Practical checklist before leaving Germany and moving abroad

Practical checklist before leaving Germany and moving abroad

Moving abroad is an exciting but stressful experience, requiring extensive preparation. If the country you’re leaving is Germany, a nation famous for its bureaucracy, a little forward planning is even more necessary to smooth the transition.

From deregistering your address with the local Bürgeramt (citizens office) to cancelling your mandatory health insurance, there’s a lot to remember. This checklist of things to do before leaving Germany will keep you on track, and help make your move overseas as stress-free as possible.

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Sort out your taxes

For tax purposes, a German “resident” is generally defined as any individual who has a domicile in the country or spends more than 183 days of the calendar year there. If neither will apply to you after leaving Germany, you’ll likely no longer be taxable in the country. A Steuerberater or tax adviser can check your status if necessary, and assist with settling any outstanding debts.

Employees in Germany pay social security contributions of an average of around 20% of their salary, almost half of which consist of payments into the state pension fund. Before leaving the country, it’s possible to book an information appointment with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (German Federal Pension Fund) to discuss your German pension eligibility in the country you are moving to. You can also request a written statement of your entitlements.

Those who aren’t eligible for a German pension – for example, non-EU residents who lived in the country for less than five years – may be entitled to a refund of their contributions, but anyone below retirement age must wait two years to apply.

Notify your landlord, or decide what to do with your home

Renters leaving Germany simply need to notify their landlord in writing within the notice period, which under German law is at least three months. Property owners have a wider range of factors to consider. For example, if they choose to sell, German real estate law requires both buyer and seller to appear before a notary to authorise the transfer of ownership – though it’s possible to appoint a proxy agent to act on your behalf if you can’t be in the country at the time of the sale. Sellers are also required to pay capital gains tax of 25% on the sale of any property owned for less than 10 years.

Those who choose to rent out their German home instead will need to decide whether to manage the property from abroad themselves or use a local property manager. The former option is more effort, while the costs associated with the latter eat into rental income. Taxes must also be paid on this income, with the German “solidarity surcharge” of up to 5.5% added to any tax burden above €16,956 for singles, or €33,912 for married couples. Expenses including mortgage charges and a certain amount of home maintenance costs can be offset on this tax bill.

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Deregister your address

Anyone moving abroad from Germany is legally required to fulfill the Abmeldung process to deregister their address. This can be done online or by posting a form to your local citizens' office, which will issue you with a deregistration certificate. This must be done within two weeks of leaving Germany, but doing it earlier is recommended – ideally two to four weeks before departure.

Dog owners should also deregister their dogs before moving overseas, to cancel their obligation for the German dog tax (Hundesteuer).

Find a moving company you can trust

Packing up your life and sending your belongings to a new home overseas can be quite daunting, but using a reputable moving company will make things simpler. It’s recommended to use one that is licensed and registered, has experience in overseas relocations and offers high-quality insurance cover.

Cancel contracts

Before leaving Germany and moving abroad, it’s important to allow plenty of time to terminate contracts with utility companies and phone/internet providers, which generally have a cancellation period of a few months. It’s also necessary to notify the German public broadcasting service (GEZ), so they can cancel your obligation for the monthly TV licence fee charged to all households.

Every German resident is legally required to have health insurance, which should be terminated when moving overseas. It may be necessary to supply the insurer with a copy of your deregistration certificate to close a contract, and a cancellation notice period typically applies – usually around two months.

Transfer your bank balance and close your account

Those who are leaving Germany permanently and won’t have any assets in the country may want to close their German bank account. Some banks allow customers to fill out closing orders from overseas, but it’s recommended that you visit your local branch before leaving Germany, to let them know your plans and close your account in person. Before doing so, you’ll need to transfer any remaining funds. Bear in mind when doing this that using CurrencyFair to send money abroad is up to eight times cheaper than a traditional international bank transfer.

With the right level of planning and organisation, moving abroad needn’t be excessively stressful. After working your way through this practical leaving Germany checklist, there shouldn’t be much left for you to do other than grab your passport and say auf Wiedersehen.

Sending money overseas? CurrencyFair offers same-day transfers on major currencies to over 150 countries from any device, at any time. 

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