Staying in Germany
Information on visa, accommodation, health insurance and daily life in Germany
Going abroad and staying in a foreign country is always exciting and sometimes a challenge. The International Office will support you throughout your preparations to stay in Germany.
Here you can find the most important information on visa, accommodation and health insurance. Also check out our Pre-Arrival Guide with lots of helpful information on your start in Germany and different check-lists!
Studying in Essen, Germany
Lying in the centre of the Ruhr area in Western Germany, the town Essen has a lot to offer – from significant industrial cultural monuments to charming local recreation areas. Students can enjoy large cultural opportunities such as the famous Folkwang Museum or the Aalto Theatre, as well as countless opportunities for going out.
For example, you should not miss a visit to the Coal Mine Zollverein Industrial Complex. Today, the former coal mine is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, and with its adjacent park, it is one of the region’s tourist magnets. As the greenest city in the German federal state North Rhine-Westphalia and one of the European Green Capitals, Essen delights everyone who wants to enjoy nature after a lecture.
Do I need a visa?
- If you are coming from abroad to study at the FOM Hochschule in Germany, you may need a visa.
If you come from an EU member state, Switzerland or a state within the European Economic Area (EEA), you generally do not need to worry about a valid residence permit or visa.
However, as soon as you have found a flat or a room, you must register at the relevant residents' registration office in your city. You can usually make an appointment in advance. We will be happy to help you with this.
- If, however, you come from a country that is neither within the EU nor the European Economic Area (EEA), you will usually need a visa. You must apply for this in advance at the German Embassy or at a German Consulate in your home country.
Apply for a visa
If you need a visa, make an appointment as soon as possible, as applying for a visa can often take several months. Also, do not enter Germany as a tourist, because a tourist visa cannot be subsequently converted into a visa for study purposes and you will have to temporarily leave Germany again for this purpose.
The German embassy or consulate in your home country will tell you which documents you need to apply for a visa. An overview of all German missions abroad with contact details is available from the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtiges Amt). You can also find an overview of visa applications for international students at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).
After arrival, you must register with the city via the Aliens' Registration Office. You will receive further information about this from the International Office after your arrival.
As soon as you have been admitted, please contact the International Office directly. We will be happy to advise you. Please also read the information in the Pre-Arrival Guide carefully.
How do I find accommodation?
Looking for accommodation in Germany is not always easy. That's why we have put together a few tips here.
Unfortunately, the FOM University itself cannot provide or arrange accommodation for you. However, we will support you in your search for accommodation and always welcome any questions you may have.
Tips and tricks for flat seeking
To find a room or flat you like well in advance, it is important that you start looking for accommodation as early as possible. Most flat advertisements can be found online. There are some portals that are frequently used:
You can also search in advertisements in local newspapers or post your own requests there.
You can find more tips on finding accommodation in our Pre-Arrival Guide.
The “cold rent” is also known as net rent and includes only the actual room rent without any other costs, such as utilities or internet costs.
Nebenkosten (NK) / zuzüglich Nebenkosten (zzgl. NK)
The ancillary expenses or additional costs consist, among other things, of the costs for water, heating, building cleaning and refuse collection. They are paid as part of the warm rent.
The “warm rent” is the amount that you actually have to pay to the landlord. It consists of the cold rent and the ancillary expenses. Costs for electricity or internet are usually not included in the warm rent.
In a shared apartment, several residents share an apartment. As a rule, each member of a shared apartment has his or her own room. The kitchen, bathroom and other rooms, on the other hand, are shared with all flat mates.
SCHUFA information is information about a person's creditworthiness, i.e. ability to pay. With this, the landlord reduces the risk of renting his apartment to a person who is unable or unwilling to pay. A SCHUFA report can only be issued if you have a German bank account. However, you can alternatively offer the landlord a guarantee.
Bürgschaft / Elternbürgschaft
Many landlords require young people with low incomes to provide a surety bond or parental guarantee. This states that parents or others will financially cover their rent if they do not pay it. It is separate from the lease agreement. Read the terms of the guarantee carefully before you sign it! If you are unsure, you can first have the guarantee contract checked by a lawyer or the tenants' association.
A deposit is an amount that you pay to the landlord in advance. It usually covers up to three months' rent and is a guarantee that you will leave the apartment or room without rental damages when you move out. If this is the case, you will receive the deposit back at the end of the tenancy. If, on the other hand, there is damage in the apartment or room that needs to be repaired, your landlord will use the deposit at least partially for this purpose.
Beitragsservice / Rundfunkbeitrag
The contribution service or broadcasting fee is also known colloquially as GEZ. It is a fee that every household must pay for television and radio - even if you do not own a television or radio. The fee is currently 17.50 Euros per household per month.
Zwischenmiete / Untermiete
With a Zwischenmiete or sublease, you rent an apartment or room only temporarily, i.e. with a fixed move-out date after which the actual tenant returns to the apartment or room. When you move into an apartment or room for interim rent or sublease, you do not conclude a contract with the landlord, but a sublease contract with the actual tenant.
In Germany, the self-disclosure is part of good manners on the part of the prospective tenant. In it, you briefly introduce yourself to the potential landlord with the data relevant to the rental relationship, such as your monthly income, marital status, and information about your profession and studies.
According to the Federal Registration Act, landlords are obliged to issue their tenants with a written confirmation of their move-in when they move in. The tenant submits this so-called landlord's confirmation when registering or re-registering the residence at the citizens' office.
In order to live and study in Germany, you must have a valid health insurance. If at any time we don’t have a proof of your health insurance, we will take steps to revoke your student status. The options and conditions for a valid health insurance are outlined below.
We strongly recommend the German public health insurance as it covers you in all cases and emergencies, regardless of the treatment costs, be it in inpatient or outpatient treatment and is not limited in time.
In case you are thinking about having a part time job in Germany, keep in mind that also employers always prefer a public health insurance.
You have to decide at the beginning of your studies if you want to register at a public or a private health insurance. This decision is then valid for the whole study period and cannot be changed afterwards.
German Public Insurance
Key benefits of public health insurance:
- Full coverage regardless of the treatment costs for procedures that are medically necessary
- Family members (children/spouse) are co-insured free of contributions
- Doctors balance their accounts directly with the health insurance fund – there is no need for cash payments and then claiming the money back
- The fee for students is almost the same in the German public insurance by the different providers and the rate amounts to about 110 Euros per month
You must retain (and keep paying for) your health insurance for the entire duration of your studies even if you are on a leave of absence or on a study abroad semester.
As a student from outside the EU/EAA /Switzerland or contract country, you are legally obliged to insure with the German public health insurance.
Under special conditions, you may apply for dispensation from the obligation to insure with German public insurance. For more information see the private health insurance section.
Students older than 30 years have to pay an individual rate and may not be eligible for a public insurance. Please get in touch with the health insurance providers.
Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance companies are profit-oriented and may deny membership for a number of reasons. Privately insured students must pay services in advance and only certain services (and up to a certain amount) are reimbursed. Family members cannot be co-insured free of contributions.
If you, nevertheless, would like to have a private health insurance, you must apply for a dispensation from the obligation. It’s very unlikely that it will be granted, unless your private insurance is equal in service with the German public insurance, namely:
- your private insurance must not be limited in time (unless it covers the full time of your studies in Germany)
- your private insurance must covers all costs (not only to a certain amount) when in outpatient and inpatient treatment
If you decide for a private health insurance, we strongly recommend to always select the premium rate.
To inquire about dispensation, please contact directly the health insurances companies.
For more information, you can also have a look at our guides.
The Buddy Programme at the FOM University of Applied Sciences aims to support international students in their transition to a new phase of life in a foreign country with a different language and culture. Especially the first weeks and the first semester are often characterised by many new, foreign impressions and also doubts and worries. » learn more