 of Hamburg Higher Education Act (HmbHG) of 18 July 2001, as amended, which applies to bearers of foreign degree titles who are officially registered as having their principal residence in Hamburg. Owing to the statutory general authorisation, there is no need, nor is it hence possible, to apply for individual approval from the Ministry of Science and Research in order to use a foreign academic title.

The Ministry of Science and Research – Higher Education Office – does not conduct the general “assessment”, “recognition” or “equalisation” of examinations and academic achievements completed abroad because there is no legal foundation for this (exception: entitled parties under the Federal Expellees Act, see No. 2.1 of the downloadable version). Please refer to sub-clause III of the downloadable version with regard to responsibilities.

Summary of general rules concerning the use of degree titles

In accordance with § 69 HmbHG, a degree obtained abroad may be used in the form in which it was awarded (original form) specifying the awarding higher education institution (indication of origin) if it was duly awarded

  • upon passing an examination
  • upon completion of a course of academic study
  • by a higher education institution recognised according to the law of the country of origin.

The provision under § 69 HmbHG constitutes general authorisation. The bearer of the academic title is personally responsible for deciding whether the requirements according to § 69 HmbHG on authorised use of degree titles (see No. 3.5 of the downloadable version) have been met in his or her specific case. Where applicable, evidence must be provided to the approved authorities, e.g. by presenting the award certificate, the list of subjects and grades, transcripts, possibly a certificate by the competent foreign ministry on the recognition of the higher education institution, an official certificate on the legally admissible form of the foreign abbreviation, etc. – all of which must be presented as original documents, possibly together with a translation prepared by a translator sworn-in under German law.

Transliteration may be used

The original form in which the degree was awarded (e.g. Cyrillic letters or Arabic) may be transcribed letter for letter into Latin letters where applicable (transliteration).

Translations may be given

For better comprehension, a literal translation may be provided in parentheses. However, the sole purpose of the literal translation is to explain the foreign degree title; the translation may only be used in connection with the original degree title and not on its own. The translation may not be used if this runs counter to rules governing professions (see No. 3.4 of the downloadable version).

Officially authorised abbreviations may be used

Approved abbreviations or abbreviations which are verifiably customary in the country of origin may also be used – also with an indication of origin (see No. 3.1 of the downloadable version).

Conversion excluded

It is not possible to convert a foreign degree title into the corresponding German degree title, with the exception of entitled parties under the Federal Expellees Act (see No. 2.1 of the downloadable version). For this reason, the foreign degree title may not be used in the German form (e.g. “Diplom-Ingenieur”, “Diplom-Kaufmann”, “Diplom-Sportlehrer”, “Dr. phil.”, “Magister Artium”).

Original form is binding, purchased titles prohibited

Use of any title other than that stipulated in the original form, as stated in the award certificate (see No. 3.6 of the downloadable version), usually with an indication of origin, is prohibited, as is the use of purchased degree titles.

Area of application: Hamburg

All bearers of foreign degree titles whose principal residence is Hamburg are affected by this provision, i.e. both Germans with a foreign degree title and foreign nationals living in Hamburg. If you move to a different federal state, you are advised to contact the respective ministry of culture/science to find out which legal situation prevails there.

Summary of special provisions on the use of degree titles

Federal Expellees Act

Persons eligible in accordance with the Federal Expellees Act may apply individually for their university degree to be converted, which generally incurs a fee (see No. 2.1 of the downloadable version).

EU/EEA Member States, Switzerland, European University Institute, Florence, papal universities

Degree titles from these countries or institutions can be used in the original form without an indication of origin if the requirements under § 69 HmbHG are met (see No. 2.2 of the downloadable version).

Certain doctoral degrees from certain non-European countries

If the requirements under § 69 HmbHG are met, these degree titles can be used in the abbreviated form “Dr.” with or without an indication of origin (see No. 2.2 of the downloadable version).

Important information

  • Recognition/assessment of study abroad see sub-clause III of the downloadable version
  • Professional doctorates see No. 2.2 of the downloadable version
  • Translation, likelihood of confusion see Nos. 3.4 and 3.7 of the downloadable version
  • Unauthorised use within the meaning of § 132 a of the German Criminal Code see No. 3.5 of the downloadable version

Point of contact

Ministry of Science, Research and Equalities
Mrs. Brandenburg, Andrea.Brandenburg@bwfg.hamburg.de / Mrs. Rickert, Martina.Rickert@bwfg.hamburg.de
Human Resources and Legal Affairs
Hamburger Straße 37
22083 Hamburg

Phone: +49 (0)40 42863-4296
Fax: +49 (0)40 42863-2411

Downloads

Foreign academic degree titles, as of April 2010

PDF , 44.64 KB

Remaining in Germany after graduation

Legal information for international students on remaining in Germany after graduation.

As of 1 January 2005, the Immigration Act enables residence permits to be extended for up to one year after graduation in Germany for the purpose of looking for a job that matches the degree gained. As of 1 August 2012, this job hunt phase increased to a maximum of 18 months.

For this reason, foreign nationals from outside the EU must apply to the competent Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) for an extension of their residence permit in accordance with § 16 para. 4 of the Residence Act shortly after graduating. Citizens of EU or EEA states (EEA states = Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Swiss nationals continue to enjoy the right of free movement in order to seek work without having to visit the Foreigners’ Registration Office.

Provisions relating to entry and residence

For all matters concerning entry to the Federal Republic of Germany and residence in the country, your first port of call is the website of the German government’s Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Central Registration Office leaflets

Leaflets on issues related to the entry of foreign nationals to the Federal Republic of Germany can be downloaded from the Central Registration Office website.

Visa rules

Information on visa rules, a list of countries for which a visa is required to enter Germany and application forms can be downloaded from the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

The Schengen Convention

An important treaty on entry and residence rules in the European Union was signed in the town of Schengen/Luxembourg. According to the provisions of this treaty, citizens of the signatory states (Schengen citizens) may move across any point of common internal borders of these EU Member States without any border controls. The Schengen visa for nationals of other countries entitles these persons to travel within the whole Schengen Area (= territory of the signatory states) for up to 90 days in any half year period.

The Residence Act

Foreign residents constitute 9 per cent of the total population of Germany. Most of these citizens have adopted Germany as their home. The Aliens Law governs the residence and entry of foreign nationals. The new Immigration Act came into force in January 2005.

Below you will find a number of links to all important topics such as visa rules, citizenship law and Schengen provisions.

Welcome Services: preparing for your arrival

  • A Service Package can be purchased from Studierendenwerk Hamburg, entitling you to a special range of services. If interested, you can reserve a Service Package from abroad, entitling you to be picked up from the airport, for instance.
  • International students at some universities are offered support upon arrival by ‚Study Buddies‘, volunteer student aides.  Ask the International Office of your university for details.“
  • Studierendenwerk Hamburg
  • Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Service Package

The Service Package can be purchased from Studierendenwerk Hamburg, entitling you to a special range of services. If interested, you can reserve a Service Package from abroad, entitling you to be picked up from the airport, for instance.

Check list for moving to Hamburg

Six points that need to be dealt with

Once you have decided to study in Hamburg, please observe the following points with regard to your move to Hamburg:

  1. Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs It is important to observe the information given by the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding entry to Germany for study purposes.
  2. Plan your journeyPlan your arrival date carefully! Think about the time required to process your visa, and ensure you arrive in time to make use of universities’ advisory and preparatory services for freshers
  3. DocumentsPlease remember to bring the following documents with you:
  • School-leaving certificate (officially certified copies in the national language as well as a translation). A provisional list of grades (result slip/transcript) will not usually suffice.
  • Certificate of higher education entrance examination, if available (officially certified copies).
  • Academic credits with grades, if available (officially certified copies in the national language as well as a translation)
  • University degree certificates with a list of grades achieved, if available (officially certified copies in the national language as well as a translation)
  • Certificate of the assessment test on the preparatory course before studies (Studienkolleg) taken outside of Hamburg, if available (officially certified copy)
  • Health insurance documents, if applicable during your period of study in Hamburg.

Financial resources

Leave sufficient time to plan the transfer of your financial resources to an account accessible in Germany. Bear in mind that several large payments must be made at the start of your stay.

Proof of sufficient financial resources

To prove your ability to finance your studies

You need to prove you have sufficient resources to finance your studies in order to receive an entry visa or to gain a residence permit for study purposes. The criterion for this is the current maximum aid granted in accordance with the Federal Training Assistance Act (BAföG) (currently € 670 per month). This proof must be furnished in advance for a minimum of one year or – if you intend to stay for less than one year – for the planned duration of your studies.

The German National Association for Student Affairs (Deutsches Studentenwerk) website offers detailed information describing recognised forms of proof of sufficient financial resources for international students.

External link

The German National Association for Student Affairs (Deutsches Studentenwerk) website offers detailed information describing recognised forms of proof of sufficient financial resources for international students.

Visas

Nationals of many – particularly non-European – countries who plan to study in the Federal Republic of Germany for a longer period of time must apply for an entry visa at a German representation in their home country before setting out for Hamburg. Processing a visa application often takes 2-3 months, in some cases even longer, so it is advisable to submit your application as early as possible. It is important that you apply for the right type of visa:

  • Applicants who wish/have to enter Germany before being admitted to a higher education institution (for example to take an aptitude test): study application visa
  • Freshers with admission to a higher education institution: visa for study purposes

Please note: tourist visas are unsuitable for students because they only allow them to remain in Germany for up to three months. Tourist visas cannot be converted into visas for study purposes if admission is received whilst staying in Germany on a tourist visa.

Information on Germany, advice on entering the country and living here can be found on the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

External links

Please note: tourist visas are unsuitable for students because they only allow them to remain in Germany for up to three months. Tourist visas cannot be converted into visas for study purposes if admission is received whilst staying in Germany on a tourist visa.

Information on Germany, advice on entering the country and living here can be found on the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.

Registering your place of residence in Hamburg

Within a week of moving to Hamburg, you must register your address with the Residents’ Registration Office (Einwohnerbehörde). A form is available on the internet for this purpose. You will also need your passport and your tenancy agreement.

All Residents’ Registration Offices in the metropolitan area of Hamburg are authorised to accept your application.

Tip: International students who are new to Hamburg may also register at the Welcome Center.

Right of residence for students and graduates

The most important legal foundation for stays for study purposes is Section 16 of the Residence Act, which refers to: stays to prepare for studies and for study; the possibility to work part-time in addition to studying; the possibility for graduates to remain in Germany. The following application procedures are particularly relevant to international students:

  • Visa application prior to entry
  • Application for a residence permit for study purposes after entry
  • Application for an extension of the residence permit – which may be required several times in the course of your studies, depending on the validity period in your passport
  • Application for an amendment of the residence permit – for example, if changing subjects or universities, if starting an internship or in the event of any other amendment of the residence purpose
  • Agreement of a re-entry period for periods abroad exceeding six months (Section 51 Paragraph 1 Number 7 of the Residence Act)
  • Application for the subsequent immigration of family members (applicable to married students)
  • Application for a work permit for gainful employment for 120 days per year

Access the responsibility finder DIBIS to find out which immigration office is responsible for you. Freshers from abroad can also contact Hamburg Welcome Center.

Whenever you visit the Foreigners’ Registration Office, please remember to bring the following documents with you: your passport, a valid certificate of matriculation from your higher education institution, proof of how you finance your studies, written evidence regarding the current application (for example, a certificate issued by the university concerning your orderly schedule of studies or authorisation by the higher education institution for you to change subjects). Individual appointments can be made at some immigration offices, shortening your waiting time.

If you encounter any problems concerning your right of residence, please ask your university’s International Office for assistance.

Residence permits

If you intend to stay in Germany for longer than three months, you will require a residence permit, which will be entered in your passport.

Since you intend to study at one of Hamburg’s higher education institutions, you should apply for a residence permit for study purposes in accordance with Section 16 of the Residence Act. To apply for this residence permit, you will need your passport, a certificate of enrolment from your higher education institution and proof of how you will finance your studies. Once all of the requirements have been met, a residence permit will generally be issued for one or two years; where necessary, it may have to be extended in the course of your studies. The immigration office in your residential area is responsible for you.

New students arriving from abroad may also take the first registration steps at Hamburg Welcome Center. Please make an appointment accordingly.

Caution: Residence permits are always issued for a precisely defined purpose (for example, to study an expressly specified subject at an expressly specified higher education institution). If a major change should occur in the course of your studies – such as a change in universities or subjects, commencement of a practical semester, a longer period of study abroad, completion of your studies – the entry in your passport must be adapted accordingly. Please remember to notify the Foreigners’ Registration Office of such changes immediately. Before embarking on a period of study abroad exceeding six months, it is essential that you agree upon a re-entry deadline with the Foreigners’ Registration Office in accordance with Section 51 Paragraph 1 Number 7 of the Residence Act. Otherwise your residence permit will automatically expire six months after you have left the country.

Application for a residence permit

EU citizens who plan to change the location of their usual place of residence to Hamburg are officially given a settlement permit. Non-EU citizens can apply for a residence permit.