All about becoming an eligible Ph.D. in Germany
Research shows that a little over 25000 students complete the doctoral program every
year in Germany. There are numerous reasons why international students choose
German universities as their ideal study abroad destination for pursuing the Ph.D.
Germany has become a one-stop destination for international students looking to
pursue higher studies. It is internationally recognized for its incredible research facilities,
network and university infrastructure. It has become one of the top names in the era of
Out of 370 German universities and institutions offering higher education, 140 German
universities or institutes offer doctoral programs. Approximately 180,000 international
students take admission in doctoral programs and 26,000 conduct research in Germany
This post is meant to clear all your doubts and answer all your questions about
becoming an eligible foreign Ph.D. candidate in Germany. Don't worry if you find the
details too overwhelming. Once you get the hang of things, you'll find yourself well-
versed with all the requirements.
To begin with, let’s look at some basic requirements. These include:
- Entry permit
- Residence permit
- Recognition of earlier education certificates or credits to see if they are
equivalent to the German educational credits
For more details on how to become an eligible candidate for doctoral studies in
Germany, keep reading.
Which type of Visa will you need?
To enroll as an international student in the German doctoral program, you are required
to possess the German visa and residence permit. These are two essential aspects of
your admission to a German Ph.D. course and your stay in Germany during the course of
There are three categories for international students in Germany:
- EU-foreign nationals can enter Germany anytime, skipping the border checks and
enjoying the freedom to go anywhere in the Schengen area provided they
register at the Residents Service Centre known as Bürgerservice or the
Registration Office known as Einwohnermeldeamt. You'll have to mention your
reason to stay clear while filing an application.
- Non-EU nationals venturing to Germany from countries like Japan, Canada,
USA, Australia, New Zealand and the Republic of South Korea can enter
Germany even if they don’t have the visa. However, in case your stay is planned
for more than three months, you will have to register at the Residents Service
Centre known as Bürgerservice or the Registration Office known as
Einwohnermeldeamt along with the Foreigners Authority known as
Auslanderbehorde to get a residence permit.
- Apart from the list of Non-EU nationals mentioned above, other Non-EU
nationals are not permitted to enter Germany or stay in Germany without a
residence permit or visa. To get your visa, you'll have to get in touch with the
relevant Consulates in your country or the German Embassy. These are the
authorities which issue the visa. International students who apply mentioning the
“visa application reasons” as German university study supported with relevant
documents have higher chances of getting a visa. A certificate attested by the
university with the details of your admission in the doctoral program can come
handy. However, once your land in Germany, you must register at the
Registration Office known as Einwohnermeldeamt along with the Foreigners
Authority known as Auslanderbehoerde. You’ll then be provided with a residence
permit staying in Germany and pursuing the doctoral degree.
Becoming an eligible German Ph.D. Candidate
Ensuring that your previous educational qualifications are valid
As the German university rule clearly states, an international student looking to pursue
doctoral studies from Germany must possess the Hochschulzugangsberechtigung or
German Higher Education Entrance Qualification. To ensure that you have it, check if
your earlier qualifications are in sync with the requirements of the doctoral program.
Your qualification must be valid basis the “ Lisbon Recognition Convention ” which is also
active in other European countries.
The minimum requirement for pursuing doctoral studies from Germany is a Master’s
degree received after completing at least eight semesters of studies. International
students with a Bachelor’s degree awarded by the University of Applied Sciences can
apply for a doctoral program which is the fast track. However, they are required to pass
an entrance exam for the same.
As an international student coming from a country that does not abide by the Lisbon
Recognition Convention, you will be required to become a part of the entrance
qualification recognition procedure. Therefore, before you plan to apply for a doctoral
program in Germany, check if your entrance qualification is recognized based on your
home country. You can take the help of Anabin – a valuable online database which will
help you identify if your home country's qualification is equivalent to the Abitur
(German entrance qualification) and what you must do in case it isn't.
The two types of German PhDs – elect for one
After completing the first part, i.e. checking if your country’s qualification is equivalent
to the German entrance qualification, you have to move to the second important phase,
i.e. electing for one of the two types of German doctorate programs – individual and
structured. It is a mandatory part of your application process for a German doctorate
The only difference between the two types is the independence factor. In case of an
individual Ph.D. program, you can pick your subjects based on your choice, chose your
mentor or professor and plan your schedule. On the other hand, the structural type of
Ph.D. involves an integration of the doctoral program subject with the research
framework, tight timelines, interaction with peers, and study schedule designed based
on the curricula. You can also opt to work with more than one mentor.
Getting admission as a Ph.D. student in a German University
Once you’ve scrutinized your educational qualifications and elected for a Ph.D. type, it's
time to apply to a German university for getting enrolled in the doctoral program. At
this stage, you are required to:
- Complete the application form
- Request a letter from your mentors declaring their mentorship
- Furnish certified copies of your entrance qualification or other high school
- Prove that you have passed the TestDaF or DSH exam (in case the university you
are applying to involves writing the thesis in the German language.
Don't know the German language? Worry not! Majority of the universities do not
demand the knowledge of German for the thesis.
Being recognized as a Ph.D. student in a German University
Once the university scrutinizes your documents and verifies them, you will be notified
by the university in case your application is good to go. Based on the requirements of
the German university you’re becoming a part of, you will be asked to produce the visa,
residence permit, and your health insurance (public or private).