Moving To Germany in 20 steps [2024 Guide]

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Researched & written

by Jen Palacios

Updated

Hey, welcome to my guide on moving to Germany in 20 steps.

I am from Guatemala and moved to Germany in 2012. My journey was difficult. I applied for jobs for months from abroad. Everyone rejected me.

Until one day, a company in Düsseldorf gave me a chance and hired me. My dream came true!

This guide is the step-by-step playbook I wish I had when I was planning to move to Germany.

I will share 20 steps explaining how to move to Germany as a foreigner. I will provide you with 9 things to take care of before moving to Germany and 11 crucial things to do during the first two weeks after your arrival.

Let’s go!

9 things to prepare before moving to Germany

1. Prepare your budget

Moving to Germany requires some financial planning. There might be some hidden costs you might not be aware of.

Watch the video below before relocating to Germany to learn about what you should consider for your budget.

2. Find a job or get enrolled at a German university

The easiest and most hassle-free way to move to Germany is to find a job or get accepted to a university beforehand. Depending on your nationality, this is the only way for you to move and legally stay in Germany.

If you’re an EU citizen, you can skip to step #6 of this guide.

When moving to Germany from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Israel, or the Republic of Korea, you may enter Germany as a tourist, start your job hunt, and then apply for your work and residence permit from within Germany. Keep in mind that processing times for the immigration offices in Germany may exceed the duration of your permitted stay.

When you hold a different nationality than the ones listed above and fulfill other criteria in terms of education or work experience, you can apply for the so-called Job Seeker Visa, which allows you to stay up to six months in Germany with the purpose of finding a job.

Graduates and skilled professionals from a Non-EU country may qualify for the Blue Card, your quick entrance to Germany and the EU and your work permit for up to four years.

3. Get expat health insurance

One requirement to get a German visa is to provide health insurance that is accepted by the German government, which means that travel insurance usually doesn’t qualify.

If you already have a job, you can sign up for proper German health insurance. TK is a favorite public health insurer for expats, and Ottonova is a favorite private health insurer with foreigners.

If your plan is to find a job once in Germany or if you are a freelancer, your best option for securing health insurance for your visa is with expat insurance. It is temporary health insurance that covers you while you’re looking for a job.

Feather is an insurance broker specializing exclusively in expats in Germany and those wishing to come to Germany. So they speak your language and offer expat health insurance for which you can sign up in as little as two minutes online, fully in English!

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4. Apply for your visa in time

Germany is a very bureaucratic country, and they love their processes. Depending on your home country and the type of visa you are applying for, your waiting time can range between one to four months.

For me, it took 2,5 months for the German embassy to issue my visa for work purposes before I could move to Germany. So be sure to check your visa requirements well in advance.

We recommend applying for your German visa at least three months before your planned departure date to receive your passport and visa back on time. You can find more information on the work visastudent visajob seeker visa, and freelance visa in their respective websites.

For a student visa and job seeker visa, you will be required to open a blocked account. You can find all the details in our guide below.

5. Book your flight in advance

Make sure to fly to the closest international airport. Each big city has its own airport. The three largest ones are in Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin.

Take into account that most airlines these days allow you to travel with just one checked bag that weighs up to 23 kg. If you are planning on taking an additional bag, book it in advance.

Unless you are moving to Germany with your entire family, we would advise against a relocation service and paying for expensive air freight. You will have less hassle by just traveling with a bag or two.

If you have a lot of luggage and want to know your options for getting from the airport to your final location, you should watch our video below.

6. Find a place to live in Germany

You can make your arrival in Germany so much easier by having found a place to stay beforehand. And with a place to stay, I do not mean a hostel, hotel, or Airbnb, but a real apartment.

Don’t worry, though; this does not mean your first apartment will be your permanent one. I recommend you first search for a short-term apartment to stay in for just a few months.

This will allow you to register after your arrival (more below) and scout your new home to find out which neighborhood you want to settle in for good. After a few months, you can then start looking for a long-term apartment.

Here are some resources to help you out:

7. Get an appointment to register (Anmeldung)

Registering is the most important thing to do when moving to Germany. Most cities require you to do so within the first two weeks.

In Germany, the registration process is called Anmeldung. This means that you present yourself to a government office and register your address. This will let them know that there is a new resident in the hood.

The Anmeldung takes roughly 15 minutes. After the process is completed, you will receive a very important piece of paper (Meldebescheinigung). This paper is necessary to get your residence permit. It will also help you get some German services like a bank account or an internet contract for your flat.

Once you have your arrival date, we recommend you book your appointment online before you land. You can simply Google “Anmeldung + your city” to find the responsible immigration office (Bürgeramt or Bürgerbüro in German).

8. Look into which bank you want to use

To save time after your arrival, do some research in advance on which bank you want to use once in Germany.

Your employer will require you to have a German bank account to pay your salary. So this is a crucial thing to do!

The majority of banks will require you to show your Anmeldung (city registration) and sometimes even your residence permit to be able to open your bank account.

Many internationals choose to open a bank account with the financial service called Wise. Here are two benefits of opening a bank account with Wise:

  • You will automatically have different currencies, such as USD, EUR, or GBP.
  • You can transfer funds cheaply from your home country’s bank account to your European bank account.

Once you have your Anmeldung, then you can consider using the services of a traditional private German bank like Commerzbank.

9. Start learning the basics of German

You do not need to speak German in order to move, live, and work in Germany. However, you will integrate faster and understand the German culture a bit better if you speak German.

The German language is tough! If you are new in this beautiful country, don’t pressure yourself to speak fluently during your first months!

We recommend you learn some basic German words and sayings before moving to Germany. In our experience, Germans don’t mind speaking English as long as you have shown some effort to speak German beforehand.

Nowadays, there are a lot of resources to learn the basics of German. However, one of the best ways is by actively using the language and getting direct feedback from a professional teacher. Lingoda is our favorite online language school, with small classes and great flexibility.

The basic German phrases we would recommend for you to learn are:

  • Guten Tag: Good day
  • Sprechen Sie Englisch?: Do you speak English?
  • Ich verstehe kein Deutsch: I don’t understand German
  • Schönen Tag noch: Have a good day
  • Tschüß!: Bye!
  • Bitte: Please and you are welcome. Yup, it’s the same word for both
  • Danke: Thank you
  • Können Sie mir bitte helfen?: Could you please help me?
  • Prost!: Cheers!

Bonus: Get your pet ready to travel (if applicable)

You may have a furry friend who you would like to take to Germany with you. Depending on whether you own a dog or cat, there are certain rules you need to follow. We have dedicated an entire section to helping you move with your pets.

11 things to do in your first two weeks after moving to Germany

Although you might feel tempted to go to a beer garden and enjoy the beautiful things Germany has to offer after your arrival, there are a few bureaucratic things you will need to take care of for a smooth start to your new life. Ideally, follow the order of the list below, as many things build upon each other.

1. Mandatory registration with the local German authorities

If you have followed the advice of number 7 above, you have already made your appointment online to register at the local city office right after moving to Germany.

Remember, this is one of, if not the most important steps you need to take. Without the piece of paper this office gives to you, you will not be able to get most other German services (like opening a bank account, getting a residence permit, etc).

The documents you will need to take with you for the Anmeldung are your passport and the Anmeldung form. Additionally, you will also need a special slip signed by your landlord, proving that you actually live there. This is why you should not stay in an Airbnb or hostel.

Also, only after registering will you receive your tax ID via postal mail, which you should give to your employer. This will make sure that you pay the correct taxes. Without it, you might overpay on taxes and only get it back at the end of the year through your tax declaration.

The registration itself is relatively easy; however, if you do not speak any German, I recommend taking someone with you who does (a colleague or friend).

2. Change your temporary visa to a German Residence Permit

I also recommend that you take a German speaker with you to change your visa into your residence permit.

You need to make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde, the office for foreigners. Although this authority exclusively works with foreigners, they only speak German 🙄.

Usually, your residence permit will be valid for two years. You will have to renew it twice before you can receive a permanent residence permit.

3. Sign up for German health insurance

Germany is known worldwide for its comprehensive healthcare system.

If you are moving to Germany with expat health insurance you should change and sign up for long-term health insurance, as soon as you start your job or your studies. To understand the German healthcare system and to know whether public or private health insurance is right for you, you can read our guide below.

4. Solve banking matters

If you haven’t already opened your German bank account with Wise or N26, you can do so now. Remember that if you are from a Non-EU country, you will need to have completed your Anmeldung, before you are able to open a German bank account. For banking options beyond N26, read our guide below.

5. Get some essential insurances

On top of your health insurance, you should consider a few other insurances after moving to Germany. You might have heard before that Germany is the land of insurance.

The two insurances I truly believe are essential are:

Personal Liability Insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

In Germany, everyone is legally responsible for covering the damages they cause to someone else and their property. Over 80% of Germans have this insurance.

You can get a really good policy from an English-speaking insurance provider in about 5 minutes. Policies are not expensive. Starting at 5 euros per month, you get peace of mind.

To choose the best insurance policy for you, read our guide on Best Liability Insurance in Germany.

Home Contents Insurance (Hausratversicherung)

This insurance is worth it if you have more than just a few clothes in your flat. It protects the value of your belongings against theft, vandalism, water, fire, and storm damage.

Some home contents insurances also include bicycle insurance, which I absolutely recommend, should you plan on having a proper bike.

For more details, read our guide on Best Home Contents Insurance in Germany.

Word of Advice

In case you are traveling with your dog, be sure to also get liability and health insurance for your pet.

I have written an entire article that goes into more detail about which insurance is necessary and which insurance is nice to have.

6. Get settled at your new German home

Find A German Internet Provider

You should look into hooking your new home up with an internet contract. Keep in mind that it could take between one to four weeks to get your internet connection installed!

The two big internet service providers are Telekom and Vodafone; however, you can find many other providers who use their lines and cables for a lower price.

Find An Electricity Provider

Most rental contracts do not have electricity included, and you need to register with an energy supplier yourself. Each city has a local provider; however, with a little bit of research, you will be able to find more affordable or green energy providers online.

Get A German Mobile Number

You can choose between two different plans:

  • mobile contract: It usually ties you up for 24 months. You have the option to purchase a new phone through installments as part of your contract.
  • prepaid sim only plan: It offers a lot more flexibility and you can cancel anytime. These plans usually don’t have the option to pay for a brand-new phone in installments.

7. Determine your means of transportation

After you have gotten acquainted a little bit with your new surroundings and checked out your commute to work, it is time to decide your primary means of transportation: bicycle, public transit, or a car.

Most German cities have designated cycling lanes, allowing the bicycle to be a great way to get around. You can either buy a used bike at a flea market or a new bike from one of the many bike stores in your city.

Public transportation is big in Germany. You will find a wide network of buses, subways, and trains. If you plan to use public transit daily, I recommend getting a monthly pass rather than paying for each ride individually.

Despite the great public transportation network, cars are very popular in Germany. Depending on where you live and how long your commute is, you might need to opt for a vehicle. If you need to use a car every once in a while, I recommend signing up for a car-sharing platform like ShareNow or renting a car for the weekends when you need it.

8. Get to know your neighbors and neighborhood

Now that you have finished all the bureaucratic paperwork, it is time to embrace your new home and its culture.

If you are brave enough, I encourage you to ring your neighbors’ doorbell and introduce yourself. It might sound somewhat traditional, but it’s a thing most Germans do and appreciate. You might get lucky, and your neighbors turn into your first friends.

Make sure you take the time to stroll around your neighborhood to discover its little shops and cafes, the closest supermarket, your new favorite pizzeria and gelateria, the nearest park and bar, and whatever else you fancy.

9. Take an integration or German language course

An integration course is a mix of a language and culture course offered by the German government to immigrants who don’t speak adequate German. Depending on your nationality, level of German, and work status, you might have to take an integration course.

Ultimately, your case worker at the immigration office will decide whether you need to attend an immigration course or not when applying for your residence permit. But even if you are not obliged to, you can still apply to get admitted to an official integration course, as it is a heavily government-subsidized course for which you only pay 2,20 euros per teaching unit.

If an integration course is not suited for you, consider enrolling in a language course. Many Germans speak English; however, especially in the simplest of situations, German will get you further. Also, what fun is it to live in and discover a new country without understanding its people and culture? Improving your German step by step will help you integrate better tremendously.

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10. Get to know the Germans

I like to describe Germans as coconuts 🥥.

They are very hard and serious on the outside. It takes a long time, persistence, and hard work to break through the shell. But once you reach the soft inside, you have found a friend for life. Germans prefer genuine and honest people. Exaggeration and fluff and too much small talk will not get you many German friends.

Your best bet at meeting Germans is through clubs and sports (Verein). Depending on the region you live in, you will encounter Germans who chat you up at a bar or restaurant. This encounter is more likely in the Rheinland around the cities of Bonn, Cologne, and Düsseldorf. Meanwhile, in the north and south, Germans are usually less chatty and a bit stiffer.

11. Enjoy the benefits of life in Germany

Wow, you have made it this far! Congratulations! It is time for you to start enjoying the benefits of life in Germany. Did anyone say 20-30 paid vacation days per year? Paid sick days? Unpaid doctor visits? Paid parental leave? Well, this is your new home and a healthy work-life balance comes with it!

Here are some of the perks you will have while living in Germany:

  • A minimum of 20 paid vacation days a year. Some companies even offer 30 or more!
  • You will be able to enjoy ten or more public holidays!
  • If you are ever sick, you will be able to stay at home and recover while still being paid.
  • If you have kids, and they are sick, you have a different allowance of sick days that you can also use to take care of your kids.
  • Parental leave allows parents to take care of their kids for up to 3 years.
  • Depending on your industry, extra hours might be paid out or exchanged for more vacation days.
  • You are allowed to drink alcohol in public. So don’t be surprised if you see a group of friends having a BBQ and some drinks publicly at a park.
  • You can easily travel to other countries. From Düsseldorf, where we currently live, it is a 30-minute drive to the Netherlands and Belgium. It’s a two-hour drive to Luxembourg, a three-hour drive to France, and a four-hour drive to Switzerland! Weekend trip, anyone? 🏔
two girls hiking in the swiss alps
Yvonne and I hiking in the Swiss Alps on a weekend trip

Final thoughts

How to move to Germany should be clearer now. The remaining question is, will you take those steps and make it happen?

Moving to Germany might seem like a long and complicated process at first. But trust me, these processes work! So don’t be intimidated; you will get through it.

On the other side of all the steps you need to take to settle into this great country, you will find the freedom to enjoy one of the countries with a super high quality of life.

If you’re curious on my journey and how I got here, you can watch our video below:

Do you need more convincing? We put together 38 Pros and Cons of Living in Germany. And yes, the Pros outweigh the Cons!

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About the Author

Jen Palacios is a researcher and writer at Simple Germany specializing in aiding international skilled workers to navigate the complexities of German life.

Jen brings a unique immigrant perspective to her writing. Beyond her professional pursuits, Jen is an avid learner with interests ranging from woodworking to web development.

She is committed to writing guides and producing YouTube videos for Simple Germany that provide practical guidance for internationals aiming to settle into life in Germany more smoothly.