Your Educational Journey in Germany: What to prepare? Relocating to a new country is not easy, sometimes it can be quite an exhausting hassle. For international students coming to ECRI in the next winter semester, there are certain things that one needs to do during their first week. Most of them are mandatory administrative activities that will legalise your educational allocation. Read up on all the things in the following check list and make sure you are well prepared.
1. Registration at the town hall and immigration office
Anyone living in Germany is required to register their address at the town hall (Rathaus) as well as de-register when they move out, for purpose of population control. By the laws and regulations of the Federal Republic of Germany, all residents are expected to register for a permanent address between seven to fourteen days after their accommodation transfer.
In addition, approximately six weeks before their student visa expiration, international students are expected to show up at the local immigration office (Ausländeramt), usually at the District Office (Landratsamt) and apply for a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). Necessary documents for application usually include your passport, student visa, bank account statement for financial proof, enrollment certificate, and a passport-size photo together with the filled-in and signed registration form provided by the immigration office. Always remember in Germany you need to carry original proof of personal identity with you at all times – that can either be your passport or residence permit. In case you need further support and assistance regarding your residence application, don’t hesitate to contact our international tutors or our university’s International Office.
2. Obligation of health insurance
To have access to Germany’s excellent healthcare system, one must possess a valid insurance card. For international students, this is one of the compulsory criteria for obtaining a student visa. This can be either a state or private health insurance regarding your own personal preferences and expectations. In most cases, the subscription comes with a monthly fee ranging from € 108 or higher, depending on your student status, your income and/or your age.
It is also advisable that you do some prior research regarding doctors, dentists or other healthcare specialists operating within the living area and write down their contact information in case of emergency.
Some of the German emergency numbers, which are toll-free as an international student, you should definitely save on your phone contacts are listed as below:
- Police: 110
- Fire department/Ambulance: 112
- Health Department: 116 117
3. Settlement of financial concerns
For international students, in order to pay for their rent or their insurance subscription, you will need to figure out how to open a German bank account as soon as possible. With the development of digital technology, there are more possibilities of opening a bank account online with easy step-by-step technical guidance.
You can choose for your monetary assets from several German banks. Do check out their offers, customer policies and additional obligations before making your decisions. My recommendation is to pay them a visit and request a personal consultation. Different banks will offer specific banking fees, support and promotions.
To open a German bank account with student status, you will need to have your passport and/or residence permit, your student visa, enrollment certificate and your address registration certificate ready.
Moreover, estimated one month after your residence registration, you will receive your tax number from the local Tax Office (Finanzamt). It provides you with information and an official profile related to tax classification, which will be needed if you are going to work or paying tax in the future.
4. Arrangement of housing matters
Firstly, one thing that will be “culturally confusing” to you is the TV, Radio and Internet license fee. As of January 2013, all citizens residing in Germany are obligated to pay the Rundfunkbeitrag – TV and Radio broadcasting fee. As soon as you’re registered in the German system, you will receive a letter from the ARD/ZDF/DeutschlandRadio informing you about the obligation of this particular tax. The subscription comes at an expense of 17,50€ per month and you can choose to pay monthly, every 3 or 6 months or annually. Every household requires only one person to pay for the fee, thus, the cost can be shared equally between accommodated tenants.
Secondly, make sure you are familiarised with the residential lifestyle in Germany. Noises are expected to be kept down between the period of 10pm to 6am. Rubbish is supposed to be recycled into organic, plastic, paper and mixed trash. Hazardous materials such as batteries or flammable chemicals have to be taken to its assigned pick-up areas.
Thirdly, in order to receive letters, which are basically a common means of communication for Germans, your name should appear correctly and immediately on the mailbox and doorbell. This also applies for parcels and shopping packets.
Lastly, sometimes, your rent might not cover the additional expenses of gas, electricity, water and/or Internet. In some cases, you will have to set it up yourself or have to ask previous tenants to transfer their ownership of utilities to you. Used amounts of these mentioned utilities will contribute to the overall sum of your annual rental prices. Make a note of all meter readings as soon as you move into the house and calculate the differences monthly to keep track of your usage to avoid unexpected or improper extra charges at the end of the year.
5. Acknowledgement of transportations
Getting around in Germany has never been as convenient and easy as right now. With tram, bus or train, you can basically travel the whole region. For new arrivals, buying a day pass ticket can be a fun way to quickly explore the city and understand how the train lines work. However, for students, a cheaper and more economical way of commuting is buying a monthly ticket. You can also register for an annual subscription, with expenses being deducted directly from your bank account at the beginning or the end of each month. The tickets of 12 months will be sent to your registered home address and you can use them accordingly. It is important to know that while you might not be asked for a ticket while jumping on a train, there is a legal system running in place and you will receive a fine of € 60 if caught without a ticket.
If you are travelling with a bike or a pet, keep in mind that you will need an extra ticket for that. Ask any agents at the information counter for ticket advices and expectant fees. In the case of driving around with a car of your own, it is critical to learn about German road rules and meanings of traffic signs so that you will not have to deal with any police problems on your way.
Ha Nguyen is an outgoing and benevolent Vietnamese native pursuing her Master’s degree at DIT’s European Campus Rottal-Inn who wishes to pass on the compassion of positive vibes through her enthusiastic writings.