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House and home

House hunting

There are numerous online property portals to help you in your search for somewhere to live; they are also called 'Wohnungsbörsen' - accommodation exchange services. Here you can find a selection of 'Wohnungsbörsen', which offer accommodation throughout Germany:

In these 'Wohnungsbörsen', the cost of rent is usually given as 'Kaltmiete' – 'cold rent'. A 'Kaltmiete' includes only those costs which are payable for making the accommodation available for use. The actual sum to be paid by the tenant to the landlord is called 'Warmmiete' – 'warm rent' (total rent). This 'Warmmiete' by contrast includes the 'Kaltmiete' and the running costs (sometimes also called 'Nebenkosten' - associated costs). The 'Warmmiete' covers, for example, water rates and waste disposal and various other charges required for the maintenance of the property. But take care: electricity costs are often not counted as running costs! You should therefore always clarify in advance, just which costs are included in the 'Warmmiete'.

Rental agreement (lease)

A rental agreement is a written record of the rights and obligations of the landlord and the tenant. In a rental agreement, the landlord and the tenant must be named fully, as well as all the ancillary rooms included in the rent (e.g. garage, parking and storage spaces ...) and rented objects. In addition, the amount of rent (net rent and associated costs) and, in the case of a fixed-term lease, the rental period must be specified.

Terminating a rental agreement

The lease can be terminated by both the tenant and the landlord. For both, statutory periods of notice apply, which must be met in terminating the agreement. In standard leases of unlimited duration, the notice period for the tenant is 3 months. For the landlord, the period of notice is dependent on the term of the lease. For a lease lasting up to 5 years, the landlord's period of notice is 3 months, for a 5-year lease it is 6 months, and for an 8-year lease it is 9 months.

Here you can find a model letter for terminating a rental agreement:

Registering at the residents' registration office

Anyone living in Germany has to register at the residents' registration office. Registration is mandatory. In most federal states, registration is free, but sometimes modest fees are charged.

Documents which are needed when registering:

  • personal ID card or passport, depending on country of origin
  • registration form from the residents' registration office (available at the registration office or Citizens' Advice Bureau. In many cities also available online to print out)
  • childrens' ID cards or.birth certificates for the children who are also moving in
  • rental or purchase agreement, as appropriate
  • confirmation that you have moved in (if not already stated in the rental agreement)
  • marriage certificate if applicable

Telephone & Internet, Mobile phone

Telephone and internet connections are often available from the same provider. Below, you will find some links about this:

If you wish to terminate your acount with a provider, you can use the model letter below:

NB if you want to keep your old number, you should indicate this in the text. Similarly, the new provider should be informed about this!

Electricity & Gas

When you move into new accommodation, you must register afresh with an electricity supplier. For this, you should take note of certain time limits. If you haven't chosen an electricity provider, you will automatically be supplied by the primary provider. Take note, though, that electricity prices may differ widely between providers. However, changing the supplier is quite easy: you only need to sign up for the appropriate tariff, the rest is usually done for you by the new electricity provider.

NB when moving out, you must also cancel your electricity supply!

Comparing electricity suppliers:

If the accommodation you are to move to is provided with gas, you should sign up for the supply in good time. Again, you can select the most appropriate from numerous gas suppliers. Gas providers today enable straightforward applications on their Internet sites. When cancelling the gas supply, you must ensure that you inform the gas supplier in advance that you will no longer require their services from a particular date.

NB when moving out, you must also cancel your gas supply!

Comparing gas prices:

Broadcasting licence fee

From 1.1.2013, the license fee is paid as a flat rate per household, regardless of whether one owns receiving equipment (radio, TV, computer). From 2013, the fee for a household is €17.98 per month. For more information, please visit:

Waste separation

Germany has one of the highest recycling rates in the world. In the vast majority of German households, rubbish is sorted meticulously. As there are regional differences in waste separation, you should find out the details from the municipality or city administration. Non-compliance with the rules on waste separation can lead to criminal charges and fines.

Waste paper in the big blue bin: use this bin for paper, cardboard boxes, newspapers, catalogues, books and magazines.

Glass in the glass container: glass must first be sorted by colour. White, green and brown glass are collected separately. The lids of glass bottles and jars must be removed beforehand - they go in the yellow bin. Returnable bottles do not belong in the glass container.

Packaging in the yellow recycling bin or the yellow bag: the yellow bin is used for plastic packaging (plastic bottles, plastic film, plastics ...), composite materials (tetra pack, coffee packaging, milk cartons ...), metal (cans, aluminum foil ...) and screw caps of bottles and jars.

Collect harmful substances separately: pollutants must be collected separately, as improper disposal can cause lasting damage to the environment. This category includes batteries, rechargeable batteries, energy saving lamps, medicines, paints, pesticides. These materials can either be returned to the shop where they were bought or taken to the recycling centre.

Organic waste in the compost bin: the compost bin (could be possibly brown or green, varying from state to state) is for fruit and vegetable scraps, fruit peel, coffee grounds and tea bags, garden waste and paper kitchen towels.

Everything else goes in the residual waste bin: it may be either a black or grey container, depending on the state. All the remaining waste is collected here, such as rubber waste, ash and cigarette ends, leather goods, toiletries, nappies...


Job hunting

Citizens of the EU Member States who want to work in Germany do not as a rule require a work permit. An exception to this are transitional rules for the new EU member states Romania and Bulgaria.

By contrast, nationals of non-member countries need both a residence permit and the approval of the Federal Employment Agency.

Links for job hunting in Germany:

Drafts for a good CV:

A contract of employment

The employment contract is concluded by the employer and the employee in order to oblige the employee to carry out the promised work and the employer to pay wages. The obligations of the employer and of the employee are documented in the contract. In principle, the contract need not be in any particular form, but the employee has the right to a written record of the essential working conditions.

Both the employee and the employer have the right to terminate the employment contract. Notice must be given in writing. The prescribed period of notice for employees is 28 days and the termination always occurs on the 15th or at the end of the month.

Link to a free resignation form:


Europass is a free European Union service, designed to support mobility within Europe. Europass enables individuals to list their qualifications, skills and abilities in a sytematic way which is easily understood throughout Europe. Europass serves as an aid in study, training or looking for a job. Standard Europass documents which are available are: Europass Curriculum Vitae, Europass Language Passport, Europass Certificate Supplements Europass Mobility and Europass Diploma Supplement.

About Europass:

Forms of work

In addition to full-time work, there are also a number of other forms of work.

Part-time work: workers who take part-time employment usually have a shorter working week than a full-time employee. This form of work results from negotiation between the employee and the employer. In principle, mothers and fathers on parental leave have an entitlement to part-time work.

Short-time working: short-time working is the temporary reduction of normal working hours due to a significant loss of work within the company. It can affect all or only some of the employees. In certain cases, the affected employee may apply for a compensation payment from the unemployment benefit system.

Marginal Employment: Marginal employment is also known as 'Minijob', 'Mikrojob' or '400 euro job'. This refers on the one hand to employment with a low level of salary and on the other hand to short-term occupations. From 1st January 2013 the pay limit for marginal employment is 450 euros.

Flexible working: this refers to those forms of work for which the location and/or length of working time differ on a daily, weekly or monthly basis from regular working time.

Self-employment: taking up self-employment is also described as 'Existenzgründung': this refers to setting up one's own business. The start-up is supported by the national and regional governments by means of loans and grants.

Help with business start-up:

Family and children

The school system

In Germany, as the individual states are each responsible for their own school system, parts of the education system differ from state to state. However, the education system follows a similar basic structure. Compulsory education starts in Germany after kindergarten or pre-school time with the primary school (beginning 9-10 years of compulsory full-time education). This is followed by compulsory vocational education, which can be fulfilled either by attending a vocational school, participating in the educational programs of vocational schools or attending a secondary school at level I or II. Compulsory vocational education usually ends after Year 12. After that there are the tertiary and quaternary sectors, which mainly include opportunities for further and continuing education (eg community college).

Structure of the German school system:

Primary education: children attend primary school from Years 1 to 4. In general, classes are held in the morning, and grades are already given at this level in most states.

Secondary level I: from Year 5 to Year 10, students attend different types of school. These include basic secondary schools, intermediate secondary schools, grammar schools and comprehensive schools. Depending on the state and type of school, students can leave secondary level I after Year 9 or 10.

Secondary level II: upper secondary education can be concluded after Years 12 and 13 with the Abitur (A-level equivalent) or after Year 11 or 12 with a vocational/technical diploma. These can be obtained from a range of vocational school types, vocational colleges, vocational high schools and technical colleges.

Second-chance education: this includes evening schools and colleges where one can catch up on taking a high school leaving certificate or 'Abitur'.

Here you can find an overview of the types of school:

The right to child benefit

In priciple, all parents are entitled to child benefit for their children. This applies to German nationals and EU citizens resident in Germany, as well as to non-EU citizens with a settlement permit or residence permit in Germany. The allowance is paid until the child turns 18, in some cases even longer. As a rule, the child benefit may be applied for only at the appropriate family benefits department.

You can find further information here:

Study and continuing education

Requirements for foreign students

Anyone wishing to study in Germany needs a so-called higher education entrance qualification (HZB). This is a school leaving qualification, equivalent to the German 'Abitur'. Students from abroad must apply for admission directly to the university of their choice. The admission requirements and selection procedure differ both between institutions and between courses. The appropriate contact for all associated questions is the International Academic Office / International Student Office of the chosen university. Some universities require from foreign applicants an additional aptitude test or the Test for Academic Studies. With good test results, candidates can improve their chances of being offered a place at university:

If your school leaving qualification is not sufficient to allow you to study in Germany, you can take an assessment test. You can prepare for this test in a preparatory course, or 'Studienkolleg', at a German university:

Current knowledge of German

The language of instruction on most courses in Germany is German. Prior knowledge of German at level B2/C1 is assumed. The two most important language exams recognized by all universities are the Test of German as a Foreign Language (TestDaF) and the German Language Examination for Admission of Foreign Student Applicants (DSH).

NB There are also some exceptions, where no language test is required (eg the 'Abitur' at a German school abroad or the new Goethe Certificate C2). Enquire in good time about the requirements of your chosen university.

You can assess your chances of success by trying theTestDaf preparatory test:

Using the the portal for Language Proficiency Requirements you can research the language requirements at your chosen university:

The cost of studying in Germany

The cost of studying in Germany is about average for Europe. On average, students have about 800 euros per month available.

For studying in Germany you should reckon with the following costs:

  • tuition fees
  • semester fees
  • other associated costs
  • cost of health insurance
  • general expenses

Tuition fees: Each federal state decides independently about the tuition fee. The current level of tuition fees can be found here. At the universities where tuition fees have to be paid, they are about 500 euros per semester. ERASMUS students usually pay no tuition fees. However independent master's courses and international courses at private universities almost always incur charges.

Semester fee: The semester fee is usually charged at all German universities. It helps to finance for example administrative costs, student residences or the cafeteria. In addition, many universities also use it to pay for the semester ticket for public transport. Depending on the university the semester fee costs between 25 and 150 euros per semester.

Other associated costs: Students should expect other costs during their studies, such the costs of buying books, paying for field trips, or computer equipment.

Cost of health insurance: Everyone studying in Germany must have health insurance. Up to the age of 30 and up to 14 semesters of study, statutory health insurance schemes are obliged to insure students at a lower rate. The premium is around 80 euros per month.

NB Check in advance whether your health insurance is also valid in Germany. If so, you must obtain confirmation that you are exempt from the German statutory insurance. EU citizens have insurance coverage in Germany through the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC).

General expenses: general expenses include not only food and clothing, but also accommodation costs which amount to about a third of outgoings during the period of study. There are various accommodation options for students: the cheapest is usually in a student hostel or in shared housing with other students.

In a student hostel a single room costs between 120 and 200 euros, and a small apartment 250-370 euros. More information about the housing situation in a student hostel can be found on the website of the Student Union of your study location:

German students tend to prefer to live in a shared flat (WG). Each roommate has their own room, while the bathroom and kitchen are shared. Rent for a room in a 'WG' is between 150 and 300 euros. Find a 'WG' on the internet:

If you would like to live in a flat of your own, you should look for one in plenty of time before the start of term. The costs vary a lot depending on size, standard and location, but a flat under 250 euros a month 'cold rent' is very hard to find. In your own flat, you have to ensure that you sign up for electricity, gas, telephone and internet. The landlord may possibly also demand proof of your income or sureties. It is easiest to find suitable accommodation online:

If you are already in Germany, but haven't yet found any accommodation, as an interim solution you can temporarily rent a room in a hostel, a youth hostel or a Student Union student hotel.

Student Union student hotel:

Hostel links:

Service packages for foreign students: Some student unions also provide service packages for foreign students. These include accommodation, health insurance, meals, the semester fee and even cultural events. In addition, some student unions also provde a bicycle, computer, crockery or language courses. This service may last for one or two semesters. Ask your university's student union for more information.

NB Students in Germany enjoy a number of benefits, e.g. reduced admission to museums, cinemas and swimming pools. There may even be discounts on telephone rates, train tickets or newspaper subscriptions. Ask about these, too!

Ways of financing your studies

Ways of financing your studies with a scholarship can be found on the website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD):

Lots of information about studying in Germany can also be found on the page Studying in Germany:

Opportunities for continuing education

Lifelong learning is of great importance in German educational policy. Continuing professional development is intended, on the one hand, to contribute to faster technological and economic change and, on the other, to help to deal with the various social changes.

You can easily find out about continuing education options on the web:

German Universities

University locations in Germany at a glance:

RWTH (Rheinisch- Westfälische Technische Hochschule)
Freie Universität (FUB)
Humboldt-Universität (HUB)
Technische Universität (TUB)
Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität
Bonn - Alfter
Alanus Hochschule für Kunst und Gesellschaft
Technische Universität
Hochschule Bremen
Hochschule Bremerhaven
Technische Universität Chemnitz
Technische Universität
Brandenburgische Technische Universität
Technische Universität Dramstadt
Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft
Technische Universität
Gerhard-Mercator-Universität - Gesamthochschule
Kath. Universität Eichstätt
Universität Erfurt
Pädagogische Hochschule Erfurt
Universität Gesamthochschule
Folkwang-Hochschule Essen
Hochschule für Sozialwesen Esslingen
Bildungswissenschaftliche Hochschule Flensburg
Frankfurt am Main
Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität
Hochschule für Bankwirtschaft
Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule Sankt Georgen Frankfurt (a.M.)
Frankfurt (Oder)
Europa-Universität Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)
Freiberg (Sachsen)
Technische Universität Bergakademie
Freiburg im Breisgau
Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg
Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg (TUHH)
Universität der Bundeswehr
Medizinische Hochschule
Tierärztliche Hochschule
Technische Universität
Staatliche Hochschule für Gestaltung Karlsruhe
Wissenschaftliche Hochschule für Unternehmensführung
Leipzig Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst
Hochschule für Technik, Wirtschaft und Kultur
Medizinische Universität
Pädagogische Hochschule
Johannes Gutenberg-Universität
Technische Universität
Universität der Bundeswehr
Hochschule für Philosophie München
Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität
European Business School Schloß Reichartshausen (ebs)
Carl von Ossietzky Universität
Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft des Saarlandes
Universität des Saarlandes
Universität Siegen
Hochschule für Verwaltungswissenschaften
Universität Stuttgart
Universität Hohenheim
Universität Vechta
Bauhaus - Universität Weimar
Pädagogische Hochschule
Privat-Universität Witten-Herdecke
Bergische Universität
Bayerische Julius-Maximilians-Universität

Money and taxes

Income tax

All private individuals who are liable to pay tax must submit an.income tax return. It is used to determine the income tax payable. If, in the previous year, a higher tax was paid than calculated within the tax return, the difference is refunded. In most cases, the income tax return must be submitted by 31st May of the following year.

You can also complete and submit the tax return online, e.g. here:

Opening a bank account

In general, any adult with proof of identity can open a bank account. Often, though, additional conditions are set by the banks, e.g. proof of current employment. Minors can open a bank account if they have the consent of a parent or guardian. If opening a normal bank account is denied, the individual can open a credit account (also called 'a basic account for anyone'). More information can be found at the Sparkasse, Volksbank or at the consumer advice centre.

When opening an account, customers have the choice between branch-based retail banks and direct banks. The direct banks often have favourable conditions, but a current account is usually managed as an online account. In retail banks, however, the charges made to the client include the services of a personal contact and other extras.


Schufa is the best known credit insurance institution (or credit bureau) in Germany. On the one hand it protects the contract partner against credit losses, on the other, it also helps in protecting consumers against excessive debt. Schufa holds data on 75% of the people in Germany.

Anyone who takes out a loan in Germany, including bank loans and hire purchase credit, is recorded in the database of a credit bureau. From his data (consisting of name, address, previous address, occupation, employer, income, debt and even more criteria) Schufa calculates a score value, which gives information about the person's creditworthiness. People who would like to know what data is stored about them in the database can request information directly from Schufa.

Health insurance

In Germany you can choose between statutory and private health insurance. Both types of insurance have their advantages: the cost of private insurance often includes higher benefits (e.g. non-prescription drugs or treatment by alternative practitioners) whereas the contribution to be paid for statutory health insurance depends on one's income, so if you earn less, you pay less. However, the age of the insured is of no consequence. On the other hand, the contributions to private health insurance can increase significantly over time.

Careful changing from private back to public health insurance is only possible for insured people whose income is under the compulsory insurance limit. For this reason, the decision to choose private health insurance is usually a decision for life.

Information for Refugees

Getting information

Consultation/Contact points





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