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Frequently Asked Questions

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I am a doctoral student at the BSRT

I want to start my new life in Berlin

What documents do I need to bring?

Here is a list of documents you need to bring along

  • Valid passport (with entry visa)
  • Birth certificate
  • Original degree certificates and transcripts
  • Translations of degree certificates and transcripts and if they are not in English or German
  • Vaccination card

Please prepare a few copies of the different certificates and documents, because they may be required during several occasions.

Where can I stay in the first days in Berlin?

Where can I stay in the first days in Berlin?

You may need temporary accomodation for the first few days in Berlin to give yourself time to find a nice place to live. The Humboldt University and the Free University have their own guest houses providing temporary accommodation. Temporary accommodation is also offered at the House of Nations and the Studentendorf Schlachtensee. Please bear in mind that these guest houses are very popular so make the reservation as soon as possible and before you travel to Berlin otherwise they may already be fully booked and you will not have anywhere to stay.

What visa do I need to enter Germany?

If you are not German or a citizen of the European Union you will need a visa (d-type) for entering Germany. You will receive an official invitation letter from the BSRT coordination office with which you can apply for a visa. Please contact your local German Embassy as early as possible and apply for an initial (d-type), temporary single entry visa. If you want to return to your home country within two month after you arrived in Germany you need to apply for a multiple entry visa. Do not apply for a tourist visa, because this is not sufficient and would require that you return to your home country after a few month!

More information about entry visa for Germany

Do I have to take out medical insurance?

When you start doing your doctoral degree in Germany, you are obliged to have a health insurance. You must already be covered from your first day in Germany. So before you travel to Berlin please check with your health insurance if you have medical cover when you travel to Germany. If you are not covered you should take out travel insurance from any standard insurance company in your home country to cover at least your medical care during your journey and the first days in Berlin.

You need to have a health insurance according to the German standards seven days after your arrival at the latest. There are two types of medical insurance companies in Germany those belonging to the public health system which provide insurance for undergraduate students and employees and the private medical insurance companies for self employed persons and employees with a higher income. Stipend holders who do their doctoral degree do not have the status of an employee and they can get insurance from public or private medical insurance companies. Once you get private medical insurance you cannot change to the public health system at all. When you have signed a contract you are bound to this medical insurance company for at least 18 month. Doctoral students with an employment contract have to take out an insurance from the public health system

Click here for more information on health insurance in Germany

Do I need to register my adress?

Everybody who lives in Germany must register their German home address at the registration office (Bürgeramt). As soon as you arrive in Germany you must register your current address which may be the address of the guest house in case you have not found a flat yet. You need to take the completed registration form (Anmeldung) and your valid passport to the registration office. Be prepared that it may take 1 to 2 hours before it is your turn at the registration office. When you are registered you will receive the stamped registration confirmation (Anmeldebestätigung). You need this document when you open your bank account and when you apply for a residence permit. Each time when you move, even within Berlin, you will have to go through the same process again and get registered with your new address.

Do I need a bank account and how do I open one?

You must open a bank account. There may be differences in the banks' services and fees so have a look around. When you want to open an account the bank will require at least a confirmation of your employer or group leader that you work here, your passport and a copy of your “Anmeldebestätigung” (See "Do I need to register my address").

How do I apply for a residence permit?

If you are not German citizen or a citizen of the European Union you must apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) at the immigration office in Berlin (Ausländerbehörde). You need to get the residence permit within three month after your arrival in Germany. Bear in mind that it can take up to six weeks to receive the permit so you should apply as soon as possible.

From the 1 September 2011 the electronic residence permit will be issued due to new EU legislation. You will have to carry this visa card type electronic residence permit along with your passport.

We recommend you make an appointment at the immigration office online in order to avoid long waiting hours. You must take all requested documents otherwise you will be sent back. The following documents are required to apply for a residence permit and extended visa:

  • completed application form (click here to download form)
  • two biometric passport photos
  • your valid passport plus a copy of your passport
  • stipend contract or contract of employment
  • copy of your "Anmeldebestätigung" (see "Do I need to register my adress?").
  • copy of your health insurance certificate.

Once you get your residence permit you have to give a copy to the personnel department of your institute.

Where can I find a nice place to live?

Letting accommodation on the housing market
In Germany flats are advertised including bathroom and kitchen which is usually fitted with an electric cooker and a sink. The living room is not included so if you want to have a bedroom and a living room you have to look for a two room flat. The size of the flat is always specified as total floor area in square meters. Flats are usually unfurnished, but if you prefer a furnished flat there are specialized agents where you can look for them. On top of the rent you have to pay the costs for heating and the "Betriebskosten" which are the running costs for the entire building. You have to pay for electricity separate and you must therefore register with an electric power supplier (compare electricity If your flat is also supplied with gas you have to register with a gas supplier. In most cases when you rent a flat you have to pay a deposit in advance which can amount up to three months rent. When you move out you will get your money back if you don’t have any liabilities towards the landlord.
Here are some important words to understand the description of the costs of an advertised flat.

  • Netto-Kaltmiete: the rent on its own
  • Heizkosten: cost for the heating
  • Betriebskosten: tenants contribution to the running cost of the building
  • Miete inklusive Nebenkosten: rent including the cost for heating and running cost for the building

Here are some links to search for letting accommodation on the housing market

Flats & Apartments
Apartment Sharing

Student residences
A fairly cheap option for housing is to rent a place in a student residence. The quality varies but you can find quite nice places. You need to be matriculated as a student otherwise you cannot apply for a student residence. Please note that accommodation at student residences is given first to undergraduates students in preference to doctoral students. To search for student residences please visit the website of the student union. Student union

Do I have to pay tax?

Stipends are tax free. If you have an employment contract (not a stipend) you will have to pay tax and need therefore an income tax card (Lohnsteuerkarte) of the current year which has to be given to the personnel department. The tax office issues this document. You can for instance go to the tax office in Wedding.

I have some questions concerning the graduate school

How can I book a scientific course?

All scientific modules organised by the BSRT must be booked through the online system on our website. You first need to log in to access the online booking.

How can I book a course at the HGS, DRS or the PoGS?

The complementary modules that are organised in collaboration with the Humboldt Graduate School, the Dahlem Research School or the Potsdam Graduate School must be booked by direcly through the booking procedures of these umbrella organisations. This cannot be done through the BSRT.

How can I cancel a course?

It is your responsibility to plan your work in order to make time for participation in the booked courses. However, if you cannot participate due to unforeseen circumstance, you must cancel the course immediately by sending an e-mail to the BSRT coordination office or to Aleksandra Skoric ( hgs-training(at) in the case of an HGS course and Dr. Sibel Vurgun ( skills-drs(at) in case of the DRS.

If the cancellation is done at least two weeks before the course begins, a reason is not required. If the cancellation is notified later than two weeks before the course begins, you must submit a valid justification for the cancellation (e.g. a sickness certificate in case of illness or a letter of apology signed by the supervisor if urgent lab work prevents the you from participation in the course).

If you do not appear at three courses without informing the coordination office in advance, you will receive a written warning and the spokesperson and mentoring committee will be informed and will expect you to give an explanation.

How often do I meet my mentoring committee?

You will meet with the mentoring committee once a year (although the aspiration is twice yearly). You are responsible for organising the meeting. The first mentoring committee meeting must take place after within six months of the start of your PhD project where you discuss your project proposal.

What do I need to prepare for the mentoring committee meeting?

You need to submit a progress report two weeks before the mentoring committee meeting commences. In case it is your first mentroing committe you need to submit a project proposal.

During the mentoring committee meeting, you have to give a 15 min presentation about the current state of your project.

The mentoring committee has to give a short written report about the meeting. In order to do this you need to bring your mentoring committee the minutes form. The document can be accessed after login and can be found in the download area of the BSRT website.

Do I have to mention the BSRT in my publication?

Publications which have been suported directly or indirectly through the funding of the BSRT, have to address the BSRT in the „Acknowledgements“ with the following sentence:
"contributions were made possible by DFG funding through the Berlin-Brandenburg School for Regenerative Therapies GSC 203"

I have some general questions

I have a conflict with my supervisor

To help solve such issues, regular conflict consultation hours are offered for each doctoral students of the Humboldt graduate School. This way, serious problems between the doctoral candidate and the supervisor may be resolved in advance, so that the basis for continuing to work together constructively can be re-established.

How many holidays can I take?

The stipend contracts with the Charité do not regulate how many holidays the BSRT stipend holder can take. The BSRT steering committee has therefore decided that the BSRT stipend holders shall receive as many holidays as it is usual for other PhD students in their lab. If you are a BSRT stipend holders you should discuss with your  first supervisor when you wish to take holidays and the supervisor and you have to keep appropriate records of this. If you are funded by other sources you must check your contract about information on how many holidays you can take.

What do I need to do if I am ill?

In case you are ill you have to phone at your lab and let the first supervisor know that you have to stay at home. For up to three days no sickness certificate is required. However, if you have to stay off sick for more than three days you have to get a sickness certificate from the doctor and send it to the administration of your research group.

Where can I find a medical doctor?

There are general practitioners (GP) and medical specialists. It is advisable to seek a GP first. He will examine you and refer you to a specialist if necessary. Many doctors in Berlin do speak English - only the receptionist might not - so you should ask at you local GP practice if the doctor speaks English. We recommend that you find a local GP in the area where you moved in before you get ill in order to know where to go when you are. If you want a doctor speaking you mother tongue you can ask at your embassy for contacts or search on the website of the "Kassenärtzliche Vereinigung" (in German only, but easy to use).

The BSRT coordination office cannot help you in finding the rigth specialist at the Charité, because we cannot give you medical advice. If you want to be refered to a specialist at the Charité ask your GP!

Which emergency numbers can I call?

Here are some very useful teelphone numbers in case you need to do an emergency call. Please ask in your laboratory which number you have to dial in case of an emergency in the laboratory!