German bureaucracy can make you feel like my daughter on public transit, but be strong and persevere.
Here is the relevant information I discovered with moving to Germany and living next to a German family.
As you may already know, Americans do not need to apply for an entrance visa to Germany. We can stay in Germany up to 90 days on a tourist visa. After those 90 days we must return to the USA for 90 days. This is what is called the 90/180 Schengen Agreement and it confused me. Even though America is not a part of the Schengen agreement, we still abide by this rule of being able to stay in a “Schengen” country for 90 days in a 180-day period. This didn’t make sense to me, so I emailed the U.S. Embassy and they pointed me to this.
In the FAQs it states:
“As a U.S. citizen, how long can I stay in the Schengen area without a visa?
With a valid U.S. passport, you can stay up to 90 days for tourism or business during any 180-day period. Do not overstay! You must wait an additional 90 days before applying to re-enter the Schengen area.
To stay longer than 90 days, you must have a visa. Apply for a visa through the embassy of the country where you will spend most of your time.”
The visa I applied for is the “Residence permit for freelancers” (Link here) since I will be working as a musician and hoping to land a “Festvertrag” or something that can allow my family to pay rent and eat. The German government has the form translated into several languages so don’t fret….yet….
When looking at moving, I realized I was stepping into what I call the “Scheiße Kreis”
One needs a credit score (SCHUFA) to rent an apartment
One needs an apartment to get a bank account
One needs a bank account to get a credit score
One needs a credit to rent an apartment
One needs an apartment to get….You get the point.
The way to sink your bare feet into the “Scheiße Kreis” is to sublet or apartment share. We were able to sublet a place in Berlin and register ourselves (Anmeldung) which was great! Be careful how you go about subletting an apartment in Berlin. In some cases, this is illegal.
One is able to schedule appointments for Visa and appointments for “Anmeld-ing” before you arrive in Berlin, and you should do this because getting them in person is a pain. Schedule an appointment online (especially for your Visa) with the foreigner’s office (Ausländerbehörde) because you want this appointment to be close to the end of your 90 days in order to have time to get everything else done.
I believe you have to register (anmeldung) within 14 days of your land in Germany. To schedule an appointment to anmelden, click this link.
Scroll down to wear it says “Termin berlinweit suchen und buchen” or click the link to have it search all the Burgerämt places in Berlin. The Burgerämt website refreshes at 8am, so look at that time.
You must fill out the form and here is a handy-dandy translation. Take your passport, rental contract, anmeldung form, and marriage license if applicable.
After I was angemeldet, I asked about receiving my Tax ID number and they said it would be mailed within 4-8 weeks. We also received our personal identification numbers. (You need a Tax ID Nummer for many things, including Kindergeld) How to acquire Kindergeld will probably be with another post.
For the visa appointment, it is pretty much laid out on the website. Take all the necessary documents and pray a lot. The website has changed a little since I got my visa, so you may need different things than what I had. A friend of mine came with us and she was able to translate when my german language skills weren’t the best. It was very helpful and I recommend this.
After “Anmeld”ing, I attempted to set up my bank account. A friend of mine, DeAndre Simmons (shameless plug) got his bank account without being angemeldeded, so I assume one doesn’t technically have to be registered.
I attempted an account with N26 because it’s all online, free, and its “Super easy.” Little did I know that I should have gotten a prepaid phone plan before trying to set it up because they need to send you a text to link your phone to your account. Texts don’t come through on an American phone plan (at least for me it didn’t). After the guy at MediaMarkt activated one SIM card and gave me a different one so that I had to come back a few days later once I realized my issue, he found the right SIM card in a big pile of other cards. That said, N26 is pretty great.
I still don’t technically have a SCHUFA score since I haven’t had anything on which to make payments (z.B. internet bill, rent)
Side note – I did an O2 prepaid SIM card. There didn’t seem to be a lot of difference in all of them, but I believe some are moving to more of a flat rate with unlimited minutes and texts. I just needed something quick.
This is not necessarily a part of the “Scheiße Kreis” but it is necessary. You have to be insured in order to get a visa. It’s also illegal to not have health insurance in Germany. It's probably best if you buy travel insurance for 3 months before you enroll in a long term insurance in Germany.
Krankenversicherung = German Health Insurance
I applied to DAK and AOK. Both denied me because I’m a freelance artist with 2 children and no regular income. I will probably try for Künstlersozialkasse or KSK [ka] [backwards 3s] [ka] as the true german artists call it #IPAFTW. WiX won't let me do true IPA symbols. It is insurance for artists, but I hear it is a struggle to get accepted and the application process is long. I have looking into Freie Wildbahn. Freie Wildbahn is essentially a non-profit organization that helps people apply for KSK and helps with an artist’s taxes. Their website is daunting because there’s no translation. I haven’t had the cajones to cough up the money because I’m cheap and I have no income.
DAK - The family insurance agency
AOK - the biggest Krankenversicherung agency in Germany, I believe.
Techniker Kasse – This agency was recommended to me by my German friends. I got discouraged after being denied by two and I figured I could spend my time more wisely by focusing on KSK.
Currently, I am insured through a travel insurance company. It was enough for the lady at the Ausländebehörde to give us a 2 year work permit.
This is a sweet resource as well. I could have simply posted this link because it is very informative, but I’m trying to get website hits…duh
Let me know if you have any questions about my experience by commenting