Before your Stay

Soon we will be able to welcome you to TH Köln! The following website provides you with all the information and instructions that you need in order to prepare for your guest stay in Germany and at TH Köln. There are some important steps that you must take before your stay.

There is a lot of details to take care of for a stay abroad. We recommend to plan sufficient preparation time since a certain amount of time in advance is necessary to take care of visas, health insurance, a place to stay and possibly a preschool daycare or school for your children who travel along with you. Depending on your home country, applying for a visa and issuing a visa at a German embassy may take several months. Please also remember that it is difficult to find housing in Cologne, which is why you should start looking for housing three to six months in advance.

As soon as the time for your stay has been set, you should create a schedule for the most important steps before you arrive and plan one to two weeks of time for your arrival and orientation phase in Germany.

Initial, important steps for your stay at TH Köln

1. Did you receive an invitation letter from TH Köln?

If so, register for your stay so that we prepare for your arrival at the TH. If you have not received an invitation letter yet, ask your contact person at TH Köln to send you an invitation letter.

2. Take care of arrival formalities, and apply for a visa!

Do I have a valid passport? Do I need to apply for a visa for myself and family members that come with me?
We have compiled useful information on this topic on our page Visa.

3. Take out insurance!

During your stay in Germany, you are obligated to take out health insurance for yourself and family members that travel with you: Health insurance for international guest scholars. If you come to TH Köln as an exchange doctoral candidate, please note the information on health insurance for international students.

In addition to a valid health insurance, we also recommend to take out a personal accident and liability insurance. This way you are well insured during your stay in Germany. At your TH workplace, you are covered for accidents in the work context by a personal accident insurance policy of TH Köln.

4. Start looking for housing!

A place to live is an important aspect of your stay abroad. You should start looking for housing as soon as possible. Unfortunately, TH Köln has no guesthouses or guest apartments to offer you, which is why we cannot guarantee housing for you. This means that you need to search for accommodation on the private housing market.

Apartment search

+ Here is how we can support you

Since there is a very limited supply of available housing in large cities in Germany, it is rather difficult to find accommodation in Cologne. There is a strong demand for housing at the beginning of the semester in March/April and in September/October. This especially applies to furnished, affordable apartments that are available for short-term renting.

Average monthly rent prices are 600-800 € for a furnished studio apartment, 800-1.200 € for a one-bedroom apartment and 400-500 €  for a furnished room in a shared apartment. You should take this information into account for your budget planning. Otherwise, it may be difficult to find housing.

We can help you find housing, if you inform us of your housing needs and budget at least three months before your planned arrival date.  We will then search the private housing market along with you and establish contact with real estate agencies for suitable opportunities for you. All other (contractual) details will be between you and the landlord.

Please understand that this search is very time-consuming for us. We may forward offers to you that do not meet all of your requirements. Sometimes we are only able to pass on one option, because there are no other options on the housing market. We ask you to remain as flexible as possible, to have realistic price expectations and to seriously consider every option. You can find general advice on looking for housing in the section Accommodation.

Please note that all dormitories of the Kölner Studierendenwerk are reserved for registered students and are not available to scholars.

Learn German

+ Would you like to learn German or improve your German language skills during your stay?

If you arrive in March/April or September/October when classes start and stay for a semester, you have the option of participating in a free once-per week German course along with TH exchange students. If you have previous knowledge of German, you must take a placement test before you can participate in the course. The Language Learning Center can provide you with more information on registering for the placement test as well as the German course itself.

If you start at TH Köln at another time, only stay for a short time or would prefer to learn flexibly online, it is also possible to sign up for an online German course under the direction of the Language Learning Center. However, this is only possible after you arrive in Germany.

Bringing children along

+ Important information on bringing children along

If you would like to bring your children during your guest stay, you should seek information on childcare options as soon as possible and arrange for a place at a childcare facility. School-age children are required to be in school.

Mandatory school attendance for children starting at age 6

It is mandatory in Germany that all children attend school. Parents are not allowed to teach their children at home. Mandatory school attendance begins at 6 years old and ends at 15 years old. This duty to attend school full-time is fulfilled by attending elementary school and a general secondary school (vocational secondary school, secondary school leading to a university, grammar school or comprehensive school).

The school year in Cologne normally starts in August or September and ends in June or July of the following year. Classes normally take place in the morning. However, many schools now offer all-day supervision until 4:00 p.m. There is no charge to attend public schools. However, lunch and afternoon supervision must be paid for. There are few private schools or international schools where students have to pay tuition.

The local education authority usually handles the so-called “school allocation”, the assignment of your child to a specific school. As soon as you have registered a residence in Germany (for a stay in Germany longer than 90 days), you make an advisory appointment with the Municipal Integration Center [only available in German] to select a suitable school for your children. You should bring your children’s most recent school report cards and immunization records.

If your children have knowledge of German and if you will be a guest for less than one year in Germany, it is possible to contact a German school of your choice before you arrive to make arrangements for study abroad spots for your children. This is a way to find a school without a lot of red tape.

If you have any further questions, we would be glad to advise you.

Childcare for children under age 6

Children between three and six years old can be cared for in a preschool daycare or childcare facility. Preschool daycares normally only offer care in the morning, whereas childcare facilities or all-day preschool daycares offer a lunch and afternoon supervision. There are also day nurseries for children under three years where it is often possible to receive all-day care.

Alternatively, it is also possible to have your child taken care of by a daycare worker. Daycare workers have one or more children at their home and take care of them in the family environment of their home. Private childcare providers need training and a care permit from the youth welfare office. In Cologne, the contact point for child daycare [only available in German] is responsible for referring private childcare providers.  

The preschool daycare year normally begins at the beginning of August. This usually includes a orientation and adaption phase of several weeks that must be accompanied by a parent.

Childcare costs vary widely. Childcare costs at public institutions often depend on the parents’ income. The last two childcare years before starting school are free in Cologne. Parents only need to pay lunch money.

Please note: There are not enough places at childcare facilities for children under three years old in Cologne. This applies to childcare facilities as well as to places in the homes of daycare workers. Places are normally assigned in the spring of a calendar year for care starting in August of that year. That is why it is very important to find a place at a childcare facility as early as possible and at least 6 months in advance.

Do you have any further questions?

Feel free to contact us at any time if you have further questions about preparing for your stay at TH Köln.

Martina Brüderle

Martina Brüderle

Hochschulreferat Internationale Angelegenheiten