Even though Germany is a fantastic place to live and work, some expats may decide one day that it is time to leave Germany. Whether you move back home or to a new country, leaving Germany needs to be planned to avoid continuous bills and tax claims. This guide will provide you with a practical 11 step to-do list of things you should do in your last three months in Germany.
Your Leaving Germany To-Do List
Follow these 11 steps to leave Germany more smoothly.
1. Give Your Notices On Time
When you start planning to leave Germany, you pretty much need to undo all the steps you took to get to Germany in the first place. That means you should start handing in letters of notice (Kündigung) at least three months in advance (in most cases, but be sure to double-check the notice period in your contracts) to the following:
- Your employer: If you are an employee on an unlimited work contract, you need to hand in a printed and signed letter of resignation to your boss and/or HR. To learn how to resign in Germany professionally and respectfully make sure to read our guide on how to resign in Germany.
- The Finanzamt: If you are a freelancer or self-employed in Germany, you need to deregister your business with the Finanzamt and/or Gewerbeamt. You can google for a deregistration form on the website of your city. Together with a scan of your ID, you can send it to the responsible party via e-mail.
- Your university: If you are a student in Germany and decide to leave before finishing your studies, you should also deregister from your university.
- Your landlord: Standard German rental contracts have a three months notice period to allow the landlord enough time to find a new tenant. However, if your landlord allows you to suggest a next tenant, who could move in when you plan to move out, some landlords may accept a shorter notice period, provided they will accept the new tenant you suggested.
- You have to send the notice of termination to your landlord via postal mail. An e-mail, even with a signed letter as a pdf attachment, is not sufficient legally. It is also important that all listed persons in the rental contract must sign the termination notice. Only the date of receipt starts the notice period. To document the date of receipt, you can send the letter with receipt confirmation (Einschreiben Rückschein).
- This website offers a cancellation template for different types of terminations, which you can adapt. When using Chrome as a browser, right click and select ‘Translate to English’.
Related Guide: How To Send A Letter In Germany [A Postal Guide In English]
2. Cancel Contracts With Service Providers
Before leaving Germany, you should also cancel your contracts with various German service providers. The notice period will vary depending on your contracts. So it is best to sit down, review your different contracts and make a list. You may be able to cancel some service providers with the click of a button online, while others may require you to send a letter.
- Electricity: Be sure to take a picture of your electricity meter (Stromzähler) and submit the counter number when canceling your contract or on your move-out date so you won’t get overcharged on your last invoice.
- Home Internet & Mobile Phone Contract: If your internet or mobile phone contract is older than 24 months, you can cancel them with a one-month notice period online, thanks to new consumer laws. However, if your contract has not surpassed its minimum contract length of often 24 months, it will be much harder for you to cancel your contract early.
Mostly you need to provide proof that you are leaving the country. This could be the confirmation of your deregistration (see below), a one-way flight ticket, or similar.
Should you have a prepaid SIM card, you can cancel it by the end of a month or 4-week period.
- Insurances: Most likely, you have piled up some German insurance (liability, home contents, legal, etc.). If you have gotten insurance from digital providers like Getsafe, you can easily cancel them anytime online. Traditional German insurance companies usually have more extended notice periods and only accept cancellations via letter. Your health insurance may also require a letter and proof of leaving Germany to terminate your policy.
- Bank Account: Can you keep your German bank account when leaving Germany? Yes, you can. And you should certainly keep it at least a few months until after you have left Germany since you will still need it for some transactions after you leave (e.g., your last electricity bill, your deposit from your landlord, etc.).
If you want to wire money to your new bank account outside the eurozone, you can use Wise (former Transferwise) to save on regular bank fees.
- Gym and other memberships: If you have joined a gym, a Verein, or other social clubs, where you pay a membership fee, remember to cancel them on time. The chances are that you will need to do this old school via a written letter. If you have not reached the end of your contract and you can’t cancel flexibly, you will probably need to hand in your deregistration confirmation once you have it.
3. Deregister Your Kids From School, Kita Or Kindergeld (If Applicable)
Since Germany has compulsory school attendance for children between the age of six to fifteen, you need to deregister your kids (if you have any) and give the reason, like moving abroad, and the last day in school via a signed letter.
You can use the template on this page to create the letter. When using Chrome as a browser, you can select ‘Translate to English’ when doing a right-click. Also, don’t forget to ask the school for any transcripts that help you enroll your kid in your new home.
If you have a child that is going to a Kita, you will, of course, also need to deregister or cancel the contract. Each Kita has different notice periods, so please refer to your contract.
Most likely, you are also receiving Kindergeld from the German government. Therefore, it is super important that you inform them about your move. If you still receive a German child allowance while living abroad, you may be fined afterward. Here is the form to fill out about any changes regarding your right for Kindergeld. Send it to your local Familienkasse.
4. Deregister Your Address (Abmeldung)
The Anmeldung was one of the most important steps to take when moving to Germany to start being part of the system. Well, upon leaving Germany, you don’t want to remain in the system, so you will need to do the Abmeldung.
How To Deregister To Leave Germany?
The timeframe to deregister is relatively small. In most cities, you can only deregister seven days before you leave Germany and must do the Abmeldung latest two weeks after leaving Germany.
Depending on your city, you can send the deregistration form via e-mail or postal mail to your Bürgeramt. Some even offer an online service; however, we would recommend you do the deregistration in person, similar to when you registered. The most significant benefit of going in person is receiving the deregistration confirmation straight away.
As we have outlined in this guide before, the deregistration confirmation is an essential piece of paper to get out of contracts early, and most often or not, the processing time when you don’t go in person is up to four weeks. In this case, you will need to have a new address abroad already, to which the confirmation could be sent.
Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, some cities only allow written deregistrations via mail or e-mail at this time. Each city will state the specifics on its website.
Step 1: Get An Appointment At The Bürgeramt (if possible)
We list the individual citizens’ offices for the biggest cities in Germany. Each one is somewhat different. You should look out for words such as Wohnsitz Abmeldung, Meldeangelegenheiten, or Abmeldung einer Wohnung.
Not living in a big city? If we didn’t list your city above, you can select the registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) and enter your postal code on the Deutsche Post homepage.
💡 Good to know: Each person needs their own appointment. So if you are a non-married couple, be sure to book two appointments. Married families only need one appointment.
Step 2: Fill In The Deregistration Form
On the website of your Bürgeramt, you will also find the necessary form you need to fill out to deregister. Here are the forms for the biggest cities:
- Hamburg (+ English explanation)
- Stuttgart (in English, but you need to fill out the German form)
Next to the form you only need to provide your ID or passport. When sending it by mail, a color copy is enough.
Step 3: Go To Your Bürgeramt Appointment
Attend the appointment, present your completed deregistration form and passport, and receive the Abmeldebescheinigung (deregistration confirmation).
You can now send this confirmation to all the service providers who didn’t accept your cancellation without it.
What Happens If You Don’t Deregister In Germany?
By law, you are obliged to deregister when moving abroad for good. Should you fail to do so, whether intentional or not, you are committing a misdemeanor, which could result in a fine of up to 1.000 euros.
You remain a resident in Germany. This could lead to you still being asked to pay taxes. Some service providers, such as your health insurance, will keep charging you since you have to have health insurance in Germany by law. And they will not allow you to cancel your policy without providing proof of a new health insurance policy in Germany.
Even more serious is the fact that without deregistering, you will most likely overstay your visa or residence permit, which could result in real trouble, should you ever want to come back to Germany.
❗️ Important: So if you are leaving Germany in a rush and you don’t have time to follow all 11 steps, make sure to send your Abmeldung via postal mail even from abroad within two weeks after leaving Germany.
5. Deregister From Radio Tax (Rundfunkbeitrag)
Don’t forget to let the Beitragsservice know that you are no longer a German resident; otherwise, they will also keep on charging you for the TV license fee. You can deregister from the Rundfunkbeitrag via this online form.
6. Check the Possibility Of A German Pension Refund
If you have been working in Germany and contributed to the German pension fund, you may have the right to claim those contributions back. It highly depends on your nationality, your country’s treaty with Germany, and where you are moving next.
To find out whether you can apply for a German pension refund, check out our related guide.
Related Guide: German Pension Refund [Who Can Claim It & How]
7. Reclaim Your Driving License (If Applicable)
Should you have changed your foreign driving license for a German driving license, you may be able to reclaim your foreign license before leaving Germany. To find out whether your local Zulassungsbehörde kept your foreign license or sent it back to your home country, you should contact them directly.
8. Deregister & Sell Your Car (If Applicable)
If you bought your own car, you will either sell it or take it with you. Regardless of which option, you need to deregister it at the Straßenverkehrsamt, where you first registered it. You will need your Zulassungsbescheinigung 1 and your license plates.
To skip this step and sell your car hassle-free within 24 hours, you can use the platform wirkaufendeinauto.de. You only need to upload your car details to receive a professional quote with a final sale price. You can then book a hand-over appointment at one of their branches, and wirkaufendeinauto.de will take care of all the bureaucratic paperwork. Don’t forget to request a driving record from your car insurance, though. It may come in handy and save you lots of money in your new country of residence.
If you want to take your car with you, please inform yourself about the import rules of your new home country. Some moving companies, like AGS Movers also offer to move vehicles.
9. Get Your Mail Forwarded
Before you move out of your flat, it is super important that you enable mail forwarding with the Deutsche Post. With all the steps you have taken above, you will receive confirmation letters probably after having left Germany already. Also, if you want to keep your German bank account for some time, you need to be able to receive their letters (even online banks sometimes send letters for updated cards or similar).
You can set up a Nachsendeauftrag for 6 or 12 months with the Deutsche Post easily online.
10. Plan Your Moving-out
Before you move out of your German home for good, you need to take care of a few things.
Furniture: Take or Sell?
Think in advance, whether you will want to take furniture with you to your new home, sell it, or give it away.
If you would like to take furniture with you, reach out to moving companies for a quote:
If you want to sell or give away furniture in Germany, you can use these websites:
Renovate Your Apartment: Yes or No?
While living in Germany, you might have come across a story or two from another expat about the infamous apartment hand-over in Germany. German landlords are very picky about the state you leave your apartment in, and most often or not, you need to do some renovation work before moving out.
Here is a rule of thumb. The apartment should be in the same condition as when you moved in. Meaning if the apartment already had certain holes in the wall or scratches on the floor, you do not need to repair those.
However, if you paint a wall in a crazy color or drill holes, you need to close the holes and repaint the wall in a neutral light color.
Do A Hand-over With Your Landlord
Make an appointment with your landlord to hand over the empty apartment (Übergabeprotokoll). Document the hand-over in writing and pictures, so no claims can be made from either side upon moving out. When both parties agree that all is good, you can expect to get your deposit back within the next weeks (max. 3 to 6 months).
11. Do Your Tax Refund After Leaving Germany
Whether you will get your taxes back when moving out of Germany for good is one of the most commonly asked questions from an expat.
There is no straightforward leaving Germany tax refund that gets triggered automatically. Instead, you need to file your tax declaration at the beginning of the next calendar year after your move.
You can file and get your tax return from abroad. Consulting a certified tax advisor will probably get you the maximum return, as your move itself may also be declared.
To find an English-speaking tax consultant who fits your needs, you can use the online consultation platform yourXpert. The website will be in German; however, you can translate the page by using Chrome as a browser, then do a right-click and select ‘translate to English’. You can fill out the form and ask your question in English. yourXpert will forward your inquiry to English-speaking consultants only.yourXpert: Need tax advice in Germany?
What Happens To Your Residence Permit?
There is no need to return your residence permit after your deregistration. Your German residence permit will expire automatically after you have left Germany for more than six months. The EU Blue Card will expire twelve months after leaving Germany.
If you have lived in Germany for more than 15 years and you hold a permanent residence permit, it may also only expire after twelve months.
Leaving Germany With Unpaid Bills
Leaving Germany with unpaid bills is not a good idea at all. It can cause you financial, legal, and bureaucratic troubles, amongst others.
Private creditors, such as telecommunication companies or gyms, will usually (depending on the amount) hand your case to a debt collecting company, which will not give up that easily and follow you abroad. The fees of such companies will only increase your original unpaid debts.
Statutory creditors, such as health insurers, the Beitragsservice, or other city or state services, will continue to send you payment reminders and note your debt in your records.
To avoid any implications for a return to Germany or your life in your new home, make sure to pay your bills on time.
Leaving Germany in a rush is not a good idea; instead, you should dedicate some proper planning and action-taking. We hope that our actionable to-do list serves you as a great guide to saying goodbye to Germany.