Travel to Germany and Schengen visa applications under Covid-19 restrictions

14.01.2021 - Article
Information poster on coronavirus at Hamburg airport
Information on coronavirus at Hamburg airport© Bodo Marks/dpa

Starting from 16. December 2020 a full lockdown applies in Germany to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Any kind of travel is discouraged.
Hotel and hostel operators are not allowed to offer accommodation for tourism purposes. Restaurants, bars, cultural institutions etc. are closed. Only shops for immediate personal needs such as grocery stores or pharmacies remain open.

While borders are not closed, entry restrictions and mandatory quarantine apply, please see below.

Given the lockdown and the purpose it serves to reduce the risk of spreading the virus, every traveller should reconsider postponing trips to Germany until the COVID-situation has eased in Germany and in the respective home Country.

The following entry restrictions still apply, please see below.

The recommendation by the Council of the European Union dated 30.06.2020 on the gradual lifting of the temporary restrictions on non-essential travel into the EU was implemented by Germany with effect from 02.07.2020 as follows:

Travel from EU Member-States, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, Liechtenstein and the UK as well as a small list of countries which fulfill certain criteria pertaining to the development of the COVID-situation as well as reciprocity aspects is no longer restricted or the restrictions have been eased. This list of countries is to be regularly updated. The question of whether travel to Germany is permitted depends on where the person travelling has previously been staying, not on their nationality.

Exceptions to the travel restrictions
Given the COVID-situation in South Africa, Lesotho and Eswatini, these countries currently do not belong to the list of countries, where travel restrictions could be lifted. However, entry under certain conditions is possible. Please find below the list of exceptions where travel is permitted and a Schengen visa application may be submitted.

If you already have a valid Schengen visa issued before 17.03.2020 you will only be permitted entry to Germany if one of the exceptions apply to you and the additional documentation (as mentioned below) are provided upon entry.

How to apply for a Schengen visa – additional documentation required

Should you be planning a trip under one of the exception categories, you may schedule an appointment with the external service provider TLS to submit your application.

Please make sure that, in addition to all the documents required for the basic purpose of the trip (e.g. business or visit), you also submit the documentation listed below in the respective category with your application. 

You can find general information on Schengen-Visas here

Applications for which the required documentation is missing, including proof of the existence of an exceptional case, must unfortunately be rejected. Neither the visa fee nor the service providers’ fee will be refundable in these cases.

Quarantine in Germany - still mandatory

When entering Germany you are subject to quarantine regulations. Check carefully whether the duration and circumstances of the quarantine make it possible to achieve your purpose and duration of the trip, justifying the current trip.

Further Information regarding current quarantine regulations can be found here and on the Website of the Federal Foreign Office.

New regulations on accommodation in Germany as of 2nd  November 2020

Due to the partial lockdown in Germany many Hotels, pensions and guest-houses may close. When a Schengen visa is issued, the German Missions in South Africa cannot foresee that the booked accommodation will still be open at the time of arrival in Germany. Hotel closures due to a lack of demand can be expected. If there is no additional booking confirmation, the traveler may be denied entry by the German Federal Police.

Therefore for Schengen visa applications, additional documents regarding accomodation must be submitted with immediate effect:

  • A hotel booking confirmation for business travelers, which was issued after 02.11.2020 and confirms the reservation. The applicant needs to travel with the requested document on hand.
  • Confirmation from the family that was issued after 02.11.2020 that accommodation will be provided by them. The applicant needs to travel with the requested document on hand.

List of exceptions from entry restrictions for short-term stays in Germany

A) Family Visits:

Visits by members of the so-called nuclear family (i.e. spouses, registered partners, minor children and parents of minor children) of the following group of persons:

  • German citizens
  • European Union citizens
  • Citizens of the United Kingdom, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway or Iceland
  • Third-country nationals with an existing long-term right of residence and residence in an EU or Schengen member state or the UK (residence permit or long-term visa)

To be submitted additionally:

  • Proof of the family relationship and passport copy of the family member who is being visited

Short-term visits of first or second degree relatives not belonging to the “nuclear” family for imperative family reasons such as

  • Births; Weddings; Deaths / Funerals
  • Special exceptional cases for which there is compelling reason.

To be submitted additionally:

  • Proof of the urgent reason for travel and the family relationship

Short-term visits by the third-country partner to a nonmarried/non-registered partner in Germany and for marriage if:

  • It is a long-term, permanent relationship / partnership;
  • Both partners having met at least once in person;
  • The partner issuing the invitation is a German citizen, a citizen of another EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland or the United Kingdom or a third-country national with a long-term residence permit for Germany.

To be submitted additionally:

  • a written invitation from the person living in Germany, as well as a copy of the identity documents of the person issuing the invitation,
  • a declaration of the existence of the relationship, signed by both partners and including the contact details of both partners, and
  • other suitable evidence of previous personal meetings, in particular passport stamps, travel documents / flight tickets or a shared residence in another country; additional documentation such as photos, social media posts, postal/email correspondence etc. may also be provided.

Joint visits by unmarried couples from abroad if

  • There are urgent reasons (e.g. wedding, illness or funeral of close relatives)
  • One of the partners is a German citizen or a citizen of another EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland or the United Kingdom.
  • The relationship/partnership is of a long term-nature, i.e. intended to be lasting and both partners having a joint place of residence abroad.

To be submitted additionally:

  • written explanation of the urgent reason for the joint entry with a declaration of the existence of the relationship, signed by both partners and including the contact details of both partners, and
  • Proof of the existing relationship, particularly proof of a joint place of residence abroad (e.g. residence registration certificate). Supplementary proof may be provided in the form of photos, social media, letters and email correspondence.

B) Business trips and work purposes

Business trips for specialists or highly qualified people

To be submitted additionally:

  • A declaration on the absolute necessity for a business trip at short notice personally signed by the business partner or employer in Germany. (n.B: a declaration by a business partner or employer in the sending State (third country) is not sufficient by itself). The letter by the German business partner / employer must contain the declaration that the trip cannot be postponed, the work cannot be carried out abroad and is absolutely necessary for economic reasons. (Sample letter)
  • Proof that the business traveler is a specialist or highly qualified Person

Trade Fair exhibitors

To be submitted additionally:

  • Confirmation of participation by the trade fair organizer

Trade Fair visitors

To be submitted additionally:

  • Entry ticket to the fair
  • Confirmation by at least one exhibitor that an appointment has been scheduled for a business meeting at the trade fair

Assembly specialists

To be submitted additionally:

  • Contract for work and services
  • Contractor´s employment confirmation for the traveller
  • Labour Agency´s confirmation of receipt for the notification made by the customer having commissioned the assembly or disassembly in question


To be submitted additionally:

  • Confirmation from the employer about the purpose of the trip
  • Seafarers' book

Professional athletes taking part in competitions / tournaments

To be submitted additionally:

  • Invitation / confirmation of participation from the German organizer

Umpires taking part in competitions / tournaments or international sporting events in Germany

To be submitted additionally:

  • Invitation by the respective German Federal Sports Federation or accreditiation by the organizing committee

Journalists in particularly justified individual cases

To be submitted additionally:

  • Letter by the employer specifying the particular need for travel

Employees for religious reasons in particularly justified cases

To be submitted additionally:

  • Letter by the employer in Germany specifying the particular need for travel

Artists in particularly justified individual cases

To be submitted additionally:

  • Letter by the German organizer specifying the particular need for travel

C) Other travel purposes:

Travel for compelling medical reasons

To be submitted additionally:

  • Verification and confirmation that treatment cannot be carried out in SA and that without the treatment; the condition would be life threatening and further damage could occur (sample doctors' certificate)
  • Confirmation by the receiving clinical institution in Germany about scheduled medical Treatment

Participation in court hearings

To be submitted additionally:

  • Summons from the German court

If you are planning a long term stay in Germany (such as for work or family reunification) you can find more information here.

Frequently asked questions to the Corona-Virus situation in Germany can be found here.

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