The Old Town Hall in Bamberg, the Schwerin Castle, Nuremberg Christmas Market, Octoberfest, Cologne Cathedral, and many other places and events in Germany, have resulted to be very alluring for travelers around the world. In addition, the variety of beers, delicious bread and sausages, people’s hospitality and much more, have attracted 459.6 million visitors to the Federal Republic of Germany in 2017 alone.
However, getting into Germany is not an easy piece of cake for everyone, since a visa is required for many. Despite of the fact that Germany has reached visa facilitation agreements with many countries, there are still many more around the world, the citizens of which need to obtain a visa, even for short-stays and tourism.
If you are planning to visit Germany, for a period shorter than three months for either visiting family members or friends, or sightseeing, then you may need a Schengen visa.
In this article, you can learn more about what a Schengen visa for tourism / visiting Germany is, the application process, requirements, fees and much more.
What is a Tourist/Visitor Visa to Germany
A Schengen Tourism / Visitor visa to Germany is a visa established by the Schengen states, which gives the opportunity to its holder to visit not only Germany, but also all of the 26 Schengen member countries. It is issued in the form of a sticker affixed to the passport of the traveler.
The Schengen visa for tourism purposes or visiting friends and family members, limits you to only traveling and sightseeing throughout the Schengen area.
Please note that with a Schengen visa you are not allowed to work or study, thus it is mandatory that you apply for a student visa or work visa (national visa), or other visa types according to your purpose of entry, if you wish to enter Germany for other than tourism.
Who needs a Tourism/Visitor Visa to Germany
Depending on the rules and policies established by the Schengen states, whether you need a short-stay visa to Germany or not, it all depends on your nationality / citizenship. Therefore, before starting a visa application, or getting a flight to Germany, make sure to check whether you need a visa to Germany or not.
Visitors that do not need a visa to Germany
The travelers who do not need a visa to enter Germany for either sightseeing or visiting family members or friends, should belong to one of the following categories:
- Citizen of the Schengen Area
- Citizen of one of the countries that have established visa-free regime with the Schengen states*
- Citizen of a third-world country that doesn’t have a visa-free regime with the Schengen states but is currently in the Schengen Zone under a:
- Schengen Visa valid for the whole Schengen territory
- National Visa issued by one of the member states
- Permanent residency of one of the member states
*Starting January 1, 2021, all travelers from this category will need to apply for an ETIAS prior to their travel towards any of the Schengen member states, in order to be allowed to enter the territory.
Visitors that need a visa to Germany
On the other hands, travelers will need to obtain a Schengen visa before traveling towards Germany if they are the citizens of third world countries that:
- do not have a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen member states
- have a visa liberalization agreement with the Schengen countries but the traveler was rejected from entering visa-free by border guards
How to obtain a German Tourist/Visitor Visa
In order to get a German Tourist/Visitor visa, you will have to follow the application process steps listed below:
- Collect the required documents. See the list below!
- Figure out where you need to apply. This could be the German embassy / consulate / visa center in your home country
- Appoint an interview. You may appoint it online or in person at the German consulate / embassy.
- Pay the visa fee.
- Attend the interview. The interview may last around 20 minutes, during which the visa consular will ask you questions about your trip and will require your documents.
- Wait for a response on you application.
Germany Tourist/Visitor Visa Application Requirements
As for every other visa type to anywhere else in the world, you will have to obtain a couple of Germany Visa required documents in order to complete your visa application.
The required documents for a Schengen Tourist / Visitor Visa to Germany are as following:
- Application form completed in English or German. The form should be fully, honestly and correctly completed, printed and signed at the end.
- Declaration of Accuracy of Information
- Passport size photographs. Please note that these photos should be identical and fulfil the visa photo requirements as set by the Schengen states.
- Valid national passport. The passport should be no older than 10 years, and have at least one blank page in order to be able to affix visa sticker on it, and fulfill the other passport requirements.
- Personal bank statements for the last three months
- Schengen Travel Insurance. You should submit a confirmation letter from your health insurance stating coverage for emergency medical treatment with a minimum of €30,000.
- Proof of accommodation. This can be a hotel booking for your whole stay in the Schengen region, or a letter of invitation by a family member or friend residing in the any or the Schengen countries.
- Proof of flight reservation. You can use the visa consultation services like this one or find one online.
- Proof of financial means. This could be:
- A bank statement not older than three months or
- A letter of sponsorship by another person – Declaration of Commitment “Verpflichtungserklärungen”.
- Leave letter of your company (if employed)
- No-objection certificate.
- If you are a student, your school or university should issue this certificate to you.
- If you are an employee, your employer or the company where you work at should issue this letter to you.
- If you are not a student and you do not work either, this certificate is not required.
- A Cover Letter. This personal cover letter should explain the reason why you wish to visit Germany, how long you intend to remain there, and what you will be doing there, amongst others.
- Invitation Letter. A letter of invitation from the person the applicant is visiting in Germany, which may take the form of sponsorship or private accommodation. The invitation letter should also include the address, period of stay and contact details of the host.
- Proof of civil status. That could be a marriage certificate, birth certificate of children, death certificate of spouse, ration card (if applicable), etc.
- Your driver’s license and/or utility bill in your name. This is required as proof of residence in the consular where you plan to apply for the visa
- For minors:
- If travelling unaccompanied by parent(s), consent letter signed by both parents
- Form signed by both parents
- Copy of the parent(s)’ passports data page
Where to apply for a Germany Tourist/Visitor Visa
If Germany is your only Schengen destination, depending on how the German authorities have regulated visa application in your country, you may have to apply at:
- The German embassy
- The German consulate
- Visa center
However, if you plan to visit more than only Germany, you can apply at the German embassy / consulate / visa center in your home country only if Germany is your main destination. What means:
- You will visit other countries but will be spending more days in Germany, than in any other
- You will spend equal days in every country you visit, but you will enter Schengen through Germany
If none of the above statements applies to you, despite that you plan to visit Germany among other countries, you may have to apply at the embassy of another Schengen member state.
When to apply for a Tourist/Visitor Visa to Germany
The earliest you can file you Schengen visa application is at most three months before your intended trip towards Germany. Whereas, the latest you can do so, is two weeks prior to your trip to Germany.
However, you are highly recommended to apply for a Tourism visa at least 3 weeks before your travel date in order to avoid any processing delays.
Visa fees for a Tourist/Visitor Visa
You will need to pay a visa fee in order for your application to be processed. Cost of a Schengen visa as of 2008 is €60. However, there are categories that are exempt from paying the visa fee or have to pay a reduced fee. Make sure you check if you belong to any of them, before you pay the fee.
Please note the visa fees will not be reimbursed in case of visa rejection and the price is subject to change at any time.
Visa Processing Time
The processing of short-stay visas to Germany take around ten days to be processed. However, at times when the embassy is processing a lot of visa applications, tourism visas may take a bit longer, since business visas or others are treated with more priority. This is the main reason why you are suggested to file your application for a German tourism / visitor visa as soon as possible.
Tourist/Visitor Schengen Visa Validity
The longest time you can remain in Germany with a tourist Schengen visa is three months. However, the German embassy in your home country is the one that decides how many days you can spend in Germany, and within which dates. Please understand that there is a slight difference between the visa validity and the duration of stay.
Visa validity is the first date you can enter the Schengen Area, and the last day you must leave. Whereas, duration of stay is the number of days you can spend in the Schengen, within the validity of your visa. Therefore, the validity of a visa is always longer than the duration of stay. Do not violate the validity of your visa nor the duration of stay; otherwise, you may face bans or deportation.
If you still have questions about a visa to Germany, please read the Frequently Asked Questions about a Germany Visa and their answers, so you may find what you need.