Moving to Germany: Your Arrival Checklist


Updated on Sep 20 • 8 minute read

So, you’re going to be moving to Germany! This will undoubtedly be one of the most exciting times in your life, filled with plenty of opportunities. Whether you’re planning your relocation to Germany to study at one of its world-class universities, take on an internship or begin your professional career at an exciting new startup, you’ll definitely need to make sure that you’re prepared for the months ahead.

Becoming an expat in another country isn’t as easy as packing a bag, locating housing and waving goodbye to your friends and family, though. There are a number of things to do to make sure that you’re ready, including getting your documents in order, applying for a German residence permit, setting up your health insurance and much more.

However, there’s no need to become overwhelmed. Thousands of young people move abroad every year, and by following just a few practical living tips, you’ll soon be experiencing everything that Germany has to offer, just like one of the locals!

1. Requirements for different regions

The regulations for relocating to Germany can be a little different than some countries, which is why it’s always best to have the most updated information and to follow any helpful tips that you can find online, such as in this guide.

After you find accommodation in Berlin or one of many other German cities, the first thing you must do is register that address with the Bürgeramt (registration office), if you plan to stay for over three months, will be studying or working in Germany or plan to sign any contracts, such as opening a bank account. The offices are always busy, so make your appointment as soon as possible.

When it comes to permits and visas for your stay, it is all about where you come from that determines exactly what you’ll need before you move, and where and when you’ll need to apply. So, let’s break down the requirements for each area for both students and workers.

European Union, including Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein

Students: If you hail from one of these regions, then you are definitely in luck. If you will be studying at a university, you will not need a student visa. However, within a week of being in Germany, you must register with the local Einwohnermeldeamt (registration authority). You will not need a residence permit.

Work or Internships: A residence or work permit is not needed to work in Germany for these countries’ citizens. Workers must have a valid ID or passport, and they must register at Einwohnermeldeamt.

United States, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea

Students: If one of these countries is your homeland, then you also will not need a student visa if you will be studying at a university. However, within two weeks of entering Germany, you will need to do two things: it is a requirement to register with both the Aliens’ Registration Office and the Residents’ Registration Office to obtain a residence permit. Some countries only require this if you are staying for over four months, so this is why it’s important to pay close attention to the specific rules that apply to Germany.

Work or Internships: Only workers from these areas may enter Germany before having employment. However, you must still register for a residence permit, although having a visa is not a requirement.

Taiwan, Andorra, Brasil, Honduras, El Salvador, Monaco and San Marino

Students: For these areas, things are a bit more involved, but still simple as long as you follow the regulations. You will only need a German student visa for attending a university, or if you plan to work during or after receiving your degree. However, the application process is a bit different, as that you will need to actually apply with your country’s German consulate or embassy. Once in Germany, you will also still need to file for a residence permit within two weeks of your arrival. Additionally, if you are from Taiwan, you will need a passport, which will have an identity card number.

Work or Internships: From these countries, you must have a visa and proof of employment, and you must register for a resident permit as soon as possible when arriving in Germany.

All others

Students: If you live in any other country, you will be required to have a visa, which you will need to acquire before coming to Germany from your local consulate or German embassy.

Work or Internships: A visa will be required to enter Germany, and you must show evidence of employment. Once you are in Germany, you will need to apply immediately for a residence permit.

2. Documents needed for student visas, work permits or residence permits

By reading this guide, our goal is to ensure that you’re completely prepared, and ready to go with all of the important documents that you’ll need before you relocate. Sometimes, if you’ve lost an important document, it can take several weeks to have it replaced. Therefore, it’s always better to be prepared!

Student visas

There are technically two different types of student visas: student applicant visa (for when you haven’t been formally accepted by a university) and a full student visa (issued once your acceptance has been verified).

The documentation required includes:

  • A fully completed and signed application form
  • A passport that will not expire during your time in Germany
  • Your academic records
  • Proof that you will be attending a German language course, or a certification that you are proficient in the language
  • Proof of financial support
  • Certification of health insurance coverage
  • Some embassies will request proof that you have no criminal record

Residence permit

  • Proof of enrollment and acceptance to a German university
  • Certification of health insurance coverage
  • A passport that will be valid during your entire time in Germany
  • Proof of financial support
  • Rental agreement for accommodation in Germany

Work and internship permits

Be sure to apply well ahead of time, as obtaining a permit can vary, depending on each country’s permits.

Along with the documents listed above, you’ll need:

  • Proof of a job offer
  • Your university degree
  • Minimum earnings of 50,800€ annually
  • Must be a full-time job
  • If searching for a job, you must apply for a six-month visa

Keep in mind that if you are studying in Germany, you can stay to work in Germany for up to 18 months on your residence permit alone. After that, you can apply for permanent residency to continue your employment or internship.

3. Buy Health Insurance

Health insurance in Germany is another thing to consider before moving, and it can vary between students, interns and those seeking employment.

Students If you are from an EU or EEA country, including Switzerland, your own health insurance will be all you need while in Germany, as long as you bring along your European Health Insurance card. Just be sure to contact your insurance company and discuss your relocation.

If you have private health insurance, this may also be valid in Germany, so be sure to check. Just keep in mind that you won’t be able to switch to a statutory plan.

If you do not have health insurance, or you are from a country not listed above, then you can purchase one from a German provider. Students will receive a discounted rate.

Workers and interns Everyone in Germany must have health insurance. In fact, it is now a legal requirement. On a minimum level, hospital and outpatient treatment must be covered by your plan.

You can also sign up for public health insurance with TK (one of Germany's top provider) click here for a speedy and 100% in English service.

You can join the government plan, known as GKV, or go with one of many private providers. Just be sure to shop around, as pricing can really vary on the exact same coverage.

4. Open a German Bank Account

Once you arrive in Germany, you may find that your regular credit cards may not work, and if you continue to use your account from back home, you’re likely to pay some steep fees. Plus, if you are going to be working during your stay, you’ll definitely need a bank account.

The great news is that it’s relatively simple to set up an account in Germany. Just pick the bank of your choice, and make an appointment to get everything going. When you go to your appointment, bring the following documentation:

  • A valid government-issued photo identification or passport
  • A student ID, or other enrollment documents
  • Confirmation of your registration

Many young expats enjoy the German bank DKB. You can manage everything online, and you’ll receive your bank card after a quick identity check. Alternatively, HousingAnywhere has partnered with N26, an international bank account for your phone. Book your accommodation through HousingAnywhere, and you’ll receive a special discount code to get a a 12-month N26 Black account subscription for the special price of 6 months!

5. Learn the public transportation system

Germany has an excellent public transportation system, but it operates on a regional basis, so some cities may not have all of the options that others might offer. However, whichever method you choose, you will need to purchase a ticket, which is often interchangeable for another mode of transport. Sometimes your ticket will not be scanned, operating on the honour system. However, don’t try to get on board without a ticket, as random checks can bring about costly fees if you’re caught without a paid ticket.

Below are Germany’s methods of public transportation:

U-Bahn This is Germany’s underground system, which operates in Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Nuremberg. It is also known as rapid transit.

S-Bahn This encompasses Germany’s local commuter trains, and they run in the larger cities, such as those above, along with Dresden, Stuttgart, Magdeburg and more. These trains will also take you out of the city centers and into the outlying areas of the city.

Trams Most cities have tram systems, which run about every 10 minutes. The metro trams even run after midnight.

Buses Buses cover a lot of the areas not reached by the trams. While the travel might be somewhat slower, you are likely to find a bus that will take you just about anywhere you need to go, with late-night options.

6. Buy or Rent a Bicycle

Even though German public transportation is inexpensive and convenient, you can’t get more budget-friendly than riding a bike. Of course, it’s also the European way to travel, especially if you live in close proximity to your university or place of employment or internship. Plus, it’s a great way to see the local scenery and explore your new surroundings!

If you’re ready to start cycling, there are two ways to grab a bike and go.

Rent In Germany, it is super easy to rent a bike, especially with sharing schemes, such as the popular nextbike, with locations in over 60 cities. What’s so great about bike sharing is that you can rent from one location and then return to another, which means you can always have access to a bike just when you need it.

Purchase If you’re going to be cycling a lot, it’s probably best to go ahead and purchase a bike. You can always put it up for sale when you are ready to go back home. You can look for a used bike in secondhand stores or at one of Germany’s many markets. Also, check the university boards or Facebook for students who may be selling their bikes.

7. Get a German SIM card

More than likely, you’re going to need mobile phone service while in Germany, so you’ll need to have a SIM card. Depending on exactly what your requirements are, there are a few different options for a “handy,” which is a slang term for a cell phone in Germany.

Prepaid Most expats opt for a prepaid situation when they first get to Germany until they know exactly how often they’ll need to actually use minutes. Many students especially opt to use Wi-Fi whenever possible to utilize messaging apps, rather than use phone minutes.

Plan Once you know a bit more about your needs it may be a good idea to sign up for a plan that will offer international minutes so you can call home, as well as use data.

A few popular providers include:

  • O2
  • Vodafone
  • Telekom

Some discount providers are:

  • ALDtalk
  • Otello
  • Congstar

You’ve probably heard the saying, “know before you go,” and it can never be truer than when you’re preparing to relocate abroad! Follow this helpful checklist for expats, filled with many things you’ll need to consider when moving to Germany as a student, intern or business professional, and be sure that you prepare well in advance for this fun adventure. Germany, and all that it has to offer, awaits!

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