How to Move to Germany from the US?

Moving to Germany from the US can be an exciting adventure, but it requires careful planning and attention to detail.

According to the 2020 report from the German Federal Office of Statistics, Germany is home to over 11 million immigrants, with more than 110,000 hailing from the United States. But why is Germany such an attractive destination for relocation, and what are the steps to move there from the US? The concise answers lie in “universal healthcare, free education, a robust economy, and a high quality of life,” and the process involves “applying for a residence permit.” Below, you’ll find a more detailed explanation.

Do I Need a Visa to Move to Germany From The US?

Move to Germany from the US
Cochem is a town in Germany. In red fall colors, a historical romantic town on the Moselle River valley in Rhineland-Palatinate.

If you’re a US citizen, you can enter Germany without needing a long-stay visa. However, if you plan to extend your stay beyond three months, you must apply for a residence permit within the initial days of your arrival. Remember that the first three months are visa-free and exclusively for tourism purposes. If you intend to work, obtaining authorization is a prerequisite.

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For legal guidance on moving to Germany from the United States, consider seeking assistance from a law representative at Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte.

Permanent Settlement Permit

After residing in Germany for at least four years, you become eligible for a settled resident status. This German settlement permit affords you indefinite residency rights. As a settled resident, you can switch jobs without reapplying for a permit, bypass renewal applications, and access the privileges enjoyed by German citizens without forfeiting your American citizenship.

How To Move to Germany From The US

Bridge in Heidelberg

Upon arriving in Germany, several key steps should be taken:

  1. Find Accommodation: Secure a place to live promptly, as registering your address is a prerequisite for the residence permit application. Most people search for apartment listings online, although using a real estate agency may prove costlier. Be prepared to provide a security deposit equivalent to three months’ rent upon moving in.
  2. Register at the Resident’s Registration Office: Register at the Resident’s Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) within one week of arrival. You’ll receive a registration certificate necessary for the residence permit application. Schedule an appointment with your local Einwohnermeldeamt to complete this step.
  3. Get Health Insurance: Germany offers universal healthcare, so you must obtain proper health insurance once you move there. Your employer typically enrolls you in a health insurance scheme if employed in Germany. Most residents are under the public (statutory) insurance scheme, but those with higher incomes and freelancers can opt for private insurance.
  4. Set Up a Bank Account: A German bank account is essential for easy access to your finances, salary, and transactions. Opening an account with a well-established German bank is advisable, as they often have more experience with expats. A certificate of registration is required to open an account. While not mandatory, having a German bank account simplifies daily financial activities.
  5. Shipping Personal Effects to Germany from the US: Shipping personal belongings from the US to Germany can be challenging, expensive, and time-consuming. Rules govern what you can transport, and a detailed inventory is mandatory. Some items may be subject to taxes. Many expats opt to hire international moving companies for assistance, although costs vary based on the number of items and location in the US. Sirelo offers a free service to connect you with over 500 companies to facilitate this process.

Is It Hard For an American to Move to Germany?

For US citizens with valid reasons like a job offer, acceptance to a German university, or joining a partner, moving to Germany isn’t particularly difficult. However, individuals outside the EU/EEA or Switzerland generally require a substantial reason to secure a German residence permit. A job in bartending or retail, for example, may not suffice for a visa. US citizens benefit from the option to enter Germany without a visa for up to three months, allowing them to explore the job market, seek open positions, and acclimate to the culture before committing to the move.

Move to Germany from the US
At dusk, the Berlin skyline including the TV Tower.

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This time can also be used to determine the fate of personal belongings; selling items or bringing only essential possessions is an option. For those choosing to move their belongings, Sirelo’s services can be utilized within the three-month window to plan the relocation.

Can Americans Move to Germany Without a Job?

While having a job makes moving to Germany easier, options are available for those without one:

  1. Job-Seeker Visa: This visa allows a stay of up to six months in Germany to search for employment. Eligibility typically requires a university education and at least five years of work experience.
  2. Student Visa or Language Course Visa: Admission to a German university permits application for a student visa, allowing residence during studies. After graduation, a work permit can be pursued.
  3. Freelancing or Starting a Business: Certain occupations with cultural and economic benefits in Germany, such as artists, writers, doctors, engineers, language teachers, and interpreters, can apply for a freelancer visa. Starting a business also warrants a self-employed visa.

Can I Have Dual US and German Citizenship?

Dual citizenship is possible only for individuals born to both German and American parents. Pursuing naturalization as a German citizen typically involves renouncing US citizenship.


Remember that moving to a new country is a significant undertaking, and it’s important to be well-prepared. Seek advice from expats who have already made the move and consider consulting with immigration experts or legal professionals if you have specific questions or concerns.

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