Brexit: Is it a good time to move to Germany?

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
Brexit: Is it a good time to move to Germany?
A plane flying from Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

As Brexit day gets closer, many Britons are thinking about moving to Germany, or have recently arrived to start a new life. Here are some important things to consider.


Is now still a good time to move to Germany, despite (or maybe because of) Brexit?

Yes. As there is a labour shortage in Germany, experts see it as as good time to relocate there.

With the unemployment rate at around 3.3 percent, a record low since the country's 1990 reunification, companies in Germany have been long saying that a chronic shortage of workers is threatening growth.

So they are looking for people to fill vacancies. 

SEE ALSO: Prepare for Brexit: The ultimate checklist for Brits in Germany

SEE ALSO: Where in Germany do all the Brits live?

In the areas of mathematics, computing, natural sciences and technology, a record 338,200 jobs went unfilled in September last year, according to data from the Cologne-based German Economic Institute.

Germany is also currently in the process of easing immigration rules so that it can attract foreign skilled workers.

Business owner Rob Harrison of the group British in Germany, which is campaigning for the rights of citizens in Europe, told The Local he believed it was a “good” time for Britons to think about relocating to Germany.

“Anyone who has a degree or a qualification, such as a builder or plumber or anything else, will likely have no problem finding a job,” he said.

“I know of almost no British person who’s had difficulty getting a job, even with lack of language qualifications and poor German. There are baristas in Berlin who don’t speak a word of German.”

For more information, the German government has opened the information website which has details about how people can study or work in Deutschland. 

What about after March 29th?

Things remain up in the air until we know what's happening. Theresa May's deal, if it goes through, enables citizens to keep their current freedom of movement and other EU citizenship rights, until December 31st, 2020, when the Brexit transition period ends. 

If it's a no-deal scenario, things become more complicated. When it comes to work, it's likely there will be more bureaucracy. If there is no-deal in place on March 29th, there will probably be a three month transition period that could be extended to help deal with the changes. 

Harrison, who runs a business himself, said there is some concern for small to medium sized companies at the moment, as there has been no advice on if British people will need a permit to work directly after March 29th in the event of a no-deal.

“As an employer, we’ve heard nothing from the employment authorities about British citizens working for us,” he said.

“So technically as from the March 30th I can’t employ UK citizens. It may well be that the big companies like BMW or Siemens at least know about it (what they should do). But the small-medium sized companies have received no advice whatsoever.”

Photo: DPA

Is it easy to get a place to stay in Germany?

It depends on where you’re moving to. The cost of renting and buying apartments and houses is going up but it’s still possible, especially if you consider sharing. 

According to a report published Tuesday by the Central Real Estate Committee (ZIA), between 2005 and 2018, rents for new apartment in nine cities rose by more than 50 percent. Those cities were Munich, Berlin, Stuttgart, Würzburg, Augsburg, Nuremberg, Osnabrück and Heilbronn.

SEE ALSO: The complete guide to how you can (still) live cheaply in Berlin

At the lower end of the scale was mainly industrial cities in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) such as Mülheim, Solingen, Oberhausen and Wuppertal, as well as districts in the east, such as Chemnitz or Halle. In all these cities, the rent level is "lower than in 2005" in real terms, i.e. taking the inflation rate into account, according to the report.

On average Germany-wide, anyone who moved homes in autumn 2018 had to spend €7.06 per square metre per month for their new apartment – 3.9 percent more than in the previous year. These costs are 'cold' – before adding on bills etc.

I’m here in Germany. How do I get a residence permit?

First you must register at your local Einwohnermeldeamt (registration office) within 14 days of arrival.

In some places the Einwohnermeldeamt is known as the Kreisverwaltungsreferat (KVR), Bürgerbüro or Bürgeramt. When you change address in Germany you must de-register from your old address and register at your new one.

An overview of all Einwohnermeldeämter is available here

You can register multiple times in Germany (for example you must re-register when you move to a different address). The address you first register at does not have to be your permanent address, but it should be accommodation that you are allowed to reside in.

When you get your Anmeldung, file it in a safe place. 

SEE ALSO: What you need to know about Berlin's Brexit registering process

Then you must register for a permit. 

As Germany is a federal country, states differ on how they are implementing the residence permit process. Some states are already asking people to register and apply for a permit voluntarily before March 29th. Some states have issued letters asking residents to book an appointment with the immigration office, while others are asking British people to fill in a form online.

If you've not already done so, get in touch with your local authority. Find your relevant Foreigners Authority here. Note that you need a valid passport to be able to apply for a permit.

Harrison said: “There are different processes all over Germany. Get in touch with your local immigration office if you haven't received a letter or seen anything online."

Get your documents in order

You should make sure you have copies of all your qualifications for applying for a job in Germany, and check that they are recognized in Germany. You should also check your passport has six months validity.

“If you’ve got a professional qualification, get it recognized as quickly as possible," said Harrison. 

“If you’ve got something like a regulated profession, like if you're a doctor or a nurse for example, you will need to make certain your documents are at least filed before Brexit.”

SEE ALSO: Where in Germany rents are rising rapidly 

Through this website, you can check if your qualification is recognized or if you should take action.  You can also contact the governmental organization through the website if you have any questions.

“Apart from that the general approach is that British citizens will have little or no difficulty moving to Germany providing they’ve got an employable qualification and given Germany’s massive labour shortage,” said Harrison.

Can I rely on my EHIC healthcare card?

If the UK leaves the EU with no deal, your EHIC card will no longer be valid.

It’s important to note that it’s a legal requirement to have health insurance in Germany so no one can rely on their EHIC card fully when they move.

If you are resident in Germany, you must register with a Krankenkasse (health insurance provider) – through your employer or get in touch with healthcare providers if you're freelance – to access healthcare. German residents are either state insured (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) or privately insured (private Krankenversicherung).

As a British citizen you can register for Krankenkasse (public) insurance within three months of coming from the UK’s public healthcare system, the NHS. The Federal Ministry Labour and Social Affairs has detailed information about German social security, including health insurance.

When applying for health insurance it is helpful to have your documents in order, such as a photocopy of your passport and your Anmeldung (registration) certificate. File everything you get from German offices in a safe place -- you never know when you might need it. 

An EHIC card. Photo: DPA

I don't know any German. Can I still live in Germany?

You don't have to be fluent but it's good to know some basic German. That’s because with Brexit coming up, you will be required to spend more time reading correspondence and speaking to officials, such as during any future residence permit interviews.

And it's nice to know a few words so you can have conversations in German in your new home country. 

Perhaps head to a German class or get a tandem partner to practise German. If you've applied for German citizenship, note that the level required to be able to receive a German passport is B1. 

If you’re worried about filling in any forms or if you can’t understand letters then ask a German native who speaks English to help with translation. There are services, such as Red Tape Translation, that also provide this. 

This website provides information on Volkshockschulen (German adult education centres) throughout Germany. They provide language classes at reasonable prices.

How do I find other British nationals?

If you have just arrived in Germany or plan to get here soon, you should attend an open evening, such as the one being prepared by the British Embassy in Germany and the Berlin Senate on March 4th, or an Infoabend by British in Germany.

You could also think about joining the British in Germany group and visiting Facebook groups and chatting to other members. And, of course, keep up to date with The Local Germany as we cover all aspects of Brexit and share experiences from Brits living in Germany.

If you have recently arrived in Germany from the UK, or are planning a move soon, get in touch with us for an upcoming story. 


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