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

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.

Brexit: Is it a good time to move to Germany?
A plane flying from Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

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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How roaming charges will hit travellers between the UK and EU in 2022

Trips between Europe and the UK and vice versa may well become more expensive for many travellers in 2022 as UK mobile operators bring back roaming charges. However there is some good news for all EU residents.

People look at their mobile phones.
How travellers between the EU and UK could be hit by roaming charges in 2022 (Photo by Daniel LEAL / AFP)

EU ‘roams like at home’ at least until 2032

First the good news. The European Union is set to decide to extend free roaming until 2032, so if you have your phone contract registered in an EU country you don’t have to worry about extra charges.

In addition to waiving the charges, the new regulation aims to ensure that travellers benefit of the same quality of service they have at home when travelling within the EU. If they have a 5G contract, for instance, they should also get 5G through the EU if possible. 

Under new rules, travellers should be given information about access to emergency services, including for people with disabilities.

Consumers should also be protected from prohibitive bills caused by inadvertent roaming on satellite networks when travelling on ferries or aeroplanes.

The final text of the new regulation was provisionally agreed in December. The European Parliament and Council will formally endorse it in the coming weeks.

UK companies reintroducing roaming charges this year

And now the bad news for travellers to the EU from the UK

Customers of UK mobile phone operators face higher fees when travelling in Europe this year, as some companies are bringing back roaming charges for calls, text messages and data downloaded during temporary stays in the EU.

This is one of the many consequences of the UK withdrawal from the European Union. Because of Brexit, the UK is no longer part of the EU’s “roam like at home” initiative which was designed to avoid shocking bills after holidays or business trips abroad.

The EU’s roaming regulation allows people travelling in the European Economic Area (EU countries plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein) to make calls, send texts and browse the web using their regular plans at no extra cost. Switzerland is not part of the scheme, although some mobile phone providers offer roaming deals or special prices to cover travel in Switzerland.

Under EU rules, if the plan’s allowance is exceeded, the roaming fee is also capped at €0.032 per minute of voice call, €0.01 per SMS and €2.5 + VAT per gigabyte downloaded in 2022 (it was €3 + VAT in 2021). The wholesale price networks can charge each other is capped too.

The regulation was adopted for an initial period of five years and is due to expire on June 30th 2022. But the EU is preparing to extend it for another ten years. This time, however, the UK will not be covered. 

Which UK companies are reintroducing charges?

Three major UK network operators this year will reintroduce roaming charges for travels in the EU.

As of January 6th 2022, Vodafone UK will charge customers with monthly plans started after August 11th 2021 £2 per day to roam in the EU. The amount can be reduced to £1 per day by purchasing a pass for 8 or 15 days. Free roaming continues for earlier contracts, Data Xtra plans and for travels to Ireland.  

From March 3rd 2022, EE will also charge £2 per day to roam in 47 European locations, Ireland excluded. The new policy will apply to plans started from July 7th 2021. Alternatively, EE offers the Roam Abroad Pass, which allows roaming abroad for a month for £10. 

Another operator that announced a £2 daily fee to roam in the EEA, except for Ireland, is Three UK. The charge will apply from May 23rd 2022 for plans started or upgraded since October 1st 2021. The data allowance in monthly plans that can be used abroad is also capped at 12 gigabytes. 

O2 already introduced in August last year a 25-gigabyte cap (or less if the plan’s allowance is lower) to data that can be downloaded for free while travelling in Europe. Above that, customers are charged £3.50 per gigabyte. 

Other mobile operators said they have no intention to bring back roaming charges in the short term, but if won’t be surprising if they do so in the future. 

Sue Davies, Head of Consumer Protection Policy at UK consumer organisation Which? was disappointed at the changes and urged the UK and EU to “strike a deal on roaming charges” to stop companies “chipping away at the roaming benefits customers have become used to” and “prevent the return of the excessive charges people used to encounter.” 

By law, charges for mobile data used abroad remain capped at £45 per month and consumers can only continue data roaming only if they actively chose to keep spending. 

What about EU residents travelling to the UK?

In the EU, most mobile phone operators seem keen to continue free roaming for travels to the UK, but some have announced changes too.

In Sweden, Telenor aligned UK’s prices to those of non-EEA countries on May 1st 2021 while still allowing free roaming for some plans. 

Another Swedish operator, Telia, ended free roaming with the UK and Gibraltar on September 13th 2021 giving customers the option to access 200 megabytes of data for SEK 99 per day. People travelling to the UK can also buy a weekly pass allowing to make calls, send texts and download 1 GB of data. 

In Germany Telefónica Deutschland and 1 & 1 have extended current conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. However companies may keep other options open depending on negotiations with roaming partners. 

A1 Telekom Austria brought roaming charges back for the UK last June. Customers now have to pay €2.49 per minute for outgoing calls and €1.49 per minute for incoming calls if they are in the UK or Gibraltar. An SMS costs 99 cents and each 100 KB of data €1.49. 

This article is published in cooperation with Europe Street News, a news outlet about citizens’ rights in the EU and the UK.