Excerpted from the Germany Career Guide
Generally, a foreigner requires a visa to visit and stay in Germany, which imposes very specific rules on the appearance of the documents in a visa application. Under German law, responsibility for issuing visas lies with the missions of the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. its embassies and consulates-general, specifically the mission for the area in which the applicant has his/her ordinary residence or domicile.
Visa exemption usually depends on nationality and the duration of stay. A visa is not required for semi-annual visits of up to three months for nationals of those countries for which the European community has abolished the visa requirement.
General Visa Applications Process and Requirements
German embassies and consulates are responsible for determining the equivalent visa issuance fee in foreign currencies. Many German embassies and consulates, for a nominal fee, will mail an applicant’s passport with the German visa issued.
Foreign students with the citizenship of a country that requires a visa to enter Germany must obtain a student visa in order to study in the educational institute. Student visas are issued to foreign students who are already accepted at a certified educational establishment in Germany.
Foreign nationals with the citizenship of a country that requires a visa to enter Germany for business-related activities must obtain a business visa. Nationals of exempted countries are permitted to enter Germany for business purposes for less than 90 days without a visa.
Nationals of exempted countries may apply for a working residence permit from within Germany at the Aliens’ Office (Ausländeramt) closest to their home in Germany. All nationals are required to register a stay in Germany of greater than 90 days at the Aliens’ Office whether intending to work or not.
German Federal Foreign Office
Application for Schengen Visa (German/English)
This is just a short sample of what you’ll find in over 100 pages of information in the complete Germany Guide.