Moving to Germany
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A Comprehensive Guide on Relocating to Germany
From moving your household goods to obtaining a residence and work permit, this guide offers you a range of practical tips on the necessary steps to move to Germany. It outlines important factors, including healthcare, education, housing, and other essential requirements for moving to Germany.
Figuring out how to move to Germany can be confusing: from various work permits to a somewhat complicated education system, there are lots of things to bear in mind when making your move. The first thing to know when moving to Germany is that there are restrictions on importing household goods. You won’t be able to bring items worth more than 430 EUR with you, and cash over 10,000 EUR must be declared. It’s also essential to organize your visa. The most common type of visa is the Working Visa, which requires proof of employment, ID, and payment of 60EUR.
There are many financial and health-related benefits of moving to Germany. And although contributions to social security are quite high (employees typically contribute 21% of their gross annual income), you’ll be thankful if ever you need to receive medical attention. With around 1,000 public hospitals, Germany’s healthcare system is very reliable and efficient.
Despite the fairly high cost of healthcare, the cost of living in large German cities is relatively low compared to other European destinations. To find out how to move to Germany, check out our helpful guide.
Before you get carried away with stuffing boxes and booking flights, you need to bear in mind some important factors about the process of shipping and storing household goods. Most of your beloved household goods will get through customs without a problem as long as they fulfill certain requirements. For example, you must have lived in your country of origin for a minimum of twelve months and have owned the item for at least six months.
There are also several things to consider when moving to Germany with pets, including ensuring you have the required vaccinations and proof of immunization. Moreover, you’re not allowed to bring dangerous banned dog breeds, including English bull terriers, into the country.
You might find it easier to take only small, sentimental items, and leave the bulky goods behind. There is plenty of furniture and appliances shops all over Germany. However, if you 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 cover you for theft.
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One of the first factors to consider when moving to Germany is how to get a visa and/or work permit. The process is fairly easy if you’re an EU national: all you’ll need to do is register with the local authorities as soon as you’ve found somewhere to live. If you’re moving from outside this region, however, you must begin Germany’s visa application process.
Germany’s visa requirements, types, and costs can be complicated; for example, you may not be permitted to take up paid employment, and there could be a restriction on the length of your stay. Since having the correct visa is essential, be sure to explore our article on German visas and work permits before moving.
It’s important to remember that a residence permit does not automatically grant you the right to work in Germany. While EU nationals can usually automatically take up employment, other expats will need to apply for a work permit. Before applying for a visa, check if you have the skills to qualify for the ‘Blue Card’ — visas for highly skilled workers — as this could significantly speed up the process.
When looking for accommodation in Germany, you’ll need to consider whether you want to rent or buy. Renting is more popular among both locals and expats, however, the average rent varies from place to place, with higher prices in large cities, like Berlin and Munich. We recommend looking online for a room or apartment, as real estate agents charge large fees of up to two months’ rent plus VAT.
German rental contracts do not usually include utility costs but don’t worry, as there are lots of suppliers. New energy suppliers will require information, such as your meter number, meter reading, and bank details, and it is standard for German suppliers to take readings once a year.
If buying a house sounds like the right option for you, there are several things to consider. Mortgages can be tricky for expats, and you will need to provide a documented history of regular savings, as well as a down payment of 30% of the purchase price. Furthermore, German houses are not always sold with the land. Sometimes, you can only buy the house, but you will have to lease the land. Regardless of how much you own, you will need to pay property acquisition tax within a year of purchase.
The healthcare system and health insurance in Germany are both rated highly. Some 7.3% of an employee’s mandatory social security contribution goes towards health insurance, and this is matched by the employer. All employees earning a gross wage under EUR 59,400 are insured by a public provider, while those who earn over this threshold can choose between public and private insurance.
Once you are registered in Germany, you should sign up to a GP as soon as possible. If you’re wondering how to find a doctor, simply conduct an online search, or check your local phone directory. Once you have a GP, they can refer you to specialists for any particular needs and advise you on Germany’s best hospitals. Health insurance in Germany will not only cover GP appointments but also two annual dentist check-ups and basic procedures including fillings.
The German healthcare system offers expectant mothers ten to twelve standard check-ups, including blood tests and urine samples, as well as ultrasounds in the third, sixth, and eight weeks. When giving birth in Germany, you can choose between a hospital, birthing clinic, or home birth, and conditions apply.
There are two types of banks in Germany: savings banks and co-operatives. Finding the best bank for your needs and choosing the best account for you will depend on interest rates, fees, and special offers. Whichever option you choose, opening a bank account in Germany is fairly easy: you’ll just need proof of registration at your address and a valid ID. While there are plenty of ATMs around Germany, some can only be used if you have an account with that bank.
The German tax rates are fairly complex. Every employed wage earner must pay ‘pay as you earn’ tax, which is automatically deducted, once you have provided your employer with your tax ID number. You could be entitled to tax deductions for raising children, being a single parent, or donating to charity, so be sure to check this before your tax return is due on 31st May of every year.
The school system in Germany varies from one federal state to the next. Wherever you live, however, school is mandatory until the child is at least 14 years old. Children attend elementary school from the age of six and begin high school around the age of twelve. They can choose their high school depending on whether they wish to go to university or focus on vocational skills.
There are plenty of international schools in Germany; however, the best schools may have long waiting lists and cost around EUR 20,000 a year. International schools may offer diplomas, such as the International Baccalaureate, or the German Abitur, or both.
Finding work in Germany and fitting into the business culture can be tough if you don’t speak German. However, the Federal Employment Agency provides lots of useful information about how to get a job in Germany, as well as advice on how to write your CV and cover letter. Once you are formally employed, you will be required to contribute 21% of your salary towards Germany’s social security, which includes aspects such as healthcare and pension insurance.
If you wish to undertake self-employment in Germany, you will need a residence and work permit. If you move to Germany solely to start a business, you will need to apply for these permits at the German Embassy, where your company’s credentials will be assessed. If you are able to invest EUR 250,000 in your company immediately, you will significantly speed up the process.
The cost of living in Germany’s main cities is lower than in other European metropoles; however, costs do vary from town to town, from expensive cities such as Frankfurt and Munich to more affordable destinations, including Leipzig and Jena. One of the most important costs to bear in mind is the employees’ mandatory contribution to health insurance (7.3%) and pension (1.3%).
These contributions are only mandatory for employees: if you are self-employed, you’ll usually only have to consider your pension contribution. For more information on costs and contributions in Germany, check out our guide.
Another important cost to keep in mind is importing a vehicle. This usually requires you to pay a 10% import duty tax and 19% VAT. Check our guide to see if you’d be better off buying a new vehicle after moving, or if you prefer to use public transportation.