Moving abroad can be a complicated process, but with the following guidelines, moving to Germany is much easier!
If you are staying in Germany for more than 90 regardless of whether you study or work, you will need to apply for a visa. First, you’ll need to figure out if you want to work in the land of sausage and beer or if you want to study. Studying is an excellent option as universities here are free!
Studying in Germany:
All US citizens must apply for a residence permit, although you can apply after you arrive in Germany. You will need to have special documentation form your university for this visa.
Working in Germany:
If you are looking for work in Germany, you have several options depending on your background. It is important to keep in mind that work visas can be hard to come by. US citizens must demonstrate that another EU citizen cannot take the job you are offered. This law is known as the Vorgangprinzip. Knowing the German language is helpful in finding gainful employment although is by no means a requirement. You complete all visa applications at the Foreigner’s Office known as the Ausländerbehörde. In certain cities, there is also a Foreign Professionals office, which helps you with the visa process. Check them out as they help citizens from all over the globe and speak in your native language if possible.
90 Day Tourist Visa:
For Americans, you are legally allowed to remain in Germany for 90 days without a visa or any additional documentation. During this time, you can look for employment, but legally cannot work. If you find a job in this period, you apply for a work visa at the local KVR (Kreisverwaltungsreferat). Useful, as you can apply without having to return to the USA first.
6-Month Job Seeker Visa:
If you need more time and will likely get an apartment and open a bank account, this is the option for you. This option is only available to professionals with a university level degree. You will need to take your diploma to the Foreign Professionals Office (Service-Center für internationale Fachkräfte) at the KVR. Here, they will validate the diploma according to their classification system. Once completed, they will give you the temporary 6-month Job Seeker Visa.
This visa enables you to live in Germany, open a bank account, and to look for work. While this buys you time to look for work, it does not allow you to work. Once you find employment, take the work contract along and employer form to the Foreign Professionals Office. Here, the documents are sent to the “Bundesagentur für Arbeit” (Federal Employment Agency) for approval. Note that applications can be denied if salary is lower than 2300 euros.
Once you have arrived in Germany with the goal of living, you must do the following:
- Register Your Address (Anmeldung)
German law requires all citizens and residents to register their address. The process is simple and can be done at the local KVR, specifically at the department of the Einwohnermeldeamt (Registration Office). You will need to bring the registration form which can be found on the local KVR website, your passport, and Rental Lease.
- Get Your Resident Permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis/Aufenthaltskarte)
This step is also for Swiss citizens, who do not need to get the Visa, but still need to obtain a residence permit. The process is again done at the Ausländerbehörde. Bring the application form, your passport, 1 passport photo, proof of livelihood (bank statements), and proof of health insurance.
- Get Your Tax Number (Lohnsteuerkarte)
This you can receive the same day as registering your address and getting your residence permit by revisiting the Einwohnermeldeamt after getting the residence permit. You can also simply wait two weeks as once you register your address for the first time. They will send your tax ID number and other information directly to you by post mail.
- Get a Social Security Card (Sozialversicherungsausweiß)
This you can also get one of two ways, by visiting the Social Security Office (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) directly, or through your health insurance which will sign you up directly. The only difference here is that if you go to the office directly, you will receive your number immediately. Whereas, if you do it through your health insurer, you will have to wait for the number to arrive via mail. If you choose to go to the office, you will need to bring your passport, residence permit, and rental lease.
- Get a Bank Account
Getting a bank account in Germany is a fairly simple process although it can take a few days as everything is mailed and verified via post mail. The banks are largely the same and offer the same benefits for the majority of the population. The big three are Deutsche Bank, Commerz Bank, and Post Bank. To open an account, you will need to fill out the bank’s application form, verify your identity with a passport and your residence permit.
- Get a Cell Phone
There are several cell phone options available in Germany. The main difference lies in whether you want a two year contract or to pay as you go. I had great experiences with Fonic. You schedule your monthly payments automatically or by loading credits to your phone as you go. They offer a variety of plans from 2 euros up to 25 euros depending on what you want to use your phone for. Purchase these online through any provider, or you can buy prepaid cards at any local grocery store.
Government Resources in Munich/Bavaria:
Ruppertstraße 19 80337 München
Tel.: 089 233-96000 (Bürgerbüro) 1st Floor
Tel.: 089 233-96010 (Ausländerbehörde) 2nd Floor
Note: This information is by no means complete or legally binding. All information is for guidance proposes only. We cannot accept any liability as we are not the legal authority. If you have specific questions, please feel free to contact me and I would be happy to guide you.