Health Insurance - Private or Public (TK, AOK,...)

Your German Bank Account in English

July 30, 2018

Insurance Options in Germany

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Insurances in Germany

Insurance Germany

The Most Important Insurances in Germany

When I arrived in Germany I was only worried about having the required health insurance to meet the visa requirements, but, once I spoke with some friends and did some research I learned that Germany is extremely insurance happy. 

I conducted research to determine which insurance I needed to have for my own peace of mind and I am going to share what I learned in this article. Insurance is, of course, one of those things you don’t worry about having until something happens and you realize how helpful it really could have been in the situation, so it can seem not important or not a priority to obtain- please, leave this thinking in the past.  

Here in Germany I have seen/heard multiple horror stories of events happening that cost someone 1,000 EUR or more out of pocket to cover the costs, things that I truly have never considered or imagined before, so believe me, it is important. 


The first type of insurance I will discuss is called “Haftpflichtversicherung” and this is insurance for personal liability. I am talking about this one first because this is the second insurance you really really should have apart from health insurance. 

July 18, 2018

Long Stay German Visas for Americans

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German Visas

I’ve written about entering Germany on a tourist visa and what it takes to get a freelance visa to live and work in Germany for up to two years (read the article here), but are there other visa options for Americans?  

Yes there are a few other visa options open to Americans for coming to Germany and staying for longer than the three months allowed on the tourist visa. I’m going to share the information for these visas in this article, but the focus will be on Americans and what the requirements are for them, since I am American and did a lot of research before moving here. 

All of these long-term visas could be applied for from your home country through the German embassy/ consulate and most require proof of significant amounts of saving to cover your living expenses while in Germany.

It is important that you find and choose a good health insurance that meets the government requirements for the freelance visa. I spoke with a local insurance broker who directed me to plans that would be accepted for the freelance visa within my budget and I chose one; it was accepted for the freelance visa.  

You need to schedule an appointment in order to apply for a residence visa. Schedule your appointment here.

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 and could apply for a residence permit once in Germany.
A so-called Residence Visa could be applied for from your home country through the German embassy/ consulate if you intend to stay in Germany for more than 90 days. 


July 5, 2018

How to get health insurance in Germany

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Public and Private Health Insurance in Germany

Health Insurance Germany

Two Types of Health Insurance Options in Germany

Health insurance in Germany is a complex topic and it’s also highly personal, so in this article I will discuss the difference between public and private options, and which ones are accepted by the Ausländerbehörde for freelance visa seekers (a caveat: the foreigners office can change things or make a different decision the day of an appointment). 

In Germany there are two types of insurance (private and public): the government-regulated public insurance (GKV) and the private insurance from a German or international insurance company (PKV). First I am going to give a rundown on these two and then I will discuss who qualifies for them. 

Insurance Germany

GKV (Gesetzliche Krankenversicherung) is the government-regulated health insurance, and if you are an employee then this is the insurance you qualify for, and your employer and you share the costs. Employees earning less than 59,400 EUR per year (gross) are usually obliged to take out public health insurance. If your income exceeds this amount, you can still join a public insurance fund but on a voluntary basis.

If you join the GKV you can choose to register with any of the 110 Krankenkassen, which are non-profit associations administering the government health scheme. I am not going to list all 110, I just know some of the bigger named ones are AOK, TK, DAK, SBK, Barmer; they all have to follow the government regulations and laws so all will be pretty similar. Just check which voluntary supplemental programs are offered, and also ask which ones offer English customer service. 

From my research I read that most German residents are members of the public health plans, and the 110 different Krankenkassen all charge the same basic rate of 14.6% plus a possible median supplemental rate from the health insurance fund (E.g. TK has a contribution rate of 15.5%, which consists of the general contribution rate of 14.6% and the fund’s supplemental rate of 0.9%).

German Insurance Card

June 13, 2018

Driver's License Information for US Expats in Germany

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Getting a German Driver's License

Driver's License Information for US Expats in Germany

Converting a US driver's license to a German one 

Driving is an important thing for many people; I remember the excitement I felt when I turned 16 and could start driver’s education classes! The thrill that came from getting your license and knowing you had the freedom to hop in a car and take off in any direction was a powerful one. 

When I moved abroad I didn’t think much about the entire license aspect of living in a foreign country; I also didn’t consider what I would do when my American license needed to be renewed and I wasn’t living or driving in the states anymore. In the Middle East, my American license granted me a license for the country I was a resident in without me needing to take any tests; I popped in to the Department of Vehicles, got my license, went and purchased a used car and I was good to go for my four years there. 

When I moved to Berlin though, things changed for a number of reasons: 
  1. While I was abroad my Washington state license expired- I applied for and received a one-year’s extension on it, but never did travel home within that year to get a new one,
  2. I moved to Berlin with only a valid Middle Eastern driver’s license and these countries aren’t on the reciprocity list for a German license. 
But before I jump into that deep end let me share the laws/rules regarding driver’s licenses for US expats in Germany. The laws regarding licenses are as follows: an American tourist can rent and drive a car in Germany using their American license for the length of their vacation. But, if you are staying in Germany for 6 months or longer you are required to get a German driver’s license.

There are 27 US states (plus Puerto Rico) that have full reciprocity with Germany for driver’s licenses: this means that they can walk into their local German Führerscheinstelle with their US license and some other documents and get a German license without any tests at all. 

June 7, 2018

How to get a Freelance Tax Number in Germany

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Applying for a Steuernummer

Your German Bank Account in English

Getting my Freelancer Tax Number

Once you have your freelance visa in hand, the next step in the process is to go to the appropriate Finanzamt (Tax Office) to fill out the paperwork required to obtain your "freelancer" tax ID. 

Paying taxes in Germany is compulsory for all residents, and you are unable to invoice for freelance work without the so-called Steuenummer. This Steuernummer is different to the tax ID you received in the mail within a week of registering; this registration tax ID, or Steuer-ID, is very important when you apply for the Tax number at the Finanzamt office, but they aren’t the same thing so don’t become confused with the two. Here is more info about the Steuer-ID.

There are a few steps to take to get the Steuernummer and I will list them here, then I will share my experiences at the Finanzamt this past week.  

First, you need to go to the following website, and enter your postal code to find the tax office specific to your address. Even though I live in Alt-Moabit area in Berlin, my tax office is the Mitte one located at Neue Jakobstrasse; just plug in your postal code and your office will pop up. 

You don’t need an appointment at the Finanzamt, but when you arrive you do take a number and have to wait your turn. On Friday at 10.15 am there were three other people in the office besides myself and the woman who assisted me with the visa, Johanna. We were finished by 11 am and I was home by 12 (god love the public transport here in Berlin but it isn’t always the fastest).