Relocating to Germany

It is true that moving to a new country is a process that shouldn’t be underestimated.

04.09.18
Friedo

Are you looking for and considering new job opportunities in Germany, but discouraged by all of the research regarding a relocation? It is true that moving to a new country is a process that shouldn’t be underestimated, as you have to consider quite a list of tasks before being able to settle down. This brief overview will take away the roadblocks and make relocating to Germany less complicated.

Applying for a job

More and more companies offer jobs to English-speaking people because many recruiting processes are handled in English due to the globalization. You can look for job postings on websites like Stepstone, Monster, and Indeed as well as  the well-known business social networks such as Xing and LinkedIn. When applying for a job, you should be aware of the documents that German companies demand: apart from your CV, include a cover letter with a short explanation of your motivation as well as any relevant certificates and reports. It is also common to disclose the final grade of your bachelor’s or master’s degree or vocational training.

Residence permit

The visa process is different depending on whether you have already found a job or you plan to start looking for a job after arriving in Germany. The other important thing to note is whether you have a university degree similar to a German one or not. Here you can determine the equivalence of your degree. The graphic below will help you to figure out what residence permit is possible for you.

 

For non-EU citizens: if you don’t have an employment offer in Germany yet but have a university degree, a jobseeker’s visa can be granted to you. You can look for a job for 6 months and once you receive a firm job offer you can apply either for a work permit or the EU Blue Card. The work permit is usually granted for one year and can be extended for the duration of your employment contract. After five years you can apply for a settlement permit. The EU Blue Card is usually granted for four years or the duration of your contract. You can apply for settlement permit after 33 months or after 21 months with B1 level proficiency in German. Furthermore, you can stay outside of Germany in non-EU countries for up to 12 months, as well as move to another EU country after 18 months (requires a new Blue Card in that country). Your spouses can easily join you and work in Germany. You can apply for different types of residence permit at the German embassy or consulate in your home country.

Once you have moved to Germany you need to register within two weeks at one of the local Administration offices usually called “Einwohnermeldeamt” or “Bürgeramt”.

EU citizens don’t need a visa but registration in Germany is required as well. For the special cases and exceptions of residency for EU-citizens please get further information here.

Finding accommodation

Have you already had a look at prices for flats and are astonished by the high costs for a four room apartment? Well, in Germany “four room” means, for example, two bedrooms, a living room, dining room, PLUS bathrooms, WCs, kitchen and hall – the last four are not included in the calculation. Furthermore, you should know that furnished apartments are hard to find and cost way more than unfurnished. In Germany it is also normal to move into flats without kitchens. The prices vary widely depending on the city where you want to settle down. One hint where to look for flats/ houses are facebook groups. Usually you can type in “Wohnung” + the city and will find the right group. Depending on what you’re looking for there are different websites for example Immobilienscout24, Immowelt, quoka and many more. This Blog gives you a good overview and provides you with important vocabulary you should know regarding flats and renting. Moreover, there are two parts of the monthly payment to the landlord: the rent, which is always the same amount, and the Nebenkosten for heat, water, stairwell cleaning and such, which can differ every month. Electricity and gas can be included in these extra costs but might also be paid for separately.

Bank account

To pay your rent it would be easier to open a German bank account. But even more important: you won’t get any money from your employer without a German account. Usually you can choose any bank you like and there you need to present your passport, the registration in Germany and your address. This website gives you a comparison of different banks.

Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory in Germany and medical treatment can be hugely expensive. For those employed full-time by a company, the employer pays half of the insurance contributions, the other half comes out of the employee’s salary. In Germany we have public and private health insurance. If you earn less than 4,950€ per month (59,400€ gross per year) you have to have a public one. Some examples of health insurance providers are Techniker Krankenkasse, DAK Gesundheit, and AOK Bayern. However, many of the services from the public health insurance system have been downgraded or cancelled in recent years, so you might consider getting additional private insurance to cover some services like 1 or 2-bedrooms in hospital, faster treatment or operation by the head doctor etc. If you are self-employed, a civil servant, or earn more than the threshold of 4,950€ gross salary per month, you can choose to get private health insurance. Your employer will contribute roughly half of its cost. For a more detailed comparison of public and private insurance see our article „The German social security system„.

Liability insurance for motor vehicles is also mandatory. To learn how it works and what to do, consult this website.

It is also very important to have private liability insurance in case you accidently break something or lose your key, for example. Next to the Getsafe liability insurance there are quite a few others. To compare the different providers, see Check24 (only in German) or germanymore.

Social security system

Everyone who is employed in Germany and earning more than 450 Euros per month is automatically a part of the social security system in Germany. Once you have registered with a health insurance provider you will receive your social security certificate by mail (“Sozialversicherungsausweis”). It will contain your full name, your birth date and your social ID. You will keep this number for your whole life and it is very important for the deduction of premiums for your pension insurance. Want to learn more about our complex social security system and how it works in detail? Please read our article about it here.

Taxes

The German tax system is known for its complexity and obscurity. There are about 40 different taxes and many different ways to define and classify them,  and if you earn income in Germany, you won’t be able to escape them. These taxes are paid throughout the year and adjustments are made at the end of the year for possible under or overpayments. The wage tax (Lohnsteuer) is collected at source from compensation and paid directly to the tax office (Finanzamt), whereas the income tax (Einkommensteuer) covers income from other sources like self-employment, rent collections and investments for instance and must be paid by the individual. If you officially affiliate with one of Germany’s churches, you will have to pay a church tax (Kirchensteuer) of 8-9% of the income taxes.

Most of the other taxes you won’t notice if you don’t take a closer look, as they are simply included in the prices you pay. The value added tax (VAT, or Mehrwertsteuer) applies to goods and services and has a standard current rate of 19%. For certain products like food and books the value added tax is only 7%. There are many other items with sales tax on top of the Mehrwertsteuer (i.e., gasoline, alcohol and tobacco products).

Learning German

As mentioned above, there are quite a few companies that work fully in English. Moreover, many Germans speak English. However, to better integrate yourself in the German society and daily life, learning the language will always help. Depending on the city, there are different places for courses. In some cities you can find a Goethe Institut and in every town is a “Volkshochschule” (VHS) that offers courses in the evening as well. Like Getsafe, many companies pay for the course.

Agencies and support

Your future employer is available to support you in the whole process as well as the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and the International Organization for Migration.

Here are some relocation agencies:

Some websites about the relocation to Germany are:

The application “Ankommen” is a guide for your first weeks in Germany.

Hopefully, you got a good overview and don’t feel daunted anymore. Germany is a developed country with many benefits and opportunities, so take a chance!

We are always looking for smart and driven people to join our team and we’re happy to help you with your relocation!

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