Without a doubt, one of the first things you’ll be doing when you land in Germany if you’re looking to live here is to register your address. In German, this is called the anmeldung, and it is a no BS, 100% must have requirement for those intending to live in Germany. Anmeldung means “registration” in German and for this blog post, you can think of it as an address registration.
This blog post will go into detail about what the anmeldung is, how to get it, and as well as your Steuer ID (Tax ID) that comes right after you register your address. In addition, I’ll also talk about getting a Führungszeugnis, which is a criminal background check that many employers will ask for.
These are very important documents for starting your new life in Germany so make sure you make copies of them when you do get them!
What is the Anmeldung?
By law, both foreigners and Germans are required to register at the local Residence Registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) within two weeks of moving to a new residence in Germany. This is also required for any change of address.
For myself, a US citizen, this was a bit of a surprise but I figured as I am a foreigner here on an EU Blue card work visa, this seems like a totally normal requirement to have to do. What is more surprising is that everyone else including citizens of other EU countries must also do this too. I’ve met many EU citizens that thought they didn’t have to do this when they first arrived. But it doesn’t matter where you’re from, it’s an absolute must.
This process is more or less to register yourself with the German authorities so they know where you’re residing. You’ll also select whether you want to contribute to the church tax but I think you have to explicitly select yes for this as they would not make you pay this tax by default.
What Documents do you need?
So now that you know registering your address is a must do, what documents do you need exactly to ensure this happens correctly?
Germany is not known for their easy to navigate bureaucracy. Not only does not speaking the language ensure you have a less than desirable experience, but it just seems like there’s so many formal things you need to take care of.
To register an address in Germany, you’ll need the following docs:
- Your passport, and visa if you have one
- A completed registration form (Anmeldeformular)
- The landlord confirmation letter (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung)
If you have spouse or kids, you’ll also need your marriage or child’s birth certificate to register them as well. In addition, sometimes you’ll also need a copy of your rental or lease agreement. Which transitions nicely into the next topic.
What if you do not register your address in Germany?
German’s love their organization and bureaucracy so if you do not have an Anmeldung and you are living in Germany, you won’t be able to do any of the following:
- Opening a bank account
- Applying for a visa
- Obtaining health insurance
- or even opening a mobile phone contract!
- Hell, even some gyms won’t accept!
The only thing worse than telling the Bürgeramt that you’ve lived here for six months without registering is telling them you’ve lived here for nine months without registering.
There are fines for registering late which range from €10 to €70, although reports of these being handed out are rare.
Do you need a visa to get an anmeldung?
Strangely enough, you would think that registering an address in Germany means you must have some sort of residence permit to stay in Germany. But that sound logic would not be true. In fact, you must register your address first and then go apply for your visa.
Like I said before, the anmeldung is probably the first thing you need to get done before attempting any of the other fun German bureaucratic things. For example, you can’t apply for a visa without health insurance. But you can’t have health insurance unless you have your address registered. See where I’m going with this??
How do you get an anmeldung if you don’t have an address?
One of the main requirements to register your address is…well an actual apartment with an actual address. However, for many people that first move here, it’s likely you’re coming here without an apartment pre selected.
it’s likely you’re staying in a hotel, or maybe an Airbnb, or just crashing on a friend’s couch. It takes much longer than two weeks to find an apartment in Germany from personal experience, so how can you actual register an address before you’ve ever had a chance to look for a real apartment?
Don’t worry, this is the conundrum many expats face and with good reason. Don’t worry, there are many work arounds for this.
Staying with friends or family
If you’re staying with friends, have them assist you with writing a letter stating that you’re indeed staying at their apartment for some time. Even if you don’t plan on staying there for weeks on end, you need a starting base for the anmeldung and you can always change your address later. But you’ll want to get it done asap so you can focus on taking care of other German things like opening a bank account.
A letter from a friend or family member can be something as simple that just “I, _____, hereby confirm that _____ is currently living at the apartment at ______ from this date _______ forward”. Of course this has to be in German and signed as well. Bring this with you to the registration appointment.
Staying at a short term apartment or hotel
If you’re staying at a hotel for an extended period, some hotels will fill out the landlord form for you. This is something many of these hotels have experience doing and do quite often. I would email or call the hotel before arriving in Germany to see if filing out the Wohnungsgeberbestätigun is something they are able to do.
If you’re staying at an Airbnb for a few weeks, this is also something the landlord may do for you. Of course, ask well in advance because some Airbnb landlords may not be so keen to do it as perhaps they’re trying to hide their Airbnb activity from the public eye.
Book an Appointment with Your Local Bürgeramt
Once you have all the documents required to get Anmeldung, you can submit them at your local district office by visiting your local Bürgeramt. The Bürgeramt is your local town hall where you will inevitably visit for many different things like your anmeldung, or a criminal background check that many companies will require.
Before you get ahead of yourself, make sure to actually make an appointment at the local town hall. It’s not required but if your German is not passable but rather laughable, you’ll want to set up an appointment online.
Here’s a list of service portal websites for the main cities in Germany where you can book an Anmeldung appointment:
- Berlin.de: You can book an appointment here.
- Dortmund.de: You can book an appointment here.
- Duesseldorf.de: You can book an appointment here.
- Frankfurt.de: You can book an appointment here.
- Hamburg.de: You can book an appointment here.
- Muenchen.de: You can book an appointment here.
- Stuttgart.de: You can book an appointment here.
Obtaining the Anmeldung
Once you’ve prepared, it’s time to go to the Bürgeramt!
The Bürgeramt by me is in Frankfurt, right near to the Konstablerwache. The building itself is nothing to marvel at but it runs surprisingly efficiently.
The process is quick and is entirely free of charge. They must process a hundreds of these a day because every citizen and immigrant has to register. They also must re-register if they move apartments so you can see how this adds up quickly!
The Bürgeramt will print a paper copy of the Anmeldung on the spot for you. Take VERY good care of this piece of paper and make sure to scan it and make backup copies. You will need this for many more things throughout your stay in Germany.
Once you’ve finished, they will simply stamp your Anmeldung form and it will look something like this. This is my personal Anmeldung.
What about leaving Germany?
If you’ve lived in Germany and are planning to leave, whether that’s to move to another EU country or leave the EU altogether, absolutely make sure to de-register your address. This simply involves visiting the Bürgeramt and telling them that you’re leaving.
If you fail to do this, the German authorities still think you are a German resident and will treat you as such. This may mean you’re on the hook for bills like Beitragsservice which is the radio and media tax every German citizen or resident must pay. Additionally, you’ll still be a tax resident and this could complicate things down the road.
All in all, the German Government wants to know where you are while you are in the country. Think of it as a way to keep tabs on all their citizens which I think makes sense.
German tax ID – Steuer ID
When registering in Germany, you apply at the same time for a Steuer-ID (German tax ID); you can’t have one without the other. It doesn’t matter whether you work, study or are unemployed, you get a tax ID sent to your registered address after the registration. Give it to your employer, who will use it when deducting income and social security taxes.
This is especially important if you do have a job as your HR department will not pay you unless you have one .They might give you a one time courtesy so you have the time to get your Anmeldung and steuer ID but don’t expect much more than that.
The Steuer ID will come in the mail, yes Germans love the mail still, roughly a week after you’ve registered. It will come to the address you registered your Anmeldung at.
I’d recommend to make a scan of this piece of paper and save it somewhere easy to access. You don’t need it for many things but when it comes time to use it, and you don’t know where the number is, you’re screwed.
If you are registering with a spouse, he/she will also receive a separate Steuer ID (Tax ID) even if they have no job or don’t even intend to seek employment. You’ll need both Steuer IDs when you file your tax return in the end of the year, as well as switching tax classes from Tax Class 1 to Class 3 if you want to save lots of money on income taxes.
German background check – The Führungszeugnis
If you’re working for a German company, it’s likely they will request you get a certificate of criminal records or a Führungszeugnis.
This is also something you will have to complete at the lovely Bürgeramt.
I only did this about 9 months after I started working because HR kept hounding me to get one and I would just tell them I am foreign so how could I have a criminal record?
But nope, I’m wrong, whether you’re German, from the EU, or from anywhere else you will need to get one.
If you’re an EU citizen, they will actually pull up your records from your home country and combine the two. If you’re not from an EU country, they will only do a German background check. So if you’ve committed crime in your home country, don’t worry, you’ll have a clean record in Germany!
What documents do you need for a Führungszeugnis
Well it turns out, you don’t need much to get the background check. For the German Führungszeugnis, you just need the following:
- Passport / ID card if you’re an EU citizen
- 13 euros in cash or by EC card (NO CREDIT CARDS!)
You don’t need to book this in advance. I came during the Bürgeramt’s opening hours, got a number at the front desk, waited about 15 minutes for my number to be called. I told the guy I was looking to get a Führungszeugnis, showed him my passport, and he pulled up my profile right away as I had already registered my my address (see above sections!).
The whole process took no more than 5 minutes. I paid with my EC card, and it was done. It is sent in the mail (of course) within 2-3 weeks. Keep this document, take a scan of it, and bring it to your work and you should be good to go.
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