Moving to Germany: The tangled web gets more tangled - Insurance, Anmeldung, Banks

Sorry for the long wait! I've been traveling for the past couple of weeks which you may see some posts about~ Anyways, to the serious part! ­čśë

Let's review: so far, I've talked about getting to Germany and the first thing you need to do when you arrive (looking for a residence). I bet it was pretty long for you to read, right? Well, it just gets worse! We only just scratched the surface when I talked about apartment hunting. I was trying to keep it simple for y'all and focus more on the apartment to start, but there's so much more to it than just the circling web of the *Apartment vs Bank vs the B├╝rgerservice*

Welcome to Part 2: the tangled web gets more tangled!



(Hope you enjoyed the Comic Sans ­čśł­čśé)

In Part 1, we talked about the strange circle of obtaining an apartment which is directly linked to obtaining a bank account with a registered address (Anmeldung). Here, we'll talk about a couple of other things you will need for the apartment process, such as the different types of insurance.

1. Insurance

At least two types of insurance will probably be required when obtaining your apartment (depending on the rental agency). We were required to obtain Renter's Insurance (Hausratversicherung) and "Personal Liability Insurance" (Haftpflichtversicherung). You should be familiar with Renter's Insurance as that's also commonly required in the US, but you may be asking, what is "Personal Liability Insurance?"
Personal Liability Insurance will insure you in case of any damage you may cause. For example: if you accidentally damage your neighbor's belonging, the replacement would be covered; if you accidentally cause an accident and hurt somebody, their hospital bill would be covered. Every German seems to have this insurance, and it's very affordable so why not? You can also obtain more insurance such as "Law Protection Insurance" (Rechtsschutzversicherung) which will cover any legal fees in case of court disputes. The Germans seem to love insuring everything possible, down to their windows. You can read more about them in this great article by 'Settle in Berlin' if you're curious.
Where can you start looking for these insurances? I started shopping for prices on this website. It is in German, but just look on the left for "Hausratversicherung" and "Haftpflichtversicherung" and then use Google Translate for the search fields (Google Chrome will be your best friend in Germany with their built in translation tool).  They also seem to show a rating for each company/policy, but I don't know what that's based on.
After I narrowed down a couple of companies that sounded reliable and affordable, I simply sent out emails asking if any of them spoke English and if they could help us obtain these insurances. We went with the first company to respond, Konzept und Marketing Gruppe. Our Representative, Robert Str├╝ber, wasn't too confident with his English so we just communicated via email, but he was to the point and very responsive so we were happy (if you're not picky, this was our contact: R.strueber@versifair.de). It was all around a pretty quick and easy process- we were able to obtain all necessary insurances with him (including insurance for our pets!). You may just want to work on timing because he will be needing an address. We had contacted him when we were still waiting on the rental agency's decision which was totally ok, he just asked that we let him know as soon as we obtained the address so he could file and send the paperwork.

2. Paperwork for your Apartment Application

A couple of other things your rental agency may require during your application process are:
German Work Contract from your employer showing your income
Letter from your previous landlord stating you were a good renter (paid on time, no problems)
Or if you owned, a copy of your deed or other proof

3. Anmeldung

Registering your residence with your city's B├╝rgerservice (or B├╝rgeramt) will get you the “Anmeldungbescheinigung” (Registration Certificate). You will be needing this piece of paper for most accounts you will be opening during your stay (bank account, electricity, internet, etc). As mentioned in Part 1, you should make an appointment ahead of time as sometimes the queue is long. I believe I've read some of the larger cities don't require an appointment, but that was not the case in Jena. Our small city required you to make an appointment as well as keeping all of your paperwork within the city (some forums mentioned doing your immigration paperwork in a city nearby for shorter queues). I believe you're required to register your address within 14 days of moving into your new residence. Thus, we made our appointment as soon as we started actually looking at apartments as our city's queue was more than a week out, but I wouldn't stress too much about the deadline. They seem to be understanding about going over these limits if it's due to their long appointment queues since it's not your fault.
Also, as mentioned in Part 1, if you're having real difficulties finding a place but you need things to get going for work/the bank, we've been told you can just register your workplace/hotel address and have your employer/hotel write a letter stating that you're staying there. But this should be a last measure because 1) we're not sure if it would make the process more difficult and 2) after you do find a place, you have to make an appointment and re-register everything again. Yes, you will have to re-register if you want your electricity and internet to go to the right address as they will check your "Registration Certificate."
The process was fairly simple, you make an appointment, show up/check in, they'll call you to head towards a numbered booth, you show them your paperwork, they scan/copy everything in, and then provide you with the "Registration Certificate." They should also let you know when you should be expecting your "Tax ID" (Steuer-ID). You will be needing this to start working so make sure to ask about it if they don't mention it first.
We were required to bring:
Passports, Rental Contract, Meldebestatigung (document from your Landlord proving your residence - yes, they will want both), any documents proving your relation to your family (if you have anybody coming with you - such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, etc and their Passports), and of course, a filled out Anmeldung Form. You should be able to find it on your local B├╝rgeramt's website. I did not want to provide it here in case your city's form looks different.

To Note:
1) They did hassle us a little about our Marriage Certificate being in English. Thankfully, our official was confident in her English along with her supervisor so they decided to ok it. Be aware that this may be a problem, especially for more complex forms such as your child's Birth Certificate. You may want to ask your local B├╝rgeramt ahead of time if you will be needing translated forms.
2) Our official asked if we had enrolled in Health Insurance yet and asked to look at our Insurance Cards. We knew it was required later on, but we weren't aware that they'd ask for it during our Anmeldung appointment. I'm not sure if they normally require it or they usually just inform you that you will be needing it for your "Permanent Residence Appointment" later on, but I hadn't seen anywhere that we were required to bring it for this appointment. We just happened to have it on us- luckily, my husband's employer had referred us to a health insurance company with a good English program so that was a quick process.
3) The B├╝rgeramt will be asking about your religious status. If you so choose to identify with certain religions and attend church in Germany, you will have to pay a "Church Tax" (Kirchensteuer). This tax isn't small, it's a percentage of your salary and I believe the percentage depends on your religion. This tax is collected by the Tax Office (then channeled to your faith) which is why they ask you during this appointment.

4. Now you're set for the Bank and any other accounts

Whoohoo!!! As mentioned in Part 1, you will most likely be needing an appointment to open your bank account. Otherwise, it seemed just like opening a bank account in the States except that they require your work contract/proof of income. They will also be requiring your "Registration Certificate" (Anmeldungbescheinigung), your Rental Contract won't suffice. Be aware you will be providing your SSN (if from the US) and filling out forms for tax history/divulging any German accounts to the US.
Extra tip: ask them about activating "PayDirekt" while you're there. If it's not activated and you don't know how to use it, you may have trouble purchasing items online. We didn't even know about this until we tried to purchase a washing machine from Saturn.de.

5. Don't Forget: Permanent Residency

Don't forget you still have to get your "Permanent Resident Card" (Aufenthaltstitel) after you register your address. You will have to make an appointment for this (depending on what city you're in) at your local "Ausl├Ąnderbeh├Ârde." Your travel visa is only valid for 90 days in Germany so you want to time this right and make your appointment ahead of time, but as mentioned earlier, they seem to be understanding about going over these limits if it's due to their long appointment queues. I believe if the next available appointment is past your 90 day mark, they'll have to provide you a visa extension.
This appointment was very similar to the Anmeldung appointment except that they required more documents along with your biometrics. You can find a list of everything you will be required to bring on your local Ausl├Ąnderbeh├Ârde's website along with the form you will need to complete.
You will also be needing "passport photos" which you can easily obtain here with one of those "passport photo kiosks." It basically looks just like one of those fun photo booths, but they're designed to provide specific instructions for passport requirements along with the proper sized photos. We've found them at several local grocery stores so they seem to be easily accessible!
The whole appointment took about 1.5 hours if I remember right. A lot of it was just copying/scanning/signing and then printing out a temporary residence card for us.
We received our 'Permanent Residence' through my husband's "critical skill," being a Chemist. Apparently being a doctorate means neither he nor I were required to know German to obtain residence in Germany, but that's not the norm. I believe you may be required to take "Assimilation and Language" classes and pass certain level tests for them to grant you full permanent residence.
When I asked if I had permission to work as well (as the spouse), she said yes and implied that the spouse was normally allowed to work during the time frame of the primary spouse's work contract. She stated that if I found employment with a longer work contract than my husband's, then we could come in before the expiration of our 'Permanent Residence' status to renew the card for my new work contract dates.


And that should conclude any paperwork for your stay here in Germany! Unless you have special circumstances, you don't file your taxes here so that about sums it up. Hope this has been helpful! Please feel free to ask me any questions anytime. If there's ever anything you would like me to add or write about, I always welcome comments~



*This is simply what I learned from my personal experiences/research. Please always make sure to consult with the proper authorities such as your local offices and banks and take this post with a grain of salt.

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