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Moving to Germany: The First Steps in Your New City

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Now that you have your new apartment waiting for you in your perfect German city, it’s time to prepare everything for your move. The first big question to tackle is what to bring with you. It can be hard to decide which belongings to bring to Germany with you; on the one hand you want to have things that remind you of home, but on the other hand it often makes sense to buy what you need once you arrive. When packing it's a good idea to start with the items you know you don’t want to live without, and from there pack until your bags are all full. If you want to bring bigger items, it also possible to ship your belongings to your new home.

German residence permit

With your upcoming move, you also need to secure a residence permit to stay in Germany. Depending on the type of visa/residence permit, you may be able to apply before you arrive in Germany, otherwise you can apply once you’re in your new city. Depending on what reason you are moving to Germany, there are different types of visas available. If you are moving to Germany for a new job, then your company will likely support you in obtaining the proper vias and your residence permit upon arrival. If you are coming to Germany to find a job, then the Job Seeker Visa would be for you. This visa allows you to come to Germany for 6 months while searching for a new job. Once you find a job, then you would apply for the residency permit. Furthermore, if you are coming to Germany as a student, then depending on what country you are coming from, you may need to apply for a short-stay (90 day) visa to enter Germany. However, if you are coming from some countries, like the U.S., Australia or Canada, then you do not need a short visa and can just enter Germany on a tourist visa. Once you are here with your confirmation of enrollment, you can apply for a residency permit for the length of your studies.

Moving to Germany is an exciting opportunity that comes with some challenges.

Getting set up

Now that you’ve moved into your new apartment, the first thing you need to do is register your new address with the city you are living in. With this registration you will receive an Anmeldung, which is necessary for opening a bank account or getting a job. It is also necessary to register your address right away, since it should be done within the first 2 weeks of living at your new address. Don’t worry if you moved into a temporary apartment while you search for your dream apartment, you can always register your new address whenever you move. Once you have your Anmeldung, you can continue with all the necessary things like setting up a German bank account. Even though you have a bank account in your home country, it’s important to set one up in Germany as this will allow you to pay your rent, receive your paycheck, and easily pay for any other services like utilities. Also, after you arrive, you likely will want to get a German phone number, as it’s always good to have a local number and it will be cheaper than using your current number abroad. With a German bank account you can sign up for a phone contract, or you always have the option of a pre-paid sim card. Don’t forget about signing up for health insurance after you arrive, as it is mandatory for all residents to have health insurance. Once you have your health insurance you can utilize Germany’s great healthcare system.

Once you’ve moved into your new apartment don’t forget your Anmeldung.

Public transport vs. driving

Now that you’re in your new home, there is the question of how to get around. If you live in a fairly large city, like Berlin, Munich, or Hamburg, then you can rely on public transportation if you want. In Berlin, for example, the BVG is very extensive with the various S-Bahn, U-Bahn, trams and bus lines; you can get anywhere you need to go in the city. If you are living in a smaller city or like to have to option to drive to places outside of your city, then you may want a car. If you do decide you want to buy or lease or car or want to take advantage of car-sharing options, don’t forgot about a German driver’s license. Often you can keep using your foreign driver’s license for a short period, but if you want to keep driving you will likely need to apply for a German driver’s license.

A smooth transition

Although it may seem a little overwhelming as you make your final preparations before arriving in your new city, being as prepared as possible will make your move go very smoothly. In the end, as you continue to settle into your new German city and start to make a new life here, it will all be worth it. As you continue to settle into your new home, keep a look out for the last article in this series, which is all about making your new city feel like home. We’ll talk about meeting new people, learning German and finding a job. Stay tuned!

Written by:

Marit Hunt

Since moving to Berlin from the U.S., Marit enjoys exploring everything her new city has to offer, from the many parks and lakes to the nicest cafés and writing about her experiences for the EverEstate blog.

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