7 public offices to know when you move to Germany
When you arrive in a new place regardless of whether you are a local or a foreigner, there is always the same question when you need to either, apply or submit paperwork!
I remember in Morocco, as a national citizen, before even applying for an official document, I first had to figure out which office I had to apply to. For example was it a local, regional or a national office and only then could I begin to figure out which paperwork was required!
Well you won’t be surprised to learn that in Germany it’s no different! In fact, in many instances it’s more difficult for expats as a result of Germany being a federal country. This means responsibilities lie on many different German authorities levels ie. national, regional, district or city.
The objective of this article is to give you an idea of the main public offices to know when moving to Germany as well as the services each one provides. The hope is that it gives you a more clear understanding of what you need and where you need to go when moving to Germany.
For more information check out our relocation services, available to help you out when moving to Germany.
The Rathaus [The City Hall]
As each and every person is required to register on arrival in Germany this will be your first stop and first paperwork to start your move to Germany. Here you will do your registration/ Anmeldung. Needless to say, this will be your first interaction with German public bureaucracy (yahooooo !!!).
This is managed at a city level and thus each city has at least one Rathaus.
Depending on your city size and organization, there can be other German authorities offices that cover part or all the services that the Rathaus provides. Generally speaking you have one per neighborhood (stadtteil).
To find your local rathaus, enter into your browser “Stadt + city name” and you will find the official city website.
Within the Rathaus you have various offices (Amt) covering various topics.
Die Burgerbüro (The Citizens Office: 1st office you visit when you move to Germany!)
- City Registration or Deregistration (Wohnung An/Abmeldung) – 1st step when you move to Germany
- Request a new home certificate ( Meldebescheinigung)
- Request a criminal record certificate (Führungszeugnis)
- Request a life certificate (Lebensbescheinigung)
- For German citizens: apply for passport and ID card
Die Standesamt (The Civil Registry Office)
This service is dedicated to register births, marriages and deaths.
It’s also here that you would go to get the original certificates for any of these events given they occured in the city.
Die Gewerbewesen ( The Business Registration Office)
This service is for Business registration and certificates.
This is the first place you would go when wanting to create/open a new business in Germany.
- The Anmeldung is mandatory for all citizens living and moving to Germany. If you need a german residence permit to live in Germany, this process is with the Foreign Office
- Once you have your Anmeldung certificate, you can open a German bank account.
- The Rathaus is a good place to find information about the local city and events. We highly recommend stopping by to pick flyers and magazines
- You can pick up recycling waste bags (yellow and compost ones) inside the Rathaus.
- Pick up your waste disposal calendar here too if you unable to print it online
- Use our Support Expat Service – WikiMove – to call the Burgerburo for more information
- Use our partner online services to translate your documents for the Anmeldung: Lingoking
The Finanzamt [The Tax Office]
Of course we cannot talk about German offices without talking about the Tax Office.
As you may know, after the Anmeldung is done, you will automatically and relatively quickly be sent your Tax ID at home (from the Bundeszentralamt für Steuern – BZST). In other words, taxes are very well organized in Germany.
As part of Germany’s ongoing digitalization, you may not need to go directly to your Finanzamt or to get in contact with them directly. However it’s good to know which one you deal with and what they do.
If you start a freelancing activity in Germany, you must register your activity to the German authorities through the Tax office.
The Tax Office manages individual and business tax declarations.
It’s done at the regional level but generally you have one or more offices by district.
To find out which one is relevant to you, go to the BZST website.
- Paperwork in Germany is being digitised by the public offices. Once you have your Tax ID, register yourself with the Tax Office using their portal.
- Two important IDs to get when moving to Germany: your Tax ID and your german health insurance number. You may need to provide your Tax ID to finalize the opening of your German bank account
The Ausländerbehörde [The Foreigners Office]
If you move to Germany from outside EU or your country doesn’t have a residence permit agreement in place with Germany, (check our article about Visas) you are required to register with this office once you have settled in your final home (and after the Anmeldung) in order to get your permanent resident permit.
Why this paperwork is mandatory?
Even if you were granted a visa to come to Germany, you will now need to get a German Residence Permit which is an ID card for Foreigners.
This office is managed at the district level.
To find your relevant office head to this link: https://www.ortsdienst.de/auslaenderbehoerde/.
To know more about the visa rules and paperwork in Germany: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en.
Keep in mind you can request any online translation here
The Familienkasse [The Family Office]
This office is officially part of the Labor Office in Germany (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). However, as it’s an important office to know we will mention it here separately.
Familienkassen is managed at the regional level but as with other public offices in Germany, it has various offices across the region.
Kindergeld [Child Allowance]
This Child Allowance is a monetary allowance granted to you when your first child is born. Importantly, it is for all families living in Germany. You are entitled to this allowance for all your children aged between 0 to 18 years old. Also worth noting, under specific conditions it is granted until age 25.
For an easy and fuss free application use our Kindergeld online tool to apply for it. You must apply within the 6 months you move to Germany.
Is an additional child benefit for families will lower income.
- Find your relevant Familienkasse office here
- In the Hessen region, the Familienkasse organises a monthly meeting for anyone that is interested.
- Check whether it’s the case in your region.
The Amt für Soziales [The Office for Social Affairs]
This office is managed at the regional level and the names differ from one region to another.
The most important thing to know is these offices manage one very important service and paperwork for Families in Germany,:The Elterngeld.
The Elterngeld is a Parents Allowance that allows both parents to take care of their child up until 24 months (if ElterngeldPlus) and receive a benefit for not working (up to ~1800€ depending on last 12 months salary).
To find your regional office, use this link.
Das Elterngeld is an application (in German) that helps to apply for the Parental Allowance.
The Agentur für Arbeit [The Labour Office]
This office is very important in Germany, and as such, policies are managed at federal level. Also, they have offices located all around Germany.
A good indicator of just how important this department is, is that their website is in English and Arabic!
Within this office you have the various others:
Agentur für Arbeit
Main office that manages the Unemployment Benefit 1 paperwork in Germany.
This office manages Unemployment Benefit 2 paperwork and helps people to find a new job and to apply for training
They manage Kindergeld; we have already covered this
It’s an office to help young people with their study choices, to find internships and first jobs
Das Elterngeld is an application (in german) that helps to apply for the Parental Allowance.
If you are registered to the Unemployment office, you are covered by the law with a German health insurance.
Car and Drivers License Offices
As you may be aware, the car topic is an important one here in Germany. I will not even begin to talk about the famous brands that were founded here!
Whatever your situation in Germany, you may have to deal with among other issues, things relating to cars and/or driving license. For instance:
- You move to Germany with your car from another country. You will you need to change the number plates, and head to Car Registration Office
- You buy a new or second hand car. You will not only need to go to the TüV (Inspection Office) at some point or another but also to the Car Registration Office
- Your driver’s license is not valid in Germany. You will need to exchange it for a German license and potentially redo the training and/or the exam. Once again, the Drivers License Office is the place to go
Car Registration Office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle or Zulassungsbehörde)
This is where you register your car (new, second hand or imported). Book an online appointment and be sure to have all the relevant documents ready for your particular circumstances.
This office is manage by district, to find yours, see here: https://zulassungsstelle.de/kfz-zulassungsstellen-finden/
Driver’s Licence Office (Führerscheinstelle or Strassenverkehrsamt)
This office is also managed at the district level.
To find yours check this website: https://www.strassenverkehrsamt.de/.
Still have questions ?