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COVID-19

From visas to taxes: These German deadlines have been extended due to the coronavirus

We take a look at some of the key deadlines in Germany which have been extended (often by several months) due to the coronavirus.

From visas to taxes: These German deadlines have been extended due to the coronavirus
Photo: DPA

Germany is well known for being inflexible when it comes to the rules, but given the unprecedented circumstances created by the Covid-19 pandemic, some regulations have been bent slightly. Here is a breakdown of some of the extensions and exemptions which may apply to you. 

Taxes

Anyone who has their tax return processed by a wage tax assistance association (Lohnsteuerhilfeverein) or tax consultant now has a longer time: the tax offices are now retrospectively retrospectively an extension from February 29th to May 31st for 2018 taxes – without stating or checking reasons.
 
The regular deadline for submitting the 2018 income tax return would have been February 29th, 2020. 
 

Visas

If you have a valid German visa and were in the country before March 17th, 2020 or entered the country after this date and before April 9th, your visa can be extended until June 30th, 2020.

However, the exemption is not automatic: you must submit an online application to your local immigration authority. 

Visa-less visitors

If you are visiting Germany without a visa for a period of up to three months which is nearing an end, you should contact the relevant immigration office before this time period expires to legalise your extension.

As long as the application reaches the authority before the expiry date, your stay will be legal until the date given by the immigration office. It is advisable to carry a printed version of the application as well as the expired document and passport/ID card with you at all times.

For more information you can visit the government website here.

German visas, or Aufenthaltstitel. Photo: DPA

Driving

German driving licenses are valid for a period of 15 years and, clean record permitting, are then automatically extended. If yours is about to expire, you can contact your local transport authority who can issue you with a letter of extension.

All German cars are required to display their Prüfplakatte (inspection sticker) which shows when the next safety inspection is due. Usually, the vehicle can still be driven for up to two months after the inspection date without the owner incurring a fine. However, due to the closure of many Werkstätte (repair shops), this fine-free period has been extended to four months

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

For those who have committed a driving offence and been ordered to attend a Nachschulung (retraining) within a certain time frame. However, the Covid-19 crisis has resulted in these time frames being temporarily suspended.

Rent

Currently, a landlord can terminate the lease if no rent is paid for two consecutive months. However, due to the coronavirus crisis, terminations are now prohibited if a loss of income means that the tenant cannot pay their rent. 

This will initially apply to rent debts from the period between April 1st to June 20th, but the government is authorised to extend the measures until September 30th. 

However, the tenants' obligation to pay the rent will in principle remain in place, and it will only be deferred. The arrears must be settled after two years at the latest, i.e. by June 30th, 2022. Otherwise, the landlord is permitted to evict the tenant for their failure to pay.

Deferred loan repayments

All consumer loan agreements – whether for a new car, apartment or home – concluded before March 15th can be paused for a maximum of three months. This includes repayment, interest and principal payments due between April 1st and June 30th.

Welfare benefits

Starting in April, job centres around Germany will be waiving the assets and rent examination for the Hartz IV applications for half a year.

Hartz IV recipients also no longer have to go to their job centre in person, but can usually simply call. Applications for unemployment benefit can be made by phone or online.

Brexit admin

At this stage it looks like Brexit will be continuing on the previously agreed timetable of ending the transition period on December 31st (although the scenario of a UK government declaring that it definitely wouldn't delay and then delaying anyway has happened once or twice over the last three years) so British people living in Germany may have some extra admin to do over the coming months.

 

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COVID-19

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Since the start of Germany’s Oktoberfest, the incidence of Covid infections in Munich has risen sharply. Though a connection with the festival can’t yet be proven, it seems likely.

Munich sees sharp rise in Covid cases after Oktoberfest

Two weeks after the start of Oktoberfest, the Covid numbers in Munich have more than tripled.

On Sunday, the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) reported an incidence of 768.7 for the city of Munich, though updated figures for the end of the festival are not expected until later in the week. Usually, on weekends and public holidays, there is a delay in reports.

In the entire state of Bavaria, the incidence value on Sunday was 692.5.

According to Munich’s public health officer, Beatrix Zurek, bed occupancy in Munich hospitals has also increased. Two weeks ago, 200 beds in Munich were occupied by Covid patients, whereas there are now around 350.

Though a relationship between the sharp rise in infections with Oktoberfest, which ended on Monday, can’t be proven at the moment, it seems very likely, according to experts. A significant increase in Covid incidences has also been shown at other public festivals – about one and a half weeks after the start. 

READ ALSO: Germany’s famed Oktoberfest opens after two-year pandemic hiatus

After a two-year break due to the pandemic, around 5.7 million visitors came to this year’s Wiesn according to the festival management – around 600,000 fewer than at the last Oktoberfest before the pandemic in 2019, when there were 6.3 million.

Federal Health Minister Karl Lauterbach (SPD) took to Twitter to comment on the rise in incidence in Munich during the Oktoberfest. “This would not have been necessary if self-tests had been taken before admission,” he said.

“Compared to the price of a measure of beer, €2-3 (for tests) wouldn’t have mattered,” he said.

Even before the start of the Wiesn, he had spoken out in favour of people taking voluntary self-tests. Lauterbach stressed that now is the time for special measures against Covid.

“The development shows what will happen if the states wait too long with the mask obligation in indoor areas,” he added.

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: Germany’s new Covid-19 rules from October

In neighbouring counties, where many Oktoberfest visitors came from, the number of Covid cases has also risen noticeably.  Beatrix Zurek said that it is unclear, however, how much of a role Oktoberfest played in these figures, as people are currently much more active socially overall, with concerts and other events also taking place throughout the state.

Christoph Spinner, an infections specialist at Munich’s Klinikum, has urged people not to be alarmed by the rising numbers.

“We had expected rising incidences here. We knew that there could be a doubling, tripling, even quadrupling,” he said.

He said that this is no cause for concern, as many people have been vaccinated or have also recovered from previous Covid infections, so any new infections are therefore usually mild.

The virologist advises people over 60 or with pre-existing conditions to get a second booster vaccination, but otherwise said people shouldn’t be alarmed by the rising incidences.

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