Moving to Germany

Moving to Germany: An Expat's Guide

Moving to Germany as an expat can be an exciting and life-changing experience.

Whether you are relocating for work, study, or personal reasons, it is important to plan and research before making the move. Germany offers a high standard of living, excellent healthcare and education systems, and a rich cultural heritage.
However, navigating the visa process, finding suitable housing, understanding the healthcare system, and learning the language can be challenging.

Our moving-to guide aims to provide you with all the necessary information about moving to Germany, covering living costs, visas, accommodation, health, and the educational system for expats.

Understanding the Visa Process for Expats in Germany

Before moving to Germany, it is crucial to understand the visa process for expats. There are different types of visas available depending on the purpose of your stay. The most common types of visas for expats include work visas, student visas, and family reunion visas. Each visa has specific requirements and application processes.
To apply for a visa, you will need to gather the necessary documents such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance coverage, proof of financial means to support yourself during your stay, and a letter of invitation or acceptance from a German employer or educational institution. It is important to submit your visa application well in advance as processing times can vary. 

Requirements for obtaining a visa to move to Germany

To obtain a visa to move to Germany, you must fulfil several requirements:

  1. Prove financial stability: Applicants must demonstrate that they can financially support themselves during their stay in Germany. This may involve providing evidence of savings, income, or a combination of both.
  2. Have health insurance: All applicants must have valid health insurance coverage, either through a German insurance provider or by providing proof of insurance from their home country.
  3. Have at least basic proficiency in German: The need for German language skills when applying for a visa to move to Germany depends on the purpose of your move. For employment, education, and family reunification, having at least basic proficiency in German is generally recommended, but not always required for the initial visa application.
  4. Get a German visa: Depending on the purpose of your move to Germany (e.g., employment, education, entrepreneurship, family reunification, or residence permit), you will need to apply for the appropriate visa type.
german visa application

Application process for a German visa

Please note that the specific requirements and application process may vary depending on the type of visa you are applying for and your nationality. It is essential to check the German embassy or consulate website in your country for the most up-to-date information on visa requirements and application procedures.

Tips for a successful visa application include ensuring that all documents are complete and accurate, providing any additional supporting documents that may be required, and seeking assistance from a relocation specialist such as Crown Relocations or an immigration lawyer if needed.

In general, the application process for a German visa involves several steps:
Complete the application form, gather all required documents, and ensure they are in order. 
Book an appointment at the embassy or consulate responsible for processing your visa application. 
Attend your appointment with all necessary documents and the completed application form. 
Your documents and application form will be checked and verified, and you will receive a printed copy of your application. 
You will need to pay the required fee before your application can be processed. 
During your appointment, you will have your fingerprints scanned using a digital scanner. 
Once your application has been processed, you will need to collect your passport and any other documents from the embassy or consulate. 

Living Costs When Moving to Germany

Germany is known for its relatively affordable cost of living compared to other Western European countries. However, expenses can vary significantly depending on the city or region you choose to live in, your lifestyle, and the size of your household. Cities like Munich, Frankfurt, and Hamburg have higher living costs compared to smaller towns.
The major expenses involved in relocating to Germany include housing, food, transportation, healthcare, utilities, and leisure activities. Rent is usually the largest expense for expats, followed by groceries and transportation. It is important to research the average prices for these expenses in your chosen city or region and factor them into your budget.

Understanding the living costs is essential for a smooth transition, and every aspect of daily life can impact your budget. We will explore the various factors that contribute to the living costs in Germany for expats, providing valuable insights and tips for managing expenses efficiently in one of Europe's most vibrant and diverse countries.

General Expenses

For a single person, the average monthly expenses can range from €934 to €2,483, depending on the city and lifestyle. A family of four can expect to spend about €3,203 to €4,454 per month, excluding rent. These estimates include groceries, transportation, utilities, and leisure activities.

Now let’s break them into categories and have a better grasp on each of them:
cost of living in Germany

Food and Groceries

The cost of groceries in Germany is reasonable, especially if you shop at local supermarkets and markets. A monthly budget of €200-€300 should be sufficient for an individual, while a family's expenses may range from €400-€600. Eating out at restaurants and cafes occasionally can add to your food expenses. 


Germany has an efficient public transportation system, including buses, trains, and trams. Monthly transportation costs vary depending on your location and travel needs. In major cities, a monthly public transport pass can cost around €60-€100. If you plan to own a car, you need to consider additional expenses like fuel, insurance, and parking. 


Utilities include electricity, water, heating, and internet services. The monthly costs depend on the size of your accommodation and your consumption habits. Expats can expect to spend around €150-€250 per month on utilities. 

Leisure and Entertainment

The cost of entertainment in Germany can be pricey, depending on expats' preferences. Expats can save money by joining local sports teams or attending free cultural events. 

Finding Suitable Housing Options for Expats in Germany

Finding suitable housing is one of the most important aspects of relocating to Germany. Accommodation is likely to be your biggest expense. There are several popular neighbourhoods for expats in cities like Berlin, Munich, and Frankfurt. These neighbourhoods offer a mix of cultural diversity, amenities, and proximity to schools and workplaces.
In terms of housing options, expats can choose between renting or buying property. Renting is more common among expats due to its flexibility and lower upfront costs. There are different types of rental properties available, including apartments, houses, and shared accommodations. 

Options range from renting an apartment or house to living in shared flats (WG, Wohngemeinschaft). Websites like ImmobilienScout24 and WG-Gesucht are popular platforms for finding rental properties and shared housing.

Rent varies greatly from city to city, with Munich and Stuttgart being among the most expensive cities, while cities like Leipzig and Dresden are more affordable. On average, rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Germany is €942 per month, but this can soar to €1,745 in cities like Berlin and Munich.

It is important to research the rental market, understand the rental laws and regulations, and be prepared to provide necessary documents such as proof of income and references.
To secure a rental property, it is advisable to start your search well in advance be prepared to attend viewings, and provide necessary documents promptly. It can be helpful to engage the services of a real estate agent or relocation specialist who can assist with the home search process. 

What are the best neighbourhoods for expats in Germany

Neighbourhood The Attractions
Berlin Known as the capital and largest city in Germany, Berlin offers a rich historical and cultural hub with museums, galleries, iconic landmarks, and a vibrant nightlife scene.
Munich A city in southern Germany with a strong job market, particularly in the automotive, engineering, IT, finance, electronics, and media sectors.
Hamburg A bustling city with excellent cultural experiences, including history, art, and music.
Frankfurt A financial hub with opportunities in banking and finance, as well as a high quality of life and easy access to other European destinations.
Cologne A city with a strong job market and a rich history, known for its vibrant culture and friendly atmosphere.
Stuttgart A city in southern Germany with a diverse range of industries, including biomedical technology and robotics, and a strong focus on innovation.
Düsseldorf Attracts expats with a high quality of life, good work-life balance, and job security.
Aachen A city in the far west of Germany with a large population of expats, known for its job security and good career opportunities.
Oldenburg A mid-sized city with affordable rents, beautiful architecture, and a friendly community.
Bonn Known for its high quality of life, walkability, and expat-friendly atmosphere.

Navigating the German Healthcare System as an Expat

The German healthcare system offers both public and private health insurance options for expats moving to Germany. 

Public health insurance (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung, GKV) is mandatory for those earning below a certain threshold, while private health insurance (Private Krankenversicherung, PKV) is available for higher earners. 

Here's a more detailed explanation of the healthcare system in Germany for an expat:
Public health insurance is mandatory for employees with a gross income of up to €69,300 per year (as of 2024). The contributions are income-based, with employees and employers sharing the cost equally. The cost of public health insurance varies based on the individual's income, with a general contribution rate of 14.9% for employees and an additional contribution rate determined by each individual fund.
Private health insurance is suitable for self-employed individuals, high-income earners, and those who require more extensive coverage. Premiums for private health insurance are risk-related and may increase over time. Private insurance offers comprehensive coverage, including access to all areas of the German healthcare system, such as visits to the doctor and specialists, health checks, treatment in hospitals, dentistry, and prescriptions and medicines.
Private health insurance plans offer additional benefits, such as shorter waiting times for procedures, access to private hospitals and doctors, coverage for alternative therapies, and tailored plans to meet individual needs.
The cost of private health insurance in Germany varies significantly based on factors like age, health status, and the type and level of coverage chosen. On average, it can range from €200 to €700 per month, but it's essential to obtain personalized quotes from different providers to get an accurate understanding of potential costs.
If you are employed in Germany, your employer may offer private health insurance as part of your benefits package. However, the cost of private health insurance may not be fully covered by your employer, and you will have to cover the remaining premium yourself.
healthcare system in Germany

Choosing the Right Health Insurance Plan

To find the right health insurance plan that suits your needs, it's essential to compare different insurance providers and their policies. Factors to consider include your age, health status, lifestyle factors that may affect premiums, the type and level of coverage you need, deductible, copay, and coinsurance amounts, provider network, and the reputation and financial stability of the insurance provider.

In conclusion, the German healthcare system offers both public and private health insurance options for expats moving to Germany. Public health insurance is mandatory for employees with a certain income threshold, while private health insurance is suitable for higher earners and those who require more extensive coverage. It's essential to consider the specific needs and budget when choosing the right health insurance plan.

To access healthcare services in Germany, expats need to register with a local doctor (Hausarzt) who will serve as their primary care physician. In case of emergencies or specialized care, referrals may be required. It is important to familiarize yourself with the healthcare system, understand your insurance coverage, and keep all necessary documents and contact information handy.

Education Options for Expats' Kid in Germany

Germany has a well-regarded education system that offers a wide range of options for expats. The education system is divided into different levels: primary education (Grundschule), secondary education (Hauptschule, Realschule, and Gymnasium), and tertiary education (Universität and Fachhochschule).
For expat families with school-age children, there are international schools available that offer education in English or other languages. These schools follow international curricula and provide a smooth transition for expat children. However, they can be expensive and may have limited availability.
Germany offers a range of educational options for expat children, including public, private, bilingual, and international schools. The education system is decentralized, with each state (Land) responsible for its schools. 

Public Schools

Public schools in Germany are free of charge and provide a high standard of education. However, the language of instruction is German, which might be challenging for expat children without proficiency in the language.

International and Bilingual Schools

Many expats choose to send their children to international or bilingual schools, where the curriculum is often taught in English and another language (usually German). 

These schools offer International Baccalaureate (IB) or other international curricula, making them an attractive option for families planning to stay in Germany temporarily or who wish to maintain continuity in their children's education. 

However, tuition fees for these schools can be significant, ranging from €15,000 to €30,000 per year. 

German Tax for Expats Working in the Country

Expats who are working in Germany do need to pay taxes, with a few key points:

  1. Tax Residency: Expats who are considered German tax residents will be subject to tax on their worldwide income, not just German-sourced income. Factors that determine tax residency include having a permanent place of residence in Germany and being physically present in the country for at least 6 months in a calendar year.
  2. Income Tax: Expats working in Germany are subject to progressive income tax rates, which can range from 14% to 45% depending on their taxable income. There is also an additional "Solidarity Surcharge" of 5.5% on the income tax amount.
  3. Other Taxes: Expats may also be liable for church tax (if applicable) and social security contributions, which can add significantly to their overall tax burden.
  4. Tax Filing: Expats are generally required to file an annual tax declaration (Steuererklärung) with the German tax authorities, even if their taxes are already withheld by their employer.
  5. Double Taxation Agreements: Germany has a double taxation agreement with the United States, which may help expats avoid being taxed twice on the same income.

In summary, expats working in Germany are required to pay taxes, including income tax, solidarity surcharge, and potentially other taxes like church tax and social security contributions. 

The specific tax obligations will depend on factors like tax residency status and the expat's personal financial situation.


Moving to Germany requires careful planning and consideration of various factors, including living costs, visa requirements, accommodation, healthcare, and education as we have shared above. 

By understanding these aspects and preparing accordingly, you can ensure a smooth transition to your new life in Germany. With its rich culture, robust economy, and high quality of life, Germany offers a rewarding experience for expats willing to navigate its complexities.

Moving to a new country can be overwhelming, especially when you have to navigate through a different culture, language, and logistics.

Crown Relocations as one of the most reputable international moving companies is your trusted partner in making your move to Germany hassle-free. Our expert team will handle all aspects of your relocation, from packing and shipping to navigating customs regulations, ensuring a smooth transition for you and your family.

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