Steps to Take When Leaving Germany
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Last updated: 07 Oct 2020 / by Sam Williams
Germany is a popular country for overseas visitors to live, with 1.3 million arrivals in 2019. However, there were plenty of foreign residents leaving too, with approximately 961,000 departures.
When you arrived in Germany, you may well have felt overwhelmed by the stack of official procedures for new arrivals. Hopefully, by approaching it methodically you found it wasn’t as bad as it first seemed.
If you’ve been in Germany a while, you won’t be surprised to learn that there’s a similar approach to leaving. When you decide it’s time to go, you’ll need to give yourself plenty of time to tick off every task.
Although you might be tempted just to pick up your things and go, it’s never a good idea. Complications could follow you to another country, and if you ever plan on returning you might find it difficult.
To make sure you perform an orderly exit, German-style, follow our checklist with all the steps you need to take.
3-5 Months Before Leaving
Give your landlord notice
You’ll need to give your landlord adequate notice before leaving your accommodation; your contract will set out how far in advance you need to let them know. The standard notice period in Germany is three months so make sure let your landlord know in time.
You will normally need to send this by letter; an email will not suffice as official notice and your landlord can refuse to accept it. You will also need to send the letter within the first three days of the month or else the notice period won’t kick in until the following month.
When planning your notice period, factor in any renovations or decorations you’ll need to do to return the property to the agreed condition.
Talk to your gym
There’s no obligation for the gym to agree to cancel your contract, even if you are leaving the country, Most gym memberships are for a year, and you might be expected to pay up until renewal.
A case went to court in Germany, and the judge found in favor of the gym so you might just have to suck this one up unless your gym is sympathetic. They might allow you to find someone to take over your contract, or if you give them enough notice, they might just let you leave without owing anything. You won’t know unless you talk to them!
Cancel utility contracts
Utility contracts such as water and electricity are usually easy to cancel. You need to let them know in writing that you’re leaving, and they will allow you to cancel from that date. If your landlord has a new tenant taking over the contract, they might not even ask to see any proof.
However, if there’s no new tenant on the horizon, they might ask to see your reregistration document, the Abmeldebescheinigung (more about that below!).
Contact your mobile phone provider
You may not want to cancel the contract for your mobile phone, depending on their coverage, the plan and your intended new location. If you do, you might find that your mobile phone provider isn’t as flexible as regular utility companies. It’s not unusual to have a 24-month contract for a mobile phone in Germany, and they may insist you continue to pay for the full contract. If you do, just make sure you cancel the automatic renewal!
Give notice to your employer
You may be inclined to leave it as late as possible, but in Germany, it’s considered polite to give your employer as much as notice as you can, at least three months.
This will give them time to get someone to replace you, and maybe get them trained before leaving. From your perspective, this ensures there will be no hiccups with final salary payments and you can get anything you need, such as a reference, before you leave.
Speak to your healthcare provider
Canceling your health insurance can be trickier than you might expect, much depends on whether you have statutory or private health insurance.
Statutory insurance is somewhat easier as they’ll want proof that you are leaving the country. Private health insurers might not let you cancel, particularly if you plan on remaining within the EU.
Inform the school
If you have children of school age, make sure you give the school plenty of notice about your intention to withdraw your children from their roll. Wherever possible it’s expected to let them know at least three months in advance.
Enquire regarding unemployment benefit
If you don’t have a new job in your new country, but would be eligible to claim unemployment benefit in Germany, check whether you can transfer your entitlement. It may sound complicated, but it’s easier than you think if you are staying within the EU.
Check your taxable position
If you are self-employed, you’ll need to get in touch with the Finanzamt to let them know you are leaving Germany.
Even if you aren’t self-employed, you should contact your local tax office as you may not need to pay German taxes and you could be entitled to a refund.
If you have assets or property in Germany that generate an income or spend more than 183 days in Germany you will still be liable for German tax.
2-3 Months Before Leaving
Let the TV tax people know
Moving out of Germany is sufficient reason to stop paying the TV tax, Rundfunkbeitrag. To prove that your claims to leave are genuine, you’ll just need to supply them with a copy of your Abmeldung.
Book a removals firm
Removals firms get booked up well in advance so don’t leave it until the last minute to book your slot. If you’re only leaving with a suitcase you won’t need any help, but if you have furniture or large belongings you’re hoping to keep, a removals firm will be essential. They have expert knowledge of moving possessions across borders and can help you navigate any rules or paperwork you might encounter.
Request a pensions refund
If you have been contributing to a pension while working, you will have accumulated a value. Before leaving Germany, speak to the German Federal Pension Fund (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) to see what your options are.
If you have been working in Germany for less than five years and you’re not an EU citizen, you could be entitled to a refund. In other cases, you may be able to transfer the value rather than keep it in Germany.
1-3 Weeks Before Leaving
Get proof of final utility readings
As you finish up redecorating your property and making it ready for inspection, it’s essential to have proof of the condition you’re leaving it in.
Take photos of all the rooms and any important areas so there can be no allegations later that you didn’t meet the contract’s terms. As part of this, taking a photo of the final utility readings on the day you move out is highly recommended. This allows you to prove what your final reading was, just in case you’re challenged later on.
Arrange property inspection
It’s always a good idea to have a joint inspection with your landlord to identify any problems and won’t come as a shock.
You won’t be able to do the inspection until you are officially handing back the keys, so this will be one of the very last processes to complete. If your apartment came with any furnishings or contents, your landlord will also carry out an inventory check.
Both you and your landlord should be able to sign off the agreement for the handover of your property once this inspection is complete. This should trigger the repayment of your deposit. There is no legal timeframe for your deposit to be returned, but it’s normally expected to be within four weeks.
Close your bank account
Don’t close your bank account too soon because you might be entitled to refunds that will be difficult to process. Keep your account open until a couple of days before you are due to leave. Closing your account can normally be done in person or online, but it will be immediate. Your bank will instantly cut up or invalidate your card and transfer any balance so make sure you have sufficient funds to keep you going.
Set up forwarding for your post
Although you may be setting off for pastures new, it’s important to make sure that you’ve tied up all the loose ends while in Germany. To give yourself peace of mind, set up a mail forwarding service with Deutsche Post. It’s quick and easy to do and ensures that you’ll receive the communication if anyone writes to you about something urgent. You may want to return to Germany one day and won’t want a nasty surprise waiting!
Deregister at the bürgeramt
If you think back to when you moved to Germany, registering your presence via the Anmeldebescheinigung process was a vital step. It’s no less important when you leave, but this time it’s known as Abmeldebescheinigung.
You can complete Abmeldebescheinigung after you have left Germany (up to 14 days) but it’s much easier to do it before you go. You can’t do it way in advance so it will be one of the last things to organize. Strictly you can’t deregister more than two weeks before your departure date, but some offices will allow you to do it 3-4 weeks in advance.