men sitting on a bench in a waiting area

How to register at an address in Germany

Now that you’ve found a place to live, the next step is to register your address. This is probably not how you want to spend your time, but it’s compulsory so read on for our tips on how to get through it as quickly and painlessly as possible!

You did it - well done! You found a flat in Germany! Now it’s time to put that small forest of apartment application paperwork away, sit back, relax, and start enjoying your new home. Ahhhh... But wait. You’re forgetting one tiny thing – this is GERMANY and the paperwork never ends. Now that you’ve finally finished one invigorating round with the German lust for documentation, it’s time for – yep, you guessed it – round two.

What is 'Anmeldung'?

Registering your address in Germany is mandatory. By law, everyone staying longer than three months in Germany must register their address (anmelden) within 14 days of moving into a new apartment.  Not registering your address within 14 days can result in a fine of up to €1,000. And this brings us to another little trick that Germany likes to play on its newcomers and citizens alike - often there are no appointments available for months, especially in the bigger cities. If you’re a newbie of a nervous disposition, this can be enough to make you break out in a cold sweat. Even if you’re made of sterner stuff, the registration process will probably leave you shaking your head or discovering your first grey hairs. What fun! And people say the Germans don’t have a sense of humour. The only thing to do is try to get an appointment as soon as you can. The €1,000 fine is more like an urban myth so even if you don’t manage to register within 14 days, chances are you’ll be fine. Not fined.

Where do I have to go to register in Germany? This is the next treat Germany has lined up for you. In order to register your address, you need to go to a Bürgeramt. Picture, if you will, a haven of welcoming warmth, tastefully designed to make you feel at ease – then throw that picture out the window because the lovely people who work at the Bürgerämter have decided the exact opposite is a more appropriate way to introduce you to the German way of life.
What do I have to do?

Step 1: Get an appointment

This month there are no appointments available any more. Do I really need an appointment or can I just go without one . - If you have a lot of time on your hands, like getting up at the crack of dawn, and enjoy sitting in a dismal room with dozens of other lost souls staring at a screen waiting for your number to pop up, feeling hope dwindle with every hour it doesn’t, then no. If you have any sense, yes. You can search for available appointments online. If there are none, keep clicking “refresh” like a lunatic and one may appear. You also don’t have to register at your nearest Bürgeramt so, if you live in one of the major cities, you can do a city-wide search for an appointment; you may have more luck in a different neighbourhood. If you’re impatient and your German is passable, call 115 'nationwide' and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to get an appointment on the same day.

Here is a complete guide to get an appointment at the Bürgeramt.

Step 2: Fill out the documents (in advance)

What documents do I need to bring with me? In order to make this as straightforward as possible, make sure you have the following documents to hand:

You can download these forms online. If you are not an EU citizen, you’ll need to get your residence permit first.

Here are the official registration requirements of Berlin.

Step 3: At the Bürgeramt

Will they speak English at the Bürgeramt? If you like being shouted at in German by a middle-aged lady with a bad dye-job and eye make-up that was fashionable in the 1970s, go ahead and ask. However, it’s probably a better idea to bring someone who speaks German to the appointment with you. Alternatively, you can give power of attorney for this specific reason to a German-speaking friend who loves you dearly and will go to the Bürgeramt in your place.
If you do decide to go it alone, just make sure that you have all of your documentation in order. With any luck, you can just point at the forms, grin apologetically and get out of there without having to say too much.

Anmeldung FAQs:

Why do I have to register in Germany?

So the government knows where you are at all times and you can never avoid paying taxes or other irritating mandatory things. You also need your Anmeldung if you want to live like a normal person with a bank account, mobile phone and internet, and basically any other services you may want to sign up for.

Do I have to pay to register?

Only in tears. Financially, it won’t cost you a cent.

Can’t I just do all of this online?

Bah hahaha! No. Welcome to Germany.

But surely if I move, I can re-register online?

See previous answer.

On a positive note - there has to be one, right? - Germans also have to go through this process and you haven’t truly “arrived” until you’ve got your own Anmeldung story. Entertain yourself, your friends and your colleagues by trying to top their Anmeldung stories as pretty much everyone has one. Think of it as a rite of passage. And just imagine how dizzyingly triumphant you’ll feel as you strut out that Bürgeramt door, knowing you’ve cleared another bureaucratic hurdle. Feel free to skip all the way to the pub to celebrate (while vowing you’ll never move again).

Do you still have unanswered questions? Then here is the ultimate guide to how to register an address in Berlin.

Linda O’Grady
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