US Citizen moving to Germany for nursing school


I am a US citizen hoping to move to Germany in the spring and begin nursing school in the fall of 2012. I have about 2.5 years in college biology credit but no degree. I am working currently on my language skills, as I know I have to become fluent first. I am hoping to marry my fiance by next summer, so I am also looking to into visa issues as I know that will play into it. But I have to be accepted by the school before I can apply for the student visa.

Beyond language fluency, what are the next steps in becoming eligible to begin schooling next fall? I have e-mailed with a few schools/hospitals I am looking at and all of them have directed me to the Regierundspräsidium of the Bundesland...which hasn"t been helpful.

Where do I go from here?


33 Posts

Hi there!

I can't really help you, but I can relate! At least I'm assuming your fiance is German and that is why you are moving? I moved to Finland about three and a half years ago to be with my (then) fiance (now husband). I had just finished high school and had to take language courses before starting school last fall. Now I'm in my second year of nursing school.

When I emailed schools in Finland before moving, I was considering starting school immediately in English. Then I found out that their English classes are only for exchange students and not full-time students. Later on I found out that there ARE some only-English nursing classes for full-time students that don't speak Finnish, but by then I had realized that if I graduate with a degree in English, I'd never get a job!

In Finland they have language programs that are free to immigrants, though I can't tell you what Germany has. But I think it's definitely worth it to learn the language properly first. Also my teachers in the language course helped me apply to school when the time came, and then I had to take a language test at the school to prove my Finnish was good enough. It was about 2 years after moving here, and I didn't speak a word of Finnish beforehand, and I passed. So it's possible, but you just have to be prepared to really focus on the language. I was lucky, because we could afford for me to just go to language courses 6 hours a day, 5 days a week - it was free here and social services here give immigrants an integration benefit for the first 3 years as long as they are doing something (like interning or school). So if I were you I would contact the embassy in Germany as well as talk to your fiance about how things work there. Either contact the unemployment office yourself or ask your fiance to ask them about language courses for immigrants. If you're really close to being fluent already, then you should definitely ask the schools how to apply as a foreigner - for me it meant translating my high school diploma into Finnish (though I found out later that was unneccessary, as English was fine too) and applying with a different checked box online. It also meant that they invited me to the language test - can't remember if it was before or after the actual entrance exam. I think it was before.

I don't know how it works in Germany, but at least in Finland it's easy to get a residence permit based on marriage, and that allows you to work or go to school in the country (and after five years you can change it for a permanent residence permit, though after 4 while married you can apply for citizenship). I moved to Finland, got married and got my residence permit that way. Applying for citizenship in half a year or so, though there are very few things I can't do with a residence permit (I can't vote for the president, for instance, though I can vote for local representatives).

You know what else I did? I found a forum for expats in Finland. I bet you there is one for Germany if you look on Google. There is a wealth of knowledge in places like that and an even bigger wealth of people who have done the same thing you are intending to do and can help you. Unless you are already fluent in German, I think you should worry about moving there first and then start thinking about school. Once you become a citizen of Germany and if you get licensed as a nurse there, you'll be allowed to live and work as a nurse anywhere in the EU. Which is pretty cool, though it sucks if you plan to return to the US, because you'll know all medical terms in a foreign language and you'll have to study some vocabulary if you ever want to take the NCLEX. :p

You can PM me if you want.


2 Posts

Saija, thanks so much for you generous and detailed response! It definitely helps, even if just emotionally :)

One question I would ask is your advice on whether its better for me to stay stateside, finish school here, then move and deal with the language and possibly more schooling because of the coursework difference...OR....leave behind what I"ve started with, go there and deal with language and degree, and then risk having to "start over" in some ways like you mentioned, if I ever came back to the US to work? Hard I know...but any advice?

babyNP., APRN

1,921 Posts

Specializes in NICU. Has 15 years experience.

You do have to take the NCLEX if you want to be licensed as a US nurse and the requirements for getting a license can be pretty stiff depending whatever program you choose. Before you sign up for any school overseas, be sure to check to see if it has all the requirements you would need as an overseas nurse applying for RN licensure. You can look up the requirements by going to a state's BON.

Keep in mind that you will have to go through extensive processes if you want to apply to more than one state, as each license application is different, unless you will live in a compact state.


33 Posts

Double post, sorry.


33 Posts

I'm going to admit that I don't know much about how a nursing degree from Europe transfers to the States. As I understand it, most European countries' Bachelor's degree in nursing will work as a Bachelor's degree in the States, it just might be a long process of waiting for approval. But it would make sense to check beforehand if you think there's a large possibility that you might move back to the States. You have the benefit that you are a US citizen, so you wouldn't have to worry at least about green cards or visas.

As far as waiting and studying in America and then moving, I wouldn't recommend it if you're fairly certain you want to stay in Germany. Though you should check the EU's requirements for foreign-trained nurses. It could be that that would be the easier way to go if you have no idea which country you will be living in permanently. However I've heard (grain of salt, because I don't know for sure) that you need at least a Bachelor's degree from the US to work as a nurse in Europe - a 2 year nursing degree won't cut it. I was also just reading something about the UK requiring foreign nurses to have at least 4600 hours of school, over 1500 of which is clinical experience, and a nurse trained in the US said she was unable to get licensed in the UK because of that. She stated that no US school will get you even close to that. Again, hearsay (just read it on an online discussion), so make sure to check that it's correct. And any nurses trained in the US feel free to correct me. Also, that's the UK and I think every European Union country has their own requirements - so be sure to check Germany's. If I calculated this right, I'll get about 5600 hours from my school, around 1600 of which will be in clinical experience. Again, though, I don't know how it is in Germany or the US or what the US requirements are. But if I ever decided to move back to the States, I'd be a bit surprised if my Finnish nursing degree was not approved - or rather if it wasn't approved, I would imagine the requirements for any extra classes would be minimal. But again, haven't done too much research on the subject so I'm just guessing.

I'd be more worried about the NCLEX, but that's because standardized tests make me nervous and I always think I'm going to fail even when I don't :D. The truth is, I've been passing in school with good grades taking tests in Finnish, so it probably wouldn't be that big of a deal to go back in have to relearn a few terms in English and take the NCLEX. But, seeing as I've never taken it, no idea how difficult it is. :D Would also make sense that it might be a little bit harder for foreign-trained nurses, simply and purely because US nursing schools are probably geared towards helping people pass the NCLEX, so the questions might be a different type than what you would get used to in a school in Germany. I've always thought that if I ever did it, I would do a review class beforehand, if it was in the budget. And as I understand it, you can take it as many times as you want (though it costs a hefty fee every time and you have to wait a few weeks in between). Also, I do learn most things in English and Finnish, because it helps me remember the Finnish word if I look up the word in English, too (even though I never used to really know what happened in coronary artery disease, for instance, it's a term I had heard before so it's a snap to put it together with the Finnish term and understand - much harder to memorize the Finnish terms themselves ;) ). Also something I've been planning to buy for awhile but haven't had the spare money for on top of all my required school books is a Finnish-English-Latin medical dictionary, as most medical terms cannot be found in a normal dictionary. So I would invest in one of those. ;)

Personally, I was never planning to move back when I moved here. I think you need to really think about that before you decide where to study, because if you're unlikely to move back to the States, it would make absolutely no sense to study nursing in the States first. Not only would it make more hassle for you later on, but you might have to relearn everything in German before you'd ever get a job, and if the US degree doesn't cut it, you'd really be in a tight spot. Not to mention, if you're doing the long distance thing right now with your fiance, it is so not worth 4 years being apart. Now I don't know about Germany, but in Finland higher education is open to everyone for free and it's really, really high quality (actually consistently ranks higher than the US in education scales, I think). All you have to do is pay for your books and as long as you are progressing at a reasonable pace in school, you get a student benefit every month. It's not much, but it's enough to rent an apartment, live and eat without having to worry about money (especially if you have a husband who is working - then it is more than enough). And there's always help if you get in a financial struggle. It's not like the States at all here - no one lives on the streets and there's always help if you need it; people are taken care of here. So, depending how it is in Germany, you might save yourself and your fiance 4 years of college debt by studying in Germany, and possibly get a somewhat better education to boot. And I don't know how Germany's health care system works, but in Finland we have universal health care, and it makes me feel good that I get to be a nurse in a country where people don't have to pay for a basic right like medical treatment. I will never have to ask my patients if they have insurance or send parents a ridiculous bill because their child was sick.

I will say, however, that when I moved to Finland I really didn't think I would miss the states. And now, 3.5 years in is when I started missing it. Not because Finland is somehow bad or worse (free education, free health care, and really really good social security, not to mention it's a more liberal, "free" country in many ways - the truth is I see Finland as "better" as far as quality of life), but simply because that's where I grew up and it's where my family and all my childhood memories are. I'll probably never move back, but I do see it as a small possibility that some day my husband and I could move there. So I guess just keep in mind that it's not easy to move to another country, and you will miss the US at some point, no matter how great Germany is. I've met refugees who come from much poorer countries than Finland saying they miss it so badly and can't wait to get back. It doesn't matter how good or bad the quality of life in your home country was - you will miss it because it used to be your home.

However, as much as I do miss the States, I've never regretted moving here and at the moment at least, I have no desire to move back. So, that's really something you just have to think about and decide what is best for yourself. If you think you're going to have trouble parting with the US, then you should discuss with your fiance the possibility of him moving to the States. If you think about it long and hard, do lots of research on Germany, have a good support system there and feel like it's a challenge you want to take on, then go for it and don't waste your time first attending school in the US. Though definitely make sure first that you know the requirements for getting a residence permit and for being accepted into school in Germany. This is some kind of expat forum for foreigners living in Germany - I'd look there for help on the specifics of moving and getting into school.

Couldn't hurt to check nurse's employment prospects in Germany, too. Unemployment is a big problem in most countries right now, including Finland. However, in Finland the medical field is the single place where you will definitely have a job right now, and there is a dire need for nurses that's only getting worse as the population ages. Not that I would let that factor in too much to your decision, but it is something to think about. I think mainly, however, you should just think about what will make you happy and where you want to raise a family, live, and work.

Please let us know what you decide, feel free to ask more questions, and good luck!


1 Post

Dear Saija,

I've been reading your threads intently about your knowledge of studying abroad...

I'm not certain you can help someone like me but maybe u can...your thread here is about a year old and maybe you can see this...hoping so..

I've been a US citizen for many years and was never able to obtain any form of higher education due to the extreme cost associated with it...

Without getting into a long discussion over the many things I feel that the United States has failed to provide is Education..

With this up and coming Election nearing I fear Romney will succeed and re-direct the United States in previously seen and proven unsuccessful direction...which I might add has not helped this country develop in areas that are desperately anemic...

I have considered for quite a while now of looking into living abroad and I've always desired a higher education. With that being said I wonder what restrictions lie, if any, in the area of race, age and gender flexibility in studying abroad in a country such as the one you reside in which is Finland..

Can u direct me in what would be my first move in discovering opportunity, if any, for someone of my age and caliber? Or if anything, just to provide some encouragement for someone who still believes in a dream ;)

Where in the States are you from and can you share more about how life is in Finland? Compare it to The United States in simple terms that someone as yourself from the USA would describe to someone also from USA.... I would imagine it is a very beautiful and peaceful place to live...I wonder what Pros/Cons you have experienced in relation to The United States and what was the thing that drew you most to Finland? And, would you ever come back to the USA, if so, why?

Thanks very much for all the info in your previous thread of about 1 yr ago

Maryjo/Asheville, NC


33 Posts

Hi Just1girl,

You're in luck, I was sent an email informing me of a reply. x) But umm.. could you enable private messaging to your account? Maybe I could answer your questions better through that. Or send me a private message.. if I have it enabled (have no idea if I do or not xD).

The biggest question is what country are you from? Because if you are from a European Union country and have citizenship, you'd be able to live in Finland and go to school without having to worry about getting a residence permit. I'm not sure if this is what you meant, but it seemed like you were concerned about things like equality in Finland, and the answer is that equality between, for instance, genders, is on the same level or better than in the US. In fact, the last Finnish president was a woman, and Finland was one of the first countries to legalize voting for women. As far as other basic living, like safety and quality of life and education, Finland is above the US..

But I can tell you more through private messages and/or if you ask more specific questions..


2 Posts

I know this post was 5 years ago but i was wondering if you found any nursing schools in germany and did you transfer your classes?

nutella, MSN, RN

1 Article; 1,509 Posts

If you are an US citizen I would advice you against getting a nursing education in Germany.

There are differences between the 2 educations and although they also offer BSN programs now, it is not exactly comparable. You might run into problems after graduating from nursing school in Germany when you want to move back to the US or you might find the work conditions for nurses not appealing. There are differences in nursing in both countries though for example critical care seems to be mostly the same. There is somewhat of a nursing shortage in Germany but the profession is not highly regarded and there are so many mandatory payments for insurances and taxes that after all of that up to 50% of your income will be gone. Living in Germany is not cheap even if you work in Germany.