Whether you're going to Germany for work or for leisure, you should know the visa requirements needed. The visa application with a German consulate won't be difficult, as long as you know what to do. The requirements would also vary, depending on whether you intend to pursue a business visa, a tourist visa, an employment visa or a study visa.
First, you must be aware of the White Schengen List, which contains the EU countries and territories that are part of the Schengen agreement. This states that any tourist and business visa issued by the mission of any of the members can be used to gain entry to any of the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, France, Greece, Iceland, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Norway, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland and Spain. Thus, if your visa is issued by any of these countries, you can go to Germany using that visa. You must, however, apply at the consulate of your main destination. Also, you can only stay in Germany for a maximum of 90 days.
There are also some countries whose citizens do not need visas in order to visit Germany, as long as they don't stay there for longer than 90 days. See this list to find out if you need a visa. People from places like Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras and San Marino can acquire residence permits after entry, as long as they do not intend to work in Germany.
If what you need is an employment permit, you must first get a residence permit, which comes in the form of a visa. If your visa is granted, the work permit will be given with it. Being a US citizen, you may apply for the residence permit for employment purposes after entry to Germany even without a visa. The same rule is applicable to citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Switzerland and of EU member countries.
However, if you want to obtain a visa before your go to Germany, you may do so. You may apply at any of the 9 German consulates in the country, which are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Francisco. The German Embassy, meanwhile, is in Washington. You will be required to complete the visa application form and other pertinent documents. Once you get your visa, you can then work in Germany. You don't have to get any other work permit once you get there.
If you're going to Germany to study, just submit the application form and other required documents to the German consulate. Your application will be forwarded to the Aliens' Office that has control over the particular place you're planning to go to in Germany. Student visas are usually processed in 25 days. Once approved, your residence permit will be granted. Upon entry, you must register, and then your final residence permit will be granted. The permit will be valid for the duration of your studies.
Remember that in order to get your visa expeditiously, you must submit the complete and exact documents being asked for. For further information, visit the visa application officer at the German Consulate or embassy nearest you.