Six stress-busting steps for moving to Germany

With its many vibrant cities and leading international status, there’s never been a better time to move to Germany.

Six stress-busting steps for moving to Germany
Photo: Getty Images: View over the Rhine Tower Düsseldorf

Take Düsseldorf, for instance, located on the beautiful banks of the Rhine, and the neighbouring County of Mettmann. The city and wider region are experiencing a boom and are among Europe’s most exciting centres of telecommunications, fashion and business consultancy. The region is also a huge centre of research, boasting more than 22 universities and research institutions, located within the city of Düsseldorf and throughout the surrounding area. 

However, moving to a new country always comes with significant challenges – and in 2020 there are more than usual. Fortunately, one of the many things Germany does well is helping new arrivals to quickly settle in. Here, The Local presents a guide to six key things to take into consideration when planning your move to Germany.

If you’re making the move to Düsseldorf or the County of Mettmann for work, you can get help in navigating each of these challenges from Expat Service Desk. This is an official institution run by the Office of Economic Development of the City of Düsseldorf and the County of Mettmann, as well as the Düsseldorf Chamber of Industry and Commerce. 

The Expat Service Desk provides advice and support, and their service takes the stress out of settling into the region, with free advice, seminars and activities for new arrivals.

1. Moving in the time of coronavirus  

We can’t avoid it: the Covid-19 pandemic is the most transformational event of the century so far. It has changed the way we travel, communicate and work. Even within the European Union, nations have implemented strict measures to halt the spread of the virus, such as quarantines for travellers. 

Germany is no exception. The government regularly updates a list of countries from which migration is currently restricted – unless those arriving come under the category of ‘skilled and highly qualified workers’. Your homeland appearing on this list can derail your move, wasting months of planning. In worst case scenarios, bureaucracy at both ends can delay your arrival in Germany by a number of months. 

If you're an international professional moving to work for a company in Düsseldorf or the County of Mettmann, help is at hand. As an official arm of the local government, Expat Service Desk can ensure you can start your move as soon – and as smoothly – as possible.

Are you a professional moving to Düsseldorf or the County of Mettmann? Find out how Expat Service Desk can help you

2. Sign on the dotted line – registration and insurance

Once you have a visa (if required), you'll need to do two things – register at your local citizen’s office (Bürgerbüro) and provide proof of insurance. Registering is a fairly painless procedure, all things considered, but you'll need documentation to prove that you're residing at your given address. 

Providing proof of insurance is also reasonably painless, but the wealth of providers and plans can be overwhelming. It’s important to ensure that the insurance plan you choose covers both you and your family for your specific health needs. 

Again, a guiding hand to give you advice on registering and obtaining the best insurance provider can save a lot of time and stress. 

Photo: Expat Service Desk (From left to right: Johannes Grünhage (Head of Expat Service Desk), Thomas Geisel (Mayor, State Capital Düsseldorf), Svitlana Bayer (Project Coordinator, Expat Service Desk), Thomas Hendele (County Administrator, Mettmann) and Gregor Berghausen (CEO, Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Düsseldorf)

3. Finding a place to live (and the right school for your kids)

The search for a suitable house or apartment can prove tricky, especially in big cities such as Düsseldorf, which is a top location for many industries from telecommunications to legal and business consultancy – as well as having a growing start-up scene.

Combine a shortage of housing in certain areas with a bewildering array of jargon (kalt? warm? WG? nebenkosten?) and the search for a place can be perhaps the most stressful part of a German move. Making sure you get good advice can save you a great deal of time, money and worry. 

If you’ve got kids, finding a suitable school in Germany for them can also be fraught with challenges. Finding the right school for your children is never easy. When faced with international schools, bilingual German state schools and alternative learning environments, it’s easy to become completely confused without help from a reliable source.

Expat Service Desk can support your company to strip away all the difficulties of settling down, so you (or your employee) can focus on getting on with your job.

Get help settling into Düsseldorf or the County of Mettmann with Expat Service Desk

4. Making friends 

Coming to a country where you don’t speak the language can make for a lonely experience. It’s easy to feel lost, and cultural differences can make the process of finding friends long and arduous. 

Basic German courses, and immersion activities in the local community can be helpful, but they can also be relatively hard to access, especially if you don’t know where to start and your preferred learning style. Again, having those around you who can evaluate and make the right introductions can not only make finding friends easier, but help you give others advice upon their arrival. 

Expat Service Desk, for example, organises seminars in English that provide you with information about all aspects of living and working in the region – and where you'll have the opportunity to meet fellow expats who can give you the lowdown on your new home. They also provide information about international associations and further help to get in touch with the local expat community.

5. Don't forget about fun!

To some, Germans have a reputation as overly serious, lacking a sense of humour and fun. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Germany as a nation is a riot of fun, festivals and free time activities. Nowhere is this more true than in Düsseldorf and the County of Mettmann.

Like history? You’re surrounded by it! Enjoy the great outdoors? The region has some of the most gorgeous environments in Europe. The County of Mettmann is also known for its green landscapes and classical German architecture, as well as including the Neander Valley, where the first identified Neanderthal bones were found in 1856.

County of Mettmann. Photo: Expat Service Desk

Are you a foodie? You’re going to eat like a king – along with an altbier! While half the fun of settling into a new country can be discovering what makes it tick, having people around you who can point out things that you'll enjoy is always a help. 

6. British? Get the latest on Brexit 

If you're British, there's unfortunately one more thing to think about. In terms of migration, however, things remain fairly stable – if you are resident in Germany before 31 December 2020, you'll have the right to permanently reside in the country.

You'll have to get a new residence document to confirm your rights under the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU (but the exact process for obtaining this is yet to be announced).

After 31 December, however, things get more complicated. To work within Germany, Britons will require the same kind of work visas that those outside the EEA do. While German bureaucracy is fairly efficient, it can still seem overly complex for outsiders.

Organisations such as Expat Service Desk – for those in Düsseldorf or the County of Mettmann only – can offer assistance in ensuring you make the right appointments, have the right paperwork, and receive documentation with the least stress. 

If you’re moving to Düsseldorf or the County of Mettmann, all these challenges can be avoided by using the Expat Service Desk to take the stress out of settling into the region. Click here to find out more now. 


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What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

Third-country nationals with the right to live and work in Germany are generally issued a residence permit in their passport or in the form of an ID card. But what do you if you happen to lose this vital document - or if it gets stolen? Here's a step-by-step guide.

What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

Losing an important document can be a nightmare scenario for foreigners in Germany – especially if it’s the one you rely on to live and work in the country. So if you search for your residence permit one day and suddenly realise it’s missing, you may feel the urge to panic. 

Luckily, there’s a process to follow to get a replacement and ensure nobody else can misuse your residence permit in the meantime. This being Germany, it may take a little time, but rest assured you will be able to replace the document. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Different types of permit

If you’re a non-EU national in Germany, you’re likely to have one of two documents proving your rights and status in the country: 

  • a residence permit that’s placed on a page in your passport (Zusatzblatt zum Aufenthaltstitel), or
  • an electronic ID, or eID, card (electronischer Aufenthaltstitel) for permanent residents. 

Some third-country nationals who’ve been in Germany for less than five years on a visa will have their residence permit in their passport, while others will have been issued an eID card. Permanent residents will generally have an eID card. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to prove you’re a resident in Germany

Brits who lived in Germany before the Brexit cut-off date are likely to have a special type of electronic ID card known as an Aufenthaltstitel-GB. This looks pretty similar to a permanent residence card and basically signifies that the holder is entitled to the same rights as EU citizens living in Germany. 

You’ll need to do things slightly differently depending on which type of residence permit you have, so we’ll cover each in turn. 

In either case, if you suspect you’ve been a victim of theft, it’s a good idea to file a police report so they can be on the lookout for any potential fraud. 

What to do you if you lose your electronic ID card

1. Call the cancellation hotline 

If you’ve mislaid your eID card or it’s been stolen, the first thing to do is call up a national hotline on 01801 33 33 33 and put a block on the card.

To do this, you’ll need to have your Sperrkennwort (blocking passport) handy. The way you’ll have received this can differ from state to state, but usually it is sent out in a letter along with the PIN and PUK for your electronic ID card around the time that the eID was issued. 

This will block anyone from using your eID function. If you find your card again, you can unblock it by visiting the Ausländerbehörde. 

If you haven’t activated the eID function or happen to have mislaid your blocking password as well, then move straight to the second step below. 

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s electronic ID card and how do you use it?

2. Get in touch with the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office)

Once you’ve put a block on your card, you’ll need to get in touch with the Ausländerbehörde to let them know what’s happened and arrange a replacement card.

You can do this via email or telephone but may also have to book an in-person appointment if they need to see certain documents for issuing the replacement. If you need to block the eID function and don’t have your Sperrkennwort, you’ll need to take your passport to the Ausländerbehörde to do this.

Bear in mind that you won’t get your new ID card straight away. Depending on the state, it can take a up to three months to be issued. You’ll also need to pay a fee for the replacement card, which can vary from state to state and is normally paid with cash or EC card at the Ausländerbehörde. 

Also, once an order for a new card has been sent off, you’ll no longer be able to reactivate your old card should you find it again. 

Ausländerbehörde Berlin

People go in and out of the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / Kay Nietfeld/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

What to do if you lose your passport and visa 

1. Order a new passport 

It probably goes without saying, but if you lose your passport with your residence permit in it, the first thing you’ll need to do is get hold of a new passport. This should be done via the government of your home country. 

2. Book an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde

Once you’ve got your new passport, make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde to get a replacement printed out. If you’re unsure what documentation to bring with you to the appointment, check on their website or send them an email beforehand.

Once again, you’ll need to pay a fee for the replacement, which is normally done on-site with cash or an EC card. 

What if I’m travelling out of the country soon? 

If you’re leaving Germany and don’t have time to get a replacement eID card or residence permit, contact the Ausländerbehörde straight away. They should be able to assist you with emergency proof of residence, which is normally done in the form of a Fiktionsbescheinigung (a certificate confirming your status and rights before the official proof has been issued).

Obviously, if you’ve lost your passport, your first port of call will be your home country’s embassy, who can normally issue emergency travel documents within a matter of days. 

For Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, bringing other proof of residence in Germany such as your registration (Anmeldung) with you or a work contract should suffice to avoid getting a stamp in your passport when you re-enter. But even if you do, it won’t affect your rights.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are no hard borders in Schengen, so if you’re travelling around the EU, you’ll generally be fine without your visa. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?