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MEMBERSHIP EXCLUSIVES

Everything that changes in March 2020 in Germany

From new vaccine requirements to less stringent regulations for foreign workers, there are a lot of changes coming to Germany as February becomes March on Sunday.

Everything that changes in March 2020 in Germany
Photo: DPA

Good news for non-EU workers

A new law (or ‘Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz’ in German) is intended to make it easier for skilled workers from non-EU countries to work in Germany from March 1st. Visa procedures are to be accelerated and foreigners are to have more – and better – opportunities to learn Deutsch. 

READ ALSO: How Germany is set to make it easier for non-EU workers to enter the labour market

Previous restrictions on professions with major staffing problems no longer exist – nor does the so-called priority check, which examined whether Germans or other EU citizens were also eligible for a job before giving it to a non-EU applicant.

Anyone who can speak German and is sufficiently qualified is allowed to stay in the country for up to six months to look for a job. The German government estimates that the new rules will bring an additional 25,000 skilled workers to the Bundesrepublik each year.

Archive photo shows a skilled worker in Bremen. Photo: DPA

This change carries extra baggage

German airline Eurowings is altering the rules for hand baggage. Starting on Sunday, March 1st, the airline's basic tariff will only include one piece of hand luggage measuring 55x40x23 centimetres free of charge. 

The second luggage item can be purchased for an additional fee. From March onwards, only the online check-in will be free of charge for the so-called Basic Fare; additional fees will be charged at the counter.

Sigh of relief for patients

Patients in Germany who fill regular prescriptions previously had to visit their doctors every time they wanted a renewal. But starting in March doctors will be able to issue repeat prescriptions. Patients can redeem this prescription up to three times within one year from the date of issue.

Compulsory measles vaccination

Starting on March 1st, a compulsory measles vaccination in schools and kindergartens will be enforced.

READ ALSO: Germany makes measles vaccination compulsory for children

Parents must prove their children have been vaccinated against measles before admittance. If the children are already in school or kindergarten, the proof must be submitted by July 31st, 2021. Fines of up to €2,500 may be imposed for violations.

Photo: DPA

Employees of the affected institutions are also subject to the compulsory vaccination. The new law came into being after Germany reported hundreds of measles cases over the last few years.

Increased health insurance benefit to victims of sexual violence

In future, victims of sexual violence or abuse will no longer have to pay for the securing of evidence themselves. As of March 1st, health insurance companies will cover the costs in order to improve the prosecution of perpetrators. 

Move to move doctors to the countryside

In the fight against the lack of doctors, the so-called “Landarztprämie” (country doctor premium) was introduced in Saxony-Anhalt. 

Starting in March, scholarships sponsored by the Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians will be used to attract more physicians to a location in the countryside. 

Banned beauty ads

Advertising for cosmetic surgery aimed primarily at young people will be banned from March 1st. Until now, such advertising was only prohibited if it applied to a target group under 14 years of age, but not for older teenagers and young adults. 

Online advertising on social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram is also affected by the new regulation. Surgeries with medical necessity, however, are exempt from the legislation.

Bavaria votes 

Municipal elections will be held in Bavaria on March 15th. Local parliaments will be elected – that is, town and district councils. In addition, there are elections for mayors in 24 independent cities such as Munich and Nuremberg, as well as elections for district administrators in 64 districts.

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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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