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
It is important to bring your university diplomas and course and matriculation certificates, translate them into German, and include them in your document file. In Germany, every certificate from an academic institution is evaluated, and many workplaces require you to attach the certificates to your resume. You may be required to undergo a validation process for the certificate (depending on the work that will require the certificate). I will expand on this process in a separate post.
If you don't live in an English-speaking country, you can ask for an English translation from the institute you studied at (which will later help with the German translation).
5. Employment contract or resume
If you were accepted to work here in Germany, you can present the employment contract to the banks and homeowners and this will help you speed up the processes.
If you're planning to start working after moving, bring an updated resume with you, preferably with several employer testimonials. Check out this useful guide from Google that covers the basic information for making a good-looking resume.
6. Health insurance and medical history
If you are insuring yourself in your homeland, bring your insurance forms with you. In addition, be sure to bring forms related to medical history, surgeries, diagnoses, vaccination records, and medication lists. There is no need to translate these forms, but it is recommended that you familiarize yourself with the concepts in the German language to make it easier for you and the doctors. More explanations about health insurance can be found in later posts on this blog.
Note: You should bring your vaccination records with you and make sure with a family doctor in Germany that you will receive a German vaccination certificate that will be updated with all your previous vaccinations from the country. There, you will also be informed of any missing vaccinations you will need to complete soon.
7. Passports & visas
Of course, your passport is the most important thing for the flight over, as it serves as your identity card. The passport does not need to be translated, though it is important to pay attention to the expiration date and renew it if necessary. Do not forget about the passports of children and animals. The rest of the certificates (originals) should be kept in your home country or in a special and safe place.
While it may be needless to say, don't forget to bring visas with you to use on trips and to obtain citizenship if necessary.
8. Driver's license
When you first arrive in Germany, you're able to drive with your driving license for up to six months. After this, you will be required to exchange your license for a German license, which can be done at the offices of the Ministry of Transport in many cities.
It's important to mention that some countries have an agreement with Germany that grant the license holder a simple exchange for the German license. The countries participating in this agreement are Andorra, Australia, Canada, Channel Islands, Croatia, French Polynesia, Hong Kong, Isle of Man, Israel, Japan, Monaco, Namibia, New Caledonia, New Zealand, San Marino, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, and Switzerland.
In the US, the following states have such an agreement with Germany: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
Unfortunately, if you do not have a driver's license from one of the countries or US states listed above, you will be required to have a theoretical and practical test to receive the German license. More information can be found in a later post about driving in Germany on this blog.
So make sure you have everything prepared in advance! Use an arranger for all the important documents and make sure you have photos and copies backed up.