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Important documents to bring with you

Updated: Dec 3, 2022


If there is one important thing I learned during my time living in Germany, it is the inexplicable love of Germans for paper forms. Holding documents in your hands instead of looking at them in an email has already become part of the culture, and much of a conversation with German business owners will sometimes sound like this:

- Me: "Thank you for the service, can I send you the forms?"

- Company: "Yes, send to XYZ Straße 5"

- Me: "Is it possible by email too?"

- Friend: "Oh, yes, you can send it there, or by fax (?!)"

For some of us, it can be a cultural shock, but the order and the observance of laws are the main factors in the success of Germany and its transformation into the economic power that it is today. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you "get Germanized" as soon as possible and come prepared in advance with several key documents that will help you integrate quickly. In this post, I will tell you about the most important documents that you should wrap and put in a safe place in your suitcase.

Some of the documents should be translated into German. If needed, I provide translation services for all your documents.

1. Birth certificate

Your birth certificate can be used as a substitute for your passport if it is not with you for some reason. This document is extremely important if you are in the process of obtaining European citizenship, which you will need to present to representatives in various offices to push the process forward. Don't forget to bring your children's birth certificates as well, as this is the main means of identification you will use for them.

The original birth certificate is a document your parents received at the hospital the day you were born. If you need a copy, it may be possible to order it online in your country. There are two types of copies:

- Informational birth certificate: Although great for family histories and genealogical research, they don’t include a stamp or seal, and they aren’t considered a valid type of ID.

- Authorized birth certificate: These can usually be ordered by the individual named on a birth certificate, close family, or legal representative. These copies have a stamp or seal and can be used to get a passport.

It is recommended that you carry the original documents with you, but the authorized copy will be valid as well.

2. Marriage certificate or population registration certificate (for singles)

If the spouse has European citizenship, presentation of the marriage certificate will provide a family unification visa to the spouse without citizenship. The above document is also used in municipal records and signing contracts (such as for health insurance and banking) and can assist you in certain scenarios (e.g. married couples have a specific clause in employment contracts that contributes to tax breaks).

For me personally, the marriage certificate was also used in the issuance of my European citizenship (a process that lasted until after the move to Germany), and we would present it on a semi-annual basis to provide my husband with a legal residence permit until my citizenship was obtained.

For the marriage certificate to be accepted at the municipality, it must be translated into German.

For Israeli singles: If you want to move here, you should obtain a form in Israel called "Population Registration Extract" that declares/provides proof that you are single, among other details about you. This is always required if you are interested in getting married and is a good document to have with you anyway.

3. Bank statement and/or last three salaries

There are several reasons for someone to ask you to show proof of your financial situation. Most homeowners will want to know that you can meet the rental payments, and if you want a loan from the bank (or elsewhere) you should demonstrate that you have a sufficient amount of cash to hold you for at least three months. This will also be requested when applying for a visa, to show the city that you have enough savings to afford living here.

There are several ways to transfer your money with you to Germany, and once you find the right bank, you can ask them for a form that provides transparency about your financial situation. Documents you bring must be translated, of course. It is recommended that you bring an up-to-date account summary confirming that you are the account holder and the amount you have.

4. Certificates from educational institutions