Relocating to Germany: things to know before you go

2 Feb 2023 | Icon Relo

Germany is a very popular destination for relocators from both EU and non-EU countries. Relocators are often attracted by Germany’s strong economy, high standard of living, excellent work-life balance (full-time employees are entitled to a minimum of 20 days paid leave per year, but some employers offer up to 30 or more) as well as its vibrant cities including Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt. Germany is also excellently located in the centre of Europe in close proximity to many other countries. Due to its popularity, Germany is a deeply multi-cultural and diverse society with a large immigrant population.

When moving to Germany, you should consider the following:

Securing a visa

Citizens of EU countries have the right to live and work in any EU country without the need for a visa or work permit. However, if you are a non-EU citizen, you will likely need a visa to live and work in Germany.

There are several types of visas relevant for those relocating to Germany for work, including:

Employment of Residence: this is also known as the Blue Card and is a type of visa for non-EU citizens who want to work in Germany. It is designed for attracting highly-skilled workers from outside the EU and provides a streamlined process for obtaining a work and residency permit. You must meet certain criteria to be eligible for a Blue Card, including having a recognised university degree, a job offer with a salary which exceeds a certain level depending on the field, and have a basic knowledge of the German language.

The World & Residence permit: this visa is for foreign workers who want to work in Germany but do not meet the eligibility criteria for the Blue Card. The requirements for this visa vary depending on the type of work you will be doing in Germany.

The Highly-Qualified Worker: this visa is for highly skilled workers from outside the EU who have a job offer in Germany but do not meet the requirements for the Blue Card.

Family Reunification: this visa is for family members of German citizens or foreign nationals with a long-term right of residence in Germany.

The specific requirements and procedures for each visa type may vary, and it is advisable to check the German embassy or consulate in your home country for the most up-to-date information.

Healthcare in Germany

Germany has one of the best public health systems in the world, with low waiting times and high patient satisfaction. It is also known for being efficient and cost-effective. All llegal residents of Germany, both citizens and non-citizens, are eligible for public healthcare, regardless of their income.

It is important to note that health insurance is mandatory in Germany, so you will need to obtain a healthcare plan when you relocate. You can choose between statutory health insurance and private health insurance.

Statutory health insurance: most people in Germany opt for statutory health insurance, which is available through a number of non-profit insurance providers. Statutory health insurance, combined with taxes and government subsidies, funds universal health coverage for all legal residents of Germany. The cost of statutory health insurance depends on your age, income and family situation. It is regulated by the government to ensure that everyone can afford to access medical care. Most people pay around 15% of their gross income, and the cost is split between you and your employer.

Private health insurance: due to the affordability and quality of statutory health insurance, only a small percentage of the population opts for private health insurance. This is typically a more expensive option than statutory health insurance and is not regulated by the government. Private insurance offers additional benefits which may include:

  • Faster access to medical care
  • Increased choice of doctors, hospitals and treatments, giving patients more control over their medical care
  • Coverage of other services including private rooms in hospitals or alternative treatments not covered by statutory health insurance

Language skills

As with relocating to any country, it is helpful to have at least basic German language skills. These skills may be required for obtaining a visa. German may be a difficult language to learn, especially for native English speakers. This is due to its:

  • Complex grammar, with a number of rules and exceptions to learn, including declensions, plural forms and verb conjugations
  • Pronunciation, with several sounds and combinations of sounds not found in other languages
  • Large vocabulary, with words not found in other languages

However, with consistent effort and practice, many people find that they can achieve a high level of fluency in German.

Registering your residency

When you relocate to Germany, you will need to register your place of residence with the local authorities within two weeks. This is a legal obligation and failure to do so can result in fines. The process of registering your residency is called Anmeldung in German. You can do this in person at the local residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) by presenting your passport or ID card and proof of address, such as a rental contract or utility bill if you have one.

Once you have registered your residency, you will receive a certificate of registration (Meldebescheinigung), which is proof of your place of residency in Germany and is required for various purposes, such as opening a bank account or obtaining a mobile phone contract.

Icon Relocation is a global provider of relocation and removal services, supporting employers’ talent mobility as well as individuals relocating themselves. Contact us for advice or find our more about our home search and removal services.

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