Moving to Germany: Relocation Guide

So you’re considering moving to Germany or, as a People leader, relocating your employees? Our comprehensive relocation guide to Germany will help you navigate every aspect.

Renowned for its robust economy, Germany is a popular choice for expats even in currently challenging economic and political times and offers plenty of opportunities that consistently attract both job seekers and expats from around the globe. Beyond career prospects, Germany is also known for its high quality of life, cultural attractions, and good healthcare and public transport systems.

In the following sections, we’ll delve into essential topics such as what visa options are available, how to apply for them, and how your employees can handle the settle-in admin after they make their move.

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Moving to Germany: Relocation Guide by Localyze

Before we start: visas vs. permits

It’s important to understand that having a visa may not be enough for your employees to legally work in Germany. They grant temporary permission to enter Germany for a specific purpose, and are usually valid for a certain amount of time, usually 3-6 months. Once your employees have a visa, they can travel to Germany, but they may need a separate residence permit.

A residence permit is a document provided by the German immigration authority that allows your employees to remain in the country and work. While a visa usually needs to be collected in an overseas embassy, a German residence permit is collected in person after arriving in Germany. Applicants who already have a visa for the purpose of employment are allowed to begin working as soon as they arrive in Germany while they wait for their residence permit to be finalized. There are many different kinds of residence permits for Germany, and the authorities will make the decision on which one your employees will receive.

Moving to Germany: employee relocation guide by Localyze - visa extempt

Which countries are visa- and permit-exempt for Germany?

Do your employees fall into these categories? If yes, they can focus just on settle-in admin after arrival (scroll down for more info).

  • Citizens of EU/EEA countries and Switzerland:

If your employees are a citizen of an EU country, they are entitled to freedom of movement to and within Germany. They won’t need a visa or residence permit to enter Germany and take up employment. The same applies if their nationality is from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland (EFTA countries).

  • Citizens of Privileged Countries:

Privileged Countries are countries that are not part of the EU/EEA, or EFTA, but enjoy a closer relationship with Germany. Their status allows citizens to enter as a tourist without the need for a visa for up to 90 days. You can find a full list of these countries in this resource. 

However, having the right to enter the country doesn’t mean your employees would be able to work in the country. Your employees are able to apply for work-related visas and residence permits only when they are outside of Germany, unless they are citizens of these countries: Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. 

Citizens from these countries can apply for a residence/work permit after arriving in Germany, but they still won’t be able to work until they have received their permit from the immigration authorities. This process can take several months, which is why we always recommend that your employees apply for a visa in their country of residence.

How many types of work visas are there in Germany?

Blue Card visa Germany

Blue Card visa

Your employees can apply for a Blue Card Visa if they fulfill the requirements for a Blue Card permit:

✅ They have a German degree, or a foreign degree that is recognized as comparable to German qualifications at a Bachelor level or higher. More on the recognition process under “What are the qualification requirements for a work visa in Germany?”

✅ If your employee doesn’t have a formal university degree, they need to demonstrate that they have another kind of qualification that took at least 3 years. 

✅ They have already received your job offer that lasts at least 6 months, matches their qualifications or degree, and has a gross annual salary of at least €45,300 (for 2024, numbers updated annually). 

✅ If you’re hiring employees in a so-called “bottleneck profession”, the minimum gross annual salary can be €41,041 (for 2024, numbers updated annually). Check this resource for the full list of “bottleneck professions.”

Further useful resources: Ultimate Employee Mobility Checklist: German EU Blue Card

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How to get a work visa or permit for Germany

What are the qualification requirements for a work visa or permit in Germany?

An important part of the application process for different work visas and permits will be having your employees’ qualifications formally recognized. For Germany, this process goes through an agency named ZAB, which stands for the "Central Office for Foreign Education" (in German: Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen). ZAB assesses qualifications from all countries worldwide and all levels of education, including school-leaving certificates, vocational qualifications, and academic degrees.

Is a formal assessment of qualifications required?

Your employees’ degree(s) may have already been assessed through other people’s applications – they can confirm this by checking their degree and university in the Anabin database, which lists all foreign universities and university degrees that have been accredited by the ZAB to date.

However, if your employees’ qualifications are not listed in the Anabin database, they need to go through an individual degree evaluation process. Once they receive an application, the ZAB will be able to review the degree & higher education institution, and send a "Statement of Comparability" in response.

Preparing the documents

For most visa applications, your employees will have to translate and legalize their official documents, such as degrees, marriage certificates, or birth certificates if they are moving with family. Applicants who have documents from countries on this list are required to legalize them by acquiring an Apostille — a certificate that authenticates the signature of a public official on a document.

If your employees come from a country that’s not on the Apostille list, they will likely be required to pursue other types of legalization directly with the German embassy through booking appointments, or any third-party providers they work with. Legalization of documents should happen before the visa-related interviews or appointments at the embassy.

Moving to Germany with family

If your employees’ family members don’t plan to acquire a work-related visa, a common solution is to pursue the Family Reunion visa after your employees have gotten their residence permit. The Family Reunion visa applies to close family members (i.e. spouse or children under 18) who will not be employed in Germany.  

Moving to Germany with family and spouse

Language requirements for spouses

Alongside having to provide certain types of documents, spouses applying for a family-dependent visa may be required to have German language skills at an A1 level. Not every spouse will need to do this — there are many exceptions to this rule, all of which you can find in this official pamphlet.

For those who need a German language certification, we recommend getting it from a recognized course and examination provider like Goethe Institute or TELC. The language certificate needs to be presented at the visa application appointment at the German embassy.

How to move to Germany with pets

To ensure that there are no issues upon entry to the European Union, each pet that comes from a third country (non-EU) must meet the following requirements:

  • Be clearly identifiable by a microchip
  • Be properly vaccinated against rabies — their latest shot should be administered at least 30 days before arrival, but no more than 12 months before 
  • Be accompanied by a veterinary inspector’s certificate, in which the microchip has been documented
  • In some cases vaccination certificates & blood test details must also be provided 
  • The following dog breeds have been banned from crossing the German border: bull terriers, pit-bull terriers, staffordshire bull terriers, American staffordshire bull terriers or any crossbreed of the ones mentioned above.

We always recommend that employees check if their country of residence has any additional requirements for exporting the pet.

  • Registration & tax for dogs: Dog owners must register their dog as soon as they arrive in Germany and pay a tax – the so-called Hundesteuer. The cost of the tax varies between German states and must be paid annually. Your employees will have 30 days from the date of their arrival to register their dog. This can be done at their local town hall or communal office. Cats do not need to be registered, and they do not require a separate tax payment.
How to move to Germany with pets

Residence permits in Germany

While your employees need a visa to enter Germany, they will then need a residence permit to legally reside in the country. There are two types of residence permits: limited and unlimited.

Limited residence permit

Limited residence permit

This is a temporary permit that allows first-time residents to stay in Germany for very specific purposes, such as family reunification, studying, or pursuing a temporary work contract. The expected duration of these activities will determine how long the permit will last (anywhere between 1 to 4 years) before it needs to be renewed or your employee applies for an unlimited residence permit. 

Unlimited residence permit

Unlimited residence permit

This permit is usually given to people who have had a temporary residence permit for a few years (typically between 3-5 years), or people who have received an EU Blue Card. 

Health insurance in Germany

Everyone with a permanent place of residence in Germany is required by law to have health insurance. There are three different types in Germany:

Public (statutory) health insurance

Public (statutory) health insurance

Having public health insurance covers many of your employees’ core medical needs. German statutory health insurance allows children and spouses to also be insured free of charge with a family insurance policy. Contributions depend on your employees’ monthly income. 

Private health insurance

Private health insurance

Employees may sign up for private health insurance if their monthly gross income exceeds the income threshold for compulsory insurance (in 2024: €69,300 gross yearly salary). Monthly fees are then independent of the salary but calculated based on the applicant's state of health. Private health insurance rarely covers family members.

Travel insurance

Travel insurance

Some visa applications require people to have travel insurance that covers their planned departure date and their first workday in Germany.

Settling in Germany

Once your employee arrives in Germany, they’re required to register with their city council office as soon as possible – the so-called Anmeldung. The law currently requires them to register within two weeks of moving in, so we advise booking an appointment as soon as their arrival date is confirmed.

How to prepare for the registration appointment

How to prepare for the registration appointment

  • Bring visas & valid passports 
  • Print out and pre-fill the forms that the city council requires
  • Bring a confirmation from their landlord — the so-called Wohnungsgeberbestätigung — that confirms they live at a specific address in the city 
  • Be prepared that not every employee at the registration office will speak English 
  • Register all of their family members — this can usually be done at one appointment together, but every member will need their own application form filled out
  • Pay an administration fee (between €10 and €15)

Tax & social security ID

Everyone who registers as a resident in Germany will be issued a tax ID —  Persönliche Steueridentifikationsnummer — from the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern). This number is necessary for most tax administration. If family members like spouses and children move with your employees, they will also receive individual tax ID numbers, even if they are not working. This 11-digit number will be sent to your employee’s address within a few weeks after their city registration. They can also apply for their tax ID at the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern). However, this will take around six weeks of waiting before their numbers are dispatched. 

Another important admin step is acquiring the German Social Security NumberSozialversicherungsnummer. This is necessary for handling social security contributions towards a state pension, unemployment insurance, and long-term care insurance. To get this number, your employees must enroll in a public health insurance program, such as Barmer, Techniker Krankenkasse (TK), AOK, or DAK. Once enrolled, they will receive their social security number per post, usually within 4-6 weeks.

Tax & social security ID
How to find housing in Germany

How to find housing in Germany

In order to support housing search in Germany, we partner with a selected group of providers offering both furnished and unfurnished rental options. 

Many of our partners also provide the important "Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung", which is a certificate employees will need in order to register their residence in Germany. This certificate will then allow them to open a German bank account and receive their tax ID.

We highly recommend starting with a furnished apartment the first 2-4 months after arrival. That way employees can deal with the required paperwork of the last steps of their process, settle down, and find out in which area of the city they would like to settle into more permanently. 

For a full list of our partners — not just for housing, but also banking, insurance, and more please check this resource. Global Mobility teams working with us have the option to offer these services to their employees directly in the Localyze platform.

FAQs about moving to Germany

Below you can find some of the most common FAQs about work and life in Germany.

Relocating talent to Germany?

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