Moving to Berlin in 2020: Here's What You Need to Know

Updated: Jan 24

This post will highlight some key things to consider if moving to Berlin, including what administrative and visa steps you’ll need to take, how to find an apartment and English-speaking job in Berlin, and why it might be the perfect city for you!

So, you’re moving to Berlin – you’ve heard about its reputation as a young, fun city that attracts artists, creatives and young professionals in equal measure. But when it comes to planning the move, you get bogged down in confusing German terminology, unclear guidance about when you would need to do what, and a general sense that perhaps moving to Berlin is just too hard. But much of this is a myth – while moving to Berlin is perhaps harder than moving to some other European capitals, the German bureaucracy is manageable with the right resources and support.

Let’s get started…

1. Anmeldung is essential

Anmeldung is the simple process of registering an address (Anmeldung) in Berlin. While it sounds straightforward, it must not be underestimated when moving to Berlin.

In fact, it will form the backbone for your entire relocation to the German capital. Notably, you first require Anmeldung in order to:

  • Apply for a visa in Berlin. If you are planning to apply for visa in Berlin, then the immigration authorities require that you have first completed your Anmeldung at an address in Berlin. Whether you are planning to apply for a Working Holiday Visa, Employment Visa, Freelance Visa or EU Blue Card in Berlin, none of this will be possible without first registering an address.

  • Receive your tax ID. To work in Berlin, everyone needs a tax ID (Steueridentifikationsnummer). And how do you obtain a tax ID? You guessed it… by completing your Anmeldung in Berlin. When you register an address, your tax ID is automatically generated and sent to you in the mail within two weeks.

  • Perform most administrative tasks such as signing up for a phone plan or registering for a bank account.

If moving to Berlin, Anmeldung should definitely be high on your list of priorities. If you want further info about the Anmeldung process in Berlin, read our detailed guide on how to complete your Anmeldung in Berlin.

If you are struggling to find accommodation that will let you complete your Anmeldung in Berlin, you may be interested in our Berlin Pro or Berlin Kickstarter relocation programmes. Both programmes include 30-day private studio accommodation in Berlin with guaranteed Anmeldung in your first week in Berlin.

2. You’ll need a work visa

While Anmeldung is an important part of moving to Berlin, it’s important not to overlook your visa requirements when moving to Germany. Unless you are an EU/EEA citizen, you’ll need a work visa for Germany in order to legally work in Berlin.

While citizens of some countries can enter Germany visa-free and apply for a work visa in Berlin, others need to apply at a German embassy overseas prior to entering. If you are from New Zealand, the US, Australia, Canada, Israel, South Korea or Japan, you can enter Germany visa-free for a 90-day period and apply for a work visa at the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) in Berlin. The only exception to this is the South Korean Working Holiday Visa, which must be applied for in Seoul.

When it comes to work visas for Berlin, you will likely have 3 main options, which vary greatly with regards to eligibility and application requirements:

  1. Working Holiday Visa: if moving to Berlin, you’re in luck if you are eligible for a Working Holiday Visa. The visa is valid for one year and allows young people aged 18 – 30 (35 for Canadians) to live and work in Berlin. You can apply for this visa if you are from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Israel, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, South Korea, Argentina, Chile or Uruguay. It is a super flexible visa that can be applied for without a work contract. For more extensive details, see our posts on What You Need to Know About the German Working Holiday Visa and Where You Should Apply for the Working Holiday Visa for Germany.

  2. Employment Visa: the Employment Visa is undoubtedly the most common visa for expats moving to Berlin and can be granted for up to 3 years. Before applying, you require a job offer and employment contract from an employer based in Germany. Any job offer received will need to go through a simple approval process with the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). If your application is deemed sufficiently strong, you’ll be approved and can start working in Berlin. You'll find some further details about the German Employment Visa in our post about Moving to Berlin With a Job.

  3. EU Blue Card: the EU Blue Card is undoubtedly the no.1 visa for expats moving to Berlin. It offers you the most rights and is the quickest route to gaining permanent residence in Germany. If applying with a permanent contract, you can be approved for a 4-year EU Blue Card. Due to the benefits that the EU Blue Card offers, it is naturally the hardest to obtain. Notably, you’ll require a university qualification that is recognised in Germany and a job offer with a salary of at least €53,600 (or €41,808 if working in a shortage profession). For further details about applying for the EU Blue Card, see our blog post on Moving to Berlin With a Job.

Determining exactly where, when and how to apply for a work visa for Germany is obviously an essential consideration when moving to Berlin.

At Nomaden Berlin, we provide full visa support and application guidance to ensure you meet the precise requirements for the different work visas and correctly complete all the necessary paperwork prior to your visa application.

3. There are plenty of English-speaking jobs in Berlin

When moving to Berlin, it is likely that you will need a source of income to sustain your life in the German capital. With the exception of the Working Holiday Visa, you’ll also need a job offer to be able to apply for a work visa for Germany.

As Berlin is obviously in Germany, many expats worry about not finding work without German language skills. While there are naturally going to be certain job openings that require German speakers, the English-speaking job market in Berlin is on the rise.

Every week, new startups, companies, restaurants and bars are springing up across the city, and looking for English-speaking employees to service their international clientele. In fact, at any one time, you’ll find that there are 1000s of skilled and unskilled job openings for English speakers in Berlin, whether you work in hospitality, marketing, sales, tech, recruitment, finance, tourism or teaching. The growth that the city is experiencing is quickly transforming Berlin into a major European job market with major English-speaking job opportunities.

We’ve put together some tips on how to find English-speaking jobs in Berlin.

If you are moving to Berlin and would like support finding a job, all of our relocation programmes include German-style CV templates and examples, tips for creating a professional CV and LinkedIn profile for the German market and listings of 500+ Berlin-based companies that employ English speakers. This support will ensure you are well prepared for finding an English-speaking job in Berlin.

4. You’ll need health insurance

When moving to Berlin and starting work for a German employer, it is mandatory that you sign up for German health insurance.

This will cost you roughly 8% of our gross salary and comes straight out of your pay cheque at the end of each month.

On our relocation programmes, we’ll put you in touch with our dedicated broker at one of Berlin’s leading insurance providers for expats. They’ll sign you up free of charge and ensure you receive all the necessary policy documents.

5. Berlin is still relatively cheap

When weighing up whether moving to Berlin is for them, lots of people are swayed by the relative affordability of the city compared to other major European capitals. While average salaries are modest, your money will go significantly further than in the likes of London, Amsterdam or Paris.

A room in a flatshare in a decent part of Berlin will set you back around EUR 450 per month while a 1-bedroom apartment will be around the EUR 800 mark. In terms of your day-to-day expenses, a meal out with a drink is likely to cost around EUR 12 while a 500 ml beer in a bar will be around EUR 3.30.

And don’t forget the EUR 3 Doner kebab that is a hallmark of the Berlin food scene and is never more than a 5-minute walk away.

All in all, you get great bang for your buck in the German capital, something that should not be overlooked when moving to Berlin. Read more about the cost of living in Berlin in 2019.

6. It’s a fantastic place to call home

For the last 4 years, I’ve had the joy of calling Berlin home. The city combines an eclectic array of nightclubs, bars and restaurants with a progressive and diverse population, resulting in a vibrant and forward-thinking feel. Whether you plan to brave the Berghain door policy, while away an evening on the Spree or BBQ in one of Berlin’s parks, no day feels quite the same in the German capital.

The city provides a fabulous work-life balance that ultimately allows its residents to pursue their interests and hobbies, a far cry from the corporate cultures that characterise Europe’s main financial hubs.

Often characterised as ‘poor but sexy’, the city offers tremendous richness when it comes to lifestyle, culture and fun. And while Berlin’s fragmented and traumatic past has certainly left its mark on the city, it has resulted in moving, sobering and awe-inspiring history at almost every turn.

When debating whether to move to Berlin, these cultural, recreational and historical factors should be placed front and centre, for it these factors that make the German capital truly unique.

Important German terminology when moving to Berlin

Moving to Berlin can be quite an overwhelming experience with many words cropping up that are as long as a German sausage. We've put together a list of 10 terms and processes you should know about before moving to Berlin!

1. Bürgeramt – the Bürgeramt is similar to a town hall. At the Bürgeramt, you can register your address (Anmeldung), apply for a driving license and apply for a police check. You can go to any Bürgeramt in Berlin and are not restricted to just the one in the district you are living in.

2. Anmeldung – when researching your move to Berlin, you’ll almost certainly come across the infamous Anmeldung process. Anmeldung loosely translates as ‘registration’ and is the most essential step to getting quickly set up in Germany. It is simply the process of registering yourself as living at an address in Germany. The Anmeldung process provides you with proof of residence called Anmeldebestätigung or Meldebescheinigung.

Every person planning to stay in Berlin for more than 3 months must complete their Anmeldung, which is done at a Bürgeramt (see definition above). By law, you should register within two weeks of arriving in Berlin. However, due to the current lack of housing, it takes many expats much longer. The process involves finding a house or flat to live in after which the landlord must sign a form (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) confirming that you live there.

The majority of hotels or hostels in Berlin no longer let you register. It’s also not possible to simply register at a friend’s place, as it is against the law to register somewhere that you don’t actually live. Doing this behind a landlord’s back can lead to significant problems for the tenant as the landlord is notified when people register at their property – the landlord may accuse the tenant of illegally subletting the property, which can be grounds for eviction.

Without registering an address at the Bürgeramt, you will not be able to obtain a tax ID (leading to you being taxed at the highest tax bracket), open certain bank accounts, or even sign up for an internet package. Perhaps most importantly, you need your Anmeldung certificate if you wish to apply for a residence permit (Working Holiday, Freelance, Employment Permit, etc.) or enrol at a German university after your arrival in Germany.

Our Berlin Kickstarter and Berlin Pro programmes include 30-day private studio accommodation that allows address registration as well as an address registration appointment booking service. Through booking our Berlin Kickstarter or Berlin Pro relocation package, we'll ensure you get registered in your first week in Berlin. If these programmes don't take your fancy, then the Berlin Basic programme also includes 20+ short-term accommodation listings that allow address registration. When coupled with our detailed address registration instructions, relevant forms and address registration letters included in our relocation platform, you'll be a registered Berliner in no time.

3. Steueridentifikationsnummer – your Steuer-ID is your personal identification number in Germany. It’s not a tax number or tax ID but it is used to process everything regarding your income tax. Your Steuer-ID usually arrives in the post approximately two weeks after you complete your Anmeldung. It is often confused with a Steuernummer (see below).

4. Steuernummer – you require a Steuernummer if you wish to engage in freelance work while living in Germany. It is crucial for freelancers as you cannot do your tax return or invoice clients without it. You apply for your Steuernummer at the tax office (Finanzamt). To apply for a Steuernummer, you are required to fill in and submit a form called the Fragebogen zur steuerliche Erfassung.

5. Finanzamt – the Finanzamt is the German tax office. You should always go to the Finanzamt that is in the district you live in. If you want to start working as a freelancer, you must visit the Finanzamt in your district to apply for a Steuernummer (see above).

6. Public and Private Health Insurance – Germany has a private health insurance system - when people talk about ‘Private’ and ‘Public’ insurance they are in fact both forms of private insurance. However, the ‘public’ system (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) is a government-regulated system that is mandatory if you are working for an employer in Germany and your salary is less than EUR 59,400. The ‘private’ system (Private Krankenversicherung) is for self-employed people or for employees earning over the EUR 59,400 threshold.

On the ‘public’ system, your employer must pay half of your monthly health insurance contributions if you earn over EUR 450 a month. While ‘public’ insurance increases based on your salary, ‘private’ insurance rises as you get older.

7. Rundfunkbeitrag (TV & Radio Tax) – The Rundfunkbeitrag is a license fee for public service broadcasting that must be paid by everyone registered in Berlin. The fee is EUR 17.50 per month and is paid per household. If you live in a shared flat, only one tenant must pay and the other tenants must inform the Gebühreneinzugszentrale “GEZ” (Fee Collection Center) that the fee is being paid on their behalf.

8. Kirchensteuer (Church Tax) – If you don’t specify that you are not part of the Church when you register your address (Anmeldung), you may have to pay 8-9% per cent Church tax. To avoid this, you must write ‘VD’ (no religion) when it requests your religion on your Anmeldung form.

9. Rote Karte (Red card) – you need to obtain a Rote Karte if you wish to work in hospitality. To do this, you need to book an appointment at your local Gesundheitsamt (health department). In Berlin, these are located in Lichtenberg, Mitte, Marzahn-Hellersdorf, Treptow Köpenick and Neukölln. You watch a short film in German at your appointment and it costs EUR 20. You require a German speaker with you for the appointment.

10. SCHUFA Auskunft – a SCHUFA Auskunft is a credit report. Many landlords will request to see your SCHUFA when you apply for an apartment in Berlin. As a foreigner moving to Berlin, a SCHUFA will automatically be created once you have registered your address (Anmeldung) and opened a bank account. Once you have done this, you can apply for a SCHUFA report online or at selected Postbank branches.

While moving to Berlin can seem overwhelming, at Nomaden Berlin we make sure that your move to the German capital goes smoothly. We provide relocation packages that include private studio accommodation, an appointment booking service, relocation workshops, events, tours and meetups. On top of this, we provide access to our extensive relocation platform which includes step-by-step visa guidance and support as well as comprehensive instructions for completing all the major relocation steps involved in moving to Berlin. Click here for further information on how we can help you move to Berlin!

We look forward to welcoming you to Berlin!