Brexit was a historic event that will likely decide the trajectory of the relationship between the UK and mainland European countries for the century to come. Among the relationships that were affected by Brexit was citizens' right to reside and work in each other's territory without much paperwork.
Although there is a lot of humdrum surrounding the changes in laws and regulations on news websites and blogs, most pieces online don't clearly outline what changed due to Brexit, what's the new process like, and how someone wanting to relocate can effectively manoeuvre the system.
In this article, we'll aim to properly break down the changes, give you info on current procedures, and end it with a few tips that will help you in your post-Brexit move to Germany.
Emigrating to Germany Post Brexit
As a bit to ease the burden on British citizens who already reside in Germany, people who already resided in the country before the 1st of January, 2021 were capable of using a far more permissive and simplified process to get their residency permit in the country.
For everyone else who is thinking about migrating to Germany now and doesn't have a history of residing in the country, which we assume includes you, the process is quite a bit more complicated.
Residency Permit and Visas
Only members of EU countries (and a few select others) have the right to reside in Germany for more than 90 days continuously without a residency permit. If you are planning on emigrating to Germany long term, you need a residency permit.
The way you can go about acquiring a residency permit can be quite varied:
- If you have a valid British passport, you can visit Germany for 90 days with almost no restrictions. During this time, you can't legally work in the country, but you're free to hunt for jobs, apartments, etc. Many younger people prefer to visit Germany, see the country for themselves, try to find a job during their initial month or two, and then apply for a residency permit from within the country. This is a perfectly valid strategy, and it is perfectly legal.
- Alternatively, you can apply for a visa before you leave for Germany: by acquiring a German visa, you'll not only be able to stay for a year continuously (subject to renewals), but you'll also have the right to work in the country. If you are after a more orderly, systemic move to the country with your family, this is the way to go.
Regardless of whichever route you decide to take, there's one thing that you must immediately do once you finalize your residence in Germany, and that's to register at a 'registration office'. Each state in Germany has their laws and regulations, and the process from one state to another can be quite different, so we can't mention the procedure in detail here. There's one thing they almost all have in common though: you have to register at the registration office within the first 15 days of establishing your residence. If you move, you also have to deregister and reregister in your new residence.
Everyone living in Germany needs to have health insurance. It is mandated by law. When applying for a residence permit or a visa, you typically have to provide proof of being insured. Thankfully, it is easy to get insured in Germany:
- Statutory health insurance: 90% of German residents are insured through a program known as 'statutory health insurance'. They are a series of publicly-owned companies that are responsible for providing health insurance. When you get a job in Germany, workplaces are obliged to provide you with healthcare, and in most cases, they'll likely sign you up automatically for statutory health insurance. If you're self-employed, you will have to contact their offices yourself.
- Private health insurance: around 10% of the population have private health insurance. Generally more expensive than statutory health insurance, private insurers go above and beyond and provide additional services. Getting private health insurance is entirely optional, but it does provide you with more flexibility. Of course, this comes at a cost, and these are generally more expensive than the public option.
- EHIC or GHIC: if you already have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), you'll be automatically covered in Germany, and during your paperwork, your card will suffice.
Studying in Germany
Everything we've discussed so far has largely been oriented towards people who seek to work in Germany. If you're seeking to study there and take advantage of Germany's excellent, free public universities, then the process is a bit different. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind:
- The residency permit for students is different: the residency permit you receive when you're a student is different from the residency permit you receive for a job. The process is different. You need to be very careful about stuff you read on the internet if you're looking into a residency permit for studies. Make sure the information applies to you. It is very likely it might not be. You should contact a local Foreigners Authority (Ausländerbehörde) to discuss the process and your options before you commit. They're very helpful and will guide you through everything.
- You need a University acceptance letter before you can apply for the residency: before you think about getting your residency in Germany, you need an acceptance letter from an accredited German university. Be careful, though, this process can be long, arduous, and take more than a month depending on the university you're applying to. You also only have a small window of opportunity each year to apply and get an acceptance letter. Getting a residency permit and relocating to Germany is mostly routine work, the hard part is getting into the university of your choice.
- You can take advantage of a lot of discounts while in Germany: although not directly related, once you get your student residency and start your education in Germany, the state offers a lot of discounts from specific stores to transportation and more. If you are relocating to Germany, you should learn about these and try to take advantage of them once in the country.
Last but not least, we can't mention relocating to a foreign country without briefly touching on laws and regulations surrounding the Coronavirus. Your experience will largely depend on your vaccination status:
- Not vaccinated: if you're not vaccinated, currently, you can't travel to Germany unless you're a German citizen. You can only travel to Germany after you take two doses of the vaccine and wait two weeks. This is important if you have your trip planned. You need to quickly make sure you're vaccinated.
- Vaccinated: if you're vaccinated, you're generally free to travel to Germany without any further restrictions. You do need to provide authorities with proof of vaccination, however.
- Travelling from a high-risk area: the German government regularly publishes a list of high-risk areas. For people who've been to one of these areas in the days leading up to their travel to Germany, they need to fill out a digital form before they embark to Germany. Britain isn't currently classified as a 'high-risk area', but this might change in the future.
Sadly, to keep up with the ever-shifting nature of the pandemic, no concrete laws and regulations are surrounding COVID, and two months from now, this section could be outdated. That's why it is important to always check both the British and German travel advisories when planning your trip.
Tips on Successfully Moving to Germany after Brexit
When moving to an EU country, there's more than making sure you follow the laws and procedures. Some tips can make your relocation much easier, and we'll go through some of them in this section.
#1 Contact a Removal Company when Moving Personal Belongings from UK to Germany after Brexit
Relocating your belongings is always a challenging task. This is doubly true for British citizens moving to Germany, especially after Brexit. Not only is it exceedingly difficult to move your belongings yourself, but there are also some regulations you need to comply with when transporting specific items.
Most people can't handle this extra headache, especially since the process of moving is already hectic. This is why you should rely on a removal company to handle the process for you. A competent removal company, like Bright Removals, will help you load and unload your belongings, make sure they remain safe during the move, and will take care of all the relevant transportation regulations and laws.
#2 International Driving Permit
Although Germany is known for its excellent public transportation, many people won't be able to do without their cars, and although you might think you need an international driving license to drive a car in Germany, that's not actually the case.
Germany has an exclusive program for British citizens -- it allows them to convert their British driving license to a local driving license after residing in the country for a period of more than 6 months. At the time of writing this article, this conversion process neither requires a theoretical nor practical driving test.
#3 Financially Plan Ahead
Moving to a whole new country can really strain your finances. The process of moving, renting a new place and applying to a job/university all require money, and until you get used to your new country, you'll likely spend more than usual. Failing to plan your finances before moving to Germany will cause you a lot of headaches, trust us on this.
#4 Always Contact Relevant Agencies If You Face Any Issues
We understand how hectic and confusing your new home must be, and despite this article being of a decent size, we're sure you still have many unanswered questions. The best thing to do, almost always, is to contact relevant authorities both in Britain and Germany. They're paid to help you, and in most circumstances, they are extremely helpful. It is always better to get your information from an official source than read random sources on the internet.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a UK Citizen Live in Germany after Brexit?
Yes, British citizens who already resided in Germany prior to the 1st of January, 2021 can undergo a simplified process to get a residency permit and stay in the country.
British citizens looking to move to and live in Germany now can do so for up to 90 days without a visa or a residency permit. If they want to stay beyond that period, they need to apply for a residency permit.
Can UK Citizens Live in Germany?
Yes, if Brits get a job offer in Germany, they can apply for a work permit and start working in the country. They can only do so after getting a visa/residency permit, however.
Is Germany's Economy Better than the UK?
Yes, provided that you have adequate funds, you can apply for a residency permit and spend your retirement in Germany. Moving to UK from Germany after Brexit or vice versa isn't impossible.