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Recently I have been offered a PhD position from one of the research institutes in Germany. The PI told me that he has prepared the acceptance/contract draft and sent it to the HR department who are supposed to contact me. It’s been almost one month since then, but the HR people have not contacted me yet. Should I mail the PI requesting to let me know the status as some of the official things were halted (like visa application) from my side?

Generally how much time HR people will take to send this information to the candidates? Any experiences/suggestions would be appreciated.

  • I do not have any statistical data (hence this is not an answer), but after about a month of waiting, a polite inquiry for the expected waiting time ("just to make sure no messages are lost") would definitely be appropriate without coming across as too demanding. – O. R. Mapper May 31 '16 at 6:29
  • @O.R.Mapper Thanks Mapper. I will consider what you said. – nEU May 31 '16 at 6:37
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Should I mail PI requesting to let me know the status as some of the official things were halted (like visa application) from my side?

Yes (assuming that you are polite). In most, if not all, German science institutions, the administration is a separate department. It is very unlikely that your PI sympathises with them and in fact, most scientists in Germany I know are not on very good terms with their administration.

Moreover, your PI is much better equipped to spur your administration than you (and everybody else for that manner):

  • Its his research project that is delayed and possibly also his funds that are wasted.¹
  • He is usually higher-ranking than than the people handling your employment, though not their direct superior.
  • He is usually experienced with that specific administration.
  • He knows all the details of the process, because he started it.

Finally, he usually has an interest in things going smoothly for you. If your PI exhibits no interest in taking care of these matters, you should reconsider your decision to take this job.

The only exception from this may be if your PI’s group has its own secretary. Then it’s the secretary’s job to deal with such things and they are the best person to talk to.

Generally how much time HR people will take to send this information to the candidates?

Administrations in Germany can strongly differ in efficiency, usually depending on their backlog. I did experience such a process to take longer than a month, but that was by an administration that has a nation-wide fame for its incompetency. Still, most administrations are capable of handling things quickly, if they want and need to – maybe they just failed to notice that you need a confirmation of your contract early for visa affairs.

However, there are certain inevitable durations. For example, depending on the circumstances, your employment may have to be ratified by some personnel board, which only meets at certain intervals.


¹ If all things fail, he can threaten to report himself to the authorities for wasting tax money.

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  • Thank you very much. It gave me a broad idea of how things work. It seems PI is very nice as he assured me to arrange guest house until I get a house at nearby place. And do you think it would be better to ask student forum (instead of PI) at the institute regarding this matter, as I have found some information that student groups are helping new candidates in such matters. – nEU Jun 1 '16 at 3:55
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    And do you think it would be better to ask student forum (instead of PI) at the institute regarding this matter – No. The PI almost always has the better leverage (“Your incompetence is wasting my funds and delaying my research project!”), is responsible for the funds anyway, and knows all the details ranging from process numbers to which person to speak to. (See also my edit.) – Wrzlprmft Jun 1 '16 at 6:57
  • I agree with this answer, but it might still be good to have contact information from HR so that you can badger them too (in addition to the PI). That's what I did and I managed to get a signed contract one week before I actually started my job as opposed to signing it on the first day of the job (which was the norm for this department back then). I still had to rely on faith when renting an apartment etc. Our institute actually lost good candidates because HR took so long (due to new leadership they have improved in recent years). – Roland Jun 1 '16 at 8:17

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