The Invisibles

Overstaying the Visa

If you come to Germany as a foreigner from outside the EU you require a visa. Only a few countries are exempt from this obligation. When you apply for a visa you have to explain why you want to enter the country and prove that you have enough money, that you have health insurance and want to return to your home country. Your visa is always limited. If you overstay your visa you count as illegal. Follow the story of a Colombian who came to Germany to study.

von Benedict Wermter , Julian Jestadt , Florian Bickmeyer

You are 23 years old. You come from a small village in northeastern Colombia. Your parents have a cattle farm and have worked hard so that you, their oldest son, could go to school. You did well and were even allowed to study – economics in Bogotá. You know that the farm will not be the future for your family. You will have to find your luck somewhere else. At the university you see a notice: one year on student exchange in Germany.

Your parents have doubts, but they also see the opportunity in front of you. Along with your aunts and uncles, they put together their money to cover your flight and 7908 Euros in a blocked account that you must open so that you can enter the country. With the letter of admission to the university you can receive a visa for the time of your studies.

You like the city and the Germans. Everything is in order, life is safe. You fall in love with a girl. And soon you become a couple. You find a job that earns you a few Euros. The year goes by and you have to leave. But you want to stay. You spend long nights talking with your girlfriend – and then you decide together: you will stay in Germany. She will help you and together you will make it work.

You let your return ticket expire. Your parents are sad, but they understand you. Two days later your visa runs out – you now count as illegal in Germany.

You cannot continue studying and also have to give up your job. But you are lucky: you find work in a kitchen through a friend. You fry burgers. And you dream of your own restaurant where you would serve good South American beef. You speak about marriage with your girlfriend, it would allow you to be in Germany again. But her parents are still against that, they think it would be too fast.

You now count as illegal.

  • You cannot work, only off the books, and you cannot make a legal claim for outstanding wages without revealing your identity.
  • You have no health insurance and cannot buy any other type of insurance.
  • You have no pension plan.
  • It will be difficult to rent an apartment.
  • You avoid any encounter with the police, authorities and people who could give you away.
  • You cannot press charges against anyone.
  • You do not receive any social welfare support.


Translation: Noah Walker-Crawford

Editor: Florian Bickmeyer

Design: Thorsten Franke, Simon Jockers, Ivo Mayr