Moving to Berlin: All you need to know

Have you made the decision to up sticks and move to Berlin? We don’t blame you! The city is bursting with creativity, talented young professionals, and, of course, more cool and edgy bars, cafes and restaurants than you’ll know what to do with. All that, plus the fact that it’s a major European hub for innovative startups that we all know and love such as Zalando make it an excellent choice.

But anyway, you know all that, that’s why you’re moving there. What you might not know is that there are a number of admin tasks that you’ll have to work your way through as soon as you arrive. Spoiler alert, there’s quite a lot! But fear not, we’ve compiled this easy-to-follow guide that includes all the essential ones. Hopefully with our help you can spend less time worrying about what an Ausländerbehörde is and more time worrying about which neighbourhood to have breakfast in next Saturday.

Just a quick heads up – this article focuses on the legal bits you have to do. If you still haven’t found a place to live yet, you can search, contact and securely book your ideal room before you’ve set foot in Berlin, all through Badi.

Let’s get to it…

1 Sign your rental contract

You can get your room booked and ready to move into all through Badi before you even arrive in Berlin, but you should still ensure one of the first things you do is sign a rental contract with your landlord. In most cases the landlord will organise this for you and will be just as keen to get it signed as you are. However, if they aren’t forthcoming, make sure you chase them up and get it signed. It’s a legal document and it makes sure you’re protected. You’ll also need it to carry out other compulsory admin tasks.

If you don’t speak German, we recommend asking a German-speaking friend, or if that’s not possible, a lawyer, to read through the contract for you. You should always know what you’re signing to make sure there aren’t any nasty surprises further down the line.

2 Register at the citizen’s office, AKA the Bürgeramt

Whether you’re coming from abroad or just moving from another part of Germany, you’ll need to register at the Bürgeramt. There’s also a strict time limit on doing this – if you move to Berlin and don’t register within 14 days of your move-in date you might be fined. Here’s what you need to do:

Make an appointment

This is compulsory – if you turn up without an appointment you’ll be turned away. Luckily, getting an appointment is relatively straightforward. You can do so over the phone by ringing the Berlin Bürgertelefeon (the citizens phone number) on 115, or, you can do it online by going to berlin.de and following the instructions. Don’t worry if you don’t speak German yet, the website is available in English, French and Italian.

Gather the required documents

  • Signed confirmation of your move-in date from your landlord. This is known as “Einzugsbestätigung des Wohnungsgeber”.
  • The “Anmeldung form” (registration form) signed and filled out by you. If you need help with this, check out these handy websites: appmeldung.com and anmeldung.sorted.berlin.
  • A valid ID document such as an ID card or passport.

Attend your appointment

Appointment booked, documents gathered, now all you have to do is show up on time! We also recommend you attend with a German-speaking friend or, failing that, hire a lawyer to accompany you. Not all employees at the Bürgeramt speak English and having someone that does to help will make the whole experience much smoother.  Once you’re in, the Anmeldung should take about 10 minutes after which you’ll be given your Anmeldebestätigung. Then a few days later you’ll have your new Tax ID.

Want to skip all that? We don’t blame you! Another option is to give power of attorney and pay a representative such as a relocation agency to organise and attend on your behalf.

Important: if your landlord refuses to help you register, take it as a warning sign. This is your legal responsibility, insist and if they still refuse, you should inform the Bürgeramt of the situation directly.

3 Register at the financial office

If you’re relocating from outside Germany, you’ll need to open a new bank account. If you’re relocating from within Germany, you can just keep your existing bank account. In both cases you’ll need to register with the financial office. There are 17 financial offices in Berlin – the one you need to register with will depend on the location of your new flat. You can find your correct financial office and everything you need to do on this official website. 

Oberbaum Bridge in Berlin before sunset

4 Using public transport

Public transport in Berlin is excellent. You can find everything you need to know on the BVG website. Depending on how often you plan to use public transport, you can buy daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly tickets through the BVG app or at the stations. If you’re looking for an app to help you navigate your way round the city and make the best use of all the public transport on offer, try the CityMapper app.

A few extra tips: if you’re a student, check with your university to see if they offer reduced rates (they often do). If you’re a worker, check with your company to see if they offer any partial or full payments of travel as a benefit.

5 Visas for non-EU nationals

And finally, if you’re touching down in Berlin from further afield you’ll also have to organise yourself a visa. As with most countries, securing a visa can be tricky so you might want to consider paying for a lawyer to help you out and advise you on the most appropriate visa for your situation.

You can find information on all of the different visa routes plus how to start the process on the Berlin Service Portal. 

That brings our moving to Berlin guide to an end. All the tasks are simple and relatively stress-free to carry out once you know you need to do them and hopefully this guide will fill in any of the blanks for you. If you’re still in the flat-hunting stage, why not let Badi pair you up with the person most likely to share the same lifestyle as you? In the meantime, good luck on the big move!