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Guide to Germany

Checklist for families

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What to organize before you arrive

1. General information

Life’s better when you’re all together. Bringing your family to Germany to live with you is possible if you obtain the legal residence permits for all family members. In this Checklist, we refer to the word “family” as your legally recognized spouse and any dependent children under the age of 18 years. We also assume that for families moving to Germany, at least one of the parents is either taking up employment or academic studies in Germany. Therefore, please review the information given in the Checklists for employees or students, too.

2. Visas

An overview of visa and entry requirements for all nationalities is available from the Federal Foreign Office. If your family members are non-EU citizens, we advise you to contact the German Mission in the country your spouse and children live in for all official information regarding German visas and entry requirements.

3. Incoming travel insurance

Whether your family visits you temporarily in Germany or moves here to live with you permanently, it’s important to make sure all family members have appropriate insurance from the moment they arrive. In all cases, please consult the German Mission in the country your family lives in for official information about what insurance is required when your family members first arrive in Germany.

4. Health insurance

Barmer will gladly co-insure your dependent family members free of charge if certain preconditions are met. For example, if they live with you and don’t earn more than €470 a month. 

If you are already a Barmer member and your family members will permanently join you at a later date, please contact us before your family arrives so that we can start organizing the insurance and provide you with any necessary insurance-related documentation for your family members’ visa applications. 

If you are not yet in Germany and plan to bring your family with you, then please refer to the information provided in the Checklist sections for employees or students or contact Barmer directly for further advice on the topic of family insurance.

What to organize after you arrive

1. Registering your family’s address. 

The information applies to all family members who will live with you permanently in Germany.

The first thing you need to do is register each family member’s 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 family’s 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 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).
  • Your 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

After registering each family member at the residents’ registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) for the first time, a notification is automatically sent to the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern (Federal Central Tax Office). Each family member, regardless of their age, will then receive a Tax ID Number (steuerliche Identifikationsnummer) via standard post to your registered address, usually within 2 weeks. Keep these numbers in a safe place as they may be needed in the future. 

3. Confirmation of public health insurance

Barmer is one of Germany’s best health insurance providers for families with a wide range of extra benefits that are not normally covered under public health insurance. As a BARMER member, your family can also be co-insured free of charge if certain preconditions are met, for example, if they don’t earn more than €470 a month.

Once your family members arrive in Germany and have registered their address at the residents registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt), please submit a copy of the address registration certificates to BARMER so that we can finalize the family insurance and issue the electronic health insurance cards.

4. Residence permit

Like you, your family members will also need to apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) from the local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) after they arrive in Germany. As described in the Checklist for employees and students, the application for the residence permit is made in person at the local immigration authorities. Remember, your family members can only apply for a residence permit if they 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 for each family member
  • Passports & visas
  • Marriage certificate
  • Birth certificates (for children)
  • Confirmation of address registration (for all family members)
  •  Confirmation of health insurance (for all family members)
  • Residence permit fee

5. Childcare

In Germany, children under the age of six are entitled to affordable childcare at a so-called “Kita”. This word is an abbreviation for the German word “Kindertagesstätte”, which means “childcare centre”. A Kita is also known to many as a “Kindergarten”. Even though most Kitas are managed by cities and municipalities, it is important to contact the Kita directly for information about registering your child. It’s also important to plan this as far in advance as possible as places can be limited, especially in larger cities. In many Kitas, registration must take place 4-6 months before the start of childcare. It is also possible to register your child at a private Kita, where it is often easier to get a place – but you are charged extra fees for this convenience. 

6. School

In Germany, school is mandatory for children over the age of 6 years. State-run schools are generally free, with costs mainly limited to books and excursions. Private schools, which also include international schools, will charge education fees.

In general, applications for schools are made at the school itself, and in most cases, the school management is responsible for making the decision to accept a student or not. If your children do not speak German, we advise you to contact the education authorities in your federal state about how to best integrate your children into the school system.

Primary school (Grundschule)
In most cases, children attend the first year of the “Grundschule” when they are 6 years old. In most areas of Germany, the Grundschule will last from the 1st grade to the 4th grade. In some areas of Germany, the Grundschule will last until the 6th grade. In the last year of the Grundschule, the child’s teacher will recommend which type of secondary school is most suitable for the child to attend next. 

Secondary schools (Weiterführende Schulen)
There are various types of secondary schools in Germany depending on the area you live in.

Some secondary schools are better suited for children with academic potential, and some secondary schools are better suited for children who are likely to pursue non-academic vocations. 
If your child does not speak fluent German, it’s a good idea to choose a school that also offers German as a foreign language. 
If you haven’t already been advised by the Grundschule on what options are best suited to your child, we recommend to contact the education authorities in your federal state to understand more about the secondary school system in that area.

7. Financial security for families

The Federal Ministry for Families, Seniors, Women and Children has an English portal that explains all forms of financial security offered to families in Germany. For example, all eligible families with children receive a child benefit (Kindergeld) regardless of their income. Pregnant women may have the entitlement to maternity payment (Mutterschaftsgeld), and other benefits, such as parental allowance (Elterngeld) are offered, too. Visit the Federal Family Portal for everything you need to know about how the German government ensures additional financial security for families.