Entering Berlin – Customs and Visa Requirements
Berlin (Germany) customs and visa requirements vary greatly, mainly depending on one’s nationality and how long they plan to stay in the country.
Members of the EU
Members of the European Union have the easiest time getting into Berlin, since Germany is a member of the European Union – and nationals of the member states only need a valid (national) identification card to enter Germany.
Countries that are members of the European Union include:
- the United Kingdom, Sweden, Romania, Spain, Belgium, France, Finland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Estonia, Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, Ireland, Slovakia and Cyprus
What this means is, if you are national of a country on this list and you have a valid national ID, you can simply hop onto the next available bus, train or airplane on its way to Germany, and you shouldn’t have any problem getting through customs.
Americans, Canadians, and More
People coming from the United States, Canada, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea – along with a few other countries – also have a fairly easy time getting into Berlin, as they only need a valid passport to be welcomed into the country.
However, there is a catch. This provision only applies to citizens who are traveling for tourism or business and who are staying for less than three months. So, if you are a United States citizen who plans to stay in Berlin for more than 3 months, then you will have to go through the rigors of obtaining a visa. Even then, the visa requirements for Americans (and a few other countries’ nationals) are relatively lenient.
The requirements include possessing a passport that remains valid for at least 3 months after the date that you plan on leaving Germany and documents showing that you will be leaving Germany after the end of your stay – which include return tickets. No vaccinations are required for citizens of the United States planning to travel to Germany.
If you come from any other country – aside from the ones already mentioned – then you will certainly need a German visa to visit Berlin. To obtain a tourist visa to Berlin, you will be required to:
- Submit your visa to the nearest Germany Embassy – and that passport will need to be valid for at least the next 6 months. The passport must also have at least one blank visa page – where the visa stamp will be affixed, if you are granted entry.
- You will also need a couple of passport sized photographs, which have to be recent.
- Additionally, you will be required to show proof that you plan to leave Germany at the end of your stay, and this starts with a return ticket.
- You will need to show proof that you have sufficient funds for your stay in Germany.
- You will also be required to show that that you have valid travel and accident insurance, so that you are covered during your stay in Germany. Of course you will need to hand in a completed visa application form, accompanied by visa application fees. The visa application fee varies depending on the length of time you intent to stay in Germany and the country you are coming from.
In many cases, especially if you are applying for a German visa for the first time, you will be required to attend a visa interview at the German embassy. However, this process is not as involved as it sounds and, in many cases, it is something that you can get through in a couple of days.
A visa interview, especially for a tourist visa, is nothing to be anxious about. All the embassy official will want to do is see you and ascertain that you are a genuine tourist to Germany and that you plan to return to your home country upon the end of your stay. Of course, if you don’t intend to return to your home country, you can apply for other more enduring visa types – but the interview process for these is bound to be a bit more rigorous than for a tourist visa, and – unlike a tourist visa, which is usually granted to almost everyone who can prove that they are genuine tourist to Germany – more factors are taken into consideration for these visa types.
If all your travel documents are in order and you are not carrying any contra-band into Berlin, the customs procedures should be a breeze.
Germany is a country which seems to truly value efficiency – even in its bureaucratic systems – and many people who visit Berlin (especially through either its Tegel or Schenefold International airports) are amazed at just how quick the customs process is.
However, the efficiency of Berlin’s customs procedures does not in any way mean that they are not thorough. If you attempt to trick the system, you are bound to be in for serious trouble.