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Studying in Germany

First steps to studying in Germany 

(for non-EU nationals)


Are you a student ready to enroll in a German higher education institution? Or a Ph.D. candidate. Here are the first steps you need to take when moving to Germany.

1. Apply for admission to a German university (from abroad)

Requirements and application deadlines can vary from one university to another and from one programme to another.

If you get admitted to a German university, you can then apply for an entry visa, which could either be a student or an applicant visa. 

Check out the video below, that explains how the German higher education system works


2. Apply for a visa at a German mission abroad

First case scenario
You can be granted a student visa if you received a written approval for the purpose of study preparation or were granted a place at a German higher education institution. 

Second case scenario
If you are still waiting on the notice of admission (notification or application delays) or need to pass an entrance examination, you will have to apply for a student applicant visa. Upon your arrival in Germany, you will then need to visit your local foreigners' authority to get a residence permit for study purposes.

Check out this table of countries whose citizens require a visa to enter Germany.

Tax Refund in Germany

How to apply for a tax refund in Germany

[by Bastien, the editor behind Settle in Berlin]


Finding a job and working in Germany comes with the obligation of paying taxes to your fiscal administration, otherwise known as « Finanzamt ». As an employee, it's taken directly from your payslip every month and you need not worry about it for most of the year. At the beginning of a new year however, it will be possible to file a tax statement leading to a tax return which can often reach several hundred euros.

It's up to you to prove to the Finanzamt that you have had expenses to reduce your overall tax rate. You can do this by filling in a « Steuererklärung » which is a summary of your profile, situation and expenses as a tax payer for the previous year. Employees have until the 31st May to submit it to the Finanzamt. 

It would be a shame to pass on a sizable tax refund (Around 1000€ on average in Germany). We have laid out here the different methods to claim that money back.

On your own with forms and a good dose of patience

There is no going around it when it comes to German administration : some forms will need to be filled. For employees with no other additional sources of income, there will be 3 (for 2016): ESt 1 V 2016, Anlage N 2016,Anlage Vorsorgeaufwand 2016. They can all be downloaded from this website. With them, you will give information about your tax ID, your income, expenses and other insurances.

It is recommended to fill them in electronically via the dedicated ELSTER tool, issued by the German administration. You can sign-up here to open an account and receive your password by post (takes about a week).


ToyTown Germany has made a pretty complete help sheet to fill them in. I'd recommend checking it.