March 2020: 7 changes affecting expats in Germany
The much-debated law on compulsory measles vaccinations comes into force on March 1, 2020, but that’s not the only thing that’s changing! From new immigration acts to bans on speed camera apps, there’s a lot of things expats in Germany should know about, as February becomes March.
1. Children must be vaccinated against measles to attend school
Children who have not been vaccinated against measles will not be allowed to enrol in daycare, school or any other form of childcare from March 1, 2020 onwards. Before they can admit them, parents must be able to demonstrate that their children have received the appropriate vaccinations.
Since school attendance is compulsory in Germany (homeschooling is illegal), parents who do not send their children to community facilities will be considered to have committed an administrative offence and may face a fine of up to 2.500 euros.
Children who already attend either kindergarten or school in Germany have until July 31, 2021, to either get vaccinated against measles or prove that they have already been. The same applies to staff.
2. New immigration laws for skilled workers
The new Skilled Immigration Act enters force at the start of March, paving the way for more skilled workers from non-EU countries to come to Germany to work. In an attempt to combat its critical worker shortage, Germany has adopted a new, targeted immigration policy that adjusts the prerequisites for obtaining a German residence permit.
Up until now, skilled workers from outside the EU with vocational (i.e. non-academic) qualifications were only allowed to work in Germany if they were employed in a so-called “bottleneck profession” - one experiencing a severe worker shortage.
The Skilled Immigration Act will slightly relax this rule, meaning that professionals with recognised qualifications (both academic and vocational) can come to Germany, no matter which sector they work in, as long as they already have a job offer and some German language proficiency.
3. Doctors allowed to offer repeat prescriptions
Under certain conditions, from March 2020 onwards, patients with long-term needs or chronic illnesses will be given repeat prescriptions from their doctor. This means that the same medicine can be issued up to three times by a pharmacy, without you having to return to your doctor.
4. More tax relief for employees who relocate
From March 1, anyone who has to move house for professional reasons can look forward to receiving higher compensation when it comes to their tax return. The amount you can claim as relocation costs, tax-free, will rise to 1.639 euros for married or single parents, 820 euros for single persons, and 361 euros for each additional member of the household.
The flat rate covers all costs apart from transportation and travel costs, as well as double rental payments.
5. New licence plates for small motorbikes
The colour of the insurance plates for small motorcycles changes annually, making it easier to check whether a bike has up-to-date vehicle insurance. From March, the green plates will be replaced by black ones.
This applies to all mopeds, scooters, light mopeds or segways that measure less than 50 cubic centimetres and have a top speed of up to 45 kilometres per hour. The same also applies to fast E-bikes that can reach top speeds of up to 45 kilometres per hour.
If you do not have an up-to-date licence plate, your insurance coverage will automatically expire and you will not be allowed to drive your vehicle. A new licence plate can be obtained directly from your insurance company, or from a motorcycle dealer.
6. Changes to traffic laws
An extensive amendment to the Road Traffic Regulations (StVO) passed the Federal Council in mid-February 2020. It is expected that it will come into force in mid-March. Among other things, it prohibits the use of smartphone apps that warn of radar controls like speed cameras.
7. No more hedge trimming until September 30
Time to put those pruning shears away again! The Federal Nature Conservation Act prohibits all hedge trimming in Germany between March 1 and September 30. No large cuts are allowed on hedges, living fences, bushes or other woody plants during this period.
Before you shake your head and complain about Germany having a law for everything, note that this law aims to protect the animals and birds that call these green spaces home. So let things go wild for a while!