Step 1: Registering at the local authority
Anyone who stays in Germany for more than three months must register at the local authority within fourteen days of their arrival. This is done by appointment at the town hall or Rathaus. The process is called Anmeldung and is completed using the current residential address, even if that address is temporary.
Registering is about more than being legally compliant, says Michael. “Without registration, employees cannot open a bank account and, consequently, cannot receive their salaries. So it’s important to complete registration as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Payroll in Germany closes around about the 18th or 19th of the month. So to pay your employees from the month they arrive, make sure they arrive at least 5-6 working days before then. This will give them enough time to register, open a bank account and submit their account details to your company’s payroll department.
To save time and facilitate the registration process, AGS area consultants can book your employees’ appointments online in advance, before they arrive in Germany. With a power of attorney, they can even register your employees at the Rathaus on their behalf, provided they have all the required documentation, including passports. This service can be useful if, for example, your employee needs to attend urgent meetings or simply doesn’t have time to spare.
Registration is the first step to getting a residence permit, which you will surely want your employee to obtain in the longer term. Applying for a residence permit is a separate process that AGS immigration experts can also facilitate.
Step 2: Opening a German bank account
With proof of registration in hand, your employee is ready to open a bank account. But how do they know which bank they prefer when they’ve only just arrived in the country? And what if they don’t speak German?
“To help employees make an informed choice, we walk them through the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular German banks and find out if they have particular requirements,” Michael explains. For some, the availability of ATMs is a priority. Others prefer visiting their local branch in person, so require a bank where the staff can speak English.
The AGS Relocation team will also accompany your employee to the bank to help with translation. Once the account is open – which takes about 24 hours – most everything can be done through online banking, which is available in English at all major German banks.
Step 3: Signing up for health insurance in Germany
Health insurance is a legal requirement in Germany, so unless your company plans to register your employee for public health insurance, called Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung (GKV), their next step will be the contact to a reliable insurance broker. Once registered, they will receive a card entitling them to get treatment from any doctor or hospital in the country. The card is valid from the moment it is issued – there is no waiting period.
Employees earning more than €64,350 (2022) per year can sign up for private health insurance if they prefer. If they can’t decide which option is best, Michael’s advice is to try public health insurance for six months and then opt for private insurance if they feel it suits their needs better.
In Germany, only registered insurance brokers may give advice on health insurance. AGS therefore works with an insurance broker to advise employees on their options, taking into account pre-existing illnesses, family size and the age of the children, for example.
Step 4: Getting a German driver’s license
The German public transport network is extensive and reliable, so your employee likely won’t need a license for daily life. But in Michael’s experience, once they’ve settled in, they’ll want to explore their surroundings, and then they’ll need a license to rent a car.
Anyone can drive in Germany with their original licence (and a certified translation) for the first six months after they register with the local authorities. After that, non-EU drivers need a German driver’s licence. This law is strictly enforced.
To get a driver’s licence, your employee must first have their home-country license translated to German, preferably by a certified translator in Germany who is familiar with the official requirements. Equipped with the translation and their ID, they must then visit the local Driving Licence Authority or Fahrerlaubnisbehörde in person. It is best to do so within the six-month window, as processing a new licence application can take about four weeks.
Your employee’s home country and, for US drivers, the state in which their license was issued, will determine whether they need to take a new driving test (and in some cases a first aid course) or whether their original licence can be changed to a German license directly. Here is a list of countries and the regulations for each country/US state.
Can employees do the admin themselves?
Your employees are capable of managing the administrative process of settling in Germany on their own, but Michael advises against it. That’s because the process often takes much longer when they go it alone.
“New expats are completely unfamiliar with the German system. They don’t know where to begin and can end up staying away from work for weeks to get everything done. It is then that their employers start counting the cost-to-company of paying for an employee who can’t work because they are bogged down in administration,” he says.
AGS can assist your employees with town hall registration, opening a bank account, signing up for health insurance, obtaining a German driver’s license and any other procedures that deal with the German state.
If you want to get your non-EU new hires settled and on the job in the shortest time possible, contact us for expert assistance.