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Six things you need to get right when you first arrive in Germany

Moving to a different country is an exciting yet daunting process. Make sure you jump through all the right hoops in Germany by following these tips.

1. Get a visa if you need one

Photo: DPA

Citizens of the EU, the EEA and Switzerland

If you come from the EU, the European Economic Area (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway), or Switzerland, you do not need to have a visa to live and work in Germany.

You are not required to have a short stay visa for stays of under three months, and you do not need a residence permit for stays exceeding three months.

Citizens of third countries

If you come from a third country (a country outside the EU, EEA and Switzerland), you need to apply for a visa before you arrive in Germany.

But people from certain third countries are exempt from this step if they are staying for up to three months within a six-month period – like the United States, Canada and Australia. Check whether you are exempt here.

There are two main types of visa for citizens of third countries. The first is the short stay Schengen Visa which is issued to people intending to stay for less than three months. The second is the longer stay residence permit which is given to people who plan to stay for more than three months.

 

Both types should be applied for at your home country's German embassy before you come to Germany. The application fee is currently set at €60.

To obtain a short stay Schengen visa, you must meet all of the following four requirements. Firstly, the purpose of the trip must be “plausible and comprehensible”. Secondly, you must be able to finance your living and travel costs from your own income. Thirdly, you must be prepared to leave the Schengen area before the visa expires. Lastly, you must provide evidence of travel health insurance which is valid for the whole Schengen area and has a minimum coverage of €30,000.

To obtain a longer stay residence permit, you will need to show proof of your ability to finance your living. You must also fulfil one of the following six requirements: If you would like to get training in Germany, if you would like to work in Germany, if you are entitled to stay in Germany for humanitarian or political reasons, if you are immigrating to Germany for family reasons, if you are a foreign national or formerly German and would like to return to Germany, or if you have a permanent residence permit in another EU member state, you could be eligible for this type of visa.

It takes a few months to process the application for a longer stay residence permit, so make sure you apply early so that your permit arrives on time.

MUST READ: The easiest visas to get as an American in Germany

 

2. Find some accommodation

Photo: DPA

If you want to get a permit to stay long-term as someone from a third country, you'll need a place to live and you'll need to be registered at that address.

Sites like wg-gesucht.de, immobilienscout24.de, and immowelt.de are helpful for finding a WG (a shared flat) or a flat to yourself. 

If you would like to rent a flat which is already furnished, make sure you include the term “möbliert” in your search. 

When you send off applications for flats, you will generally need to provide a copy of your passport, proof of your salary (i.e. three payslips), and a maybe even letter from your previous landlord/landlady to confirm that you don’t owe any money to him/her.

Be prepared to send off something like 40 emails to different landlords and receive numerous rejections in response until you are successful.

Make sure you know what you’re paying for. “Kaltmiete” is the basic rent which does not include water, electricity, heating or rubbish collection, whereas “Warmmiete” is all-inclusive. There are often several “Nebenkosten” (additional costs). Also, you are normally required to pay a “Kaution” (deposit) to the value of two or three months’ worth of rent.

MUST READ: 6 things to know about renting in Germany

 

3. Register your residence (“Anmeldung”)

Photo: DPA

Within two weeks of arriving in Germany, everyone needs to register their residence here. This can be done at the registry office (the “Bürgeramt”, the “Einwohnermeldeamt”, or the “Kreisverwaltungsreferat” if you’re in Munich).

Busy offices will require you to make an appointment as they get booked up very quickly. If you drop in without making an appointment, be prepared to wait a while. At quieter offices, you may be able to just walk in and get an appointment there and then.

Make sure you take your ID, passport and rental contract with you. In Berlin, new regulations state that you will also need to provide a document from your landlord to confirm that you have moved in. This document needs to contain the name and address of the landlord, the date that you moved in, and your name.

At the registry office, you will be required to fill in a form and confirm your identity in person.

At the end of the registration process, you will be issued with a registration certificate (the “Anmeldebestätigung”). Keep this safe – you will need it as your proof of address when you open a bank account, for example.

4. Get an EU Blue Card if you're eligible

Photo: DPA

The EU Blue Card is a residence permit issued by an EU member state to professionals from non-EU/EEA countries which will provide better access to the job market in Germany.

There are two prerequisites to being issued with a card. Firstly, you need a university degree, and secondly you must show evidence of a binding job offer with a salary of at least €49,600 per year. (In the fields of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, medicine or engineering, your salary must be at least €38,888.)

The card is initially valid for up to four years, but this can be extended. After 33 months of working in Germany, holders of an EU Blue Card can be granted a permanent settlement permit.

5. Open a bank account

Photo: DPA

Two of the most basic account types are the “Girokonto” (basic current account) and the “Sparbuchkonto” (savings account).

To open a bank account, you will need to provide a form of ID (for example your passport) and also your registration certificate (the “Anmeldebestätigung”). You will be required to confirm your identity in person.

The most widely used German banks are Sparkasse, Kommerzbank, Deutsche Bank, Volksbank and Postbank.

Banks which only offer an online service and do not have physical branches are Deutsche Kreditbank (DKB) and Comdirect.

6. Set up your phone

Photo: DPA

Make sure you call your phone provider before you get to Germany to activate roaming and check the charges for using your phone here.

Using roaming can get pricey, so it may be cheaper to buy a prepaid SIM card once you get here. Vodafone, Lebara, T-Mobile, E-Plus and 02 are the some of the largest providers in Germany.

 

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IMMIGRATION

What you need to know about Germany’s points-based immigration plans

Germany wants to make it easier for non-EU citizens to enter the country to help combat the shortage of skilled workers with the so-called "opportunity card". Here’s what you need to know.

What you need to know about Germany's points-based immigration plans

As The Local has been reporting, Germany is currently facing a huge gap in its labour force, with the Labour Ministry predicting a shortfall of 240,000 skilled workers by 2026.

This week, Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil presented the initial details of a new points-based immigration system, which is designed to make it easier for people to come to Germany to work. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German industries ‘most affected’ by skilled worker shortage

The new Chancenkarte (“opportunity card”) presented by the SPD politician is broadly similar to the Canadian points system, and will offer foreign nationals the chance to come to Germany to look for work even without a job offer, as long as they fulfil at least three of the following criteria:

1) A university degree or professional qualification

2) Professional experience of at least three years

3) Language skill or previous residence in Germany

4) Aged under 35 

Holders of this opportunity card would then have one year to look for a job and would have to finance themselves during that period. 

According to the Labour Minister, the German government will set a yearly quota for the number of people who will be able to come to Germany with an opportunity card, based on the needs of the labour market.

“It is about qualified immigration, about a non-bureaucratic procedure,” Heil told WDR radio. “That is why it is important that those who have received the opportunity card can make a living when they are here.”

Speaking about the proposals, Professor Panu Poutvaara, Director of the ifo Center for International Institutional Comparisons and Migration Research told the Local: “I welcome the government proposal. Germany needs more workers at different skill levels. What is important is that this should complement the current opportunities to come to Germany also from outside the European Union with an existing job offer, not replace these. I assume that the proposal is meant only to extend the current options, but the precise proposal is not yet circulated.”

READ ALSO:

According to a survey by the Munich-based Ifo Institute, the vast majority of companies in Germany are currently struggling with the issue of a shortage of skilled workers. The survey showed that 87 percent are facing worker shortages and more than a third of respondents see it as a threat to competitiveness. 

“The shortage of qualified employees, and meanwhile of employees in general, is the third threat to Germany as a business location, alongside shortages of raw materials and energy,” Rainer Kirchdörfer, CEO of the Family Business Foundation told die Welt. 

Changes to immigration and citizenship laws ‘high priority’

The proposed measure is part of a package of reforms to immigration law which will be presented later in autumn.

The government also wants to make it easier for people to hold multiple nationalities and make naturalisation of foreigners easier. In future, naturalisation will be possible after five years instead of eight years currently, and as little as three years in cases where people are deemed to have integrated particularly well.

“We need more immigration,” Heil told Bild am Sonntag. “To this end, the traffic light will present a modern immigration law in autumn. We are introducing an opportunity card with a transparent points system so that people our country needs can come to us more easily.”

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: ‘Changing German citizenship laws is a priority’

A spokesperson from the Interior Ministry recently told The Local that the changes are a “high priority” but they could take time. 

They said: “The modernisation of citizenship law agreed in the coalition agreement of the governing parties is a high priority for the federal government. There are also plans to make dual and multiple citizenships generally possible.

“The careful preparation and implementation of this important reform project is underway, but will take some time because fundamental amendments to the Citizenship Act must be prepared for this purpose.”

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