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You're moving to Germany?

Before moving:

You should read the FAQ on the German tax system, especially the sections:

For the first few days/weeks, you will need somewhere to stay.
In most bigger German cities, the rental market is very tight and German legislation provides high tenant protection, so nearly no landlord will let you a flat without having seen you first. In fact, if a landlord offers to do so, you can be fairly sure it’s a rental scam, just like when they offer a flat with amenities that simply don’t exist in residential flats in Germany, like air conditioning. For details on rental scams, please read here.
So you can basically forget about securing a flat while you’re still in your home country.

However, it’s never too early to familiarise yourself with the terms you will need for flat hunting in Germany:

You will need a place that will give you a confirmation (called Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung = certificate issued by the giver of the flat) that you live there, which you will need so that you can officially register your address (= Anmeldung at the Bürgerbüro), since a lot of things that you will need to move here are dependent on having done this Anmeldung, like getting a bank account or not paying the (high) emergency tax rate on your salary.
So one of the first questions you ask a boardinghouse/landlord should be: 

  • “Are you willing to issue me a Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung?”

You will need somewhere to stay right after arriving, this can be a hotel, I recommend the Motel One chain: 
It has hotels all over Germany and is cheap (and good!), but they won’t issue you a Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung (they only have to if your stay exceeds 3 months, in accordance with §29 (1) sentence 2 BMG). But they are ideal for the first few days.

For the longer term, a holiday flat would be a better idea (those usually are willing to issue you the Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung, but make sure by asking the landlord before booking the flat!):

or a furnished short-term let (most landlords will only let for a minimum period of 6 months, if they let for shorter periods, they will owe an extra 7% VAT to the state).
To find such a sublet, google in

  • möblierte Wohnung + name of the German city you’re moving to

If you’re moving to:

You and GoogleTranslate (or another online translator like will become good friends during your search for accommodation.

First steps after moving to Germany:

  1. get a SIM card with as large a data flat rate as possible for your mobile phone. Bring along an unlocked smartphone. You will be depending on that data flat rate for a long time, hooking up internet in your permanent flat can take a few weeks, so do get a flat rate with a lot of data (5 GB upwards).
    If you only speak English, I suggest getting a prepaid Lebara SIM since their website is in English. You can buy top-up credit with any credit card. Ask the shop that sold it to you (see here for a map of Lebara shops) to do the registration for you (you will need to show your passport for the registration). Without a registration, the SIM will not work!
  2. If you’re not a EU/EEA citizen or a Swiss citizen, you will need a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) to stay long-term in Germany. You apply for it at the Ausländerbehörde.
    If you feel that you need professional help with that, you can hire a lawyer, all lawyers cost the same. Yes, their fees are also regulated by law, just like my fee is. Their fee law is called RVG (English version). Just beware that if they want you to sign a separate fee contract, that means that they want to charge you more than permitted by the RVG.
    All things being equal, I suggest getting a specialised lawyer, a “Fachanwalt für Migrationsrecht” (has proven that he/she has worked a minimum number of immigration cases within 3 years and has passed some additional exams), you can find one here (click on “Erweiterte Suche”):
    Fachanwältin / Fachanwalt: Migrationsrecht
    Sprache: Englisch
  3. If you need a translator to accompany you to meetings or help you with filling in German bureaucracy forms, i.e. to cut through the red tape, you can hire Kathleen Parker at RedTape Translation:
    She’s based in Berlin but cooperates with translators all over Germany.
  4. Get the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung from your hotel/boardinghouse/landlord.
  5. Go to a Bürgerbüro in the city you’re staying in and do your Anmeldung, i.e. register your address (you will need to show your passport). In some cities, e.g. in Munich or Berlin, you have to first get an online appointment for the Bürgerbüro. In Munich, you can find one within a few days, at the other end of the spectrum in Berlin the next appointment may only be in a few weeks or months!
    Fill in “VD” for “Verschiedene” in the box for “Religion” unless you are a member of one of the church-tax-charging religions. Having been baptised as a baby in a Roman Catholic church anywhere worldwide is enough to make you a member of the worldwide Roman Catholic church, and therefore also of the Roman Catholic church in Germany. Don’t blame me, that’s canonical law.
    For details please see the section “church tax” in the FAQ.
  6. Open a bank account, I suggest Deutsche Bank, they are not the cheapest bank around but they are willing to communicate in English and offer a banking interface in English, plus they have branches all over Germany. 
    If you don’t mind that the bank has no physical branches, look at N26 Bank, they also operate in English. But you can only open one account with them, so if you’re going to be self-employed, open a business account:
    – free private account:
    – free business account:
  7.  Now go flat hunting, remember the basic German flat/apartment terms and then look on:
  8.  As soon as you have your apartment, repeat the “get Wohnungsgeberbestätigung from landlord” and “register at Bürgerbüro” steps to do another Anmeldung, but this time at your permanent address.
    You can do this at any of the Bürgerbüros. Just choose the one nearest to your apartment or workplace.
    Don’t forget to also tell your bank about your new address.
  9. About 6 weeks after your first Anmeldung you will get a letter at the address you registered at initially with your Steuer-ID (so arrange with your hotel/boardinghouse/landlord to forward you that letter!).
    You will need this Steuer-ID to get out of the high emergency tax class VI into a “normal” tax class, for details please see the section “tax classes” in the FAQ.

    If you don’t receive your Steuer-ID within 6 weeks of moving here, fill in this online form to ask them to re-send it to your permanent address.

    Name = your surname
    Vorname = your first name
    Geburtdatum = date of birth, e.g. 25.01.1987
    Geburtsort = town of birth
    –> click on “Weiter”
    Straße = street name your official address (the one you first registered at, probably a boardinghouse or holiday flat!), street name, e.g. Sonnenstr.
    Hausnummer = house number of your official address (the one you first registered at, probably a boardinghouse or holiday flat!), e.g. 7
    PLZ = postal code, e.g. 80331
    Ort = city, e.g. Muenchen

    Mark the box “Ich stimme den Datenschutzbestimmungen zu.” 
    and click on “Absenden”

  10. Enjoy living in Germany 🙂

Welcome to Germany!