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Visiting Germany as a foreign tourist: Who needs a visa?

Benjamin Restle
May 2, 2024

Whether you're into high culture, beer festivals or football — Germany makes for a fabulous holiday destination. But who needs a visa to visit?

Tourists are seen gathered at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.
The Brandenburg Gate is one of the most-visited attractions in the German capital, BerlinImage: Jörg Carstensen/dpa/picture alliance

Germany is a fantastic holiday destination year-round. With more medieval castles than you can count, vibrant cities, a rich history, famously hearty fare and Oktoberfest, the world's biggest beer festival, Germany offers something for everyone. Plus, this summer, it's playing host to the UEFA 2024 European Football Championship. So that's plenty of good reasons to spend a vacation in Germany.

But what documents do tourists need to visit the country? Will a valid identity card or passport do? And is any additional paperwork needed?

Well, that depends on your nationality.

Last year, most foreign tourists staying in German holiday accommodation hailed from the Netherlands.

Dutch tourists, like all EU nationals, can visit Germany without any particular visa.

EU tourists

That is because EU citizens have the right to freedom of movement within the bloc, meaning they can enter and stay in any member state they choose for up to three months, provided they hold a valid identity card or passport.

That makes it very easy for any citizen of the EU's 27 member states — which include France, Italy, Spain, Poland and others — to spend a holiday in Germany.

Berlin's Olympic stadium illuminted in rainbow colors at night
Football fans from all over the world will flock to Germany for the UEFA Euro 2024 in June and July, with the opening and final match hosted at Berlin's Olympic stadium (pictured)Image: Michael Sohn/AP Photo/picture alliance

Swiss tourists 

What about Swiss nationals? After all, last year, Swiss citizens made up the second-largest group of tourists in Germany, according to holiday accommodation stays.

Although Switzerland isn't a member of the EU, its nationals enjoy freedom of movement in the bloc and vice versa. This means they, too, don't need a visa to visit Germany. 

US tourists

In 2023, US nationals constituted the third-largest group of tourists in Germany. Do they need a visa to enter the country? No, all that's required is a valid US passport.

This document is enough to freely enter and stay in any European Schengen area state — including Germany — for up to 90 days within a 180-day period.

The Schengen area currently comprises 29 European countries that do not conduct checks at their internal borders, thereby enabling easy cross-border travel. 

US tourists should check, however, that their passports are valid for at least three months after the intended date of departure from Germany.

UK tourists

Although Britain left the EU in 2020, British passport holders may still visit any European Schengen area state — including Germany — without needing a visa, provided they do not stay for more than 90 days in a 180-day period.

Neuschwanstein Castle is seen surrounded by clouds.
Neuschwanstein Castle ranks among Germany's most iconic attractionsImage: Wilfried Wirth/imageBROKER/picture alliance

Chinese tourists

Last year, Germany was also very popular with Chinese visitors, who made up the largest group of Asian tourists in the country.

Chinese nationals, however, require a Schengen area visa.

To apply, Chinese nationals need a range of documents, including two recent passport-style photos, a Chinese passport that has been issued in the last 10 years, proof of medical travel insurance and proof of sufficient financial means for the entire stay, a travel itinerary and proof of accommodation.

A Schengen visa costs €80 ($85) for adults and usually takes 15 to 30 days to be processed.

For a full list of visa requirements, please consult the VFS Global website.

A group of reveles clinc glasses at Oktoberfest
Munich's Oktoberfest is the biggest beer festival in the world and hugely popular with touristsImage: Brigitte Saar/Geisler-Fotopress/picture alliance

What about tourists from other non-EU countries? 

Many other nationalities, such as Indian and Indonesian citizens, must also obtain a Schengen visa if they want to visit Germany.

 Germany's foreign office website has a comprehensive overview of visa requirements and exemptions for many more countries.

Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier

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