Moving to a foreign country might feel both overwhelming and challenging. Aside from learning a whole new culture, meeting new people, and setting up your new life, you also need to prepare and plan your move!
A quick search on Google is not going to do the trick. If you’re an American moving to Germany, you’re going to need to talk to the experts and learn how to immigrate to Germany without running into any problems. From the type of VISA, you’ll need to apply for to the process for getting a house or a job, you will want to know exactly what your next steps are, and finding that information in one place online isn’t as easy as you might think.
That’s why we created this article. Because there’s so much misinformation online, we decided to use our almost 45 years of experience to give you some advice in case you’re relocating to Germany. In this article, you’ll learn about the quality of life in Germany, the moving process, costs, planning, and other relevant information you need to have.
Is Germany a Good Place to Live?
Whether you’re considering moving as a private individual or relocating with your company, you should start by determining if it’s a good match for you and your family. You might think we’re biased when we tell you that Germany is a great place to live, but we’ve also taken into account the feedback of our customers.
Let’s start with some practical facts. In 2020, research conducted by the Blacktower Financial Management Group found that Germany held the 15th position in a list of the best countries for expats. In addition to that, Berlin and Hamburg were among the 20 best places for US citizens to live within Europe in a ranking created by the European Destinations of Excellence.
Germany also has the 4th best quality of life in the world, coming in behind Norway, Switzerland, and Ireland.
According to a report from the European Commission on public transport, the quality of the German transport infrastructure is generally high and above EU average. Cities are well-connected, and it’s easy to move around, whether you live in the city or between them.
Even if you choose to live in a smaller city, there’s a great network of trams, buses, and trains. On a side note, if you’re interested in learning more on this topic, check out this great article from Bloomberg CityLab which compares public transportation in the USA and Germany.
In the end, we think you’ll be amazed at how much you will love living in Germany and you’ll wonder why you didn’t move here sooner.
Is It Easy for an American to Move to Germany?
Moving to Germany as an American is not difficult, but there are some things you should know before you start the process. First of all, you can’t just travel to Germany and live here – unless you have European citizenship.
If you’re an US citizen, all you need is a valid passport to travel to Germany for tourism or business. The period you can stay in Germany – and other countries in the Schengen Area – is up to 90 days during a period of 180 days.
So, if you’re planning to move to Germany, you’ll very likely need to work there and stay more than 90 days, which means you will need to get a residence permit. This document can be arranged before you move to Germany or right after you arrive.
What is a Residence Permit?
A residence permit (also called Aufenthaltserlaubnis in German) is an authorization issued by the German government that allows foreigners to live in the country. The permit duration varies, and you’re only allowed to do what is expressly allowed by your permit, e.g. work, study, or anything else.
There’s not just one kind of residence permit in Germany, so you have to apply for the one that best suits you. Here are the three types of residence permits:
- Temporary Residence Permit (for employment, studying, and marriage purposes);
- EU Blue Card (granted for those who are highly skilled in one profession and want to work in Germany);
- Permanent Residence Permit (usually granted for those who have held a temporary Residence Permit or EU Blue Card for five years);
How to Get Your German Residence Permit as an American
As an American Citizen, if you would like to stay in Germany for more than 90 days, you need to get your residence permit.
In order to get one, you need to register at the Registration Office (Standesamt – Einwohnermeldeamt) of the city you’re living in within your first week of arrival in Germany. Another option is to apply for your German residence permit while still in the US, either in the German Embassy in Washington or at a German Consulate. You can find the complete list of embassies and consulates in the United States on this link.
What Do You Need to Get a Residence Permit?
As previously mentioned, there are different categories of residence permits, and each has a different set of requirements. This means that the documents you need to present to get your residence permit will vary, and you’ll need to talk to an expert to make sure you have the right items.
But, to get started, here’s a list of the basic requirements that you must-have for any kind of residence permit:
- Valid passport from your country
- No criminal record
- German proficiency (at least a B1 level)
- German health insurance
- Proof you’re healthy enough to work and/or study in Germany (health check)
- Proof of financial stability and means to support you and your family
Is It Possible to Move to Germany Without a Job?
Moving to Germany without a job is possible for American citizens, but it’s not as easy and it’s usually recommended for those who want to immigrate to Germany. While the unemployment rate is not so high compared to the previous years – 5% in 2019 – and finding a job might not be that difficult, having a job offer will really help prove your financial stability.
Moving to Germany without a job will, of course, depend on your motivation, future plans, financial situation, and your ability to gather the documents you need to get your residence permit.
It’s also important to note that you can’t work if you enter Germany without a visa and don’t have a residence permit. To put it a different way, if you enter Germany without a visa or residence permit and you’re still under your 90-days stay, you can’t work.
If you’re looking for information about how to move to Germany without a job, you can find some information about the visa types and their requirements on this link.
How Much Does it Cost to Move from the US to Germany?
The costs of moving from the US to Germany vary and are way too complex to sum up in a single paragraph or even a complete article. Your costs will vary greatly, and it all depends on the services you need, how many people are moving with you, what you’re going to bring, as well as if you need extra assistance during the moving process.
We highly recommend you to talk to an immigration consultant and also get an instant quote on our Relocation Store. There, you can tailor your experience and select the relocation services you might need. You can select the country you’re moving from and pick the services you want to add to your relocation package. Once you’re done, we will send you the quote with all the specifics.
This is the absolute best and most autonomous way for you to estimate your moving costs. However, you can still talk to professionals to define your needs and get some extra help.
Cost of Living in Germany vs. the USA
Another important topic to consider as an American moving to Germany is the cost of living in Germany compared to the US. On average, the cost of living in Germany is cheaper than in the US. In fact, consumer prices – including rent – are 12.88% lower in Germany.
However, you will always find something that is relatively cheaper in the US, for example, a pair of jeans (Levis 501 or similar) or basic utility bills (including electricity, heating, cooling, water, and garbage) are 51% and 38% more expensive on average in Germany, respectively.
On the other hand, when you compare Washington DC and Berlin (the two capital cities), you will see a significant difference. On average, a single-bedroom apartment in the centre of Berlin costs €890 per month, without utilities included. In Washington, the same apartment, no utilities included, would cost €1,980 per month.
In Germany, grocery shopping also turns out to be way cheaper – the costs are 28% lower – as well as dining out, where Germany can be 25% cheaper.
If you’re moving to Germany with kids, you might be happy to know that childcare in Germany is way cheaper than in the US. If you were to compare Berlin and Washington again, you’d see that one month in a private full-day preschool might cost you 952% less in Germany.
If you’d like to know more about the cost of living in Germany, check out this complete breakdown we’ve created to help you.
How Much Money do You Need to Live in Germany?
The amount of money you need to live in Germany will vary depending on which city you choose to live in, what your needs are, whether you have a family or not, and if you’re going to use public transportation, for instance.
In our definitive guide on the cost of living in Germany, you will find a breakdown of the costs where we talk about rent, health insurance, utilities, supermarket, restaurants, childcare, and many more expenses and how much you can expect to pay.
We’ve also included a list of the cheapest and the most expensive cities in Germany so you can check how different the prices are. After all, there’s no way to know exactly how much you need to live in Germany until you’ve picked a city and talked to an expert to align all your expectations.
Moving to Germany as an US Citizen: How to Do It
If you’re an US citizen moving to Germany, there are some basics you need to know, and that will make the process of getting your residence permit and working in Germany way easier. The process of getting your documents, moving, and getting settled in might be lengthy, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing or haven’t planned accordingly.
So here you will find a comprehensive guide on how to structure your move to Germany if you’re a US citizen.
1. Start planning
Planning is extremely important when moving to a new country with rules and manners you’re not used to. So, planning is the first thing you need to do. We highly recommend you get in touch with an immigration expert to help you figure out the step-by-step process for your case.
We know everyone is different, and that’s why at Packimpex, we offer tailored solutions for individuals and companies. So, if you’re looking for help and need to figure out how to move to Germany stress-free, contact us.
On a side note, make sure you include financial planning on your pre-relocation task list. Having enough money to support you and your family is not only necessary for you to have a comfortable life but also a mandatory prerequisite from German authorities in order to get your residence permit.
2. Arrange Your Documents
A consultation with an immigration expert will give you an overview of the immigration process. Afterwards, you should have a clear list of documents you need in order to get your residence permit or Visa if you need one. So, after planning, it’s time to get your documents together and make sure everything is ready for you to move to Germany legally!
3. Look for Your New Home
This is more difficult than you might think. Moving to a new country is a complex process in and of itself, and finding your new home is definitely a big part of it. If you’re not relocating with a company and you don’t have a job offer, you have the freedom to choose the city that suits your needs.
On the other hand, if you already have a job lined up, you already have a starting point. But you will still need to consider your own needs as well as your family’s needs and budget. Living in the city centre costs more than living in the outskirts or in a smaller city close by. If you have kids, you also might want to check whether there are schools you like in the area.
If you’re going to be using public transportation, you should also take into consideration how far you’re going to be located from your job and how long the commute will be.
Of course, these are only a few of the concerns you must take into account when choosing a new home. Once you decide on a city and neighbourhood and you know your personal requirements, you will also need to know where to look for your house or apartment – which is a challenge all on its own.
Our housing services are designed to help you find rental accommodations for both short- and long-term stays. Our search for your new home considers all your needs so we can quickly and easily find a suitable place for you and your family.
4. Move Your Belongings
Another thing you need to take care of is moving your belongings. If you’re going to bring furniture or any other goods, you need to think about how you’re going to transport it. Moving your things internationally is not as simple and straightforward of a process as you might think. There’s a lot of bureaucracy involved, especially with importing goods.
As experts in international relocations, we highly advise you to get professional help if you’re bringing your belongings to Germany.
On the other hand, if you want to get into your new home first and then see what you need, you can easily rent some furniture while you wait for yours to arrive. And, if you don’t want to move your belongings at all, you can always rent your furniture for a longer stay.
5. Register at the Resident’s Registration Office
This is an important step of the process. As an American who wants to live in Germany, you should register at the Resident’s Registration Office within one week of your arrival. As we have previously mentioned, this is mandatory. Not registering might get you a fine, and your residence permit could be denied.
You need to book your appointment ahead of time on this website. On the day of your meeting, take the required documents with you. Once you have successfully registered, you should keep the confirmation they give to you – you’ll need to present it when applying for a residence permit.
6. Get Your Mandatory Health Insurance
One of the basic requirements to live in Germany and get your residence permit is to get health insurance that complies with German law. This means that foreign policies are usually not accepted. And no, travel insurance doesn’t count, either.
7. Take Care of Your Financial Matters
Another mandatory requirement is to have a German bank account and prove that you can support yourself and your family. Make sure the account is set and has a sufficient balance so you can show the document at your appointment for the residence permit.
Additionally, if you’re going to work and pay taxes here in Germany, you’ll need to get your income tax card.
8. Get Your Residence Permit
The last step is to apply for your residence permit. You’ll need to book your appointment at the closest immigration centre where you live and fill out the application form. On the day of your interview, you need to gather all your documents, show up at the immigration office for your interview, and have your documents analyzed.
You will get their answer to your request around two or three weeks after the appointment. If it’s positive, you can stay in Germany for as long as your residence permit allows, and, if need be, try to renew it once it’s about to expire.
Legal disclaimer: According to the German Rechtsberatungsgesetz – Legal Advice Act – this article does not constitute formal legal advice and should not be considered case-specific advice. It does not replace speaking with our team members or obtaining professional legal advice. Further disclaimer details are incorporated in our Terms & Conditions of Use.
If you need to relocate your company’s employees or are looking for case-specific information, contact us here. Our team of international relocation experts will be pleased to support you.