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Guide to Germany

Checklist for Apprentices

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What to organize before you arrive

1. Finding an apprenticeship in Germany.

Germany is a great place to receive vocational training and qualifications that provide a stable foundation for your professional career.

There are different kinds of vocational training available in Germany, and it’s not always easy to identify the right starting point.

One of the best places to start is the special English Hotline of the German Government that provides information on moving to Germany for vocational training. They will advise you on where to start looking for a training position depending on the field you would like to gain experience in.

The German Government has also set up a website called Make it in Germany, which has a detailed section on finding a vocational training position.

2. Visa requirements and qualifications

Getting the approval to enter Germany and start vocational training will depend on your nationality, how soon you wish to start your vocational training after you arrive, and how your basic qualifications and German language skills are recognized. You will also need to prove your financial security for the duration of your training. It’s important that you consider all these elements together.

For information on what visa, qualification and German language requirements exist for you to start vocational training in Germany, the special English Hotline of the German Government is again the best starting point.

You can also contact the German Mission in the country you are living in to find out what requirements exist when moving to Germany for vocational training.

3. Organizing accommodation

Finding a place to live in Germany will depend on the extent of your personal connections. If you don’t have anyone to support you, it’s best to choose temporary accommodation until you have settled in, such as co-living spaces, and shared or furnished apartments. Of course, your employer might be able to help you find accommodation, too. 

Shared accommodation in Germany is often called a “WG” (Wohngemeinschaft), pronounced “VeeGee”. There are many websites that help you to find shared accommodation in Germany.

It’s also easy to make an online search for furnished accommodation (möbilierte Unterkünfte) which is also a good option, especially if you have a higher budget and prefer some extra privacy.

In larger cities, you can also find co-living spaces. It’s a great way to meet new people and still have the privacy you need.

4. Incoming travel insurance & reciprocal agreements

As soon as you start your vocational training in Germany, you can become a member of a public health insurance provider like Barmer. This means you’ll need an incoming travel insurance to bridge the gap between arriving in Germany and starting your vocational training.

If you need a special vocational training visa before entering Germany, you will have to prove this bridge insurance anyway.

In some cases, a reciprocal healthcare agreement may exist between Germany and the country you are currently insured in – which would provide some basic healthcare cover in the time between arriving in Germany and starting your vocational training. To check this, you need to contact your current insurance provider directly for confirmation. But even if a reciprocal healthcare agreement exists, a private incoming travel insurance is an extra safety net well worth having when you first arrive in Germany.

5. Health insurance

If you’ve found a training position before you arrive, it’s best to contact BARMER early so we can organize your insurance and coordinate with your training company in advance. Furthermore, we can provide you with necessary insurance-related documents for your visa application or residence permit. We will also arrange your social security number (Rentenversicherungsnummer) and forward this to your training company. At Barmer, we make health insurance easy for you. Contact us today for your perfect start.

What to organize after you arrive

1. Registering your address

The first thing you need to do is register your German address in person at your local residents’ registration office. In Germany, this local government office is called the “Einwohnermeldeamt” but in some cities, it is also called the “Bürgerbüro" or “Bezirksamt”.

It is important that you register your address within one or two weeks, otherwise you might have to pay a fine. Due to the pandemic, a registration appointment might not be possible straight away, so it’s important that you book an appointment early to avoid any complications.

Making an appointment to register your address
To make an appointment at the residents’ registration office, you need to book online in advance. The easiest way to find the right website is to make an online search with the words “Terminvereinbarung Einwohnermeldeamt + the city you are living in”. Please note: these websites are in German. Possible key words to look out for on these websites are “Wohnsitz anmelden” or “Terminvergabe Online”.

If you speak German, you can also call the number 115. This is a special hotline from the German government that helps you to connect with different local government offices and make appointments. When you call this number, the phone network recognizes the city you are in and transfers you to a local operator. The operator can then make an appointment for you and explain exactly what documents you need to register your address.

What to bring with you to register your address
If you don’t receive a list of requirements from the residents’ registration office, you’ll need to contact them – or call 115 – to find out what to bring with you. The most common requirements to register your address are:

  • Passport (with visa) or personal identification card (EU citizens)
  • Completed housing confirmation form (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) signed by the property owner or manager of your accommodation (normally downloadable from the Einwohnermeldeamt website).
  • Completed registration form from the residents' registration office (downloadable from the Einwohnermeldeamt website).
  • If relevant, a marriage certificate or birth certificates of children. Please make sure these certificates are displayed in at least one main European language.

2. TAX ID Number

During your first registration at the Einwohnermeldeamt (residents’ registration office), a notification is automatically sent to the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern (Federal Central Tax Office). Your steuerliche Identifikationsnummer (Tax ID Number) is then issued and sent via standard post to your registered address, usually within 2 weeks. The Tax ID Number never changes and is required, for example, when you open a German bank account or start working. Barmer also needs this number to inform the tax authorities about your social security contributions. 

For apprentices in Germany who have their main residence in another country (cross-border commuters), a Tax ID Number can be organized at the local tax office (Finanzamt).

Note: The Tax ID Number is different to the so-called Tax Number (Steuernummer). When you submit a tax return in Germany, you will be issued with a Tax Number  from the local tax office (Finanzamt) in the area you live in. Therefore, you won’t need to organize this when you first arrive in Germany.

3. Confirmation of public health insurance

Once you’ve registered your address, you’ll need to give Barmer a copy of your address registration certificate so that we can confirm your insurance membership and send you your electronic health insurance card.

4. Other social security insurances

Once you are a member of Barmer, we will coordinate with your employer to make sure you are covered for any mandatory social security insurances, such as pension insurance (Rentenversicherung), long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung), and unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung). We organize this for you, so there is nothing you have to worry about. Like your health insurance, the other mandatory social insurances are automatically deducted from your salary or wages.

Health insurance contribution for EMPLOYEES in Germany

5. Social security number

If you organized your Barmer membership before arriving in Germany, we’ll have already applied for your social security number (Rentenversicherungsnummer or RVNR) and given it to your training company. Barmer can also organize this number after you arrive. Your training company and Barmer will need this number for administrative purposes.

6. Bank account

We recommend you to open a current account with a German bank so that you can easily pay at the shops with your bank card and receive your salary or wages. To open an account, you will also need your confirmation of address registration and Tax ID number. It’s a good idea to compare banks as some offer better service for international residents and lower fees.

7. Residence permit

Once you arrive in Germany and have set yourself up with the basics (e.g. steps 1-6), you will need to  apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) from the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde). If you were able to enter Germany without a work visa, the residence permit application will also include the application for your work permit (Arbeitserlaubnis). The application for the residence permit is made in person at the local immigration authorities, and you’ll need to make an appointment first. The easiest way to make an appointment is online – but the websites are normally in German. Try using the search words “Ausländerbehörde + the city you are living in + Online-Termin”. Remember, you can only apply for a residence permit and work permit if you enter Germany the correct way. Check with your local immigration office directly to find out exactly what to bring to the appointment. Some of the things you might need to bring with you are:

  • Application form (mostly downloadable from the immigration office website)
  • 1 biometric photograph
  • Passport & Visa 
  • Confirmation of address registration 
  • Current rental contract or proof of current rental payment
  • Confirmation of health insurance
  • Proof of school qualifications
  • Confirmation of training position
  • Proof of financial security
  • Residence permit fee