A checklist for your move to Germany

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Germany is a great country to relocate to and to live in. The food, the economy and the country’s geographical position in the center of Europe make it an extremely desirable place to move to. There are some things that need to be considered. To help you move into your new German life, here is a checklist of items that you need to consider during the planning stage of your move.

• Organizing your work permit

• Organizing your travel

• Paying your taxes in Germany

• Arranging housing

• Moving your possessions

• Registering in the country

• Open a German bank account

• Apply for a residence permit

• Healthcare

• Organizing your new driving license for Germany

• Organizing your work permit

Just like many other countries around the world, as a non-German national, you will need a work permit in order to be eligible to accept work in Germany. This is the case, of course, unless you are an EU citizen, in which case you have permission to work in the country by way of the Freedom of Movement agreement. Germany does have a reputation for being rather strict when it comes to handing out work permits. As a country in general however, they are extremely welcoming to all nationalities.

Expats in Germany share 7 things they wish they had known before moving to Germany - from the importance of learning German to residency permits to understanding the culture and more.

  1. Learn German, study on the German culture, etc.

  2. What to bring to Germany : maybe a kitchen, washer and dryer.

  3. Buy a watch and always be on time. Punctual is key in Germany.

  4. Plan ahead and make sure your driver’s license will be valid in Germany

  5. Get your visa and residence permit to work in Germany

  6. Find your next house in a town, not the country side

  7. Contact a real estate agent for your home search. ‘makler ’or ‘maklerin’.

Blue Card:

You can apply for a Blue card if you already have a job offer so long as that job pays a minimum salary of EUR 50,800 per year and you are educated to degree level standard. The minimum salary threshold does change each year, so ensure you check on the official Blue card website for up-to-date figures. Your other option, if you haven’t yet secured a job in Germany is to apply for a six-month visa, which allows you to enter the country to search for a job within that timeframe.

How to apply for a work permit:

As long as you qualify for a work permit, your application should normally be started in your country of residence through the German Embassy. For those to apply for a Blue card, you will first need to check that the job you have secured and your qualifications make you eligible. You can do this by heading to the Anabin database. Here, you should be able to check your qualification by your university and the degree title. If you can’t find details of your qualification, it might be that it needs to be registered. This can be done at a cost of € 200.

Processing Time:

A Blue Card application is usually processed in 2-4 weeks, although you should expect for any other type of visa to take considerably longer as it usually needs the involvement of the ZAV. The ZAV is an organization that is responsible for ensuring that for any job offered to a non-German nation there is not a German nation equivalent who would be perfectly capable of completing the role. If they find that there is, preference is given to the German national. If not, so long as your employer adheres to the procedures for hiring a non-German national, your visa will usually go through without any problems. It just can be a time-consuming process so make sure you apply in plenty of time. Employers can speed up the process by writing a letter declaring the urgency of your appointment if they see fit.

What happens if you are successful:

Once your application is declared successful you are usually sent a 90-day business visa which allows you to start work with your new employer straight away. Just be sure to have this with you when you travel into the country so you can prove your entitlement to immigration staff at the airport.

Organizing your travel to Germany:

The most important things when it comes to organizing your travel to Germany is to ensure that you have all of the right documents with you, including your visa so that you can prove your entitlement to stay to immigration officials. Other than that, it is just a case of you organizing the right form of transport for you, whether you choose air transport or to drive across to the country. Be aware that you might need to arrange to have many of your possessions shipped over separately, so you might need to find a way to take what you will need immediately with you, whichever form of transport you use to get you into Germany.

Paying tax in Germany:

We recommend that you always seek tax advice when it comes to calculating your tax liability in Germany. There are many factors, especially if you are going to have assets or income that will remain outside of Germany, that need to be taken into account for any estimate to be accurate. If you seek advice before you accept a job offer, you can at least be sure that there will not be any surprises in terms of you having a larger tax liability than you planned for.

If you do just need a rough calculation because you feel that you are not affected by other factors you can always use the “Brutto Netto Rechner”. This calculator is not exact and does not take into account any other income that you might have, but it can give you an idea of your tax liability, without you having to pay out for professional advice. The calculator also takes into account your liability towards public healthcare so will cover all of the major deductions from your salary.

Arranging Housing in Germany - check out www.housingagent.de to find your agent

Popular places to live in Germany: Berlin - Heidelberg - Hamburg - Stuttgart - Munich - Dusseldorf - Cologne - Frankfurt

Find temporary accommodation:

Finding your new home abroad is always a hassle. In order to make the process easy, we always recommend that you use the services of a housing or relocation agent. Remember, that it will be a busy time for you, you will be getting to grips with a new job as well as getting used to living in a completely new country, you will need as much help as possible. We also recommend that in the first instance, you start off with renting a furnished apartment. To rent these, a personal inspection is not usually required, meaning you can sort arrangements for rental in your home country through your housing agent. Minimum rental agreements for this type of apartment are often for a three-month period, which gives you plenty of time to sort your permanent accommodation. You can find your English speaking housing agents or relocation agents here on www.housingagent.de

Finding your permanent accommodation:

In Germany, accommodation designed to be permanent is usually rented out for a period of four to five years and sometimes even more. Property owners will often ask you to waive your right to cancellation for the initial period as a consequence of them not being able to charge you commission. This means that you likely won’t be able to get out of your rental agreement for the first one to two years of your contract. It works in your favor as well because the real estate agent often waives their right to back out too. It is usual for renters to have to pay up to two to three months’ rent in advance in order to secure a property.

Viewing properties:

When viewing property in the lower price brackets, expect to be shown around with other interested parties, often between 20 and 30 people at the same time. You do need to take your time when viewing property because you are usually only able to view once. The only exception to this is when a property falls in the higher price brackets, sometimes, in this case, you can look around more than once. Take pictures if you can during your viewing and ensure you take any measurements that you might need prior to moving in. Also make sure you take a note of any damage and check if the landlord will be rectifying it before you move in. If not, remember that you are not obliged to fix the problem before you move out. It is worth noting, however, that should the landlord hand over a pristine apartment, you will be expected to do the same when the time comes for you to give the apartment back.

Moving in:

Unfurnished, permanent accommodation in Germany is usually empty, meaning that you will have to fill it with your own furniture and appliances. There are regional differences, in Hamburg, for instance, kitchens often have some appliances whereas in Munich the kitchen is often bare. Try and arrange a second visit to the property once you have arranged the contract so that you can measure up to make a start on ordering the big pieces of furniture that you will need. There can often be a wait for these items so it is best to order them as soon as possible. There are certain items that you might want to purchase ready for your move too, ladders, light bulbs and cleaning equipment will all make moving day run a lot smoother.

Signing and handover of the property:

Always insist on doing thorough handover checks. This is your chance to make sure everything that isn’t in tip-top condition before you move in is recorded. Your landlord is not legally obliged to sign a handover document but not doing so is a surefire sign that something is wrong. If they do refuse to sign, make sure you have a witness with you as you make note of the damage and that they counter-sign the document too. The handover is also a good opportunity to check what action you should take in an emergency situation. What should you do, for instance, if you lose your keys or the heating breaks down? You should also seek advice as to when rubbish is collected, how to use any appliances in the apartment or the best place nearby to go for coffee, all the things that will make your life easier once you move in. Your housing agent can make your life much easier, so make sure you have one. In todays world agents work with digital check in apps.

Connecting utilities:

Meter readings for the gas and electricity supply should be recorded on your handover report. Use these to sign up with suppliers of gas, electricity and water. When you are in the middle of relocating to Germany it might be an idea to stick to larger providers who really know what they are doing. This means approaching companies such as Eon or Vattenfall, your water supplier will depend on your locality. You will be charged for a month upfront, this is standard for all German utility providers and you should be careful that your monthly payment is not based on excessive usage from previous tenants of the property. Your payments will be reviewed after the first year however and adjusted according to your usage. Remember to set up standing orders to cover the payments as non-payment can trigger legal proceedings against you. Again, your agent can help you out with this.

Phone, Internet and TV:

If you need to get a phone up and running quickly you should consider purchasing a pre-paid card. You can usually use any card that you can purchase from a supermarket unless your phone is locked to a particular supplier. In order to get internet at home, you will need to sign up for a contract, these usually run for 24 months and give you internet, home phone and a TV package. It can take between 2-4 weeks to arrange, although some larger providers might send you a USB stick to use until your router comes through.

Moving your belongings to Germany:

You should start organizing the move of your possessions once you know your work permit has been granted and that you will definitely be relocating to Germany. Spend some time researching logistics companies and seek an estimated arrival time from them. It is best to arrange the arrival for approximately three months after your arrival in Germany, this gives you a chance to get settled. Just bear in mind that any dates given are always liable to change where goods are travelling by boat. Good moving companies can be found here on www.housingagent.de too.

Registering at the municipality:

Once you have your accommodation and are in the country, make an appointment to register at the municipality. You need to register before you can open a bank account and waiting times can be between 4-6 weeks, so you really need to do this as soon as possible. Take your passport, residence title and your rental contract with you. It can be difficult to get your landlord to supply this for short-term lets so always ask for it up front before you sign contracts.

Open a German bank account:

There are three main banks in Germany. They all differ in terms of cash machine availability and the opportunity to bank online in English. You might wish to look into this before you choose an account provider. Normal accounts are usually charged at similar rates, regardless of provider, although credit cards might attract different charges, with annual fees ranging from EUR 25-50.

Applying for a residence permit:

Once you are settled in Germany, it’s time to apply for your residence permit and visa, which comes in the form of an eAT card. It will take two appointments to arrange this. Your first call should be to the local office for Foreign Affairs to check that they have your documents and that your details are on their database. From here, you should be able to organize the initial appointment, sometimes you can book it in, sometimes it is a case of turning up at the office and waiting for your turn. Lead times can be quite significant, so if at all possible organize your first appointment before you are in Germany.

German Healthcare:

Germany has the reputation for having the most comprehensive healthcare system in the world. The majority of the German residents make use of the voluntary or mandatory public healthcare programs while the remainder (about 15%) have some form of private healthcare. The Health Insurance Reform which came into effect in 2007, stipulates that all residents must be covered for both outpatient and inpatient treatments. Pregnancies and specific types of examinations also need to be included the healthcare program. To explain the healthcare programs further, you will have three choices when opting for a German health insurance plan. These choices are: The government-controlled plan (GKV). A private firm or an international company (PKV). A mixture of these two options. Anyone who meets the income threshold of 56,250 Euros annually (or 4688 Euros per month), particularly self-employed individuals or general high income earners, can select a fully private health insurance. Everyone has different requirements so we recommend to contact an independent health insurance broker for advice. In this way you will get tailored advice with adequate coverage for your needs. Different providers offer specific plans, so coverage and pricing is often entirely unique. It is important to note that German health insurance is absolutely essential (and a requirement) in the event of injury or illness.

Organizing your German driving license:

If your license was issued in the EU, you are all good. Otherwise, your license will expire after 6 months and you will need to validate your license in Germany. Remember, if you fail to do so you will not be insured and this could leave you owing thousands of Euros if you got into an accident. You could even face jail-time. All non-German licenses also need to be translated and that translation should be carried around with you. You will need to send your license to the ADAC to get this and you won’t be able to drive whilst it is in their possession. Check the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure for more information about driving in Germany.

Relocating to Germany can be a daunting task because there is so much to think about. The country is so beautiful however and has such a rich and vibrant culture that makes any difficult move entirely worth-while.

Country facts:

The cost of living in Germany’s main cities is lower than in other European metropoles; however, costs do vary from town to town, from expensive cities such as Frankfurt and Munich to more affordable destinations, including Leipzig and Jena. One of the most important costs to bear in mind is the employees’ mandatory contribution to health insurance (7.3%) and pension (1.3%). These contributions are only mandatory for employees: if you are self-employed, you’ll usually only have to consider your pension contribution. For more information on costs and contributions in Germany. Another important cost to keep in mind is importing a vehicle. This usually requires you to pay a 10% import duty tax and VAT. Check to see if you’d be better off buying a new vehicle after moving, or if you prefer to use public transportation.