Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society
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What is the difference between a visa and a residence permit?

Permission to enter and reside in Germany depends on the fellow’s country of origin and his/her nationality. Citizens from certain countries (Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the USA) are allowed to enter Germany without a visa.

EU and EWR nationals do not require a visa or a residence permit to remain in Germany.

The residence permit is mandatory for all those staying for longer than three months. You can obtain this on the same day that you register your address—this permit is issued by the Foreign Resident Authority (Ausländerbehörde) where you can also register you address. In Munich, the Foreign Resident Authority is at the main municipal office, the ‘Kreisverwaltungsreferat’ (KVR).

Since September 2011, short term residents can be issued an identification document in a bank-card-size format. The Electronic Residence Title has a photo of you as well as additional data saved on a chip.

If you are not from one of the above mentioned countries, you will need a visa to enter Germany. The visa can usually be obtained from German embassies or consulates in your home country. When registering your residency at the Munich Residence Registration Office after your arrival, your visa may be replaced by a residence permit.