A guide to the German “Sperrkonto” blocked account
The Global Education Times news team has created a detailed guide for international students on the Sperrkonto blocked account needed for a German study visa.
Starting 1 January 2020, new rules about how much money foreign students need in a “Sperrkonto” German blocked account to secure a study visa have come into force.
Last year, we reported on the development that the Federal Foreign Office of Germany has increased by 20% to €10,236 the required amount of money in a “Sperrkonto” blocked account for foreign students to secure a German student visa.
As the new rules come into effect, Global Education Times spoke to Nadja Hofmann, Student Services and Compliance Manager at GISMA Business School, and Jack Galloway, Student Services Manager at ESMT Berlin, to find out exactly what it is and who needs it.
What is a Sperrkonto blocked account?
“A Sperrkonto,” Hofmann states, “is necessary for all international students from non-EU or non-EEA countries, who need to prove their financial status in order to prove that students can finance their education abroad, including tuition and accommodation.”
Galloway added: “Many foreign students applying for a visa or residence permit need to open a blocked account in advance of their visa or residence permit appointment. The purpose is to demonstrate that the student has enough money to cover living expenses while in Germany.”
Looking at the process of opening and funding an account, Hofmann said: “The process to open a blocked account needs to be started before applying for a visa; as for the actual visa application in their home country, students must provide sufficient financial means as part of the application.
“99.9% of consulates/embassies request to see a [Sperrkonto] blocked bank account when students apply for a visa. Failure to show a blocked bank account with enough money can lead to extended visa processing times, or in the worst case-scenario, a visa refusal.
“Therefore, a blocked bank account is vital as it can take some time for the blocked bank account to be opened up, we suggest students set up as blocked bank account as soon as possible to be able to show it during the visa interview.”
Given that the account exists to prove that the student is able to support themselves financially during their time in Germany, Galloway states that, “there are other ways of demonstrating this: their parents or a German citizen can vouch for them in an official letter, or scholarships recipients can use their scholarship letter, but the blocked account is the most common choice.”
Because only international students from the outside the EU need a visa/residence permit to study in Germany, only non-EU and non-EEA students will need to open the blocked account.
How much money does the account need? And what makes it a “Sperrkonto” blocked account?
Following a 20% increase in the amount required, from January 2020, the required amount for a student residence permit has increased from from €8,640 per year (€720 per month) to €10,236 (€853 per month), reflecting the increased cost of living in Germany.
The reason that the account is described as being “blocked” is because the account holder is restricted to only withdrawing €853 per month in order to preserve the long-term availability of their funds.
Is a Sperrkonto still required after the first year of study?
Hofmann states that because “this visa is only valid for a certain amount of time and is usually not valid for the entire duration of planned studies, therefore, to extend the students’ legal stay in Germany they must apply for a residence permit before the visa expires.
“For the residence permit application, German authorities will also want to see proof of finance for an entire year (even if the programme ends before that year).
“Hence, students will have to show again a blocked bank account with at least €10,236. If students have already withdrawn money from the account at this point, the account will need to be refilled.”
Galloway states that students tend to have a blocked account for one year: “Often their residence permits will be for the entire duration of their studies, but in cases when they need to renew their student residence permits, they will have to again demonstrate their ability to cover their living expenses.
“However, the Ausländerbehörde (foreign/immigration authority) is less strict about this requirement when a student renews his or her residence permit. Usually, normal bank statements from the past six months demonstrating financial stability are sufficient.”
How much money do students bringing dependants need to demonstrate?
Galloway said that students tend to move to Germany first getting their own residence permit and then have their spouse/children apply for a family union visa from their home country.
A requirement for this visa is proof of financial means, where a blocked account would qualify as this proof.
Hofmann states that the applicant would need to prove that they can finance the dependant(s) and that this should be done also through a blocked bank account: “this way authorities can be sure that enough money is available to the applicant and dependant every month.
“When calculating means of livelihood, people that live with the student in a shared household, or for who the student is obliged to provide a livelihood, have to be take in account.”
Will the amount needed in the account rise again?
Referencing the cost of living in the country, Galloway responded: “The amount required is regulated by the BAföG (Bundesausbildungsförderungsgesetz), and it is tied to cost of living. However, it doesn’t change every year. It changed on September 1, 2019 (for visa applicants) and will change on January 1, 2020 (for residence permit applicants).”
Hofmann warned that “it is important for students to be aware of the fact that the amount and other regulations regarding the account are subject to change without prior notice, and it is always advisable for students to regularly check the latest requirements through the German Foreign Office or students’ local German embassy/ consulate in their home country.”
Does location matter?
While the cost of living in different regions of Germany are not the same, Hofmann states that all students wishing to study in Germany “must have the same amount of money in their blocked bank accounts, regardless of where in Germany they are based. Students applying for a visa to come to Germany to study always most prove they have at least €10,236 for financial security.”
How do you open a Sperrkonto blocked account?
How to open the German blocked account depends on the banking provider. Hofmann states that some providers offer online support, where all documents and information needed to open the account can be provided/ uploaded and verified online. Deutsche Bank, meanwhile, is an example of a provider that requires the students to send verification documents via physical mail.
Speaking from his own experience, Galloway said: “When I got one in 2015, Deutsche Bank was recommended to me, but it took several weeks to open the account. More and more of my students use online services like Expatrio, Coracle, and Fintiba. It can be done from anywhere in the world.”
The fees for opening a blocked account vary depending on the bank. Hofmann states that while fees vary between providers, this often is reflected in the scope of service being offered to the student.
What issues might an applicant face when trying to open a blocked bank account?
Opening the account can be a time-consuming process, hence Hofmann and Galloway both advise starting the process as early as possible.
One key difficulty is the amount of money needed.
“€10,236 is a lot of money, especially for students coming from less developed countries, so they may have to borrow from friends and family to open the account. Monthly withdrawal limits can also be a problem for students with emergency expenditures,” Galloway concludes.
Pic: Christian Wiediger