Emigrating to Germany

Germany is one of the countries with the best healthcare system and infrastructure. The public transport is well developed and it has also good schools with good educational standards. These things make Germany to a country with a high living standard, what attracts many expats.
But immigration is not that easy. The regulations are very strict to protect German jobs, nevertheless many skilled workers are needed, especially in technology and science. Many well-known companies who operate international, are based in Germany.
The German life might not be the most easy-going lifestyle, but for the Germans itís important to be successful. Culture and history are still tried to be redefined and immigrants play an important role in this redefinition.

Visas for Germany
Though you only need your passport to enter Germany as EU-citizen or German, you need to do some paperwork or apply for the needed visa to work or live there.
For Non-EU-citizens itís a bit more complicated. For short-stays or holidays they have to make a request for the so called ĎSchengen-Visaí what might take about 14 days. With this visa you can stay up to 90 days. If they want to live or work in Germany they need a business, work or residency permit. For highly skilled workers there are special regulations so they get an easier access to these permits.

Tourist visas for Germany
Germany belongs to the countries which signed the Schengen Agreement. This means for citizens of other countries which are members of this agreement, that at their arrival in Germany they get a stamp in their passport which allows them to stay in Germany for 90 days.
The nations which donít have to apply for a visa to visit Germany are: Austria, Belgium, France, Denmark, Greece, Finland, Italy, Iceland, Netherlands, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Spain, UK, US, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.

Schengen visa for Germany
Citizens of other countries, who are not members of the Schengen Agreement, have to make a request for the Schengen visa, what takes 14 days. The best method to apply for this visa is to visit the German embassy or consulate. Although it only takes 14 days to get your visa itís important to apply early enough before starting your travels.
Once you got your Schengen visa for Germany you can also enter other members of the Schengen Agreement. But if you want to travel to several members, itís recommended to apply for a Schengen visa of the country you stay the longest.
Needed documents for Schengen visa application:
- Passport (has to be valid for 3 months from the last date of travel; with minimum two blank pages)
- Actual colour, passport-sized photo
- Return airline ticket or funds
- Proof of travel, health or accident insurance
- Evidence of accommodation (hotel reservation, letters from friends, tour details, etc.)
- Evidence relating for reasons of your stay
- Application fee (Adults: 60$; Kids (6-12): 35$)
The Schengen visa is only for travelling, itís not a working permission.

Business visas for Germany
To work in Germany you have to apply for a business visa. Therefore an invitation of a company in Germany and the evidence of the visit (including duration, type of business activity, guarantee of costs involved) are required.
Even if itís the German office of your recent employer you have to apply for this visa.

Work permits for Germany
Everyone needs a work permit to be able to work in Germany, whether they are EU-citizens or not. Only the requirements are different, these depend on where you come from.

Residency permits for Germany
For a residency permit you have to apply in person in the Germany embassy or consulate of your country or at immigration authorities in Germany.
Because EU-citizens have the right to live and work in Germany the permit is only a formality that has to be done.
There are three different types of permits for non-EU-citizens who want to work in Germany. The first one is for those who want general employment. The second one is for professionals with specialist skills and the third one for self-employed. Itís important to approve this permit before travelling to Germany.
If the application is approved you are either granted a limited or an unlimited residency. This depends on your origin and the reason of being in Germany. If you have a fixed-term contract the residency will be permitted as long as your contract runs.
Because of the high level of unemployment in Germany non-EU-citizens without special skills often donít get a work permit or get employed. The German government tries to protect the jobs for its own residences, but however EU-citizens have the right to take up employment in Germany.
Itís important that citizens of new EU-members need a work permit. Bulgaria and Romania are included in these countries.
East-Europeans and those outside the EU need one out of three types of work permits.
1. General employment permit for Germany
-You need a job-related qualification
-Difficult to receive, because the government wants German residences to get jobs

2. Specialist professional residence permit for Germany
-You have to be graduates with specialist skills (University Professors, experienced managers, those with very specific skills)
-It helps to prove German language skills and sufficient funds to support you and to have a firm offer employment
-You need to give information about your degrees and qualifications

3. Self-employed residence permit for Germany
-For those who are self-employed or plan to set up a business
-You need to demonstrate your skills and why they are needed in this area of Germany, as well as in which way it supports the local economy
-You need to prove that you can fund the start up
-A detailed business plan is recommended (long-term goals, steps to achieve goals)
-If you already have such a business German authorites are likely to see it
-This permit is usually granted for 3 years (if you want to renew it, you might have to prove the success of your business)

Cost of Living
The cost of living compared with other countries in Germany is high, but for western countries it is standard. In major cities living is more expensive than in rural parts, like everywhere else.
Prices for accommodation are depending on neighbourhood, size and equipment and are usually between 300Ä and 1000Ä per month. Private healthcare is needed, but also not very cheap. School fees are only for private schools or international schools. Luxury items like technical equipment or clothes are quite expensive as well.
The taxes expend a big part of the monthly income. But the income balances the high cost of living very well.
Here are some examples of the cost of items:
Water (1l): 0,90Ä
Coffee at a cafť: 2,20Ä
Mid-range meal: not more than 20Ä
Movie ticket: 8Ä
Bread (Whitebread): 1,90Ä
Bottle wine: 3Ä

Renting property in Germany
The rent in Germany varies much, the closer to the City Centre (especially in Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt) the more rent youíll have to pay.
Many immigrants and expats are looking for accommodation to rent in more rural districts because of the cheaper prices. Most of the time these properties are also bigger and have gardens, what you barely find in the City Centre. But no matter where you live, you always have easy access to public transport, which gets you everywhere you need to go.
House-sharing is a common thing in Germany, particularly for young people and students. Itís cheaper than renting your own flat and you donít have to live all on your own, you have more social contact.
Online searches and newspapers made finding a property very easy. A real estate agent could be very expensive; the fee might be as much as one monthís rent. When you found a suitable property a date to view it must be arranged with the landlord. There are also group-viewings where up to 20 potential tenants are viewing the property. You should note that mostly a three monthís rent is required as deposit.
There are different types of property in Germany, in the city flats and houses are smaller than in rural districts but they have higher ceilings. Air-conditioning is not very common in Germany but you donít really need it. Houses are well isolated and it doesnít get as hot as in southern countries. Every house and flat has adequate heating systems.
Immigrants can either ship their own furniture to Germany or they can buy it in Germany, what is very easy, because Germany has a good range of furniture stores such as IKEA. You can also buy from second-hand shops or antique stores.
Home security is not a big topic in Germany, because violent crime and home invasion do barely exist. Most people, including immigrants and expats feel very safe in their home.

Buying property in Germany
Prices for houses and flats are lower than they were, although Germany still recovers the global financial crisis. Buying property in Germany is very attractive because the prices are rising again.
Most of the deals of buying a house are made by real estate agents. Every time a house or flat gets sold, or rather bought, a contract which settles the price and terms is closed.
Buying a house in Germany brings a lot of additional fees with it. You have to pay the real estate agent, the property transfer tax, and the notaryís fee, which all in all will be about 10 percent of the price for the house. The notary is needed to guarantee that the transfer and the sale are correct.

Banking, Money and Taxes in Germany
A bank account is easily opened in Germany. Online banking is very popular in Germany, transactions and account managing is easily made with it. To open a bank account you only need your residence card, address within Germany and your passport.
The most known banks are: Dresdner Bank, Volksbank, Kreissparkasse, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank. But there are many more banks all over Germany. There are also many international banks acting in Germany so you can continue your own account, this is the easiest way.
As in every country you have to pay taxes on your income. In Germany the ones with higher incomes pay more taxes than these with lower incomes. It also depends on your family status how high the tax you pay is. There are treaties with many countries, so immigrants or expats donít pay taxes twice.
The so called MwSt (=VAT (Value-added tax)) is 19% of foods in Germany.
By beginning a job everyone needs a tax card. A tax return must be completed by every self-employed person at the end of each year. The tax year ends with each calendar year, in December.

Healthcare in Germany
The German Healthcare System offers good primary health care and enables everyone to get access to hospitals and dentists.

Health insurance in Germany
The healthcare system in Germany offers statutory nursing care insurance since 2009. Everyone with a residence permit is offered this as well. There are two different types of healthcare institutions, first a private health insurance, second a state-provided health insurance. Everyone must sign up for one of them.
Private health insurance is more expensive but it brings as well some benefits with it. You are privileged by some doctors or you get better rooms in hospitals.
Outpatient, in-patient and dental care are the three aspects of health insurance.
Everyone who is employed by a company is insured by the state-provided health insurance automatically. Nevertheless you have to pay the fees.
Self-employed people often take the private insurance.

Differences between statutory and private insurance
The costs of the statutory insurance are related to your income. The benefits are standard benefits which are suitable, economical and include everything what is necessary. You are free to choose a doctor, but you have to pay 10Ä practice fee every quarter year. You get regular check-ups and medication (which you are not free to choose). It includes after-care and therapy as well as physiotherapy and therapeutic appliances. Half of the insurance fee is paid by the employer the other half by the employee.
Private health insurance costs are higher than the ones of the statutory insurance. The costs depend on the plan and the risk of an individual, itís not the solidarity principle like with the statutory insurance, and this principle is called the cost-of-service principle. The benefits are also the medical necessary ones but with higher standards (like the room in a hospital) and are related to the customerís choice and requests. As a private insured person you have to pay the fees yourself.
Statutory insurance covers all incomes up to 49.500Ä per year. Everyone with an income above could choose which insurance he wants.

What is the statutory nursing care insurance?
This insurance is for the case that you become dependent on care. Itís an insurance belonging to the health insurance, so you are automatically insured by signing up for a health insurance.
For both insurance types the statutory nursing care insurance has the same benefits.
There are 4 levels of assistance-grade.
0= assistance isnít needed regularly
3= min. 5 hours of assistance daily
The payment for this insurance varies after the grade and whether itís cared for you at home or in-patient.