The Complete Guide to Moving to Germany From the USA

Planning an overseas move to Germany is an exciting time of anticipation. You’ll be seeing new places and exploring a rich culture. Still, a drastic overseas move is not without its challenges. It’s important to be prepared for what lies ahead, which is why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to moving to Germany from the USA.

If you’ve already made the decision to relocate to Germany, Suddath can get you there. Get a free international moving quote and advice on your next steps or read on to learn more about moving to Germany.

Top German Cities

Some of the most popular relocation destinations in Germany include:

Meet the “Neighbors”

One of the perks of living in Western Europe is the fact that you’ll be in close proximity to so many different countries, historical sites, and vacation destinations. While travel is a bit more complicated these days, you’ll have a lot of close options since Germany borders these nine countries:

  • France
  • Luxembourg
  • Belgium
  • Netherlands
  • Denmark
  • Poland
  • Czech Republic
  • Austria
  • Switzerland

Get Established

Thanks to the German Skilled Immigration Act, it is now easier than ever for non-EU citizens to live and work in Germany. Be prepared to fill out a lot of paperwork, though, as Germany is big on documentation.

Essential Documents

Once you have a permanent address, you’ll need to “register.” Registering refers to the first step to get settled and apply for a work and residence permit. A residence permit is much more extensive of a process, and registering will get you on your way. Here’s a list of important documents you’ll need to gather when moving to Germany:

  • Birth certificate: Children will need this document to register as a resident of Germany.
  • Marriage certificate: You will need to provide proof that you are married, if applicable.
  • Adoption papers, if applicable
  • Insurance policies (only health insurance)
  • Driver’s licenses
  • Social Security cards, not required
  • Bank statements, not required
  • Recent pay stubs dating back three months or an employment contract: You will likely be asked to show proof of income multiple times over the next few weeks.
  • Proof of education: Bring your university diploma if you have one and any certificates you’ve earned as you will likely need this type of documentation to secure a job in Germany.
  • Proof of health insurance: Because healthcare coverage is compulsory in Germany, you will need to provide proof of coverage. Health insurance is vital since you cannot get a residence permit without it.
  • Medical records: Your new doctor will expect you to show up with your medical records in hand. This is especially important if you suffer from a chronic illness or have an otherwise notable medical history.
  • Veterinary records including vaccinations for each pet
  • Visas and work permits if you already have them
  • American Consulate and Embassy contact information

Be sure to make photocopies of everything and store them in a safe, secure place. Once you have everything together, you’ll need to open a German bank account and apply for a residency permit and visa. Once you’ve found somewhere to live and have your “docs in a row,” reach out to an experienced international moving company that can help you the rest of the way. At Suddath, we assign you a dedicated move counselor to work with you to make your transition abroad as smooth as possible.

Bank Accounts

One of the first things you’ll need to think about paperwork-wise is opening a German bank account. Without being a German resident, you won’t be able to open a bank account or do things such as renting an apartment or signing up for internet service.

Visas and Work Permits

It’s not super difficult to obtain a visa in Germany — just be sure to start the process early, as it can take months to get your documents approved by German authorities. To simplify things, you can get your residence permit at the same time you get your visa through a single application at the German Immigration Authority Office (Ausländerbehörde).

Health Insurance Requirements

Germany boasts an excellent healthcare system, which includes options in both the public and private sectors. As a resident of Germany, you will be legally required to obtain health coverage.

Applying for public health coverage is relatively easy; you’ll just need to register directly with the health insurance agency. Your employer may help, but legally it is an individual choice. Some German residents prefer private insurance, which often comes with perks such as private hospital rooms.

If you are working in Germany, your employer will probably go over some insurance options with you and set everything up. In a nutshell, you’ll be making a mandatory contribution, and you’ll want to find out what that covers.

Everyday Life in Germany — What to Expect

Moving to Germany from the USA won’t be as much of a culture shock as some international moves. After all, Germany is a well-developed and welcoming country. However, there are still differences to be aware of as you prepare for your relocation. Germany may have a different climate than you are used to, and it has its own language and culture.


Germany has a cool but temperate climate with four seasons. The weather will, of course, depend on which part of Germany you’ll be living in, but here are some quick stats to give you a general idea: The average summer high in Berlin is 24°C (75°F), and the average winter low there is around freezing (0 °C or 32 °F).

German Language

Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Not surprisingly, Germans speak German, so it’s a good idea to start boning up on the country’s official language before moving there. Fortunately, many Germans also speak English, which will help you get by for a while. That said, familiarizing yourself with the German language ahead of time will make it easier to find a job, fill out government documents, and get the most of living in Germany.

If you plan to stay long term, learning the German language is a must. German grammar can be challenging to master, which is why it’s a good idea to get started right away. The Duolingo app is a popular and efficient way to learn a new language on your phone during your leisure time, but some people find that taking a class provides them with more structure and accountability. Italki is an online platform where you will have an actual teacher to guide you.

German Culture

As an American moving to Germany, some of the German customs may seem strange to you at first, but this would be the case with any foreign country. Every society has its rules, both written and unwritten, so be careful when you’re new. In Germany, rules were made to be followed, not broken.

Speaking of doing the right thing, recycling is a huge priority in Germany, so don’t make the mistake of tossing something into the wrong bin. If you have children, they will be expected to know the recycling rules as well, so make it a priority to learn the proper way to dispose of things.

Unlike some other Europeans, Germans won’t greet you with a hug or a kiss on both cheeks. Germans are more reserved and value their personal space. That said, they love to talk. If you’re an extrovert, you’ll be pleased to discover that it is considered completely normal in Germany to strike up a conversation with a total stranger.

Order and timeliness are priorities for Germans, so keep your house and vehicle clean and don’t show up late for work. Germans are excellent planners and believe in the importance of being ”pünktlich” (punctual). Being well-dressed is also a plus as Germans tend to be stylishly adorned in attire slightly more formal than that of the typical American tourist.

You may also want to learn a few more cultural tidbits, such as these common German phrases that are very different than how we would say things here in the United States.

Research your Destination

Germany is a large country that consists of 16 federal states. Each state has its own culture, traditional food, and even holidays. The job market and salary potential also vary by federal state and city, so it’s vital to do your research. If you’ve already landed a job in a specific town, then that decision has already been made, but here are a couple of excellent resources for information on moving to Germany in general, as well as a guide to specific German cities:

Real Estate Costs

The average cost of property in Germany is €3,386.31 per square meter, which is around four times more expensive than the average cost of property in the U.S. Although like in the U.S., cost varies depending on the area you’ll be in. There are many regional differences when it comes to Germany, and you’ll want to do your own research.

Other Housing Options

As many as 50% of Germans live in apartments, and you could face stiff competition for these units, especially in popular cities such as Berlin and Munich. Depending on the city, there could be a long wait for an available apartment or “flat.” As with other aspects of your international move, planning ahead is key, and, in a pinch, you could arrange to stay at an Airbnb.

Public Transportation

Once you arrive in Germany, the first order of business might be finding a way to get around, especially if you are selling your vehicle before moving or your vehicle is arriving after you do. The good news is that Germany is known for its excellent public transportation system. Although public transport isn’t cheap, it’s clean and runs efficiently and frequently — often at less than five-minute intervals. The German train system is so luxurious that many locals prefer it to driving.


Cycling is a popular form of transportation in Germany, and cities in Germany are extremely bicycle-friendly, meaning almost all roads have bike lanes. Purchasing a bike is an affordable way for new residents to fit in and become familiar with their surroundings.

Planning the Logistics of Your Move

Help From an International Moving Company

When we say Germany has a lot of rules, we aren’t just referring to cultural norms. There are customs regulations about what you can and cannot bring, vehicle emission requirements, and more, but an experienced international moving company can advise you on all of those details.

International Airports in Germany

  • Berlin Brandenburg Airport
  • Cologne / Bonn, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Düsseldorf International, North Rhine-Westphalia
  • Frankfurt, Hesse
  • Frankfurt-Hahn, Rhineland-Palatinate
  • Hamburg
  • Munich, Bavaria
  • Stuttgart, Baden-Württemberg

Things to Know Before Traveling

Travel requirements change fast, so for the latest and most up-to-date COVID-19 related travel restrictions such as testing requirements, contact the airline you’ll be traveling with or visit the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Germany | Covid-19 Information.

Taking the Family Pet

If you are planning to take your fur babies with you to Germany, it’s essential to understand German regulations about bringing or transporting pets. Planning out these details in advance will help ensure a safe trip for your animals. It is very doable to move your pet to Germany; however, keep in mind that some dog breeds are banned, including Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and Bull Terriers. Also, keep in mind that you will need to get your pets microchipped as this is a requirement in Germany.


1. What costs should I expect to pay when moving from the U.S. to Germany?

  • Homeowners: The cost of selling your home in the U.S. or property management service if you will be renting out your home
  • Down payment for a new home
  • Renters: Lease breakage costs and security deposit for a new home
  • Visa preparation costs for you and each of your family members
  • Travel costs for you and each family member, including pets
  • Moving costs for having your belongings transported to your new home
  • Start-up fees for utilities, internet, etc.

2. What do people like most about living in Germany?

Some of the perks of living in Germany are the ease of finding a job, a large number of public holidays, and generous family benefits for employees. Germany also offers stunning scenery, enchanting Christmas markets, and far more beer festivals than just Oktoberfest.

3. What are your best tips for an American moving to Germany?

Arrange to donate excess stuff: The average size of a house or apartment is much smaller in Germany than it is in the U.S., so it’s possible you will need to downsize before the movers arrive to pack up your belongings. Here are a few organizations you can contact to arrange a drop-off or pick up of donatable items.

Plan ahead: First of all, it’s vital to work with a reputable accredited mover like Suddath that can help you navigate the sometimes-murky waters of an overseas move. Due to ongoing issues resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, the international moving industry is experiencing container shortages and port congestion, which is why it’s important to plan and book your move early. Be sure to book your move date first, before scheduling your departure flight.

Be aware of potential charges and fees: Whichever moving company you use should be abreast of all German import and customs procedures and should be able to provide you with a detailed estimate of shipping costs. A reliable company like Suddath will be upfront and transparent about all costs involved, so there won’t be any surprises.

Final Thoughts

Moving to Germany from the USA is no small undertaking, and one of the most important things to consider when planning your move is how you will transport your belongings. If you’re looking for assistance with your international move, reach out to Suddath for a quote as well as expert advice on moving from the US to Germany. As a five-time winner of “International Mover of the Year,” we know how to get your belongings to Germany with as little stress as possible. Also, see our Complete Guide to the International Moving Process to find out more about what’s involved with relocating to another country.