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EXPLAINED: How can pensioners from abroad retire in Germany?

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EXPLAINED: How can pensioners from abroad retire in Germany?
Retirement in Germany is typically possible if applicants for the appropriate residence permit can demonstrate a basic level - A1 German. (Photo by AMA GENUSS REGION /

Although Spain or Italy might have beaches and sun, Germany has plenty to offer someone looking for a place to spend their golden years. The high standard of living in Germany is a big pull for expats looking to find a spot for retirement, as well as high-quality healthcare. But you'll need to contend with some bureaucracy.


For EU nationals, retiring in Germany is fairly straightforward. You just need to register as a resident and complete some other paperwork, but you won't need a visa or residence permit.

The process is even relatively simple for non-EU nationals - as there is a way for you to get a visa to retire there.

Getting a German visa and residence permit for retirement

If you’re from a non-EU country such as the UK, USA, or Canada you can travel to Germany for up to three months without a visa and apply for your residence permit within three months of arriving in Germany. If you are from a country that doesn't have visa-free travel with the EU, you will need to apply for a visa first and then your residence permit when you get to Germany.

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.

Retirees need to apply for a general resident’s permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) under which it will be possible to select retirement as a category. 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

The small town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber in northern Bavaria, Germany. Picturesque locales and the Alps are particularly popular with retirees in Germany. Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash

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 permit.

You'll need to renew this permit regularly. However, after five years of continuous residence in Germany, you can apply for permanent residence. Citizenship is also an option after eight years - and a planned draft law will reduce this to five years.

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

You'll also need to prove that you have German skills at the A1 level. Luckily, this is the most basic level.

COMPARED: How to get a visa to settle in either Germany or Austria for retirement 


Proving financial means

Financial statements should be enough for this and you can apply to have your international pension paid out to you in Germany. If you've worked in other EU countries - or in ones that have a social security agreement with Germany - this process will be a bit easier.

Unlike some countries though, particularly Austria, Germany doesn't explicitly spell out how much money you need to be able to pull in a month to qualify to retire here. This amount should certainly be above the German poverty line - which would be about €1200. Your local authority will make the decision as to whether you qualify too based on the cost of living locally, so they will have some discretion.

One thing to note is that in Germany, pensions are liable to tax. 

EXPLAINED: Do your pension contributions abroad count in Germany?


Ensuring Healthcare

For a visa, you can typically take out temporary insurance that will cover you when you first get to Germany, before then signing up to health insurance in Germany before applying for your residence permit when you get to the country.

If you have previously worked in Germany for at least five years, you could qualify for pensioner’s health insurance. You may also be able to qualify under public health insurance if you were previously working in an EU country. In this case, the insurance fund will calculate your contribution based on your available income.

Otherwise you’ll need to apply for one of the country’s many private health insurance plans.

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


Comments (2)

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John Kerr 2023/12/17 08:01
I think it's worth mentioning that UK pensioners can get an S1 Certificate which allows us to get all the benefits of the German public health insurance system. Costs will be recharged to the NHS. State Pension and most public worker private pensions will continue to be taxed in the UK under the Dual Taxation agreement with Germany. How, if anything, is an Aufenthaltstitel different from the Aufenthaltserlebnis mentioned above?
Richard Rosen 2023/12/15 18:17
My wife and I discovered during discussions with the Berlin Residence Permit Office that very few US health insurance plans, if any, meet German standards for being able to get a residence permit. And if one wants to get German health insurance the price is far higher than US medigap insurance plans. The price is roughly $10,000 per year for each person. And we were told that if one is over 75, no German health insurance policy at all is available for US citizens.

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