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What You Need to Know When You’re Moving to Frankfurt

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Relocating to Frankfurt

  • Frankfurt is one of the only German cities to feature skyscrapers in its skyline and has therefore earned the nickname “Mainhattan” in reference to its location on the river Main.
  • The city center isn’t the only place you might choose to live in Frankfurt. The surrounding towns are also a good choice and will offer more living space.
  • There are various types of visa, depending on your situation, and once you arrive in Frankfurt, you will need to get a residence permit.
  • Every person moving to, or within, Germany also needs to register their address, no matter where they are from.

City Portrait

Moving to Frankfurt is just the thing to do if you appreciate the view of a classic, urban skyline and yet wish to be close to the green countryside. The city’s skyscrapers have earned Frankfurt the nickname “Mainhattan”, referring both to the river Main, on which it is located, and to the resemblance of its downtown area to the New York borough. With its stock exchange, its trade fair, and its airport (the third-largest in Europe), Frankfurt is both the financial center and the traffic hub of the country.

Despite the big city flair, there is still time and space for some rest upon moving to Frankfurt. Some areas of the city will make you feel as though you are in a smaller town and there are plenty of places to relax. If you prefer to get away from the city for a while, you will be happy to learn that the Taunus Mountains are only about 20km away and offer many opportunities to go hiking and cycling, as well as many quaint, historical towns with castles waiting to be visited. But even if you can’t get out of the city, there is much to see within the city limits; take your time and explore the parks or the city’s forest, as well as the many museums.

Frankfurt: A City on the Rise

Frankfurt’s skyline has undergone quite rapid growth to become what it is today. In the 1950’s, the tallest building — Frankfurt cathedral — stood at just 96 m. By 1974, the tallest building stood at 142.1 m, which was greatly surpassed in 1997 by the Commerzbank Tower, reaching 259 m. There are even taller buildings planned for the future, so the skyline could change even more during your life in Frankfurt. In fact, the ten tallest buildings in Germany with successive habitable floors are all based in Frankfurt.

When moving to Frankfurt, you will soon learn that it is not just about height but also about design. The Westhafen Tower, for instance, has been designed to resemble an apple wine glass. However, the most popular of all of Frankfurt’s skyscrapers is the Maintower, which has a platform on the 56th floor that is open to visitors.

Recommended Neighborhoods

Frankfurt has a large variety of cozy neighborhoods to choose from. We have compiled a brief overview of the most popular neighborhoods below. For a more extensive list visit the homepage of the city of Frankfurt (in German). However, there are also many good areas on the outskirts of the city and towards the Taunus Mountains if you would prefer not to live right in the hustle and bustle of a major city.

The Westend: An Expensive Location

Moving to Frankfurt’s Westend is the top choice of the well-off. Located in close proximity to the city’s bank towers, its generous historic buildings with its Wilhelminian-style facades typically attract single affluent urbanites moving to Frankfurt. This is also where various top-notch restaurants and bars, as well as the palm garden, are located.

You will also find one of the Goethe University campuses and the Senckenberg Museum, the second largest natural history museum in Germany, in this part of town. Moving to Frankfurt’s Westend is indeed a good choice if you have the money to afford the high property prices there.

Sachsenhausen: Top Spot for Museums

Moving to Frankfurt’s Sachsenhausen allows you to settle down in the city’s biggest neighborhood. The city within the city, south of the river Main, is famous for its museums which are lined up side by side at the river shore. This is also the place where locals spend their time relaxing, enjoying the view of the skyline and taking walks along the river.

Many historic buildings in this area of the city have been restored, such as the old tram depot, which has been transformed into a restaurant, complete with a terrace. A stroll along the neighborhood’s side streets will inevitably take you to one of the many beer gardens where you should not hesitate to try the original apple wine — you will find some of the best apple wine producers in the streets here. Sachsenhausen is not just popular for its architecture and location at the river, though, but also for its many restaurants, bars, and clubs.

Ostend: A Slow Gentrification

What Sachsenhausen is to Frankfurt’s museums, the Ostend is to Frankfurt’s theaters. With the Fritz-Rémond-Theater and various other theaters, as well as the International Ensemble Modern Academy, the neighborhood boasts various cultural opportunities. Unlike Frankfurt’s more affluent neighborhoods, the Ostend tended to keep your cost of living rather low, however, the area has become more expensive since the European Central Bank moved there.

The neighborhood used to be an industrial district, with factories located at the Hanauer Landstraße. Today, it is slowly changing into a creative center and has become more gentrified due to the arrival of the European Central Bank headquarters. You can also find the Hoch Conservatory, a music academy, in the area.

Visa Requirements in Frankfurt

Types of Visa

Which type of visa you need for a move to Frankfurt depends on your nationality and the reason for your relocation. Unless you are from the EEA, Switzerland, or certain other countries, you will need to apply for a visa before moving to Germany. Citizens from certain countries, such as the USA and Canada, may enter Germany without a visa, however, they will still be required to apply for a residence permit within the first three months of their arrival. You can find a list of these countries on the Federal Foreign Office website.

Don’t forget that it might take up to three months for any long-term visa application to be processed.

  • Schengen visas, whether for tourist or business visits, are only valid for up to 90 days but allow you to move about freely within the Schengen Area. A copy of your hotel reservations and of your return ticket is required when applying for this type of visa. You should also be ready to include bank statements, proof of healthcare coverage, and a travel itinerary or business references.
  • Employment visas are probably the most important types for expats, as anybody who is not an EEA or Swiss citizen and wishes to work in Germany needs to secure one. In order to apply, you need to find a job first and present your work agreement with your application.
  • The EU Blue Card is a special form of employment visa/permit and is issued to highly skilled workers whose annual income at their job in Germany is over 49,600 EUR or 38,688 EUR, if they work in a field that has a shortage of applicants. These salary thresholds are correct as of 2016, but change yearly. In order to apply, you need to have a university degree and a contract of employment.
  • Job-seeker visas enable university graduates with a German or equivalent degree to move to Germany in order to look for work in their field for a duration of up to six months, provided they have sufficient funds to support themselves during this time.
  • The family reunion visa is the right choice for any non-German wishing to join their spouse or parent in Germany. The requirements and chance of success will differ depending on the nationality (German, EEA citizen, or other) and legal residence status of your spouse/parent.

Getting Your Registration Certificate

Whether you are a European citizen or not, whether you require a visa or not, you still need to get a registration certificate which officially proves your residency in Germany, also known as a Meldebestätigung or Meldeschein. Keep in mind that this registration has to be repeated with every change of address within Germany.

For your registration, you need to visit the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt or Bürgeramt) and present your passport and your rental agreement. The main Registry Office in Frankfurt is located in the center of the city. However, there are eleven branch offices located in different neighborhoods all over the city, making it easier for you to take care of the red tape.

Remember to Get Your Residence Permit

If you are not an EEA citizen, registration is not the last step. You also need to turn to the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) and apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltsgenehmigung). To do so, you need to present a valid passport, proof of sufficient financial funds (i.e. a work contract or a bank statement), proof of healthcare coverage, and proof of residence in Frankfurt. Each member of your family needs to apply for their own residence permit.

While most residence permits expats receive are of temporary validity and need to be renewed, permanent settlement permits are valid infinitely, but can only be applied for following 5 years of residency in Germany. In addition, there are “Permits for Permanent Right of Residence – EC” (Erlaubnis zum Daueraufenthalt – EC) which entitle you to mobility within the EU.

For non-permanent permits, the end of validity should be stated on your residence permit, indicating the date when a renewal is due. This might be the case every 12 months, for instance. If you are planning to renew, make sure to start your application at least a month in advance to allow for processing times.

Please also remember that a registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung) is not the same as a residence permit (Aufenthaltsgenehmigung). While a residence permit is only required by non-EEA expats, a registration certificate is required by everybody, German citizens included.

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