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Moving to Germany

A Comprehensive Guide on Relocating to Germany

There is more to Germany and Germans than their stereotypes of punctuality and efficiency. However, you will need to follow quite a few requirements for moving there. One of the notable ones is health insurance. Another necessary step to move to Germany is figuring out your visa situation, which should be easy if you are from an EU country, but a little more demanding if you are not.

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How hard or easy it will be to move to Germany depends on various things, such as what work permit you might need, your specific healthcare requirements, and how you go about finding your new home.

The first thing to know when thinking how to move to Germany is that there are restrictions on importing household goods. You will not be able to bring with you items whose cumulative value is more than 430 EUR (480 USD) and cash over 10,000 EUR (11,000 USD) must be declared.

It is also essential to organize your visa. The most common type of visa is the working visa, which requires proof of employment, your ID, and a payment of 60 EUR (67 USD).

There are many potential financial, health, and societal reasons why moving to Germany can be a great option for you. Although­ contributions to social security are quite high (employees typically contribute 21% of their gross annual income), you will be thankful if you ever need to receive medical attention. With around 1,000 public hospitals, Germany’s healthcare system is very reliable and efficient.

The benefits of moving to Germany do not stop there. Despite the fairly high cost of healthcare, the cost of living in large German cities is relatively low compared to other Western European countries. To find out what else you need to do to move to Germany, read through our helpful guide.



Whether you are moving abroad for the first time or relocated multiple times before, the process raises many questions. Our complete guide to relocation will ease your doubts along the way, from the initial preparations to how to negotiate a relocation package, we help you GO! prepared with the key answers.

Before you get carried away with stuffing boxes and booking flights, you need to bear in mind some important factors about the process of moving to Germany. Shipping your household goods to Germany can be simple if you follow government guidelines and those laid out in the Relocating section of our Moving to Germany guide.

In terms of speed, air freight will almost always be the quickest way to move your belongings from your home country to Germany. Speed comes at a price though—air freight is also the most expensive delivery method. Shipping your items by sea is considerably cheaper than by air, however, there is the obvious downside that you will be waiting longer for your precious cargo to arrive. If you already live in the European Union, you have another, cheaper option. You could pay a man-with-a-van service to drive your goods to Germany, a process which could be completed in two to three days.

For household goods, you might find it easier to bring small, sentimental items, and leave bulky things behind. There are plenty of furniture and appliance shops all over Germany. If you do decide to bring over your household items, there are things to consider, such as insurance. There are lots of Hausratversicherung plans – the most basic, which can cost as little as 50 EUR, will at least cover you in a rare case of theft.

Moving to Germany with pets is entirely possible, however, you should be aware that the import of certain dog breeds is banned. So-called dangerous breeds, like Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Bull Terriers are not allowed to be imported or transferred into Germany.

Moreover, there are different vaccinations required for relocating pets to Germany. All cats, dogs, and ferrets need to have proof that they had a rabies vaccination after they were microchipped. A tapeworm treatment is not required for your dog to enter Germany.

If you are about to relocate to Germany with pets and you need some help with tasks, such as temporary quarantine, travel documents, and shipping arrangements, get in touch with our team of relocation experts. We also offer support with home finding, visa solutions, and more.

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Visas & Work Permits

Knowing how to get a German residence visa and work permit will likely be crucial to settling down successfully in the country. The process is fairly easy if you are an EU national: all you will need to do is register with the local authorities as soon as you have found somewhere to live. But if you are moving from outside Europe, you must begin Germany’s visa application process.

When applying for a German visa, there are various things to take care of and you will need to meet certain German visa requirements, including proof of income and health insurance.

The type of visa you need in Germany will depend on the situation you are in. If you are moving from a non-EU country to Germany for a job, you should prioritize a work permit, but if you are joining a spouse or family member who is already legally settled in the country, you might need a family reunion visa. If you want to come to Germany just for business purposes and you are not from the EU or a country included in the visa waiver program, you will need a business visa to visit Germany.

Long-stay visas, including Germany’s employment visa or work permit cost 75 EUR (80 USD). You will also need to complete Germany’s work permit visa (or employment permit) application form, called Antrag auf Erlaubnis einer Beschäftigung in German, and a residence permit application (Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels). Short-stay visas, for up to three months, are 60 EUR (70 USD).

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When looking for accommodation in Germany, there are several important considerations to make. This guide covers long-term and short-term housing options in Germany, and our relocation experts offer help with home finding abroad. However, renting is more popular among both locals and expats.

The average rent and house prices vary from place to place, with higher prices in large cities like Berlin and Munich.

In our guide, we cover how to rent a house in Germany, plus how to buy a house in Germany for foreigners. No matter which option you go for, we recommend searching online first as real-estate agents charge large fees of up to two months’ rent plus VAT.

Utilities in Germany are not usually included in rental contracts, but there are lots of providers. When you register with a new energy supplier, they will require information, such as your meter number, meter reading, and bank details. It is standard for German suppliers to take meter readings once a year.

If buying a house sounds like the right option for you, there are several things to consider, such as types of houses in Germany. Among your options you will find apartments, detached houses, bungalows, cottages, and more. Think carefully about mortgages as they can be tricky for expats. To get one, you need to provide a documented history of regular savings, as well as a down payment of 30% of the purchase price.

If you are one of many global minds considering moving to Berlin, read our guide to living and working in Germany’s “poor but sexy” capital.

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The healthcare system and health insurance in Germany tend to be excellent, however, the ins and outs of the system might be a little confusing at first. Our Healthcare in Germany section explains everything you need to know, giving you an overview of Germany’s healthcare system.

All salaried workers in Germany whose annual income is less than 62,550 EUR (69,600 USD) as of 2020 must have public health insurance, also known as gesetzliche krankenversicherung (or GKV).

Furthermore, this section outlines how to find a doctor and the best hospitals, including information regarding maternity, such as pregnancy and giving birth in Germany.

Once you are registered at an address in Germany, you should sign up to a General Practitioner (GP or family doctor) as soon as possible. If you are looking for a trusted doctor, you could ask for help from other expats in the InterNations community. InterNations has a worldwide forum, plus local forums, including Germany.

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Banks & Taxes

Opening a bank account in Germany might pose more challenges than you imagined. For example, some banks in Germany require that you deposit a minimum amount each month—around 1,000 EUR (1,100 USD) is common. Plus, it might not be possible to find an English-speaking member of staff at German banks.

If you want to join a local German bank, there are lots of what are called Sparkassen in towns and cities, but you will need proof of your German address to set up an account.

To find the best bank in Germany for your situation, you should research interest rates, fees, minimum deposits, and special offers. If you need help setting up a bank account when you move to Germany, InterNations GO! offers settling-in services.

Moreover, as an expat you can open a non-resident bank account in Germany. Despite this, if you are from outside the EEA, you will need to prove that you are registered and living in Germany and show your German work permit.

You might be wondering how much the tax is in Germany. Every person working as an employee or self-employed must pay income tax (or pay as you earn, PAYE tax), which is automatically deducted. The lowest income tax rate is 14%, while the highest is 45%. Single people pay no tax on earnings up to 9,408 EUR (10,465 USD).

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The education system and international schools in Germany are of a high standard and provide students alternatives whatever their ambitions. International schools might be the better choice if your children do not speak German, while many offer additional German language lessons to help students integrate better into society.

In the Education section of our guide, we explain what the school systems, such as grading and year groups, are like in Germany.

If you are thinking of taking your children to Germany and entering them into an international school, you should start your search as early as possible. The best schools may have long waiting lists. International schools may offer diplomas, such as the International Baccalaureate and the German Abitur—which is necessary for students who want to move on to university.

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Working in Germany is a great way to advance your career. The salaries there can be high and IT and financial sectors need fresh talent, which provides an opportunity for expats with the right skills. There is a great opportunity to work with the latest technologies, as Germany aims to keep up with advancements in countries like the United States.

Our Working section gives you an idea about how to get a job in Germany. We also list the most in-demand jobs, including software developers, nurses, and electricians. Plus, we give you advice about German business culture, and how to write a German-style CV and cover letter, so you can get the job of your dreams.

Once you start working in Germany, you must contribute 21% of your salary to Germany’s social security system, which provides healthcare and pension insurance. Bear in mind that the average annual salary in Germany is around 30,000 EUR (33,570 USD).

If you take up self-employment in Germany, you will have to pay for private health insurance. You will also need a residence and work permit. If your business is already established, getting your permits might be easier. If you can invest 250,000 EUR (280,000 USD) in your company immediately, creating five jobs, you can speed up the process.

To qualify as a freelancer or business owner in Germany, you may need good German language skills and an official certificate to prove your ability. You do not need a certain level of funds to work as self-employed in Germany.

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If you are wondering if living in Germany is expensive, read our Moving to Germany guide as it is an excellent starting point to understand the cost of living in Germany.

However, just how expensive your life will be will partly depend on where you decide to live. For example, Munich is a relatively pricey city in which to be based, so aim for a higher than average salary if it’s your city of choice. Examples of more affordable destinations in Germany are Leipzig and Jena. We expand on living costs in Germany in our Living about Germany section.

There is more to Germany than money though. This section gives a comprehensive overview of what it is like to live in Germany overall, including aspects of life, like public transportation, driving, and grocery prices. We also offer practical information on main airports and embassies, and discuss German culture and social etiquette.

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Updated on: March 05, 2020
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