International affairs
Information for international students

Are you coming from abroad and planning to study in Hamburg? We have summarised all the important information about your stay in Hamburg for you at a glance.

International Affairs

International Affairs

Studying in Germany or in Hamburg - how do I prepare?

Basic information about studying in Germany can be found at the Deutsches Studierendenwerk, the Deutschen Akademischen Austauschdienst and especially for Hamburg at the Studierendenwerk Hamburg.

Orientation in higher education - who advises on what?

Hamburg's universities, the Studierendenwerk Hamburg, student representatives, municipal offices and local counseling centers offer prospective and current students a variety of attractive services and a wide range of counseling centre. To help you quickly find the right office for your needs, the Counselling Centre Social & International Affairs - BeSI will be happy to tell you who you can contact.

German language courses before studying - where can I find offers in Hamburg?

You can find providers of German language courses before your studies, for example, at language schools that prepare students for the TestDaF exam. See here for further information on language schools and classes in Hamburg.

Register residence in Hamburg - where is it possible?

Within two weeks, the registration of residence in Hamburg must be made either at the Hamburg Welcome Center or at the Residents' Registration Office  in the district.

Health insurance for international students - what are my options?

International students from the European Union and countries with which social security agreements exist can remain insured in their home country if the requirements are met and use the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) issued there in Germany. If there is no insurance in the country of origin, the statutory health insurances in Germany will clarify your situation and possibilities of an insurance in Germany, more about this at the Deutsches Studierendenwerk and at the European Commission.

International students up to their 30th birthday who do not have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can either take out statutory student health insurance or private health insurance when they start their studies. This decision needs to be considered carefully, because once you have been exempted from statutory insurance in conjunction with the decision to take out private health insurance, it is generally no longer possible to return to statutory health insurance for the entire duration of your studies. You can get advice on this at the Counselling Centre for Social & International Affairs - BeSI.

Our information sheet "Health Insurance" provides you with an initial overview. For foreign participants of study-preparatory language courses, study colleges and students who have already reached the age of 30 at the start of their studies in Germany, it is generally not possible to take out statutory health insurance in Germany. In this case, only private health insurance can be taken out, for which different providers are available, each with different rates. We recommend comparing the premiums and benefits. In addition, various requirements regarding health insurance must be minded, e. g. by the Higher Education Act and the immigration authorities. You can get advice on this at the Counselling Centre for Social & International Affairs - BeSI.

Is there a refund of pension insurance contributions?

International students who have paid pension insurance contributions while working during their studies can - provided they no longer live in Germany and a waiting period has been met - have their pension insurance contributions refunded. You can find out more about this on the Website Deutsche Rentenversicherung.

Electronic residence permit - design and features?

International students who are not citizens of the European Union must apply for an electronic residence permit (elektronischer Aufenthaltstitel - eAT) at the Foreigners' Registration Office. The electronic residence permit is issued as a plastic card in credit card format and contains an electronic storage medium (chip) on which personal data (name, date of birth, nationality, address), biometric features (photograph and fingerprints) and ancillary provisions (conditions) are stored. A new residence permit must always be applied for in good time, i.e. before the previous residence document (visa or residence permit) expires. There are often long waiting times for appointments at the relevant Foreigners’ Registration Offices and for application processing - it is best to always take this into account.

Please note: The residence permit is not the same as the visa - the latter is only used to enter Germany and is usually only valid for three months.

You can find more information under residence and work permit and here.


Visa, residence and work permit before, during and after studies - what applies to me?

The brochure "Visas, residence and work permits before, during and after your studies” from the Ministry of the Interior and Sport provides an overview of the applicable legal regulations on residence, jobs, and internships for prospective students, students, and graduates from EU and non-EU countries. (Note: The English version of the brochure has not yet been updated with regard to important legal changes, especially for jobbing alongside your studies. If possible, please refer to the German version of the brochure, linked on the German version of this page). Advice is also available at the Counselling Centre for Social & International Affairs - BeSI.


Social benefits - when is there an entitlement?

Those who do not have German citizenship can receive BAföG under certain conditions, see info sheet. Please ask the staff of the BAföG Office for advice. Students from the European Union who are entitled to freedom of movement can, for example, apply for housing allowance as a rent subsidy (Wohngeld als Mietzuschuss) if other general requirements for receiving housing allowance are met. International students from non-EU countries and a residence for the purpose for studying in accordance with § 16b of the Residence Act (AufenthG) are typically not entitled to housing allowance and other social benefits. You can get advice on this at the Counselling Centre for Social & International Affairs - BeSI.

Crises and conflict situation - who can help?

The Counselling Centre Social & International Affairs - BeSI offers students at Hamburg's universities counselling and orientation assistance in difficult life situations (e.g. crisis and conflict situations during studies, financing of living expenses, pregnancy, single parenthood, chronic illnesses, disabilities, conflicts with family, partner, etc.) and provides information about specific services offered by the universities, municipal institutions and counselling centers in Hamburg.


Question not answered?

We are happy to help! You can also find answers in our search, under contacts.



HVV - Transport services in Hamburg
On the road in and around Hamburg

If you want to travel by bus and train in and around Hamburg, you can find important information about transport services, ticket purchase and much more here.

HVV Infoguide multilingua| Download (PDF)

Illustrated dormitory dictionary
Illustrated translation of everyday situations

How do you explain German waste separation to Chinese students, what does washing machine or hotplate mean in Polish?

To answer these questions, the Deutsches Studierendenwerk (DSW) has created an illustrated dormitory dictionary. It shows foreign students´ life in dormitories in words and pictures: everyday situations are translated in different languages.