Have you recently been hired by a German company? Or are you getting started with your freelance residence permit application process? No matter what your situation is, there are certain things that everyone moving to Germany need to do to start getting settled.
1. Find a Place to Live
Depending on where in Germany you’ve moved to, the apartment hunt may be a cinch or a total nightmare (we’re looking at you, Berlin!). But finding a place to call home is an important first step to getting settled in other aspects of your life. Whether you’re looking for short-term or long-term, furnished or unfurnished, shared or just for yourself in Germany, check out this guide, which provides advice for securing an apartment in Germany. If you’re looking for a flat in Berlin more specifically, you might want to check out this guide to finding a flat in Berlin too.
Of course, renting an apartment is a big commitment. A good strategy for expats moving to Germany, is to rent a fully furnished, short term apartment for a few months until you are used to your new city, understand where you want to be based and have the opportunity to view some long-term rentals in person. Companies like the Homelike are great because they allow you to book an apartment directly online (in English) for one month or more. You can also register the address with the city so your post comes to your temporary apartment. The Homelike has a selection of hundreds of apartments to rent across Berlin, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Bremen.
To get your own place, things are a bit more complicated. Whether you’re going through an agent or searching on your own, you’ll generally need the following things to secure an apartment:
- Your SCHUFA-Auskunft, which is basically a German credit score. (If you haven’t been in Germany long, then this won’t contain much information and should be positive.)
- Proof of income, often through a work contract, pay stubs or savings.
- Renter’s insurance. (See what’s available!)
- A Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung (yes, that is a real word). This is a confirmation from your previous landlord that you’ve been paying your rent.
2. Register Your Address
You’ll need your Anmeldung, or residence registration, to do pretty much everything else in Germany—get paid by your employer, get your tax number, get a work permit, change jobs, register businesses….the list goes on.
But once you’ve secured a place to live, getting your Anmeldung is easy. You’ll just need to get your landlord to sign a few forms like the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung, make an appointment at your local Bürgeramt (residential administration office), and get your official Anmeldung document. All the necessary forms are listed on the Bürgeramt website—in Berlin, the site is only in German, so you might want to get a German speaker to help you. This guide from Welcome Hub Germany will give you insights on not only Berlin but also Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Cologne and Stuttgart.
3. Get Your Tax ID Number
When moving to Germany, you’ll need a Steueridentifikationsnummer, or tax ID number, for anything involving the Finanzamt, or tax office. Getting your tax ID number is pretty easy—usually, it automatically comes in the post after you complete the Anmeldung process. But if it doesn’t show up in your mailbox within four weeks, you can go to your local tax office with your Anmeldung document and they’ll find it for you.
4. Enroll in Health Insurance
Enrollment in a health insurance policy is absolutely necessary for all residents in Germany. Depending on your situation, you might opt for a comprehensive public or private insurance plan, or you might get a short-term expat insurance plan to get yourself started.
5. Apply for Your Residence Permit
Most people moving to Germany for work or study will have to get a residence permit before entering Germany. But in certain cases—like if you’re applying to live and work in Germany with a freelancer visa —you can apply at the Ausländerbehörde (Immigration Office) once you’re already in the country. For a working permit or Blue Card in Germany, you’ll need to work with your HR department or a relocation company to make sure all of your documents are in place.
In larger cities, residence permit appointments may be booked months in advance. We suggest booking an appointment ASAP (this can usually be done online) and carefully reviewing the list of necessary documents for your application.
6. Register your business
If you’re freelancing or starting a new business, you’ll have to register with the Finanzamt to start working legally. If you’ve just arrived, the quickest way to do this is usually to fill out the necessary form(s) and bring them in person to your local Finanzamt. (While registering online is an option, you’ll have to get a code for ELSTER, the online tax management system. This can take awhile as it can only be sent by post.)
The key form you’ll need is the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung, but you may be required to provide additional documentation depending on your situation. We recommend checking out your city’s Finanzamt website to get PDFs of the forms. (Click here for Berlin.)
7. Get personal liability coverage
Around 85% of Germans have Privathaftpflichtversicherung, or personal liability insurance—and you should too!
We all know that accidents happen, but if you’re moving to Germany, they can come at a major cost. German law requires you to provide compensation for any damages you cause to others. That means if you bump into someone and they break their arm, you’re responsible for their medical costs. Or let’s say you accidentally spill your beer on someone’s cell phone and they miss a video conference with a freelance client. Now you don’t only have to buy them a new phone; you also have to pay them back for those billable hours they missed. Liability insurance has you covered in the case of these kinds of unpredictable unfortunate events.
Still, need more information? If you’re in Berlin, you might want to check out this guide on moving to Berlin.