Studies

15 things you need to know before moving to Germany

If you want to move to Germany as a student, as part of an exchange semester, or as a worker, you will definitely profit from our guide.

We tell you all you need to know about your new home!

❇️ We make sure that you have everything you will need to move and to live in Germany.

Before your move to Germany, you should make a to-do list to prepare your stay there perfectly. We are experts on the subject and have a comprehensive checklist for you. You can use this information to get an overall idea of living in Germany!

beautiful panorama view of a german city

We have the ultimate checklist for moving to Germany

ℹ️ Did you know that one of the most important things to prepare before moving to Germany is health insurance?

Our extensive checklist contains information on:

  • 🌆 The cities you must check out before deciding on where to move
  • 📑 How to apply for a visa
  • 👮 How to register with the authorities
  • 🇩🇪 Whether you need a sound knowledge of German or if English is sufficient
  • 🚅 The German public transport system
  • 🏡 Settling into your new German home

... and much more!

The most beautiful German cities to live in as a student

Suppose you have a specific city in mind, great! If you are not sure yet and are looking for more information, there are certainly several beautiful places to choose from. In Germany, you can conveniently study in smaller cities, get a great educational experience, and lots of fun on top of that. But of course, larger cities also have a great appeal, and that's why we would like to introduce you to the 3 “big” German cities:

Berlin

Berlin - the vibrant capital: Berlin offers everything for everyone - provided you are ready to experience real big-city life. If you like meeting your friends randomly on the street, you're in the wrong place. Instead, Berlin is chic in some corners, seedy in others. Artists praise the open spaces that invite free thinking. And party tourists travel from all over the world to join the queue outside Berghain.

Hamburg

Hamburg - the star up north: “Moin moin” is the motto in Germany's second-largest city. Almost 2 million people live here around and along the “Elbe,” which determines the image of the city center with the large shipping traffic of the Hamburg port. But it is not only a trip to the water that attracts many to the German far north. Cult districts like St. Pauli with the Reeperbahn or the Schanzenviertel exude their own charm of old tradition and modern urban lifestyle. Hamburg regularly occupies the top places in city rankings and is considered particularly livable.

german flag

Munich

Munich - the Oktoberfest city: Munich enjoys the reputation of being a cosmopolitan city with great importance for politics, culture, the media world, and science. National and international city rankings regularly attribute a high quality of life to the southern metropolis, which is also related to its enormous economic power. Many well-known companies such as Allianz, BMW, or Siemens make “Minga,” as the city is popularly known, a global player and provide for upscale living conditions up to luxurious prosperity.

Immigration to Germany: General requirements

If you move to Germany for your studies or work, you have to deal with some administrative tasks beforehand. Germany is a very bureaucratic country - there will be rules and regulations for everything. Nevertheless, Germany is one of the best countries in Europe to live in - so your efforts will definitely pay off!

German visa regulations for students

International students who are not nationals of an EU/EEA country generally require a visa to enter the Federal Republic of Germany to study.

ℹ️ The term “studies” includes all training and further education at a state or state-recognized universities or at comparable training centers, vocational academies, plus state or state-recognized preparatory colleges. Studies must be the main purpose of the stay. Evening, weekend, and distance learning do not meet these criteria.

❇️ Check if you are eligible to study in Germany via our Study Eligibility Checker.

What to do after entering the country?

After moving to Germany, prospective students must first register at a Bürgerbüro (Citizens' Office) or at one of the local administrations of your city. Once they are registered, they must make an appointment with the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners' Registration Office) to issue, amend, or extend their residence permit.

❗️Most citizens of countries outside the EU/EEA have to apply for a visa at the responsible German mission abroad before entering Germany. Be sure to enter with the correct visa. For example, a tourist visa cannot be converted into a residence permit in Germany, and you may not be able to study here.❗️

The following documents are required to apply for the residence permit to study:

  • Application form
  • National passport
  • Biometric photo
  • Housing contract
  • Health insurance
  • Matriculation certificate
  • Proof of financing (for example, a blocked account)

For how long is the residence permit issued?

The residence permit for studies can be issued for a limited period of time up to a maximum of two years. The time limit of the residence permit depends in particular on:

  • Duration of studies (should be noted on the matriculation certificate) or duration of study preparation measures (e.g., intensive language course).

  • Passport validity

  • Proof of securing the livelihood

Your health insurance

The majority of international students in Germany can enroll in statutory health insurance. This health insurance also covers the majority of German citizens and residents and is financed by monthly contributions. International students pay a monthly fee of approximately €110.

❇️ If you are younger than 30 and have been admitted to a Bachelor's or Master's degree program in Germany, you are definitely eligible for statutory health insurance in Germany.

❇️ Our recommendation: Health Insurance Plus

We offer you a health insurance package that guarantees you a worry-free visa application and stay in Germany. Our Health Insurance Plus offers the obligatory insurance coverage for both moments and connects you with the best providers in the German market:

  • Statutory (or public) health insurance with Techniker Krankenkasse (TK)
  • Private health insurance with DR-WALTER

You can use our private insurance in the period before enrollment at your university and before the start of your TK health insurance coverage. The German embassy/consulate also accepts DR-WALTER's health insurance for the application of a student visa.

ℹ️ If you have to complete a preparatory course (Studienkolleg) or a German course before enrolling in your studies, you must take out private health insurance during this time. This is because the statutory insurance only covers you as long as you are officially enrolled at the university. Once you have completed your course, you can easily switch to public health insurance.

Open a German bank account

ℹ️ Before you can open a bank account, you need a registration certificate ("Anmeldung") from the Residents' Registration Office. Only if you prove to the bank that you live in Germany will they open an account for you.

Opening an account is now possible online at most banks in Germany. This should take no longer than 10 minutes. As part of the account application, banks usually ask for personal data such as name, place of residence, marital status, and nationality. Find out more about how to set up a current bank account in Germany

Direct banks are the cheapest

Direct banks are banks without their own branch network. Transfers and standing orders can be made via online banking. You can also find and download account statements online. Direct banks offer the cheapest checking accounts, and cash withdrawals in Germany and abroad are often free of charge.

What documents are required to open an account?

  • Valid passport
  • Certificate of registration in Germany / proof of residence

ℹ️ Nationals of countries not members of the European Union may be required to present their residence permit in Germany to open an account.

  • If necessary, the reason for residence must be presented (e.g., in the case of students, a certificate of matriculation).

Money

Find a cheap German internet provider

Usually, students' budgets are tight, and several want to split an access point in a shared apartment or need internet for their studies. Wi-Fi is, of course, standard.

ℹ️ DSL rates specifically for students allow you to get broadband internet at a fair price. For this, students often have to present a certificate of enrollment as proof after ordering the contract to receive the discount.

Here is a list of popular internet providers in Germany:

❇️ We recommend that you check them for student rates and choose the one that's right for you!

ℹ️ When you start comparing, it may look a bit like a jungle to you. Get help from a German friend or flatmate if you feel lost!

Mobile Contract or Prepaid SIM Card?

To join the mobile network in Germany, you first have to decide which type of mobile phone card you prefer. You can either opt for a prepaid SIM card that needs to be topped up regularly, or you can sign up for a contract and pay a monthly fee according to the mobile package you want. Below are some important factors you should consider before making your choice:

Mobile contract:
  • Suited for long term stay
  • Flatrate
  • Long notice period
  • Address registration necessary
  • Bank account (IBAN) required
Prepaid sim card:
  • Suitable for a short-term stay
  • Pay only for what you use
  • Easy to cancel
  • No bank account required

ℹ️ You can buy your sim card online or in a physical store.

❇️ Our recommendation: check out German discounts, such as Aldi or Lidl, for cheap prepaid SIM cards with mobile data.

Cell phone credit

 

Living in Germany

If you are still looking for a place to live, you can try to get a German flatmate and move into a WG (shared flat) in Germany! If you don't want to bring any household goods, you should choose a dormitory room, as these are usually fully furnished.

ℹ️ A dorm room may be cheaper, and your university can probably arrange something for you. But having a German roommate will definitely be a fun experience!

When moving to Germany, you probably want to get a good idea of the living conditions there in advance. Read on if you want to know more about Germany and its distinctive peculiarities!

Cost of living

ℹ️ The average cost of living is approximately €850 per month for students.

Germany offers a perfectly affordable lifestyle for students and workers alike. However, be prepared to pay more rent in the big cities (especially Munich and Berlin)!

Rent and utility costs

Students in Germany pay an average of €350 in rent per month. This figure varies greatly depending on where you live and whether you live in your own apartment, a shared room, or a dorm.

Dormitories for students are usually the least expensive type of housing. However, especially in the big cities, there are sometimes long waiting lists to get a free room. Rents in popular cities such as Munich, Hamburg, or Cologne are costly, whereas you can get your own apartment for less than €300 per month in smaller cities.

Food

Food is the second-largest cost factor in monthly expenses for students. It amounts to around €180. This includes not only purchases for eating at home but also the cost of eating out. If you eat in restaurants a lot or order out more often, you'll probably spend more. But if you cook for yourself most of the time, you can even stay below the indicated costs. An inexpensive alternative is to eat lunch in the “Mensa” (dining hall).

Semester fees and tuition

Not every student has to pay tuition fees. Semester fees, on the other hand, are incurred by everyone. Depending on the university, semester fees range from €250 to €350 for 6 months. Tuition fees are charged at private universities, for two-term studies, or so-called long-term students. These can quickly reach €500 per semester.

Learn the language

If you want to use your time in Germany to improve your German language skills, a language course can be very helpful.

ℹ️ In daily life, you can get along well without German or only with basic knowledge. However, this usually only applies to big cities. In more rural areas, people may not be able to communicate with you as well.

You can find many offers online, and, of course, your university in Germany will also offer a (usually free) language course.

❇️ Our recommendation for more fun: a language tandem offers the opportunity to get in touch with locals, learn German and share your mother tongue.

Public transport

In Germany, you can easily get around on public transport. Whether it's by bus, metro, train or bicycle: public transport is affordable and convenient.

ℹ️ Beware of the chronic tardiness of the Deutsche Bahn! 😉

Driving in Germany

Driving in Germany is fun - especially on Autobahnen without speed limits. However, keep a few things in mind:

Can I drive in Germany with a foreign EU driver's license?

A valid foreign driver's license issued within the EU or EEA is recognized in Germany.

Is a driving license obtained outside Europe recognized in Germany?

Yes, even with a driver's license not issued in an EU or EEA country, you may drive in Germany. However, a translation may be required.

Does a foreign driver's license have to be transcribed?

You must have a driver's license acquired abroad transcribed after six months at the latest if you move your residence permanently to Germany.

Things to do

Let's assume you live in the big city and want to get out on the weekend. The possibilities within Germany are endless!

Our top picks:

panorama view of germany

Apply for a job

After moving to Germany, you can also apply for a job. In principle, it is possible to obtain a residence title for seeking employment in Germany for a maximum of 18 months. The mandatory requirement for this is a completed course of study.

Is it allowed to work during the job search?

You may work without restriction during your job search.

What if the search for a job was successful?

If you have found a job appropriate to your degree, you must send the following documents to the Foreigners' Registration Office for further examination:

  • Employment contract
  • Certificate/diploma and exmatriculation certificate

A Woman calling and smiling

 

FAQ: Moving to Germany

What are the top 3 tips after moving to Germany?

- Apply for all documents and papers in time
- Take care of your health insurance
- Register at the Citizens' Office straight away

Is there really nothing open on Sundays in Germany?

In Germany, Sundays are legally established days of rest. Stores are closed, drilling and hammering are prohibited, and all citizens are required to take a rest from their busy week.

What is the climate like in Germany?

Except for the mountain climate in the Alps, Germany lies entirely in the temperate climate zone. The west is influenced by the maritime climate of Western Europe, the east by the continental climate of Eastern Europe. The annual average air temperature in Germany is 10 degrees.