Hamburg is a powerhouse of the German and European economies. The city is Germany’s wealthiest city with the highest GDP in the country and a high employment rate at 92.1% of the working age population. As a result, there are lots of opportunities for expats considering working in Hamburg.
For centuries, Hamburg has been a commercial hub of northern Europe. It is also a very important banking city, home to Germany’s oldest bank, the Berenberg Bank. Many expatriates in the financial sector come to Hamburg to work in the banks and other financial institutions.
The real driver of Hamburg’s economy is the Port of Hamburg, though, which processes over 134 million tons of goods a year. Although Hamburg is inland – 110km from the coast, it is considered a sea port because it is able to accommodate large ocean-bound ships. The huge amount of international trade has also brought many consulates to the city, and hundreds of expats and their families with them.
The process for obtaining papers to legally work in Germany depends on your nationality. For EU citizens, as well as those from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, the process is relatively straightforward. As long as you can prove your citizenship with a valid passport, you just need to register at the local authority – Bürgeramt or Einwohnermeldeamt.
For expats wanting to work in Hamburg from outside the EU, it’s a bit more complicated to obtain a residence permit and work permit. For a highly skilled expat, the best route is to apply for an EU Blue Card, which gives you the right to work and live in Europe. The general requirements are a university degree and a current contract of employment of at least 46,400 EUR, although this monetary requirement is lowered for some professions where there is a shortage of skilled workers available in Germany.
Once you are working in Hamburg, you will be liable to pay income tax. The threshold at which you start to pay income tax varies according to whether you are filing as a single person or a married couple. Your income is then taxed at a progressive rate. There is also a ‘solidarity surcharge’ of up to 5.5% of the tax itself, which contributes to a special fund to pay for the cost of reunifying with the states of former East Germany.
There are tax deductions that can reduce the amount you have to pay, including children and dependents, certain insurance premiums, and some charitable and political contributions.