Public and Private Health Insurance

Tax Return

May 17, 2018

How to (not) get a visa for Germany

Share this:

Getting (or Not) a German Visa

A Series of Unfortunate Events
Image source:

A Series of (Un)fortunate Events *

Last week I mentioned I would share my personal experience as I applied for the freelance visa here in Germany (read it here); I am doing so in order to share what can and does happen with visa applications. 

The point of my sharing this story isn’t to scare people off but to get them to do their research when hiring a visa specialist. Make certain they are fully qualified and highly recommended from many different sources because so much can go wrong when it comes to visas and there is nothing to joke about when the immigration office decides you’ve done something wrong-they will not hesitate to send the police to your door to escort you to the airport and out of the country with minimal notice.

*** Disclaimer: This Guide is not a general recommendation or an advice. Everyone’s experience and situation is different. *** 
For legal reasons, the author and myGermanExpert aren't mentioning the name of the visa assistance company (P******.de) or the website recommending it (S*****.me).

German Visa

When I first learned that Germany offered a freelance visa and that Americans qualify for it, I started doing my research. I read through different blogs detailing what people did to get their visas and I made notes on the process, since I planned on doing this all by myself and knew that many had successfully done so with no assistance. But, once I was here in Berlin and learned that English isn’t spoken at the LABO immigration office by law, and with only having a beginner level in German, I decided that hiring a specialist would be the best move.

There were a few blogs I found that were better than most, detailing the many different steps needed to get your new life off the ground here in Berlin; one of these blogs included a “highly recommended visa assistance company” with the convenience of emailing through the blog. I used the form embedded in the blog and waited to be contacted; a few days later I received an email and learned that this woman has been working with visa assistance for years and would be happy to meet me to discuss things in depth. 

At the first meeting I was impressed by the office and the woman seemed quite confident, plus she was German and has been working in this field for years (according to her). I decided to pay the 400 Euro fee and hired her on the spot without doing more research or looking for other visa specialists; I informed her of the date my tourist visa ended and she assured me she would make all the appointments and “be on top of things.” She also informed me that I could cancel the LABO appointment I had made for later in August because she likes to “have the visa appointment at the very end of the tourist visa,” but she didn’t fully explain why and sadly, I didn’t ask for clarity on the subject. I left her office feeling confident that I would soon have my visa and I started emailing out my resume for jobs so that I could get things started early so I could start work immediately after receiving it.  

May 7, 2018

Freelance Visa for Germany

Share this:

How to get a Freelance Visa for Germany

Freelance Visa Germany

Your Guide to Getting a German Freelance Visa

*** Disclaimer: This Guide is not a legal advice. Everyone’s experience and situation is different. I will share my personal experience obtaining the freelance visa in Berlin as an American. ***

Citizens from the USA (excl. green card holders), Canada, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Israel, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, New Zealand, Venezuela and Colombia (see the full list here) are automatically granted a 3-month tourist visa immediately upon landing in Germany. You go through customs as you exit the plane and get a stamp in your passport that allows you to be in Germany for 3 months. You do not need to apply for a visa prior to entry.

I decided to move to Berlin on a whim, and also, because of something my Berlin-based tattooist said as I sat in her chair for ten hours getting inked in winter 2016. Berlin is an amazing city, gritty, international, with a complex history that sinks it’s teeth in visitors and never lets go. I loved it from the minute I wandered around the neighborhood where my hotel was based; I loved the art, the weather, how real it felt…I loved all of it and I decided that four days wasn’t going to be long enough to explore. 

As I was getting a tattoo the artist said that she was in Berlin (and Germany) because they have freelance visas for people with skills or for artists.  

I was intrigued and decided to do some further research to determine if I qualify for this type of visa, and, if I could, move to Berlin in the future. That future came far more quickly than I’d imagined or planned for, but I decided that even if it was a few years earlier than I’d planned, I was going to move to Berlin and take a leap of faith.  

I’m going to share the facts about the freelance visa for Germany in today’s article, and next week I will share my personal experience obtaining this visa.  

May 4, 2018

Guide to Getting Involved as an Expat in Düsseldorf

Share this:

Your New Life as an Expat in Düsseldorf

Düsseldorf Expat Guide

Helpful resource to get you out there making some new friends

Getting to know your new life as an expat and finding ways to get involved isn’t always the easiest of tasks. As expats, we often arrive with a long list of things to do in order to get settled into our new city, including registering with the local Bürgerbüro (registration office), finding a neighborhood to live in and swapping out your foreign license for a German one. While checking off this list of things to do may take time, most of these tasks don’t pose too much of a challenge. Getting involved and finding friends in your new city on the other hand, takes much more work.

As an expat, it’s up to us to make that first step into unknown territory to find new friends. If you’ve already found a job or know a couple locals, it may be easier for you to connect, but for many expats, getting involved can be a real struggle.  

With that being said, I hope that this guide to getting involved as an expat in Düsseldorf will be a helpful resource to get you out there making some new friends! 

Join the Online Communities in Düsseldorf

Join the Online Communities in Düsseldorf 

Whether you are looking for English or German communities online, there are a number of different groups you can join and start interacting in. Often times you will notice that many individuals within these groups plan their own fun nights out, sport meetups, BBQ’s and book clubs. Here are a few online communities you can join: 

April 30, 2018

Mobile Phone Plans in Germany

Share this:

Mobile Phone Contracts in Germany

Mobile Phone Plans Germany

My search for a good mobile phone plan

Moving to a new country can be exciting and make you feel quite adventurous, but then, you remember that you have to figure out phone plans in the new country and the excitement disappears. 

I have been outside the USA for five years now, but I remember how horrible AT&T, Sprint, and Verizon were for phone plans-locking people into long term contracts with high costs; I regularly spent $75 a month for my mobile phone contract in America. 

When I moved to the Middle East getting a post-paid mobile phone contract required a Power of Attorney from my employer, notarized copies of my passport, and signing over my first born child (slight exaggeration but not by much). That was to get it- to leave and cancel the contract required far more work and huge costs; same as my American mobile phone to be honest. 

Mobile Phone Germany

Here in Germany it is a little different- you can still get long term mobile phone contracts, but there are lots of great, cheap options for prepaid, month-to-month phone plans and I am going to share what I learned on my search for a good plan.  

Here in Berlin the main mobile phone providers for long term post paid contracts are Vodafone, and O2; the options for pre-paid SIMs and plans are Lidl Mobile, Aldi Talk, Edeka mobile (there are others but I only researched these three, so these are the ones I’ll cover in this article. 

Also, a tip for those coming from America- be sure to have your phone “unlocked” before coming to Germany, so that you can get a German SIM to use in your phone.  

April 18, 2018

Banking in Germany

Share this:

Opening a Bank Account in Germany

Banking in Germany

Bank Accounts Comparison in Germany

Let’s talk banks! Opening a bank account is necessary for obtaining a visa in Germany, but it can be complicated to accomplish.

I honestly believed that opening an account would be simple because I had cash to deposit, a passport, and job offers; sadly I learned pretty quickly that this wasn’t a simple task. There are many banks in Germany to choose from, but I will only cover the few that I attempted to get an account with and the one I was finally able to open an account with. 

The issues I faced varied with the different banks, but mostly it boiled down to the fact that many foreign banks don’t want Americans as customers due to the strict tax laws the US government has instituted in the last few years.

The US government requires all foreign banks to report every account owned by Americans abroad, which is a lot of work for the banks to do every year, so many banks have decided to stop allowing Americans to have bank accounts with them and just remove the headache of mandatory reporting. 

The second issue I faced when it came to getting an account with a local German bank is that I am a freelancer here in Berlin, and there are a few banks that don’t give accounts to freelancers; I am not sure why this is true but it happens, so be prepared.