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FAQ about Germany

everything you need to know for a fresh start

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Family

German citizens and citizens of non-EU countries who have a residence or settlement permit may bring their family members to Germany. This is called "family reunion". Family members need a visa to enter Germany and a residence permit for further stay. Family reunification is limited to the spouse (or registered partner) and joint minor children or, in the case of minors living in Germany, their parents. Other family members - e.g. uncles, aunts or grandparents - can only follow in very limited exceptional cases.

EU (European Union) or EEA (European Economic Area) citizens

For EU citizens living in Germany, special, more generous regulations apply to family reunification. If the EU citizen has a right to freedom of movement (e.g. as an employee or self-employed person) and the spouse comes to Germany with him or her or wants to move to Germany, then the spouse also has a right to freedom of movement. He or she requires neither a visa nor a residence permit. This also applies if the spouse is not an EU citizen, and it also applies to partners in registered civil partnerships.

Third-country nationals

As a rule, family members moving from abroad must apply for a visa at the German mission abroad (embassy/consulate) in the country in which they have their usual residence (i.e. have been permitted to stay for at least six months). It is important that the visa is applied for for the actual intended purpose of the stay - i.e. not, for example, a tourist visa.

The visa application is examined jointly by the mission abroad and the aliens' registration office at the place of residence of the partner who already lives in Germany.

A number of general requirements have to be fulfilled on a regular basis:

- The family member who wishes to move to Germany must present a valid passport.
- The identity of the person must be clarified (clarification is normally achieved by presenting the passport).
- The person or person to whom the family member(s) wish to move must have sufficient income to support the newcomer without being dependent on social benefits.
- The family member already living in Germany must have a residence or settlement permit (or be a German citizen or German national).

Children

Children are entitled to family reunification before their 16th birthday if both parents or the parent with sole custody have a residence permit or settlement permit. Young people who are already 16 or 17 years old are only entitled to this entitlement if they either move to Germany together with both parents or the parent with sole custody, or if they have a good command of the German language (level C1) or if it can be assumed for other reasons that they will integrate well in Germany (one reason may be, for example, a completed education).

Child care

In Germany, childcare is provided first and mostly within the family. Often the parents are supported by close family members, such as grandparents or other relatives.

However, there are also numerous possibilities to have the children temporarily looked after outside the family. This care can be organised privately (e.g. babysitter or au pair) or it can be organised publicly (day-care centres, childminders, etc.) The most important forms of care are briefly explained below.

Daycare facilities for children (Kitas)
In day-care facilities of the free and public youth welfare services, children are looked after and supported in groups for part of the day or for the whole day. The educators pay attention to the social, emotional, physical and mental development of the children.

Company childcare
With the company charity, employers create a childcare service that is geared to the children of employees. In some cases, companies book places in other facilities that are available for the children of employees. On-site information is available from the personnel departments or the works councils.

Au-pairs

Au-pairs receive board and lodging as well as a monthly pocket money in a host family for about one year and in return they take care of the children and to a limited extent also light everyday tasks that arise in the family. They are between 18 and 25 years old, come from abroad and can get to know a new culture and a new language as "temporary family members".

German School system & compulsory education

In contrast to countries with only compulsory education, parents in Germany are not allowed to teach their children at home. Here the general compulsory schooling applies, which is justified by the state's educational mandate. Children generally start school at the age of six and attend school for at least nine years.

First, children attend primary school for four years. In the fourth grade, they decide how to continue their education. The system of secondary schools in Brandenburg is divided into Oberschulen and Gymnasien.

The Oberschule ends after the 9th grade or 10th grade with the "einfache Berufsbildungsreife" or "erweiterte Berufsbildungsreife". Afterwards, the young people can start vocational training or continue their schooling. The Gymnasium ends after the 12th or 13th grade with the Abitur, which entitles them to study at a university.The public schools with their high level of education are free in Germany and are financed by taxes. Around nine percent of pupils are taught at private schools, which charge their parents school fees.

Healthcare & Insurance

Health insurance is mandatory for all people living in Germany. All those with statutory health insurance have the same right to care when they fall ill - regardless of how much they pay into their insurance each month. The amount of the contributions depends solely on their income. In accordance with the "solidarity principle" of the statutory health insurance system, those who earn well pay more than those who are poorer, and healthy people pay the same amount as those who are ill. In this way, all insured persons jointly bear the personal risk of loss of earnings and the costs of medical care in case of illness.

The amount of the insurance premium is initially the same for all statutory health insurance companies. It amounts to 14.6 % of gross income - but only up to a certain salary level, the so-called contribution assessment ceiling. Of the 14.6 %, employers and insured persons each pay 7.3 %. In addition, each health insurance fund can levy additional contributions from its insured if membership fees and other funds are not sufficient to cover the costs.

Private liability insurance

In everyday life you cannot completely avoid mishaps. That is why there is a private liability insurance for your protection. It covers the costs of accidentally caused damage within the scope of your liability and pays the necessary compensation to the person affected in your place.

The name "liability insurance" therefore does not mean that it is compulsory to have this insurance. It refers to the fact that you are legally obliged to be liable - and that the insurance will protect you.

A private liability insurance helps you if you have accidentally caused damage to other people's property or injured another person in a private context. Even if you could assume it because of its name, this insurance is not compulsory in Germany. This is because the "obligation" does not refer to the insurance itself, but to the legally prescribed "liability", i.e. your obligation to be liable.

Bank Account

If you live and work in Germany, you will need a current account in order to receive your wages, pay bills and cover your living expenses. The basic account has been available since 19 June 2016. This current account for everyone can be opened by any consumer who is legally resident in the EU. Banks are legally obliged to open the basic account. In this case you don't need any special identification documents and as an EU citizen you have free access to the German labour market. However, if you would like to have a better current account, which you can also overdraw, for example, you must show the bank the registration certificate from the Residents' Registration Office as well as your last pay slips. You come from a non-EU country: Before you can open a current account, you need the registration certificate from the Residents' Registration Office. Only if you prove to the bank that you live in Germany will it open an account for you. You will also need a work permit.

Mobility

To be mobile in Germany, you do not necessarily need a car. Buses and trains allow you to move around easily both within a city and from place to place.

Bus & train

In every city or village you will find a bus stop in a few minutes, where buses, trams or subways stop several times an hour during the day - in large cities every minute. Tickets are sold online or at a ticket machine at the stop, or directly at the main stations of the transport association that operates the buses or trams. You are also able to buy, a weekly, monthly or annual tickets. .There are special rates for students disabled persons and children on presentation of their ID.

Travelling by train:
Whether you want to travel in-between Germany or even in Europe, the train is the most comfortable choice. Deutsche Bahn provides Train service in Germany. Tickets for the trains are sold online, at the ticket offices or vending machines of Deutsche Bahn in the train station. The fastest and most comfortable way to travel is with the German ICE. It can reach a top speed of 300 km/h.

International bus lines:
Another way to travel in between Germany and Europe is by bus. You will find a bus station for long-distance travel at every main Station

Driving licence

Citizens of the EU, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland
Driving a car in Germany is as easy as that. Because: your driving licence is valid to the same extent as in your home country. You don't have to have your driving licence transferred.

Citizens from another country:
With your driving licence you can drive in Germany for six months. This period is valid from the day you register in Germany. At the end of these six months you will need a German driving licence. If yo have to make the driving test again depends on the country in which you acquired your driving licence.

Registering and testing your car

All cars in Germany need to be registered, and you can do this at the nearest car registration office. You will need your vehicle title (proof that the car belongs to you) and your motor vehicle insurance policy. If you are bringing a car with you from another country, find out from the car registration office what additional documents are required. After they are registered, all cars in Germany need to pass a general inspection. This means that a mechanic must confirm that your car is safe and meets the official emission standards. A vehicle inspection sticker will then be affixed to your car’s number plate. The general inspection can be performed by an authorised workshop near you, for example. Inspections need to be repeated at regular intervals. There is a charge for both the general inspection and for registering your vehicle. Please note that in many German cities, low-emission zones have been created to reduce the quantities of particulates and nitrogen dioxide in the air. To drive into one of the these low-emission zones, you need a sticker (Umweltplakette) showing that your vehicle has sufficiently low emissions. This can be obtained for a fee from the licensing authority or other approved agencies.

Job application

Job application in Germany is organized by each employer themselves. You find job offerings in newspapers, at company websites and job plattforms. Most employers expect a CV and a letter include your reason for application and a short introduction of yourself and your potential date of entry. Inform yourself about expected language of your application. Most of the time you can identify the company language by having a look at the job offering itself. If the language of the job offering is German you should applicate in German as well.

Work contract

Work contracts and legal language can be quite confusing. To clarify certain paragraphes ask your employers directly. If you feel more comfortable with a contract translated in your mother tounge, you will find certain translator agencies for work contracts on the internet. Always ask your employer about a personal copy of your contract to be abe to look at specific paragraphes. The content of a work contract is regulated by German employment law. If you have special questions about your contract you can also contact a lawyer for employment law.You have applied for a job and been accepted. Congratulations! Nothing now stands between you and a career in Germany. All that is left to do now is to sign the job contract. Before you do, here are a few things to look out for.

Serious employers will always send you a written contract. Read the contract thoroughly from start to finish before signing it. If you do not understand something, this is not a problem: ask the company's personnel department or the personnel officer about it. Orally delivered work contracts are unusual in Germany.

Social security

Social security is an essential part of social market economy in Germany. The public social security system supports all contributors in cases of unemployment or diseases to guarant an amount of income that saves citizens needs. Any part-time or full-time employee is by law a contributor to the system. Contributions are paid automatically every month by your employer and get substracted from your gross income. Social security in Germany consists of several parts, most important: unemployment insurance, health insurance, pension insurance, invalidity insurance, child support and social care.

What social security costs

Your employer and you pay your social security costs monthly. Your gross salary is the calcuation basis for your social security costs. The total amount of social security costs as an employee is  about 20% of your gross income. The second 20% contributes your employer.

Health insurance

There is a health insurance duty in Germany that guarantees health treatments. As an employee subject to social security contributions your are automatically member of one of the public health insurance institutions (so called "Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung"). You can choose your favorite insurance company that fits most to your needs. You find further information about public health insurance here: https://www.krankenkassenzentrale.de/wiki/gesetzliche-krankenversicherungIf your gross income is above the legal ceiling you are also allowed to become a member of private health insurance. Private health insurance covers more treatments and your contribution is independent from your gross income.

Social security card

The Sozialversicherungsnummer, Versicherungsnummer, Rentenversicherungsnummer or RNVR is the German pension insurance number. This unique number of the german public pension scheme (the Deutsche Rentenversicherung) is your unique identifier.

Instead of one social insurance number, Germany has different identification numbers for pension insurance (Rentenversicherung) and health insurance (Krankenversicherung) to protect your data. However, the pension insurance number is often called a social insurance number (Sozialversicherungsnummer).

Your employer must have your social insurance number before it can pay you, since they contribute into the public pension scheme in your name. If you never had a Versicherungsnummer before, your employer is able to request one for you, just point out the situation to your employer.

Income tax

People living in Germany are subject to German taxes, especially if they have a German employer and their income source is Germany. You pay income taxes throughout the year, normally with an employer substracting tax from each monthly paycheck. Adjustments are then made at the end of the year for possible under or overpayments.

How much income tax you pay

The amount of income taxes you pay depends mostly on your gross income. Furthermore, there exist several other factors affecting your amount of income tax payment. You can calculate your income taxes here:

https://www.bmf-steuerrechner.de/ekst/eingabeformekst.xhtml

Income tax declaration

Any German citizen earning money hast to declare his/her income taxes. The tax declaration states your final yeary income and consider potential over- or underpayments within one fiscal year. If you need support to create your income tax declaration your can assign a tax advisor to support you.

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