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Expat Info Berlin: Residency and Taxation

Will you soon be working in Berlin as an expatriate? Good choice! The city offers many opportunities, from global companies to middle-sized businesses or start-ups. Our InterNations guide to Berlin explains business etiquette, visa regulations, and admin issues for expats in Berlin.
Berlin’s regional and suburban (S-Bahn) trains take thousands of commuters to work every day.

Local Registration

Once you have received your employment visa and come to Berlin, you must register your place of residence in Germany and get what is called a Meldeschein. This also applies to EU citizens and even German citizens. You will also have to reregister every time you move within Germany.

To complete this registration, you simply need to take your passport and your rental contract or sale agreement with the address on it to the local Registry Office (Bürgeramt or Einwohnermeldeamt). Once you settle down in Berlin, you will notice that this office becomes crucial concerning things such as driver’s licenses and license plates, income tax cards, German identification cards, and so on.

Residence Permit

Only non-EEA citizens need to apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis). In order to apply you need a valid passport, proof that you are able to support yourself (i.e. a bank statement or an employment contract), proof of health insurance, and your registration certificate for your current place of residence in Berlin. People who are moving to Berlin with their entire families must make sure that their spouse and/or dependents apply for their own residence permits separately. However, if your family members are citizens of an EEA member state themselves, they are not required to apply for a residence permit. Please note, Swiss nationals need to apply for the so-called Aufenthaltserlaubnis-CH or Aufenthaltserlaubnis-Schweiz.  

For highly-skilled workers, the so-called EU Blue Card is of particular interest. However, it is only issued to those with higher education and an annual income at their job in Germany of over 49,600 EUR or 38,688 EUR in case they work a job where there is a shortage of applicants. Please note, while these salary thresholds are correct as of 2016, they are adjusted yearly.

In general, there are two types of residency permits that may be obtained: limited and unlimited. As their names suggest, one is valid for an infinite time and need not be renewed. Government officials only rarely deny residence permits for Germany since the majority of non-EU nationals need a successful visa application for coming to Berlin anyway.

Read more in our guide to getting a German residence permit

Income Tax

Taxation of an individual’s income tax is progressive in Germany, meaning the higher the income, the more taxes are taken. In order to avoid double taxation, Germany has reached tax agreements with over 90 other countries, for example with the United States and the United Kingdom. As each country’s double taxation treaty differs, it is easiest if you check with your local tax office to find out whether or not you are exempt from taxes in your country of origin while working in Berlin.

Regardless of whether your native country has such an agreement with Germany or not, you need to register at your local Finanzamt (tax office) in order to pay your income tax. You may be able to take care of this while registering your residence. For employees, the taxes will then be automatically taken out of your gross wages upon payment.

For self-employed expats, the process is somewhat more complicated. In this case, we definitely recommend seeking advice from a tax consultant, especially one with experience concerning international taxation issues.

Our guide to Social Security and Taxation in Germany features more detailed information on taxes in Germany.

 

We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Sean Henderson

"The good thing about InterNations is that I got to know the expat community in Berlin as well as internationally minded locals."

Anna Maria Osario

"Through InterNations I met so many other Argentinean expats in Berlin, which made the transition period really easy for me."

Global Expat Guide