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MEMBERSHIP EXCLUSIVES

Everything that changes in September 2019 in Germany

From better banking to increased costs on daily services, a lot is changing as August becomes September on Sunday.

Everything that changes in September 2019 in Germany
Photo: DPA

More money in the bag

Starting September 1st, customers in the fruit and vegetable department at discount supermarket Aldi will have to pay for the thin plastic bags typically used to gather fruits, forking out over one cent per bag.

The popular chain is responding to criticism that too much plastic waste is produced through the food retail industry.

Environmentalists believe, however, that the small amount hardly acts as a deterrent to using the bags, and are demanding that higher prices be levied.

Photo: DPA

Better banking

The new European Payment Services Directive (PSD2), going into effect in September, is intended to better regulate payment services and payment service providers.

For consumers, the new EU directive changes three core things. In future, they will have to log on to their online banking system using what is known as two-factor authentication – meaning just one password will no longer suffice.

In addition, they’ll need to give further proof of identity. Depending on the bank, this can be either be through a PIN, a fingerprint or authentication using a smartphone, or a TAN list (a unique set of numerical passwords for each transaction).

But these TAN lists will no longer be printed on paper or generation by SMS starting September 14th, with many banks opting for TAN lists generated only by an app instead.

Let's talk business

DHL, Deutsche Post's parcel service, is increasing its list prices for business customers effective September 1st. As DHL explains in a press release, a toll surcharge of ten cents per parcel will be charged in future.

The price increase is the company's reaction to “a general increase in transport and personnel costs,” the press release states.

Less money for asylum seekers

Starting September 1st, single adult asylum seekers will receive less money through the amended Asylum Seekers Benefits Act (AsylbLG).

Those living in state accommodation will receive €310 in cash per month, as electricity and housing maintenance will be paid for separately.

For single people who do not live in collective accommodation, the amount will fall by €10 euros to €344 per month. For six to 13-year-olds, on the other hand, the benefit will increase by €26.

For refugees who do volunteer work, the federal government is also introducing a tax-free allowance of €200.

Mithilfe for midwives

Freelance midwives in Bavaria can apply for financial support starting September 1st, and even receive the so-called settlement premium of €5,000 if they move to the southern state after this date.

Permanently employed midwives who, in addition to their permanent position, also work freelance in obstetrics are also entitled to apply. 

“The premium is intended to make it easier for freelance midwives to enter or re-enter this important profession,” says Bavarian Health Minister Melanie Huml (CSU).

Kita boost

Children play at a Kita in Wandlitz, Brandenburg. Photo: DPA

Parents rejoice: Starting in September, there will be no more costs for a kita spot for children aged 3 to 6 – regardless of the parent's income and the time spent looking after them. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How each German state plans to improve childcare and lower Kita costs for families

For a crèche place (for children up to three years old), fees will only apply when parents have a household income of more than €50,000.

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For members

RETIREMENT

Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?

Unlike in EU countries such as Portugal or Spain, Germany does not have a visa specifically for pensioners. Yet applying to live in the Bundesrepublik post-retirement is not difficult if you follow these steps.

Reader question: Can I get a retirement visa for Germany?
Two pensioners enjoying a quiet moment in Dresden in August 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-Zentralbild | Sebastian Kahnert

Due to its quality of life, financial security and health care, Germany snagged the number 10 spot in the 2020 Global Retirement Index. So just how easy is it to plant roots in Deutschland after your retirement?

Applying for a residency permit

As with any non-EU or European Economic Area (EEA) national looking to stay in Germany for longer than a 90-day period, retirees will need to apply for a general resident’s permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) under which it will be possible to select retirement as a category. 

READ ALSO: How does Germany’s pension system measure up worldwide?

This is the same permit for those looking to work and study in Germany – but if you would like to do either after receiving a residency permit, you will need to explicitly change the category of the visa.

Applicants from certain third countries (such as the US, UK, Australia, South Africa, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Canada, and New Zealand) can first come to Germany on a normal tourist visa, and then apply for a residency permit when in the country. 

However, for anyone looking to spend their later years in Germany, it’s still advisable to apply at their home country’s consulate at least three months in advance to avoid any problems while in Germany.

Retirement visas still aren’t as common as employment visas, for example, so there could be a longer processing time. 

What do you need to retire in Germany?

To apply for a retirement visa, you’ll need proof of sufficient savings (through pensions, savings and investments) as well as a valid German health insurance. 

If you have previously worked in Germany for at least five years, you could qualify for Pensioner’s Health Insurance. Otherwise you’ll need to apply for one of the country’s many private health insurance plans. 

Take note, though, that not all are automatically accepted by the Ausländerbehörde (foreigners office), so this is something you’ll need to inquire about before purchasing a plan. 

READ ALSO: The perks of private health insurance for expats in Germany

The decision is still at the discretion of German authorities, and your case could be made stronger for various reasons, such as if you’re joining a family member or are married to a German. Initially retirement visas are usually given out for a year, with the possibility of renewal. 

Once you’ve lived in Germany for at least five full years, you can apply for a permanent residency permit, or a Niederlassungserlaubnis. To receive this, you will have to show at least a basic knowledge of the German language and culture.

READ ALSO: How to secure permanent residency in Germany

Taxation as a pensioner

In the Bundesrepublik, pensions are still listed as taxable income, meaning that you could be paying a hefty amount on the pension from your home country. But this is likely to less in the coming years.

Tax is owed when a pensioner’s total income exceeds the basic tax-free allowance of €9,186 per year, or €764 per month. From 2020 the annual taxable income for pensioners will increase by one percent until 2040 when a full 100 percent of pensions will be taxable.

American retirees in Germany will also still have to file US income taxes, even if they don’t owe any taxes back in the States. 

In the last few years there has been a push around Germany to raise the pension age to 69, up from 65-67, in light of rising lifespans.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could people in Germany still be working until the age of 68?

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