If you are thinking of coming to Germany to explore a new future, you must feel what I felt when I first thought of doing this – need of guidance. Don’t worry, I got your back. I will guide you through every step, process, and document list required to get to Germany. So, let us get into it.
A little background for context here. At the time of applying for various masters courses in Germany, I was working in India in a PSE, NHPC Ltd. since 2011, was married and had a 1-year-old daughter. With a stroke of luck, I was posted at Faridabad (Practically Delhi) where I went to Various Education fairs and started thinking of a way out. I applied for 3 courses, got 1 rejection, 1 no reply and luckily enough, 1 admission. I took a study leave from my company to do a masters degree. I came to Germany in 2016 to do a M.Sc. in Natural Hazards and Risks in Structural Engineering at Bauhaus University, Weimar. I graduated in 2018 and got a job offer in my last semester just before my Defence. I went to India, resigned my job there and came back to join my first job in Germany.
Following is my timeline, mostly reconstructed from my emails during this period.
My chosen course, NHRE, required me to send my application 1 year before the session started to be considered for a scholarship. So I sent my application in October 2015 for October 2016 (winter semester) admission. I did not get the Scholarship, which was a bummer, but no one else from India got it that year either so it didn’t hurt that much.
During the first 5 years of working in the Public sector, I was well off but unsatisfied. If I just wanted to work for money, I could have just keep collecting my pay check and I would have been fine. Most of my batchmates were already buying their first house in their third year of working. But maybe unlike them, I was not able to find meaning in my work. The learning curve was not as steep as I wanted which was partly the fault of the place of my postings. My first posting was in an under-investigation hydro power project and the second was in non-civil engineering related department. And this could have been my whole life, being transferred to inactive projects or departments as the transfers are random and no one had any influence over it. I wanted to join the private industry because I felt that I was not learning enough and the life was too easy for my taste. Also, if I had to change my job location in every 3-5 years, why not do it on my own terms. In short, my guiding motivations were – get more control over my working conditions, further education and exposure to more core work, better life style, chance to see the world, you know…things like that.
Why choose Germany?
If you had asked this question to me around 300 years ago, it wouldn’t really have mattered because the situation was bad everywhere. But in today’s time, where you live can have exponential effect on your life and the life of your next generations. So move to wherever you think you would like to live for now and don’t plan the rest of your life right. We live life in 5 years long blocks and after that you will again change your course of life. So, for now, go to any country where you can get free education, universal healthcare and ample job opportunities. On my list Germany came on top.
These are some of my reasons to choose Germany.
Some reasons only became clear to me when I started working in Germany but these were enough for me to make my decision.
So, at this point of our discussion, I believe that you have decided to come to Germany. Congratulations. You have made the right choice. So, let us move on to the next question, which is:
How to come to Germany?
In my understanding, there are two main processes which allow you to come and work in Germany:
- Apply for a work search visa a look for a job
- Get admission in a masters course and find a job during the course.
We will focus our attention to the second option. Following is an overview of the whole process .
Phase 01 – The Application
Even before you decide to do anything, you must first gain sufficient information to make a move. I will call talking to Alumni, visiting Education Fairs, Visiting free counselling and any other resources like this article which might help you get an idea of what you may be getting into. Early on, i tried all these things. Free counselling from the advisors on www.hotcourses.com was very helpful for me as I got to talk to someone about my situation and difficulties. There may be one or two things that may completely rein the whole plan and you will not know them until you either talk about it to someone with experience or do them. Money and support of your family are couple of such things. Make a rough estimate of how you will overcome your challenges, write your pro and cons and the options you have. If your plan does not look good even on paper, it will certainly not turn out well in the real world.
Finding a course
To find what courses you can do, go to www.daad.de to browse through the course list. This website is available in English and German language and is easy to navigate. Go to Find a scholarship or Courses of study to find a course which is taught in English. The general selection criteria are – above average academic performance (>70 % aggregate in Bachelors), TOEFL score above 6 or IELTS score above 679, and a completed bachelor degree in the respective field. Some courses are open to other branches as well.
Prepare a list of your top 3-5 courses. Make separate checklists of documents for each course. Also, check the deadlines on the university website of each course because the admission time may differ for each. Many German university take admission in both summer and winter semester and the deadline to send your documents to them depends on that.
Sending your documents
There can be two ways to send your documents depending upon the university preference. 1st is that you get attested copies/normal photocopies of all the required documents and send directly to the university by post and/or mail. If your have to send your documents by post, you can choose a courier company which offers express post with tracking and confirm delivery date. I used blue dart for sending my documents from Delhi to Weimar, who delivered my documents in 4 days.
here is an example of application procedure on the course website.
This is an example where you need to send your documents by post and online.
The 2nd method is that the university requires you to upload attested scanned copies of all the documents on an intermediator website. Most of the time, you need to send your documents by post too. This website checks the validity of your documents for the university and then forwards your application to university. When your documents reach the university, then it is evaluated against all other applicants.
Phase 02 – The Wait
This part is actually the most difficult one. It involves awaiting judgement on your future aspirations. After getting all excited about a new direction of your future and actually having done something about it, now you have to go back to your old life, pretending like nothing happened.
But there is a way to decrease this agony.
Invest your time in preparing for the best case scenario. Before you get to the VISA interview, you still need to get your finances right, open a Blocked Account and plan your travel arrangements at home and in Germany. If you are employed, it will be a good time to reflect on your exit strategy from this job. You cannot talk to your boss regarding this but you can inform yourself about the provision of any Sabbatical leave, study leave or in case these two do not get sanctioned, resignation. As a general rule always have a timeline for your actions ready at least 2 months before acting on it.
Also, if you are married, you need to plan how your spouse and child are going to spend this time when you are gone. Take this time to consider their finances, even when they have to stay with their or your parents. If your spouse works, they should this time learning German up to B1 level so as to find work in Germany. If not, they still need to have a A1 level Certificate of German Language just in case you do not get a Blue card VISA in your first job. Inviting your spouse is a whole another hornets nest and I would like deal with that topic in another post. So, let us first focus on just getting your here.
Phase 03 – The VISA
The day you receive the email from the University confirming your admission, your should start acting on your timeline. First thing to do is to confirm that you received the confirmation letter as a separate signed PDF attached to the email because that is the only credible proof of your admission and neither the Embassy nor the bank will take that email as an alternative.
Germany offers two types of visa – short term and long term. Tourist visa is an example of short term visa which is of 3 months duration. Study visa comes under long term visa or national visa. Following are the steps to be followed for getting your visa:
The most important of these steps is actually checking what you require – from the Embassy’s Checklist. You may already have the documents from your University application and you will have to just tweak a little your motivation letter, but there are other things such as, what financial document will be considered as the proof, and will you be able to produce your Blocked account information on time to be considered.
First step is to go to the German embassy website of your area and download the list of required documents. There are 5 German embassies in India, namely in New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata. You should download the list from the embassy of your area as there are minor difference in the documents required of different embassies.
For Delhi, this is the official website page which has all the lists for respective visa types https://india.diplo.de/in-en/service/-/2288440 .
Explanation of the items under the Checklist is as follows:
- Valid passport: check that your passport is valid for at least for the duration of your studies plus 1 year so as to avoid any stress in future till you are well settled in your job. After completing your degree, you will require a job seeker visa for staying in Germany and seeking a job. It is of 18 months duration if your did your masters in Germany, although you would not need that long. But to be sure, have your passport’s validity for at least next three years from the start of your course.
- Application form: it is an online form, easy to follow but if something is not clear, write to me in comments and I will try to clear that to you. The link to the form is https://videx-national.diplo.de/videx/visum-erfassung/#/videx-langfristiger-aufenthalt.
- Declaration for Additional contact and legal representation information: this is a form to declare whom can the embassy contact in case of any further requirement or the decision of denial of visa. You can be this person or you can chose to appoint someone (Lawyer/Family member/ Sponsor) to contact. If you are doing this on your own, like me, just write your name and sign it.
- Copy of your passport’s data page: data page is the first page, where your passport number and validity date is give and the last page where the name of your parents and your address is mentioned. The last page also contains the file number of your passport (the bottom lines between <<< >>> symbols), which comes in handy while renewing your passport.
- Statement of purpose / Motivation letter: this is short 3-4 paragraph letter containing information about your purpose of visit, duration and place of stay, date of return and intention to return back (it is supposedly expected that you will spend money there and come back. It’s just a gesture). The three parts of the letter are Introduction, Body and Conclusion. There are ample examples present on internet about the samples of motivation letters. Just type ‘German student visa motivation letter sample’ and check out some that make sense.
- Proof of admittance to the study course/preparatory college: this you received in your confirmation email. If you still have not received yet, email your university and ask them to send you one because you need that for opening a blocked account too. I’ll come to blocked account soon.
- Where not confirmed by the University in the admission notification: Proof of the language skills in the language of instruction for the study course or the preparatory course: this means your TOEFL or IELTS result.
- Where applicable: Certificates of other academic qualifications: This is where you submit your certified copies of your degree and marksheet of your bachelor degree and school certificates. It is also helpful get character certificate from your university and leaving certificate if your degree is already complete.
- Curriculum vitae: or CV in short, is your job experience, education and extra-curricular activities in chronological order. It should be around 1 page for freshers and maximum 2 pages for 3-5 years of experience.
- Letter of motivation: this is different from cover letter in sense of details included. While the cover letter is only an overview of your application, motivation letter contains your personal reasons for choosing this particular course, university and Germany. It should connect your past activities to your present decision of choosing to go for masters and also, your future plans after getting your masters degree. For me, the masters program was an extension of my job and bachelors degree at that time. Also, as explained before, my reasons to choose Germany were the economic stability of the country, opportunities of growth in my field and international exposure. My future plans were to work in Germany for some years to gain experience of working in an international setting and then returning to India to lead in my field. Use these ideas to compare yours. I hope to write soon more on motivation and cover letter in a separate post as this is already getting too long.
- Proof of financial means to cover the costs for the time of your studies by one of the following documents: – confirmation of a German / EU scholarship / stipend or – “Verpflichtungserklärung” (formal obligation letter) by sponsor living in Germany or – blocked account for the first year of your stay, amounting to 10.332,– € : this amount has been steadily increasing. In 2016, this was 8640 €. But what is it ? This is actually the amount that you need to save in a bank account in Germany which you will use to support your living expenses, namely room rent, food etc. in Germany.
- Biometric Photo: 3 passport pictures according to biometric specifications, not older than 6 months: Biometric phot means a photo with visa specification. This is different form passport size photo. Just ask your phot guy for a visa photo, he knows. I am telling you just to make sure you don’t take it for granted that passport size photo is the same.
- Visa fee: of 75 € payable in INR only: you can submit the fee in demand draft in the name of your respective embassy. Only Delhi Embassy accepts cash too but for rest of the cities, prepare the draft. The details are – In the name of Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, xxxxx (your embassy’s city name), payable at – xxxx (your embassy’s city name).
- Travel Health insurance: that’s no biggie. If you have already booked your flight tickets, then you must have taken the travel insurance too. If not, then just go to https://www.policybazaar.com/travel-insurance/ and compare the cheapest one as it is one time thing and you will have to take mandatory health insurance once you reach Germany anyway.
There are three main question which need to be addressed in this list:
- What is a Blocked account?
- How do I open a bank account in Germany while sitting in India?
- How do I get this money?
A blocked account is savings bank account in a German bank account with a monthly withdrawal limit. It means that you can only withdraw a maximum of 861€ per month (as of 2021) from this account. This provision is done to make sure that you do not send all this money back to India and start funding your stay by working part time, which is counterproductive as it will affect your student life badly. I suggest a modest balance of both part time work and using your saving.
To open a blocked account, there are 2 banks that offer this service in India that I know of– Kotak Mahindra Bank and Deutsche Bank. I used Deutsche Bank. Their procedure is like this.
You go to their branch and say I need to open a blocked bank account. Being a private bank, they send you to an agent expert for this. She explains you the requirements which are – valid pan card, Aadhaar, passport and the admission letter. Also, you need to first open a saving account in their bank with a minimum balance of 1 lakh INR. Then you go home and collect everything. You go to them next day and give all the documents, forms, and the check for 1 Lakh INR plus the Sanction letter of Loan or a check of the total amount (€10322 for 2021) for the blocked account. They give you a confirmation slip and ask you to wait till your welcome package containing your debit card for Indian Savings account with them arrives. Also, you submitted a form for opening a Blocked account and you are waiting for that too. After a week, arrives your welcome kit, blocked account still not opened. Then after around 3 weeks and lot of calls to than Bank official you get a confirmation email that your Blocked account is active. Print that email because this is what you are going to submit to the embassy as a confirmation of blocked account with the money in it. My confirmation email arrived one day after my VISA interview but the agent allowed me some time for sending the document as the processing itself takes around 10-15 days.
Now to the last question, how do you get that money. I took an Education loan from Credila Education services, which is a education loan expert branch of HDFC Bank. Other banks also offer loans so check out al the banks in your vicinity where you can prove your credibility. Education loan is given by the bank against a security. For my loan, my father provided the security as his PPF statements and salary slips and our house deed. Some of my friends took from SBI and some got scholarship from their state government and others paid from savings. I know this can be a big hurdle and you will need help at this point. Accept this fact and look for all possible sources for solving this problem. Moreover, you are asking for around 8-9 lakhs for blocked account and around 2 lakhs for travel and other arrangements for the first year. You can support yourself for the next year by some part time work but even then, you will require to show again 8-9 lakhs in your bank account for visa renewal. So, apply for a loan of 16 lakhs but do not take that whole amount from the bank. Let me explain why.
Credila offered to send me initially 12 lakhs for the first year for opening my blocked account and then more 4 lakhs if I required so. It means till the end of first year, my total loan amount was 12 lakh. But there was catch. My father had to pay a monthly sum of money for paying off the interest of the loan. This was an unusual burden for us because there was no Moratorium Period. Generally there is a Moratorium period in Education loans of 2 years and 6 months, meaning that you do not pay the loan during 2 years of your study and start paying 6 months of completion of your course. Also, banks offer different loans for different countries on different conditions. Anyways, that was the deal we were offered and we took it.
So, after you have spent last two months chasing these documents, you are finally ready to take an appointment for the VISA at the embassy. Arrange all the documents in the same order as mentioned in the list and prepare 2 set of copies along with original. The German embassy does not allow an agent to do this submission of documents. So, do not bother spending money on getting one. You have to personally go there.
Pay the visa fee and hopefully you will not be asked to submit any other documents or certificates. I was not asked for any.
Then you wait for another 15 days and then you get an email from the embassy which is like this “A decision has been made on your application for a visa. Please visit the embassy after xx date. Embassy opening times are as follows..”. It does not say that you have got the visa but you got the visa. Right now, in this moment my friend, smile. This is a life changing moment. Till now, everything was just an idea. This email is the conversion of that idea into reality.
Phase 04 – The Transit
Ok, enough smiling, back to work.
So, you go the embassy. You are still smiling despite the fact that they made your wake up too early for your taste. Nothing can ruin your day. You get your VISA sticker on your Passport. So, what now.
Next step is to prepare your journey and yourself for the first few weeks for Germany.
What to pack
Take one or two good jackets, couple of jeans, couple of t-shirts (You can find reasonably priced cloths in Germany), undergarments, socks, one frying pan, plate, knife, spoon and fork, sandwich maker is optional but I advise you to take it, your laptop and its charger, a universal/travel port convertor because European electrical ports are only 2 pin, not 3 pin. Do not take too much kitchen stuff because you will be living in a shared dorm with a shared kitchen with already stacked utensils. Pack some comfort food/snacks because you will miss that in a week. Also, delete any torrent downloading software form your laptop because its illegal in Germany to download anything unpaid and use torrent otherwise you can end up paying hundreds of Euros for a movie you didn’t even watch. Just delete them.
Also, you need some cash, around 500 euros for your first month expenses and till your German bank account is active. The blocked account I told you earlier about will have to be activated in Germany before you get a German debit card. You can convert your currency (eg INR) to Euro from a currency exchange agent such as Thomas cook or from many available at the airport too. They will charge a fee for the exchange. Also, it is handy to have an international prepaid card for other transactions.
Phase 05 – The Start
Then the excitement soars as you board your flight towards Germany. I had mixed feelings. I was sad for leaving my wife and my 1 and half year old daughter behind for no other reason than my ambition, but a part of me was also excited to do what I wanted to do.
But before you board that flight, it will be helpful to contact your student guide, who can guide you with the local train and bus bookings and also, can receive you at your arrival point. I was surprised to learn that Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s Train service, offers flexible ticket too. That means you can buy a train ticket between two cities and then you can take any train irrespective of timing. That is a good option if you are not sure about the time to be taken during arrival and other formalities at the passport.
When you arrive in the city and meet your student guide, who is a senior of the same course probably, you will be guided to your dorm room , which you have already applied for and received. In case you did not get a place, they will arrange some temporary accommodation for you until you find a place.
If next day is a working weekday, you will have to go to university registration counter in international office and register yourself. There you will received a Student ID card, which is also your travel card for all the Buses and Trains in your region. Then you will have to activate your Bank account and Get a health Insurance. Germany has two types of Health Insurances – Public and Private. Public Insurance means that you pay a monthly fee for your insurance but if you get sick, you not pay anything for the treatment. Private insurance means that you pay a smaller monthly amount and get secured for lesser number of ailments. Also your treatment will not be paid upfront by the insurance provider but will reimburse when you submit the bills.
So, there you go.
That is all you need to know before you reach Germany. If you still have doubt, feel free to write them in the comments below and I will answer your queries.