The novel coronavirus (sars-cov-2) / covid-19 has effects on international students who want to study in Germany. If you are in Germany as an international student or hoping to become one, you might be wondering:
- How the novel coronavirus affects various parts of the German higher education system and
- how this affects international students in particular.
We base our research on the official German government websites, and on information given by important points of contact for international students in Germany, such as uni-assist e.V., the DAAD and the German universities themselves. To make sure we deliver the information that is most relevant to you and other international students, we will host a weekly webinar.
In the meantime, you can find the most recent numbers on the proliferation of registered cases in Germany and a daily updated report on the most important developments on the pages of the Robert Koch Institut (RKI), in German and in English. The RKI is the leading governmental institution in the field of biomedicine and thus tasked with ensuring public health and monitoring the virus in Germany. You can also read up on the regulations in place in Germany directly on the pages of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior. A summary of the information will be given in the webinar, as well as on this page.
Reaction of the German Higher Education System to the Corona Pandemic
To understand how the German Higher Education System reacted to the spread of the coronavirus, there are some organizational things you should know about. Germany has got a federalist political system: There are 16 states, or Bundesland, that are in charge of passing regulations regarding the universities in each state. Therefore, regulations may differ slightly from place to place. On top of that, each university has the freedom to individually define policies that allow them to react appropriately to the current circumstances. Therefore it is absolutely essential that you check directly on the university’s website which rules and regulations are in place and how they affect you.
Many German universities put in place a web-page with up-to-date information. You should visit these websites and contact the universities with further questions if you need to. To make that easier for you, we linked the respective university websites for you here:
- Aalen University
- accadis Hochschule Bad Homburg
- Alanus University of Arts and Social Sciences
- Alice Salomon University of Applied Sciences Berlin
- Anhalt University of Applied Sciences
- Ansbach University of Applied Sciences
- Aschaffenburg University of Applied Sciences
- Augsburg University of Applied Sciences
- Bauhaus-Universität Weimar
- bbw University of Applied Sciences
- Berlin International University of Applied Sciences
- Berlin University of the Arts
- Beuth University of Applied Sciences Berlin
- Bielefeld University
- Brand Academy
- Brandenburg University of Technology Cottbus-Senftenberg
- Bremen University of Applied Sciences
- Bucerius Law School
- Catholic University of Eichstätt-Ingolstadt
- Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
- Chemnitz University of Technology
- Clausthal University of Technology
- Coburg University
- CBS International Business School
- Darmstadt University of Applied Sciences
- Deggendorf Institute of Technology
- design akademie berlin - SRH Hochschule für Kommunikation und Design
- Detmold University of Music
- Dortmund University of Applied Sciences and Arts
- Dresden International University
- Dresden University of Applied Sciences
- EBC University of Applied Sciences
- EBS Universität für Wirtschaft und Recht
- ESCP Europe Campus Berlin
- ESMT Berlin
- Esslingen University of Applied Sciences
- Euro-FH University of Applied Sciences
- Europa-Universität Flensburg
- European University Viadrina
- FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg
- FH Aachen University of Applied Sciences
- FH Münster University of Applied Sciences
- FHM Schwerin - Fachhochschule des Mittelstands
- Film University Babelsberg Konrad Wolf
- Flensburg University of Applied Sciences
- FOM University of Applied Sciences
- Frankfurt School of Finance and Management
- Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences
- Freie Hochschule Stuttgart - Seminar für Waldorfpädagogik
- Freie Universität Berlin
- Friedensau Adventist University
- Friedrich Schiller University Jena
- Fulda University of Applied Sciences
- Furtwangen University
- German Sport University Cologne
- Goethe University Frankfurt
- HafenCity University Hamburg
- Hamburg University of Applied Sciences
- Hamburg University of Technology
- Hamm-Lippstadt University of Applied Sciences
- Hannover Medical School
- Harz University of Applied Sciences
- Heidelberg University
- Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences
- Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf
- Hertie School of Governance
- HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management
- HMKW Hochschule für Medien, Kommunikation und Wirtschaft
- Hochschule Bonn-Rhein-Sieg
- Hochschule Emden/Leer - University of Applied Sciences
- Hochschule Fresenius University of Applied Sciences
- Hochschule für Technik Stuttgart - University of Applied Sciences
- Berlin School of Economics and Law
- Hochschule Macromedia, University of Applied Sciences
- Hochschule Mannheim - University of Applied Sciences
- Hochschule Niederrhein - University of Applied Sciences
- Hochschule Wismar - University of Applied Sciences, Technology, Business and Design
- Hof University of Applied Sciences
- HSBA Hamburg School of Business Administration
- HTW Berlin - University of Applied Sciences
- htw saar - University of Applied Sciences
- Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
- ifs international film school cologne
- International Psychoanalytic University Berlin
- International School of Management (ISM)
- iubh internationale Hochschule
- Jacobs University Bremen
- Jade University of Applied Sciences Wilhelmshaven/Oldenburg/Elsfleth
- Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
- Julius-Maximilians-Universität Würzburg
- Justus Liebig University Giessen
- Kaiserslautern University of Applied Sciences
- Karlshochschule International University
- Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)
- Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences
- Kempten University of Applied Sciences
- Kiel University
- Kiel University of Applied Sciences
- Kühne Logistics University
- Landshut University of Applied Sciences
- Leibniz Universität Hannover
- Leipzig University
- Leuphana University Lüneburg
- LMU - Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
- Ludwigshafen University of Business and Society
- Magdeburg-Stendal University of Applied Sciences
- Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg
- Munich Intellectual Property Law Center
- Munich University of Applied Sciences
- Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences
- NIT Northern Institute of Technology Management
- Nordhausen University of Applied Sciences
- Nuertingen-Geislingen University
- Offenburg University of Applied Sciences
- Osnabrück University
- Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences
- Ostfalia University of Applied Sciences - Hochschule Braunschweig/Wolfenbüttel
- OTH Regensburg
- Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg
- OWL University of Applied Sciences
- Paderborn University
- Palucca University of Dance Dresden
- Pforzheim University
- Philipps-Universität Marburg
- Private University of Applied Sciences Göttingen (PFH)
- Quadriga University of Applied Sciences Berlin
- Ravensburg-Weingarten University of Applied Sciences
- Reutlingen University
- RheinMain University of Applied Sciences
- Rhine-Waal University of Applied Sciences
- Rosenheim Technical University of Applied Sciences
- Ruhr-Universität Bochum
- RWTH Aachen University
- Saarland University
- Schmalkalden University of Applied Sciences
- South Westphalia University of Applied Sciences
- SRH Hochschule Berlin
- SRH Hochschule der populären Künste
- SRH University Hamm
- SRH University Heidelberg
- Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste (Städelschule) Frankfurt am Main
- Steinbeis University Berlin
- Technical University of Applied Sciences Wildau
- Technical University of Munich
- Technische Hochschule Ingolstadt
- Technische Hochschule Lübeck
- Technische Hochschule Nürnberg Georg Simon Ohm
- Technische Universität Berlin
- Technische Universität Braunschweig
- Technische Universität Dresden
- Technische Universität Ilmenau
- Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
- TH Köln - Cologne University of Applied Sciences
- TH Mittelhessen University of Applied Sciences - THM
- Touro College Berlin
- Trier University
- Trier University of Applied Sciences
- TU Bergakademie Freiberg
- TU Darmstadt
- TU Dortmund University
- Ulm University
- Ulm University of Applied Sciences
- Universität der Bundeswehr München
- Universität Hamburg
- Universität Regensburg
- Universität zu Lübeck
- University for Sustainable Development Eberswalde
- University of Applied Sciences Bremerhaven
- University of Applied Sciences Cologne
- University of Applied Sciences Düsseldorf
- University of Applied Sciences Europe
- University of Applied Sciences Jena
- University of Applied Sciences Konstanz (HTWG)
- University of Applied Sciences Mainz
- University of Applied Sciences Mittweida
- University of Applied Sciences Neubrandenburg
- University of Applied Sciences Potsdam
- University of Applied Sciences Stralsund
- University of Applied Sciences Wedel
- University of Applied Sciences Würzburg-Schweinfurt
- University of Augsburg
- University of Bamberg
- University of Bayreuth
- University of Bonn
- University of Bremen
- University of Cologne
- University of Duisburg-Essen
- University of Education Freiburg
- University of Education Ludwigsburg
- University of Education Schwäbisch Gmünd
- University of Erfurt
- University of Freiburg
- University of Göttingen
- University of Greifswald
- University of Hildesheim
- University of Hohenheim
- University of Kassel
- University of Koblenz-Landau
- University of Konstanz
- University of Mannheim
- University of Münster
- University of Oldenburg
- University of Passau
- University of Potsdam
- University of Rostock
- University of Siegen
- University of Stuttgart
- University of the Arts Bremen
- University of Tübingen
- University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation (TiHo)
- University of Wuppertal
- Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences
- West Coast University of Applied Sciences
- Westsächsische Hochschule Zwickau - University of Applied Sciences
- WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management
- Wilhelm Büchner University of Applied Sciences
- Witten/Herdecke University
- Worms University of Applied Sciences
- Zeppelin Universität
- XU Exponential University of Applied Sciences
Even though universities and federal states have some freedom to decide on which regulations they decide to pass, there are some nation-wide rules in place that each university has to adhere by, as well. The mandatory social-distancing regulations that were put in place Germany-wide on March 23rd heavily affected university life and the summer semester especially. For example, all federal states have postponed the start of the summer semester 2020 and most courses were conducted online. Likewise, the start of the winter semester 2020/21 was postponed Germany-wide to November 1st.
Throughout the summer semester, some of the pandemic-related restrictions were alleviated. On April 15th, it was announced that libraries may be opened if necessary hygienic standards can be met, traffic of people is controlled, and queues can be avoided. The same applies for seminars that require physical presence, such as lab rotations. For the winter semester 2020/21, it remains unclear how university life will look like. The prediction is that many universities will rely on a mix of online and offline courses. However, measures taken will differ from university to university and depending on different subject-related requirements. Our best advice: Confirm directly on the university website how your university will organize the winter semester 2020/21 and for updates.
In the past months, we also saw universities making an effort to give students the opportunity to proceed with their applications and complete all courses on the curriculum. How this might be possible for international students - and which aspects may cause some difficulties - is broken down for you below.
Can international students travel to Germany right now?
Early on in the pandemic, on March 17th, Germany put heavy entry restrictions into place that made it very difficult for international students (from the EU as well as outside the EU) to enter Germany and start their studies. The goal of these restrictions was to limit all non-essential travel, which included taking up your studies for the first time. Recently, some of these restrictions have been relaxed, which is why the answer to the question is that you may be allowed to enter Germany if you are from the EU, a permanent resident of the EU, or if you live in a country where the cases of COVID-19 are relatively low:
- As of June 21st, borderless travel is possible within the EU and the Schengen area. Citizens of these states as well as permanent residents should be able to enter Germany as international students and take up their studies. The EU-platform “Re-open EU” is a good resource if you are planning your travels there. That means that if you are looking to re-enter Germany after going abroad, you should be able to do so if you have a valid residence permit and a home in Germany.
- As of July 1st, Germany follows the EU’s recommendation to further relax travel restrictions for certain countries outside the EU. Germany lifted travel restrictions for citizens and permanent residents of Algeria, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Montenegro, New Zealand, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay, potentially China, Japan, and South Korea. This list is based on the epidemiological situation in the countries and updated every two weeks. Read here for most current updates as well as the assessment of RKI.
- It remains unclear whether citizens or permanent residents of other third countries can enter as students. This depends on whether Germany will include studying in the list of ‘essential travel’ and essential reasons to travel to Germany. We will update this article as soon as we have more definite information.
We repeatedly came across the information that, ultimately, assessment whether you can enter Germany is valid or not is in the eye of the border patrol officer. Note that, for example, if you show symptoms of the virus, you may not be allowed to enter. Also, the regulations may change according to the development of the pandemic. You can find the most up-to-date information on the webpages of the German Federal Ministry of the Interior as well as on the website of the federal police, who executes the border controls and on the pages of the German Federal Foreign Office.
You should also consider the commercial airline flights available to you right now, which poses another challenge. One last thing you should keep in mind is that moving abroad is exciting, nerve-wracking, and a bit scary- with or without a crisis going on. It is pretty normal to experience some culture shock in the beginning, and settling in might be even more difficult if you cannot meet and make friends with your fellow students in person and explore your new home town. We want to encourage you to not just think about your next career step, but to also make sure you feel well and comfortable with the extra insecurities added to an already pretty exciting adventure.
Can international students obtain a visa to start their studies in Germany right now?
Throughout the pandemic and as health and safety measures, many German missions abroad have ceased taking or processing visa applications. With the relaxation of entry restrictions, we expect that the German embassies and consulates will start taking up their work again soon. Especially for students coming from one of the 14 countries for which the EU relaxed travel restrictions on July 1st, student visa applications should be possible already or be made possible soon. Even other embassies in countries that are experiencing a higher number of cases, announced that they are working on re-opening for visa applications throughout the month of July. Another difficulty you may experience throughout the visa application process is that some documents necessary for the application, such as certified copies or notarized translations, may be hard to come by, since authorized translators’ offices may be closed.
International students who have finished the visa application process, including the interview, and are waiting to hear back from the German embassy, may also experience difficulties since pending application processes were often put on hold. We expect that these applications will be processed again when the embassy can re-open and resume their activities.
The main take-away from this is that the visa process is more difficult right now, but that we see a light at the end of the tunnel and expect the embassy’s services to be available soon again. Most importantly, we want to encourage you to confirm with the embassy or consulate general responsible for your visa application to find out what applies in your situation. Even if they do not offer visa appointments yet, you will be able to reach the embassy employees via phone or e-mail and it is essential that you contact them, inform them about your situation, your plan, and potential difficulties. This is the best way for you to get the most up-to-date and the most official information on whether you can obtain a student visa and travel to Germany.
Further ReadingVisa Requirements for International Students to Study in Germany
Can international students apply for the winter semester 2020/21?
Yes, international students can apply for the winter semester 2020/21. Especially for bachelor’s programs, the application deadlines were extended until the 20th of August. Similar cases may apply to some master’s degrees. However, especially for the English-language international programs, which may have application deadlines early in the year, application procedures may already be closed. We recommend that you frequently check the university websites that we have listed for you above or use our StudyFinder to get an overview of the ‘usual’ application deadlines of programs.
Some programs ask international students to apply via uni-assist e.V. which is a platform that handles and checks international students’ applications to German universities. Uni-assist continues to process applications as usual. This is good news and means that the application processes seem to remain in place. Under the current circumstances, uni-assist may take a bit longer to process your application, which is why it is recommendable to apply a bit on the early side. You can see updates and their current processing times here.
However, application processes will be more stressful, especially for international students. You may experience difficulties in compiling all the required documents. It is for example harder to obtain notarized translations or certified copies at the moment. Another problem is that depending on where you are, international postal services may be restricted or delayed. If the program you would like to apply to requires paper-based applications or certifications you cannot provide at the moment, contact the program coordinators or the International Office of the university. If you have to apply via uni-assist (which does require online and paper-based applications) ask them for possibilities to deal with the situation. We expect that rules will differ from university to university, and you should absolutely confirm what applies to your case. The good news is that we have heard of individuals who were allowed to send in their applications online only.
Can international students expect to receive a ‘normal’ university education in the winter semester 2020/21?
The summer semester, which usually lasts from early April to the end of July and then has a lecture-free period until September, was very affected by the pandemic. It remains open whether the winter semester 2020/21 will look more like university education as we know it, or whether the COVID-19 regulations will continue to have heavy effects on university life.
Some of the restrictions we saw during the summer semester included:
- postponing the semester start, most often until April 20th/early May,
- online courses instead of in-person seminars,
- no physical access to the library or other student infrastructure (for parts of the semester),
- extension of deadlines for examinations, exemptions from having to take part in exams.
The start of the winter semester was postponed to November 1st. How exactly what education will look like will depend on the number of COVID-19 cases, as well as on the rules and regulations in place. The general trend seems to be that people are advocating to move university education back to classrooms wherever possible. This opinion was for example voiced in an open letter by German academics that was backed by the German student union.
According to the prediction of the German Rectors’ Conference, the winter semester will see a mix of online and offline events. Factors that will influence the execution of courses are whether a university has the infrastructure to teach on campus while still maintaining necessary hygienic restrictions. For international programs that are taught in English and have a large number of international students, the decision may be made to teach online to accommodate international students who cannot enter Germany in time for the semester start due to delays in the visa application. Overall, it is important to note that this will differ from university to university and even from course to course. Therefore, you should consult directly with the program coordinator of the courses that interest you.
In terms of quality, you will likely still be taught by the same professors on the same topics, even if it is in online-learning formats. The online formats might even improve, given that they were in place for a semester already. Remember, everyone is in the same boat and trying to find the best solution in face of a challenging situation.
Can international students enroll for the winter semester 2020/21?
Enrollment is the last step all students have to go through after being admitted to a program: It signals to the university which admitted you that you accept their offer and wish to pursue your education with them. You will only get your student card and your online ID’s after enrollment.
How you will have to enroll exactly depends on the university and it is usually indicated to you in the letter of admission. Most universities will ask you to enroll in person or to pick up the student ID in person. Right now, this is not possible, which is why universities have switched to remote enrollment systems. We also see that enrollment deadlines were extended at some universities. Therefore, from what we can see, new students who already have arrived in Germany will likely be able to enroll and fully take part in the courses.
Some difficulties may arise for international students, who may experience difficulties traveling to Germany, for example, because their visa application takes longer than expected. On one hand, you may think that it should be especially easy right now: If enrollment systems are switched online and courses are offered in distance-learning formats, it seems as though you should be able to fully partake in the semester - no matter where you are on the globe.
The problem is that certain documents, which are usually required for enrollment, are hard to come by if you are not in Germany, for example, proof of health insurance from one of the German providers. It is important that you stay in contact with the university you would like to enroll at if you are in this situation. In your letter of admission, you should have received some contact details. Alternatively, your program coordinator or your university’s Studierendensekretariat and International Office will be good places to ask what to do in your situation, especially if you have reason to believe that you might not make it to Germany in person before the enrollment deadline.
How will the current situation affect my ability to finance my studies?
International students who hold side jobs in Germany, for example in the gastronomic sector, may experience some stress right now since they might lose their job and income. If you are affected by this and are dependent on this additional income, you may find a side job in the sectors that do need personnel at the moment: In supermarkets or drug-stores, in food or package delivery services, or in the farming industry. Additionally, students can apply for emergency funding schemes.
The German federal government offers loans and aid schemes for national and international students. Firstly, there is an interest free-loan that international students can apply for to cover their expenses. Secondly, for the months of June, July and August, enrolled students who are affected financially by the pandemic can apply for the so-called interim financial aid, which grants eligible students up to 500 € per month and does not have to be paid back. We recommend you file for this aid since it is pretty much gifted to eligible applicants. An important commentary on the implications of these programs for international students in Germany is provided by the association of international students ‘bas’. Also, contact your university if you are in dire straits due to the crisis and stuck in Germany - some institutions managed to pull together emergency funds and the DAAD also announced that they are working on supportive solutions.
If you are in Germany on a scholarship, we advise you to contact your scholarship provider on how you will be affected. You can expect to receive funding for the agreed-upon period of time. International students on DAAD scholarships who just finished their studies and were scheduled to leave Germany already but couldn’t because of travel restrictions have their funding extended.
If you were looking to apply for a scholarship, we recommend you closely follow the websites of the scholarship providers for important updates, possible changes in application procedures, and latest developments concerning scholarships for the following semesters. According to our research, it seems likely that international students can apply for scholarships. Read our scholarship article for a list of different funding institutions.
Further ReadingScholarships for international students in Germany (2020/21)
What if I got stuck in Germany and cannot return home?
We understand that this is a stressful situation and it is important that you get clear information on what applies to your situation. Good news is that, should you stay in Germany past the validity of your residence permit due to the crisis, you will not be considered illegal. You should contact these information services for help:
your countries’ embassy or diplomatic representation to Germany
your universities’ Studierendenwerk for information on emergency help
your cities Immigration Office
What happens to health insurance of international students?
International students living and studying in Germany have to get insurance with a German insurance provider and are thus covered in the German system. You have the same entitlements that everybody else does. If you get the virus, your treatment will be covered. The rules pretty much remain the same as in any other situation: If you have a health issue, contact your doctor. If you have questions about your insurance, contact your insurance provider.
I plan to study in Germany, but in the far-ahead future. Will I be affected?
The honest answer to this question is: We don’t know. We do not know how long the pandemic will continue to have strong effects on our daily life, how it will develop in Germany, or in your home country and what the long-term consequences will be. To stay up-to date and read expert opinions the websites of the RKI, a website published by the German Federal Ministry for Health, the World Health Organization, or the John Hopkins University are some good sources.
What we do know, however, is that there is life after the coronavirus disease pandemic and there are things you can do right now to prepare your studies in Germany!
Here are just three suggestions:
Find the study program of your dreams with the StudyFinder - Now you really have time to compare curricula, look into professors’ CV’s and find the program that is perfect for you!
Stay informed! Ask your questions! Stay Healthy!
This is the best advice we can leave you with. Stay informed, check for updates and stay in touch with the German universities you are interested in. The web-links we have compiled for you above are a great place to start.
Secondly, with our weekly webinars we want to provide for you an additional platform to ask your questions and get answers live. Follow us on social media to get updates on when the webinars are held and how you can sign up for it.