British in Germany

Living in Germany


"Know your rights! These are your rights." - The Clash

Drivers Licence

Good news! As an EU citizen your drivers licence (Führerschein) is valid in Germany. In fact there is mutual recognition of licences issued by Member States. This means that if you have a valid driving licence issued by a Member State of the European Union it will be valid, throughout the EU, for the class or classes of vehicles for which it was issued in the Member State of origin. - Don't let anyone tell you any different.

However, you can't (to date) change the address on your British licence to your new address in Germany (something to do with the software and British postcodes), So, if you move to Germany permanently you must change your licence to a German one within 6 months of taking up residence in Germany. It's very easy to do, and there are even a couple of benefits (see Driving in Germany).


Insurance (Versicherung)

Insurance is mandatory in Germany if you are planning to stay for over six months or are working here. It is also recommended even if you are a student or a tourist. If you are here for under six months you remain in the UK National Insurance Scheme, a form (E101).

Health Insurance (Krankenversicherungen)

Germany has a national health scheme called the GKV (Gesetzliche Krankenkasse), although it is a state scheme coverage is provided through insurance companies such as the BKK, AOK, DAK etc...

If you are working as a salaried employee you will most likely find the company provides health insurance through one of these companies. If you are self-employed you can join this scheme. If you are a dependant in the immediate family of an existing member you are entitled to the same benefits.

Car Insurance (Autoversicherung)

Car insurance is mandatory and very expensive. Your car must be in road-worthy condition when you operate it. If your car has worn tires, inadequate lighting or mechanical defects, you are not only violating German law, but your insurance company may decide you have breached your insurance contract. Make sure you can prove any no-claims bonus.

Third Party Insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

In Germany everyone is liable for any damage done to a third party. It is, therefore, more than advisable to take out a (family) third-party insurance for the entire duration of your stay (parents are also liable for their children). This protects you against claims resulting from accidental damage. Standard third-party insurance policies are not very expensive and the conditions are usually similar. You must also take out Haftpflichtversicherung for any dogs you have.

Legal Insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung)

It may be a good idea to take out a legal expenses policy; this kind of insurance covers the cost of a lawyer, for example, if you have to go to court. According to individual needs, policies are often only taken out for specific areas (tenancy matters, cars etc.).


EU Rights

This is when you will be glad to be a citizen of Europe (no matter what the tabloid press in the UK say). As an EU international you are entitled to a five year residence permit immediately, even though you will still have to apply for it. In addition you do not need a work permit, but you will still need visible means of support or a job before you can recieve your residence permit, this is to prove that you will not become a burden on the already overstretched German welfare state.

In a nutshell the European Union treaties give certain rights to EU citizens throughout the EU. Essentially, they confer the right to study, look for work , work and even retire in any EU country.

These treaties include the European Economic Area which, after the latest expansion in the EU now covers the EU, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It is possible that some of the Eastern European countries that are negotiating to join the EU may have EEA status, but check.


German Tax (Steuer)

"By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes." Shakespeare

If your stay in Germany is longer than half a year, you must pay taxes. If shorter than that, taxes must be paid back in the UK. The income tax (Einkommensteuer) rates are progressively graded according to what you earn. Your tax class depends on whether or not you are married and how many children you have. Single people are hit the hardest. If you’re married, and especially if you’re the sole breadwinner and have children, you are treated much more kindly by the tax authorities.

The German tax year runs as per the calendar year.

Everyone working in Germany is required to have an income tax card (Lohnsteuerkarte). This is issued by the town hall (Rathaus).

Documents needed:-

Residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)
Registration certificate (Meldebescheinigung)
Employment contract.
If you are married and your spouse came with you:
Your marriage certificate, including a translation into German or English;
Your spouse's passport (with the issued Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and Meldebescheinigung;
If you have children and brought them with you:
Birth certificate(s), including a translation into German or English;
Children' passport(s) (with the issued Aufenthaltserlaubnis) and Meldebescheinigung;
The marriage and children certificates are important for getting tax allowances.
In most cases you are not required to show your documents except for your passport and the mentioned certificates (if any).
Be aware that tax offices are networked with other authorities' offices, and they will check whether you have got your Meldebescheinigung, Aufenthaltserlaubnis. Big brother is not just a TV programme!

One tax that always freaks newcomers out is the Church tax. If you are a member of a recognized religious community, then a church tax is deducted in addition to income tax. In the Federal Republic of Germany these amounts vary between eight and ten percent of the income tax to be paid, however you can opt out . . Non-church goers and members of the Orthodox and Anglican Church are exempt from the tax, but if you are Lutheran (Evangelisch) or Roman Catholic (Katholisch) and you do not want to pay church tax (Kirchensteuer) (about 8% of your income tax), you should not fill out your religion on the form when you register to live here. This will restrict your access to certain religious services. Be warned too that even if you are CofE they will often enter that you are Evangelical - you have to be quite firm. You do have the chance to opt out at a later date, but this will cost you.

The 'solidarity surcharge' has also been imposed in Germany for some years. This goes towards financing the economic development of the new federal states. The solidarity surcharge currently amounts to seven and a half per cent of the income tax. I guess it's true that you can never get rid of a tax.

Your employer will deduct the income tax from your wage or salary and transfer it to the tax office. The same applies to the church tax and the solidarity surcharge.

So-called occupational expenses and special expenses can be set against income when determining the taxable income.

Upon request, married couples may be assessed for tax jointly; in this case their taxable incomes are added together and each half of this amount is subject to the appropriate tax rate (splitting). This applies irrespective of whether one or both of the married persons have incomes.

The German tax year runs as the calendar year and you must submit your income tax return (Einkommensteuererklärung). by a specific date (i.e. 31 May of the following year). This is used by your local tax office (Finanzamt) who then assess your income tax (Einkommensteuer).

Some people manage to fill out these forms themselves, but the German tax system is complex and there are many things that you can apply for deductions for. If your situation is complex or you are self-employed, my advice is to seek the help of a tax consultant (Steuerberater). Thanks to the many complicated rules and regulations in the tax code, tax consultants probably have the most secure jobs in the country.

The best way to find a good tax advisor is by word of mouth (especially if you are looking for someone who speaks English), or failing that the German Tax Advisors Association (Deutscher Steuerberaterverband), who can give you a list of Steuerberater in your area. Their address is:-

Deutscher Steuerberaterverband,
Berta-von-Suttner-Platz 6

Tel: 0228/9 85 94 19
Fax: 0228/9 85 94 20
E-mail: [email protected]

Once the tax return has been submitted to the tax office, it is reviewed by tax officials. If they decide you have overpaid your tax you will receive a rebate, which is automatically paid into your bank account (another reason to open a bank account here). If you have underpaid, the tax office will demand extra payment.

German Law and Taxes


Getting Married in Germany

If you are single and here for long enough you may meet your perfect match. Should you decide to get married in Germany (and I know of people who did it in Denmark to avoid the red tape) you need to carry out a number of things.

First you must present yourself to the local registry office (Standesamt), which is normally found at the council hall (Rathaus). Allow plenty of time and it's best if you both go.

There is a lot of paperwork needed (hence eloping to Denmark). But you must make sure that the marriage will be recognised in Germany and Britain. A typical list of paperwork required (these are always subject to change) are:-

Birth Certificate
Parents' Marriage Certificate
Records of any previous marriages, divorces etc - with supporting death certificates, decrees and any court decisions regarding children (these certificates will probably be required to be translated by an officially recognised translator)

The official will then tell you how long you may have to wait before you can get a date for the ceremony.


Working in Germany

German labour law also applies to you as an employee during your employment here. When you work in Germany, you are placed in the same position as German employees in respect to labour law, and you also have recourse to the works/office council or the labour courts in the case of differences of opinion with your employer.

Employment Contract

As a rule, the employment relationship is specified by a written employment contract.

In accordance with the basic principle of equal rights for men and women, employers must not fundamentally exclude either men or women from appointment to a job. When recruiting, they are required to confine their questions to those for which the answer is of legitimate interest with regard to the foreseen employment relationship. For example, questions about an intended marriage or pregnancy are not permitted. On the other hand, the employee must voluntarily point out illnesses and physical impairments which affect the performance of the intended activity.

In factories/offices which have a factory/office council, the agreement of the factory/office council is required for every appointment. All factories/offices with more than five employees (eligible to vote for the factory/office council), three of which can be voted for, can have a factory/office council. In public services, the staff council performs the corresponding tasks.

Rights and Duties

The employee is obliged to perform the agreed duties. In case of doubt, the content and scope of his/her rights and duties shall be in accordance with the valid terms of the contract for the contractual relationship, general laws or the tariff agreement.

On his/her side, the employer is obliged to pay for the services performed in accordance with the agreement.

Wages and Salaries

Wages and salaries are not usually paid in cash. The employee should therefore open an account with a bank or the Postbank. All banks, savings banks and the Postbank carry out transfers abroad.

Working Hours

Please note that not only the commencement of work and, if applicable, the end of the employment relationship, but also the weekly and daily working hours are specified in the employment contact, in the tariff agreement or by a works/office agreement. The usual working hours in the works/office shall be deemed to be agreed in cases of doubt.

Holiday Entitlement

Employees over the age of 18 receive at least 24 working days holiday per year. The minimum amount of holiday is increased in accordance with a tariff agreement, age and/or years of service in the company. As a rule, employees receive between 25 and 30 working days holiday per year.

The employee does not normally have any holiday entitlement during the probationary period. Moreover, the employer and employee must come to agreement on each occasion as to when holiday may be taken. The employee must not undertake any other paid work during his/her holiday.


As a rule, the employee has a legal entitlement for the payment of wage or salary to continue for a period of six weeks in case of sickness. The employee must provide evidence in the form of a doctor's certificate of his/her unfitness for work by the third day of the sickness at the latest. He/she is obliged to inform the employer of his/her unfitness for work and the expected duration of the sickness immediately. This may also be done by telephone or by a message sent via a relative or colleague. The same applies if the employee falls ill during his/her holiday.

Ending the Employment Relationship

Limited period employment relationships come to an end without any further action being taken, i.e. without giving notice, when the agreed period of time has elapsed.

More about finding work in Germany.

More about your rights as an EU citizen.

More information direct from the horses' mouth.

If you get into difficulties in Germany and wish to report it or receive some advice you can do so here



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