Living in Germany
What UK and German benefits are available to Britons living in Germany and information on driving regulations in Germany.
This guide explains the main administrative issues British nationals moving to Germany may want to consider before or shortly after they arrive in Germany. For details of what consulates can and cannot do, see the information on the British Embassy Berlin.We would also recommend you follow us on Twitter (@ukingermany) for important consular announcements or information affecting British nationals in Germany. In the event of a crisis, we will update you via Twitter.
There has been no change to the rights and status of EU nationals in the UK, and UK nationals in the EU, as a result of the referendum.
If you are a British citizen or British subject with right of abode in the UK, you do not require a visa to enter Germany. Other British nationals should confirm the current entry requirements with their nearest German embassy.
A valid British passport must be held for entry to and exit from Germany as a visitor. There is no minimum passport validity requirement but you should ensure that your passport is valid for the duration of your visit.
You don’t have to carry your passport with you while in Germany, but you should have access to it if the authorities ask to see it.
Entry and residence requirements
It is mandatory to register at your local Einwohnermeldeamt (registration office) within 14 days of your arrival if you are staying in Germany for more than 3 months. Please note that in some places, the Einwohnermeldeamt is known as the Kreisverwaltungsreferat (KVR) or a Bürgerbüro. Please be aware of the change in German registration law as of 1 November 2015. More information can be found at the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
If you don’t speak German it would be advised to take someone who does with you. When you go along to the Einwohnermeldeamt, you will need your British Passport, proof of your address (leasing contract etc) and possibly marriage / divorce certificates. The documents required can differ from area to area. You might also need to pay a fee. You should check with your local registration office what they require.
Ensure that your name is on the post box where you live. By not having your name on the post box could result in post not being delivered.
If you move to a different town in Germany, you must register your address again at the local Einwohnermeldeamt. If you leave Germany, you must de-register.
Health Insurance and Social Security
The UK European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is valid for holidaymakers and temporary visitors who need to use the state health system while in another EU country. If you are not normally a resident of the UK, and therefore do not have entitlement to a UK-issued EHIC, the German authorities may decide to treat you as a private patient.
If you are a resident in the UK, you should apply for your EHIC before travelling to other European Union Member States. A UK EHIC is usually valid for three to five years – but if you stop being a UK resident, you need to return your EHIC to the Department of Health immediately.
If you are a UK state pensioner living in Germany and registered for healthcare with an S1 form (the application for health care covering the European Economic Area), the UK is responsible for issuing your EHIC to use on a temporary stay in the UK and a third EU country. For more information, telephone the Overseas Healthcare Team on +44 (0) 191 218 1999.
When you show your EHIC, you will receive treatment under the same conditions and at the same cost as people insured in Germany.
The EHIC does not cover your costs if you are travelling for the express purpose of obtaining medical treatment. If this is the case you must apply for form S2 from your local NHS Trust.
Healthcare in Germany
In Germany you do not automatically get a social security card when you start working. You must first register with a Krankenkasse (Health Insurance Company). German health insurance is normally arranged through a person’s employer, however you might have to contact a Krankenkasse yourself if your employer does not do this for you. If you are self-employed, you will have to do this yourself.
The German health insurance and social security system is administered by the several companies. There are two different types of German Health Insurance. “Gesetzliche Krankenkasse” or state health insurance is the most common. “Private Krankenkasse” is private health insurance.
Whether you are publicly or privately insured, your employer will pay approximately half of its cost and the rest will be taken out of your monthly salary. Both you and your employer must make contributions to your social security and health insurance through the Krankenkasse. The amounts you have to pay are set by the German government. For state healthcare, this is currently approximately 15% of your monthly salary.
If you are earning more than the threshold of €4,350 gross salary per month, you can elect to leave the state health insurance and have private health insurance while employed in Germany.
You are free to choose one that best suits your needs. Once you are a paying member of a Krankenkasse you will receive your Social security number (Sozialversicherungsnummer), and a Health Insurance card.
When you visit a doctor, you will have to show your Health Insurance card. If you are prescribed medicine, you might need to send the prescription to your Krankenkasse for reimbursement. The amount you will be reimbursed depends on the health services provided. You should check with your Krankenkasse to see what services are covered by your insurance.
Please note there are special rules on health insurance if you are seconded to Germany by your company. For more information, please contact your company’s HR department in Germany.
Please also be aware that when you join a Krankenkasse, they might back-charge you to the date of which you registered in Germany.
The major health insurance companies to which you can subscribe are:
For more information about moving to Germany and planning for your healthcare, visit the NHS website
For detailed information on German health insurance, please visit Deutsche Sozialversicherung website
For more information on the German Social Security system, please visit the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs website and download the publication at the bottom of the page.
Health cover while studying abroad
If you are going to Germany to study as part of your UK degree, your UK EHIC card will cover you for the duration of your course. If you are going to study in Germany, and your course is not part of a UK degree (for example, postgraduate studies), your EHIC will be valid for 12 months. For more information on healthcare in Germany while studying, please visit the Studying abroad as part of a UK recognised course website.
Germany has a good standard of education for all ages. For information on the school system in Germany, please visit the German embassy website’s section on schooling. For a list of International schools in Germany, please refer to the list from the DIA). We are not responsible for any inaccuracies in this document.
Tuition fees are far lower than in the UK, if universities charge at all. Many German universities also offer a wide range of programmes in English.
Driving licences and vehicles
Importing your UK-registered vehicle from the UK to Germany
If you spend longer than 12 months of the year in Germany with your UK-registered car, German law says you must register your vehicle with the German authorities. The time starts from when you enter Germany. You will need to produce full documentation for your car, as well as your latest MOT certificate. It might also be necessary for you to switch certain lights (for example the fog light) to the other side of the car. For information on the complete process, visit your local Zulassungsstelle.
UK-registered vehicles being driven in Germany must comply with all UK requirements for road tax, MOT and third party insurance covering the full time period the vehicle is used in Germany, up to the 12 month limit.
Once the car is registered in Germany, it must pass the required German MOT (called TÜV).
Driving in Germany
- the minimum age required to drive is 18 years
- it is not necessary to swap your British Driving licence for a German driving licence. For information on the validity of your driving licence in Germany, visit the Federal Ministry of Transport’s website for information in English.
- if you ever need proof of your entitlement to drive you will need to apply for a ‘Certificate of Entitlement’ from the DVLA
For general regulations on driving in Germany, visit the Federal Ministry of Transport website.
Tyres in Germany
There is an obligation in Germany that you have tyres which match to the weather that you are driving through. For example, it is an obligation to have Winterreifen (winter tyres) if you are driving on ice, snow, slush, frost or any other winter-type weather. All-season tyres, sometimes labelled “M+S” tyres, are permitted during the winter period. If you are in an accident and not on winter tyres, you will be fined heavily and it is unlikely your insurance will cover you.
It is also an obligation that you have anti-freeze in your windscreen wiper system at all times.
For information on the type of tyres available, as well as any other obligations, visit the German embassy website
Germany motor insurance regulations
German insurance regulations differ from those in the UK. It is important to check carefully what cover your policy provides.
You should carry these documents with you in case you are stopped by the police:
- driving licence
- car papers
- insurance paper
- MOT/TÜV paper
- high visibility vest (also obligatory in countries around Germany)
- warning triangle
- first aid kit
- your ID document (ie passport) and those of your passengers; this is a general German obligation
If you receive a traffic fine while driving in Germany (for example for speeding/parking incorrectly/tailgating) you might be asked to pay on the spot. Be completely sure of the identity of the person before you hand the money over.
For official information on fines in Germany, visit the Schedule of fines site on the Federal Ministry for Transport’s website.
Life certificates for UK state pensions
If you have received a life certificate from the UK Pension Service it is important that you reply as quickly as possible otherwise your benefit may be stopped. You’ll need to get it signed by a ‘witness’ and send it back, as instructed on the form.
Check the list of people who can witness a life certificate. This is now the same as the list of people who can ‘countersign’ a passport photo, although they don’t need to live in the UK, or have a British or Irish passport.
Benefits in Germany
UK Benefits which you must apply for before leaving the UK:
UK Benefits which you can apply for after leaving the UK
- Contribution-based Incapacity Benefit/Employment Support Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance
- Carer’s Allowance (Care Component)
- Attendance Allowance
- Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Bereavement Allowance
- Maternity Allowance
- UK Child Benefit
Non-exportable UK benefits
The following benefits are for people who are ordinarily resident in the UK and under no circumstances are they available in Germany:
- pension credit
- council tax benefit
- income support
- housing benefit
- means-tested incapacity benefit/employment support allowance
Remember, if you are in receipt of benefits, it is an offence not to tell the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) if your circumstances change, for example:
- you are going to live or are currently living in Germany
- you get married, or if you separate, divorce or are widowed
- you start work, increase your earnings or your savings
If you do not tell the DWP it could mean prosecution, imprisonment and even the confiscation of your home and possessions.
For more details visit the benefit theft website.
German contribution-based benefits
Working and paying contributions in Germany gives you entitlement to a number of German social security benefits. These benefits include unemployment benefit, and permanent and temporary incapacity benefit. Note that paying contributions as a self-employed worker does give you entitlement to unemployment benefit in Germany.
If you have worked in Germany but have been told that you do not have entitlement to German social security benefits as you have not paid enough national insurance contributions, you must make sure you declare the contributions you have made in the UK. They can be used to make up any entitlement as though they were paid in Germany. Also make sure that, as for any benefit application, you apply in writing.
For more information on social security, please visit the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs website and download the English publication at the bottom of the page.
German unemployment benefit
You are eligible to apply for unemployment benefit in Germany if you have been working there and paying contributions. Ask at your local Arbeitsamt (Work Office) for further information.
You should also state any previous periods of contributions in the UK. You can prove previous periods of contribution in the UK by filling out a CA3916 and applying for a statement of National Insurance contributions from HM Revenue & Customs to assist unemployment benefit claims.
There are two different types of unemployment benefits. Unemployment Benefit 1 is available for people who have been working in Germany for the last 12 months at the same job. You will have to register for this benefit no less than 3 months before finishing your job. In failing to do this, you will have to register on the first day of your unemployment.
Unemployment Benefit 2, otherwise known as “Hartz IV”. This benefit is to secure a livelihood. You are able to apply for this at any time as long as you fulfil certain requirements.
German disability benefit
For information on applying for the equivalent of a disability benefit, contact your local doctor for the local procedure. You might have to pass certain tests in order to qualify. In certain areas in Germany you will need to contact your Landratsamt (district administrative office) or your Versorgungsamt (Pension office).
You might be eligible for a Schwerbehindertenausweis. For more information on this, please visit the Sozialverband VdK website.
You should also state any previous periods of contributions in the UK. You can prove previous periods of contribution in the UK by filling out a CA3916 and applying for a statement of National Insurance contributions from HM Revenue & Customs to assist sickness benefit claims.
UK State Pensions
- the UK basic state pension is payable in Germany
- the state pension changed in April 2010. More people now qualify for a full basic state pension. Find out about the most important changes and what they mean to you
- to find out when you reach State Pension age, use the State Pension Age Calculator
- if you live but have not worked in Germany, you should claim your UK state pension by contacting the International Pension Centre (IPC) in the UK by telephone: +44 (0)191 218 7777
Please contact the International Pension Centre for more information on getting your pension in Germany.
There are three different types of German pension systems: private, state and company. Pension contributions are deducted from your monthly salary. Currently, the contribution rate is 19.5%. Similar to Health Insurance, you will pay half of the 19.5% rate, and your employer will pay the other half.
If you wish to claim a German retirement pension when you have left Germany, but still plan to live in Europe, visit your local pension office where they will tell you what you are able to claim back when you leave Germany.
For more information on the German Pension system, visit the Deutsche Rentenversicherung website. There is an English-language version. Simply hover over “International” at the top of the page.
For more information on living, working and claiming pensions in Europe, please view the English document on the Deutsche Rentenversicherungs website.
Moving to Germany once in receipt of a UK state pension
If you are moving to Germany from the UK you should inform the IPC of the changes to your circumstances. This will prevent any problems with your pension payments. It will also help you to get the right access to healthcare in Germany.
UK pension credit is not payable in Germany. If you decide to move to Germany permanently you must inform the office that pays your benefits before you leave.
You may also be thinking about paying voluntary contributions to top up your pension entitlement in either country. For further information on paying voluntary contributions in the UK, contact HM Revenues & Customs. For Germany, contact the company who is providing your social security/health cover.
Britain has a double taxation agreement with Germany to ensure people do not pay tax on the same income in both countries. In accordance with German and international law, all residents in Germany (nationals and non-nationals alike) are required to declare assets or groups of assets held outside Germany. Assets may include bank accounts, securities, rights, insurance, annuities, property, etc. The declaration is a separate exercise to the annual tax return.
Severe penalties for incorrect, incomplete or late reporting can be incurred and the legislation also means that criminal charges can be brought in the case of non-compliance. The requirement and potential penalties are in line with standard international tax practice.
Taxation is a complex issue and it is strongly recommended that professional advice is sought.
On arriving Germany, it is important you obtain a Lohnsteuerkarte (income tax card) which states your Steuernummer (Tax Number). This can be obtained at your local Standesamt. They will give you a tax classification depending on your family status. Your employer will need this.
This information is provided as a general guide and is based upon information provided to the embassy by the relevant local authorities and may be subject to change at any time with little or no notice. The FCO and the British embassy will not be liable for any inaccuracies in this information. British nationals wishing to obtain any further information must contact the relevant local authority.
Published: 17 May 2013
Updated: 23 October 2015
- Updated Information in view of a change in German registration law as of 1 November 2015.
- instructions for witnessing UK state pension life certificates updated
- First published.