Germany is a member of the Schengen Agreement.
- There are normally no border controls between the countries that have signed and implemented the treaty. This includes most countries of the European Union and a few other countries.
- Before boarding an international flight or ship, there is usually an identity check. Sometimes there are temporary checks at land borders.
- Similarly, a visa issued for a member of the Schengen area is valid in all other countries that have signed and implemented the treaty.
Recognised refugees and stateless persons who are in possession of a valid travel document issued by the government of one of the above-mentioned countries or territories (e.g. Canada) are exempt from the visa requirement for Germany (but not for all other Schengen countries except Hungary, the Netherlands and Belgium and for refugees for Slovakia) for a stay of a maximum of 90 days within a period of 180 days.
Nationals of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, South Korea and the USA can obtain a residence permit or a residence title (for a stay of more than 90 days and a work permit) upon arrival in Germany but before the initial 90-day visa-free period expires. Before obtaining this status, they are not allowed to work, except in certain professions (e.g. artists). Nationals of Honduras, Monaco and San Marino can also obtain such a permit, but it is only issued if they cannot work with the residence permit. Other nationals must apply for a visa in advance if they intend to stay in Germany beyond the 90-day period, even if they are exempt from the visa requirement for a stay in the Schengen area for this period, or if they intend to work.
Eligible members of the British and American armed forces only need a copy of their NATO travel order and their identity card to enter Germany. However, passport requirements apply to spouses and dependents of military personnel. They must have their passport stamped to show that they are sponsored by a person in Germany under the Status of Forces Agreement.
There are no controls at land borders, which has made travelling between Germany and the other Schengen states easier since Switzerland joined the Schengen area in 2008. However, plainclothes officers of the German border police have been known to ask travellers for their identity documents, especially at the Bavarian-Austrian border.
When you cross a border on an international Eurocity train (especially to/from the Czech Republic and Poland), you will almost always be asked for identification.
There are several ways to enter Germany. From neighbouring European countries, travelling by car, train or bus is perhaps the easiest and most convenient solution; visitors from further afield will probably use the plane.