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Guide to Germany

Checklist for employees

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What to organize before you arrive

1. Working in Germany 

Germany’s demand for qualified international professionals is increasing. Many areas of Europe’s largest economy are experiencing a skills shortage, especially in the technology and healthcare sectors.

For many nationalities, it’s not necessary to find a job before arriving in Germany, but for others, finding an employer will be a requirement for a work visa.

Would you like to connect with a potential employer?

There are many online job-seeker portals in Germany, which can even help you create an attractive CV that suits the local employment market. You can also subscribe to a job newsletter or contact a private employment agency to help you find a job. 
You can also call a special English Hotline from the German government, where you’ll be advised on how to find job offers and connect with potential employers in your field – either before or after you arrive.

2. Visa requirements and professional qualifications

Getting the approval to enter Germany and start working will depend on your nationality, how soon you wish to start working after you arrive, and how your qualifications are recognized. It’s important that you consider all three elements together.

An overview of visa and entry requirements for all nationalities is available from the Federal Foreign Office. But finding the most optimal way to enter Germany is only one piece of the puzzle.

That’s exactly why the German government has created a wonderful website explaining the qualifications needed in your chosen field, what entry requirements exist for you, and how to apply for the necessary work permits. Simply visit the official website Recognition in Germany or call their special English Hotline to speak with an advisor directly. This way, you can easily connect the dots.

Tip: If you’ve organized a job before moving to Germany and have applied for a work visa, your employer can speed up the process by applying for a fast-track application at their local Foreigners Authority. Choose Barmer for your public health insurance, and we’ll coordinate all the necessary insurance paperwork with your employer in advance, so when you arrive, there’s more time to relax and discover your new home. Contact Barmer today for your perfect start.  

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 employment 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 employment.

If you obtain a work visa before entering Germany, you will probably have to prove your incoming travel 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 employment. 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 job before you arrive, it’s best to contact Barmer early, so we can organize your insurance and coordinate with your employer 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 new employer. 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, which 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 if required).
  • 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 residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), a notification is automatically sent to the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern). Your Tax ID Number (steuerliche Identifikationsnummer) is then issued and sent via standard post to your registered address, usually within 2 weeks. In some cases, your employer can also apply for this number on your behalf. For employees 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). 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.

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. Other social security insurances

Once you become a member of Barmer, we’ll 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 everything for you – so there’s 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

4. 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 new employer. Your employer and Barmer need this number for administrative purposes. Of course, we can also organize this number for you after you arrive in Germany.

5. 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.

6. Residence permit

Once you arrive in Germany and have set yourself up with the basics (e.g. steps 1-5), 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 academic and professional qualifications
  • Confirmation of employment
  • Proof of income
  • Residence permit fee