Checklist: Practical things to do before leaving Germany
Checklist: Practical things to do before leaving Germany
All good things must come to an end. Whether you’ve found a new job, are moving back home to be with family, or are just heading off on a new adventure, sooner or later there might come a time when you decide to leave Germany.
Leaving Germany: A checklist
But quitting the country isn’t as simple as just booking your flight, packing a suitcase and taking a taxi to the airport. Things just don’t work that way here! Remember all that admin and bureaucracy you had to wade through when you first arrived? Now it’s time to do it all again, just in reverse! Here’s a handy checklist for you to work your way through.
It’s worth bearing in mind that notice periods on contracts in Germany tend to be long - typically three months - so you should start preparing for your departure well in advance.
Give notice to your landlord
This should usually be the first thing you take care of. Tenants are well-protected by German law, so you shouldn’t have any issues with terminating your rental contract, but you are generally required to give your landlord three months’ notice, in writing, unless a shorter notice period was stipulated in your tenancy agreement.
If you were living under a fixed-term agreement or in a short-stay rental, different conditions will apply. If in doubt, check your contract.
End your mobile phone contract
Depending on the type of contract you took out when you signed up with your mobile phone provider, this can be one of the most difficult kinds of payments to get out of. If it’s a simple pay-as-you-go deal, you can end things with just a straightforward letter to your provider, or even a few clicks on the internet.
If you took out a pay monthly deal, however, things get a bit more complicated. German mobile phone contracts tend to be 24 months and often come with automatic 12-month renewal clauses. In this case, your provider has every right to force you to pay right up until the final month.
Cancel your energy contracts
It should be pretty straightforward to cancel your German utilities like energy and water. Send written notice that you are leaving the country to each of your providers. If your landlord doesn’t yet have a new tenant for the apartment, you may be asked for proof that you’re no longer a resident. You can show them a copy of your Abmeldebescheinigung (see below).
Terminate your insurance
You would think that moving abroad would be considered a legitimate reason to cancel insurance policies taken out in Germany - think again! Most of the time, you’ll have to follow the standard contract termination clause, which is generally three months before renewal. Take a close look at your policy documents to check when exactly you should terminate your personal liability insurance, home contents insurance, legal insurance, bike theft insurance and so on.
Cancel your gym membership
Another one that causes a lot of problems! Again, leaving the country doesn’t automatically get you off the hook when it comes to paying for your gym membership. Indeed, back in 2016 a case to this effect came in front of the German Federal Supreme Court, and they ruled in the gym’s favour! Try sweet-talking your gym staff, or you might be able to find someone who is willing to take over your contract terms. Or, better still, never take out a gym membership in the first place…
Cancel your internet and phone contracts
Here, thankfully, you can use your move abroad as a legitimate excuse that gives you an extraordinary right to termination - you just have to give them three months’ notice. Write to your internet provider, your fixed phone line provider and your cable TV provider to let them know you’re leaving the country. You may be charged a one-off termination fee but legally this cannot exceed the cost of a new connection.
Cancel your health insurance
Depending on whether you have statutory health insurance or private health insurance, there’s two ways to go about this. For public insurers, a copy of your deregistration certificate will usually suffice as proof that you no longer need health insurance.
For private insurers, it can be more complicated, especially if you’re staying within the EU. There have been cases where private insurers refused to terminate policies without some kind of proof that you’re permanently leaving Germany (for which an Abmeldung is apparently not sufficient). If you encounter any kind of problem, it’s definitely worth seeking professional advice from a lawyer.
Speak to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung
If you’ve been working in Germany and contributing towards a pension out of your salary, you’ll have accrued pension benefit entitlements. As they move from place to place, expats tend to lose track of the pension contributions they have made.
Before you leave Germany, it’s therefore a good idea to speak to someone from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (German Federal Pension Fund), to find out what claims you have regarding reimbursement of your contributions (if you are moving outside the EU) or pension payments when you retire.
Just as you were duty bound to register when you first arrived in Germany, now you have to let the authorities know that you’re leaving. Although you can deregister from abroad, it’s generally easiest to do it before you leave the country, because once you deregister you receive your deregistration certificate (Abmeldebescheinigung - the opposite of an Anmeldebescheinigung), which you will need to cancel a lot of your ongoing contracts in Germany.
Most citizens’ offices will let you deregister up to three to four weeks before your scheduled departure date, or up to 14 days after you’ve left. It’s usually as simple as filling out a form online and then sending it to your local Bürgeramt in the post.
Get your mail forwarded
The redirection (Nachsende) service from Deutsche Post will automatically redirect all of your letters to your new address for up to 24 months. Prices start at around 19,90 euros for six months, although if the letters are being redirected abroad, your local postal service may apply additional levies.
Stop paying Rundfunkbeitrag
Hooray! You no longer are bound in the claws of Germany’s dreaded TV tax. Moving abroad is deemed a good enough reason to stop paying the Rundfunkbeitrag. You just need to send them a letter with a copy of your Abmeldung.
Move out of your apartment
Time to say goodbye! You will need to do a formal handover with your landlord, during which both parties sign off on the final meter readings and check the condition of the apartment before you give back your keys. If your apartment was furnished, there will also be an inventory check, and if anything has been broken or damaged you can expect to pay for it out of your deposit.
Close your bank account
It’s best to leave your bank account open until just a few days before you leave Germany, to allow any final direct debits to be paid stress-free (and to give you a ready supply of cash up to the end!)
When the time comes, closing your bank account is relatively straightforward and can be done in person on the day (or online if you have a direct bank). Your bank will pay out or transfer your final balance and cut your card up on the spot - so make sure you have enough cash to cover your final few hours.
Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland!
That's it! You've made it through everything German bureaucracy could throw at you. Give yourself a pat on the back! And try not to think about the fact that, if you ever return, you'll have to go through the whole thing again...