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MEMBERSHIP EXCLUSIVES

Everything that changes in October 2019 in Germany

Whether affecting parents, drivers or Brits in Germany, there is a lot changing as September becomes October on Tuesday.

Everything that changes in October 2019 in Germany
Photo: DPA

No more barriers (or hedges) for gardeners

Are you a hobby gardener, eager to trim your overgrown hedges? Starting on October 1st, you can safely bring out your shears again. In the period from March 1st to September 30th, German law forbids hacking away at hedges. The justification? The habitat of birds and other animals should be protected, and violators of this law will be slapped with large fines.

There's good news for hobby hedge trimmers in October. Photo: DPA

Driving change

On October 1st, the list of questions for driving tests will again be revised. Some old questions will disappear, whilst new ones will be added – meaning that 48 questions in total will be changed. Those prepping for the test should make sure that their practice software (Lernsoftware) is up-to-date – otherwise some questions might come as a surprise. 

READ ALSO: What you need to know about getting a German driving license

Removing the queue

Previously anyone who purchased a new car or motorcycle in Germany had to queue up at their local administrative offices. But starting October 1st, the registration process will take place online.

But, this being Germany, it's not as simple as just having an online connection. Car owners will need an ID card with a special PIN function or a smartphone with an “Ausweis App” for transmitting their data. The registration will then be sent to them by post after a few days. However, this only applies to vehicles registered for the first time after January 1st, 2015. 

Reduced lead content

For parents, it’s easy to get nervous when your child chews on something that is not edible – for example, a Lego piece. Within the EU, there have been concerns that these kinds of products contain too much lead, posing a danger to adults and particularly children. Responding to these concerns, the EU has decided to reduce the lead content from 160 to 23 milligrams on painted products like Lego. 

Better nursing home assessment

From October, the quality of nursing homes will be assessed by a special external audit. Auditors will examine key criteria such as nutrition, body and wound care, as well as how nursing homes maintain the mobility of their residents. 

The aim is to focus more on the actual care and support which residents receive. Nursing homes themselves are also slated to be better assessed, for example in terms of staffing and accessibility.

READ ALSO: Explained: How Germany plans to fight its drastic shortage of care workers

The results will be published on the websites of the health and nursing insurance funds, and posted in the facilities. With increased transparency, this information is aimed at helping residents better choose the right home. 

Photo: DPA

Higher rent subsidy

From October 1st, low-income households in Berlin can look forward to a higher rent subsidy (Mietzuschuss). However, the exact amount will be decided on this month by the Berlin Senate.

Better protection on eBay

Starting next month, online marketplace eBay will put in place additional measures to protect sellers, in particular those using the eBay Plus service. In future, sellers will be able to retain 50 percent of the refund costs if the goods were damaged during return or if the buyer has already used them.

However, buyers also benefit from the changes. In future, retailers will have to specify certain article characteristics for the articles they offer. 

Times are a’changin’

Eager for an extra hour of sleep on the weekend? That’ll be granted on Sunday, October 27th, as clocks are turned back from 3 am to 2 am, officially inaugurating shorter winter days. Daylight Savings Time has proved a contentious topic in Germany and the EU, and the practice of winding back – and forward – the clock will officially stop in 2021.

READ ALSO: Daylight savings abolition one step closer after EU parliament vote

Daylight Savings Time in the EU will be a thing of the past come 2021. Photo: DPA

Brexit showdown

After many date push-backs, it looks like this could be the last: Brexit is now scheduled to occur at midnight European time (11pm UK time) on October 31st. But whether Britain will leave the EU in a no-deal scenario – affecting the more than 117,000 Brits living in Germany – remains unclear. Follow our Brexit coverage for continual updates on what Britons in Germany need to know.

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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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