Navigating Germany’s Registration Maze: A Foreigner’s Guide to Local Registration

Many of our clients and other foreigners may find the concept of registration unfamiliar, as it’s not a standard practice in all countries. However, in Germany there is a mandatory registration requirement, Meldepficht in German, for all German citizens as well as its international residences. This requirement is in fact a part of the original basic law (Grundgesetz) as established in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Germany in May of 1949. The registration process was tasked to the federal states. This system is still in place today.  Accordingly, there is no federal registration process and address registration is often referred to as local registration.

What does this mean if you are moving to Germany?
According to the Federal Act on Registration, individuals moving into a residence in Germany must register within two weeks of arrival. The first registration in Germany is an in-person appointment. Local authorities typically speak German. This can be daunting, especially in a new country with a different language. That’s where Local Worldwide Relocation steps in. Local Worldwide Relocation works with consultants throughout Germany to assist clients in major cities as well as small towns to guide newcomers on the ins and outs of registering.

What do I need to bring with me?
You and your family are required to attend the appointment in person. You will need to bring your passport and the passports of your family members. If you are married, you will need to bring your original, official marriage certificate and a German translation and if applicable, the original, official birth certificates of your children and a German translation. If your marriage or birth certificates were issued outside, they will need an Apostille or Legalization. Your landlord will also provide a landlord confirmation document known as a Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung. We are happy to help determine if you have the correct documents and suggest how to find a translator for your documents.

What if I stay in a hotel upon arrival, do I need to register right away?
The law requires residents to register when a stay exceeds a period of 3 months or more. If you plan to spend two weeks in a hotel and then move into your long-term housing, you may wish to wait and register once you have moved into your permanent address.

Conversely, there are often advantages to registering directly upon arrival. If you are first arriving in Germany, an official registration document is required for several vital services, such as receiving a Tax ID, applying for a residency permit; opening a bank account; or setting up an account with various service providers. Local Worldwide Relocation works with clients throughout Germany to determine what works best for a particular client’s needs and circumstances.

I can’t find an appointment in a timely manner, what can I do?
Give us a call. The Federal Ministry of Interior and Community notes that there are over 5,000 local registration authorities in Germany. That said, it can still be increasingly challenging to secure an appointment at the authorities or Bürgeramt. We will help determine where you need to register and help to secure a timely appointment. We can often even secure same-day or next-day appointments. Some authorities also offer walk-in time slots.

Do I have to attend the appointment in person?
For your first registration in Germany, the answer is yes. For subsequent appointments, Local Worldwide Relocation consultants may be able to attend as your proxy in some municipalities and circumstances. If you are moving from one city to another you will need to attend the appointment in person, whereas moving within the same city can be done on your behalf in some locations.

What is Church tax and do I need to declare a denomination during my registration?
It is important to note, that those who declare a religious denomination, will be required to pay a church-based tax (Kirchensteuer). State-recognised churches can collect taxes. The exact tax rate would vary according to your salary and where you live. It is normally between 7-9% of the income tax you pay, minus any child allowances, and will be deducted from your paycheck.

If you are religious and you want to become a member of Catholic, Protestant or Jewish communities, or use their facilities – for instance to get married, have a baby baptised, or for funeral services – you will need to register and pay church tax. If you do not choose to register upon arrival and wish at a later date to use these services, you would be required to pay this tax retroactively from the date of your registration. 

How can I prove I registered?
At the end of your appointment, you will receive a confirmation document, Meldebescheinigung, which will note the names of you and your family members, your address, date of move-in and your religion affiliation. It is important to file this document for safe keeping as you will need this in the future for several services.

What happens if I move?
If you move within Germany, whether it be within the same city or to a new town, you will need to register in the new location, this is referred to as an Ummeldung. The authorities will notify their counterparts, where you previously lived about your new registration. You will not need to de-register from your past address. Some cities have begun to offer online change of address services.

When do I need to de-register and why?
When you leave Germany to either repatriate or move to another country, you will need to de-register. The de-registration confirmation, Abmeldebescheinigung, will often be requested by service providers, for the cancellation of various policies, fees and for tax purposes. You are required to de-register within two weeks of moving. In this instance, Local Worldwide Relocation consultants can attend the appointment with you or as your proxy. This means, we can de-register you after you have moved and are settled in a new country. I find this can often be helpful for insurance purposes. If you are relocating for instance within Europe, many insurances companies can continue to provide health insurances benefits within the EU until you are covered by a new policy. Not sure how to move forward with your upcoming departure, simply give us at Local Worldwide Relocation a call or send us an email and we can determine the right timeline for your needs.

What if I never registered?
Violations can result in fines. As a reminder for EU member state citizens and, under certain circumstances, EU Blue Card holders, you are able to move freely within the EU, but are still required to register and in the case of Blue Card holders, you will need to register with the Office of Foreigner’s Authorities.

Need assistance navigating Germany’s registration requirements?
Contact Local Worldwide Relocation, and let us guide you through the process with ease.

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