General information regarding visas
Visas cover both short term and long term stays in Germany. The type of German visa you apply for depends on the purpose of your visit.
Nationals from the European Union (EU), Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden do not need a visa to enter Germany, regardless of the length of stay. Those who wish to study or work, will only need to register their address.
For many nationalities, the European Community has also abolished the visa requirement for stays of up to 90 days in a 180-day period. The Federal Foreign Office provides an overview of visa requirements for entry into Germany.
Schengen visa or visa C (for short stay visits)
If your country does not have a visa exemption agreement with Germany and you are coming to Germany for a short stay, for instance for a business trip, holiday or to visit relatives, you will need to apply for a Schengen visa. This short stay visa (category C visa) is valid for up to 90 days within a 180 day period in Germany and the entire Schengen area.
National visa or visa D (for long stay visits)
If you want to stay in Germany for longer than 90 days, and your nationality requires you to obtain a Schengen visa, you will need to apply for a national visa (category D visa) before you travel.
The national visa (nationales Visum) grants entry to Germany on the basis that you will be applying for a residence permit. It enables you to enter Germany as a potential resident and stay while you apply for residency.