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Studying, Earning a Doctorate or Working

Partners accompanying doctoral candidates may want to study, earn their doctorate, or work during their stay in Germany. In the following, you will find some general information which could be helpful before coming to Germany with your family.


Partners interested in studying need to apply at the respective university where they wish to study. (Berlin has four universities: Freie Universität, Humboldt-Universität, Technische Universität, Universität der Künste). Application procedures vary among the universities, so please check the requirements before coming to Germany. Germany’s university system is at the moment undergoing a substantial transition. To comply with the Bologna process, German universities now mostly offer a two cycle system with Bachelor and Master degrees instead of the traditional Magister or Diplom. There is not only a change in name but also in substance: the bachelor’s degree is awarded after three or four years of study. Afterwards, students can apply to go on with their studies on a postgraduate level and get a master’s degree which usually lasts two more years.

Earning a Doctorate

If your partner intends to earn a doctorate at a German university, he/she should check the application requirements and deadlines of the doctoral program of the respective university. Likewise, if he/she wishes to do an individual doctorate, he/she should contact the intended main supervisor for the project as well as check the deadlines and requirements of the respective Faculty (information will be provided by the graduation offices).

Most doctoral programs offer scholarships which have to be applied for in due time. Various public and private foundations also offer research grants for doctoral candidates independently if they are enrolled in a doctoral program or if they do an individual doctorate.


Those intending to engage in regular employment need a work permit (exceptions: nationals from EU-countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). Prior to departure for Germany you must inform the German consulate and apply for the respective residence permit (indicating “employment permitted”). To get a work permit you must apply at the local employment office (Arbeitsagentur). The procedure is time-consuming (processing of the application alone takes several weeks) and is not always successful. In view of the tense labor situation in Germany, it may be difficult to find a vacancy.

Tax Card

Upon obtaining a residence and work permit, anyone working as an employee must obtain a tax card (Lohnsteuerkarte) from the local registration office. Initially, you will have to pick it up or phone for it to be mailed; after that it will automatically be sent to you every year.

Health Insurance

You must make sure to have health insurance for all family members. If you are covered through a health insurance company from your home country, please check the conditions applying to your family. If you are covered through a German statutory (public) health insurance company and your partner does not generate an income above € 360 per month, he/she can also be covered by your health insurance policy. If his/her income is above € 360 per month he/she will have to take out health insurance himself/herself. Children are generally covered by the health insurance of one of the parents.


If you intend to bring your family with you, please make sure that you have secured appropriate housing in advance. This means that a minimum space of approx. 12 m² per person is required. Otherwise you will not be able to obtain a residence permit for your family members. For more information check our information about finding accommodation.

Housing Allowance

Housing allowance is a contribution paid by the state to the rent. It is paid to all persons whose income is considered low (approx. 345 € plus 2/3 of the rent). Housing allowance is generally paid for a period of twelve months; after twelve months it has to be applied for again. In order to benefit from this support three factors will be taken into consideration: the number of people living in the apartment, the total income of all persons living in the apartment, and the rental fee. You can apply for housing allowance at your local residents’ registration office. More information and application forms (in German) can be found here.