Have you moved to Germany or are you thinking of relocating here? In a country famed for its bureaucracy, there are quite a few things that newly-arrived expats need to take care of. Many of these things need to be sorted out before you even arrive in Germany. Some processes, such as visa applications, can last up to several months, so it is wise to start preparing for your move well in advance.
Depending on your nationality, you may need a visa before you are allowed to enter Germany. Visas in Germany cover both short- and long-term stays: while Schengen visas enable you to stay for a period of up to 90 days, national visas enable you to enter Germany if you wish to stay longer than this, or if you wish to work. This type of visa is then converted into a residence permit once you have arrived.
Residence permits in Germany
In contrast to many other countries, there are no separate work permits in Germany. Instead, various different types of residence permits are on offer, which determine the extent to which you are allowed to work. They can be broadly divided into two types: temporary residence permits, which are usually valid for 12 months, and permanent residence permits, which allow you to remain in Germany indefinitely. Find out about the different types of residence permits you can apply for and learn what to expect during the residence permit application procedure.
Registering (anmelden) in Germany
If you are planning on staying in Germany for longer than three months, or you wish to work or study here, you will need to register your address at your local citizens’ office (Bürgeramt). Once you have registered, you will receive your registration certificate (Anmeldebescheinigung), an important piece of paperwork that you will need for all kinds of other bureaucratic processes in Germany.
German taxes & Tax IDs
Another important piece of paperwork you will receive after registering is your tax ID (steuerliche Identifikationsnummer). This unique number will be issued to you automatically by the Federal Central Tax Office, and you will need it in order to receive the correct salary, contribute to social security and to pay taxes in Germany. If your tax affairs are complicated, for instance, if you have multiple sources of income, you might consider consulting a tax advisor.
Banking in Germany
You’ll need a German bank account in order to get paid, rent a property or take out German health insurance. Luckily, there are plenty of banks and bank accounts in Germany to suit all preferences and requirements. Opening an account is generally a quick and easy process, and with an increasing number of online-only banks, you don’t even need to leave the house!
Blocked bank account (Sperrkonto)
If you are coming from outside the EU and you won't have a source of income in Germany, you might also consider opening a blocked bank account (Sperrkonto) to prove you have the financial means to support yourself for your visa or residence permit application.
German citizenship & passport
The most common way for expats to get German citizenship is by naturalisation. In most cases, you will be expected to take a naturalisation test. Depending on where you were born and the nationality of your parents, you may also qualify by “right of soil” or “right of blood”. Once you have gained German citizenship, you can apply for a German passport.
Elections & voting
Expats have limited voting rights in Germany. If you are from a non-EU country, you are not eligible to vote. If, however, you have European citizenship, you are allowed to vote in local and EU elections. Non-German citizens are not permitted to vote in either general or state elections in Germany.
Pensions & retirement
It’s never too soon to start thinking about retirement! In fact, if you are working in Germany, contributing to a statutory pension insurance scheme is compulsory. Retirement planning in Germany is split into three pillars: state pensions, company pensions and private pensions, meaning there are options open to everybody, including self-employed and freelance workers. Learn about the different types of pensions in Germany.
Social Security ID
Your social security ID is a very important document - be sure not to lose it! It will usually be issued to you automatically once you enrol in the social security system (e.g. if you take out health insurance or start contributing to a pension). You will need your ID if you start a new job, claim benefits like unemployment benefit, or wish to start drawing your pension.
Need advice on citizenship, immigration, visa applications or residence permits? Tackling bureaucracy in a new country is always difficult, especially if you don’t speak the language. Luckily, our selection of expat-friendly lawyers are on hand to assist you in any way they can.