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Moving to Germany with Kids: A Comprehensive Guide to Parenting for Expats

Updated: Jan 10

When moving to Germany with children, it's important to embrace local customs like punctuality and good manners. Taking your kids to parks and playgrounds helps them connect with new friends, and introducing them to German food and traditions creates lasting memories. This cultural immersion will help them smoothly transition to their new surroundings and make the most of their German experience.

cheklist to move to Germany with Kids

Germany is a popular destination for expats who want to enjoy a high quality of life, a strong economy, and a rich culture. However, moving to a new country with kids can also pose many challenges and require careful planning. In this article, we will provide you with some useful tips and information on how to make your transition to Germany as smooth and successful as possible.

Before you move

Before you pack your bags and board the plane, there are some important things you need to consider and prepare for your move to Germany with kids.

German Visa and residence permit for kids

Depending on your nationality, you and your children may need a visa to enter Germany and a residence permit for the stay. You can check the requirements and procedures on the official website of the German Federal Foreign Office. If one of the parent is entitled to live in Germany, because you are an EU citizen or have a work permit, your children are also entitled to a residence permit. Similarly, if your kids are citizens of a member state of the European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA), they don’t need a visa to enter Germany and can live and work there freely.

However, if your children are citizens of a country that is not in the EU or the EEA, they will generally need a residence visa to enter Germany. To obtain one, they must be under the age of 18 and not be married, divorced, or widowed. If you are a single parent, you will need the consent of the other parent who is entitled to custody.

The visa processing can take several weeks or months, so it is advisable to start it as early as possible. You will need to fill out an application form, provide supporting documents like passport, birth certificate, marriage certificate, proof of income, health insurance, etc., and pay a fee. You may also need to attend an interview at the German embassy or consulate in your home country. Once you receive your visa, you can enter Germany and apply for a residence permit within three months. The residence permit will allow you to stay in Germany for a specific period of time and may have certain conditions attached to it. For example, you may need to register with the local authorities, attend an integration course, or prove your language skills.

Health insurance in Germany

Health insurance is mandatory in Germany for everyone, including expats and their children. There are two types of health insurance in Germany: public ( gesetzliche Krankenversicherung ) and private ( private Krankenversicherung ). Public health insurance covers most medical expenses and is funded by contributions from employers and employees. Private health insurance offers more flexibility and choice, but is usually more expensive and may not cover all services.

You can choose between public and private health insurance depending on your income, employment status, and personal preference. However, once you opt for private health insurance, it is very difficult to switch back to public health insurance. You can find more information on health insurance in Germany on this website.

Public health insurance in Germany is available for anyone who earns less than €66.000 per year or works in certain professions such as civil servants, freelancers, or self-employed people. The contribution rate is 14.6% of your gross income, which is split equally between you and your employer. You can also add your spouse and children to your public health insurance plan without paying extra fees if they have no income of their own. Public health insurance covers most medical treatments such as doctor visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, dental care, etc., but may not cover some services such as alternative medicine, cosmetic surgery, or glasses.

Private health insurance is available for anyone who earns more than €66,000 per year or opts out of public health insurance voluntarily. The premium rate depends on various factors such as your age, health condition, coverage level, etc., and can vary significantly between different providers.

You can also add your spouse and children to your private health insurance plan, but you will have to pay extra fees for each person. Private health insurance covers more services than public health insurance such as alternative medicine, cosmetic surgery, glasses, etc., but may not cover some treatments such as preventive care or chronic diseases.

Education and Schooling in Germany

The German education system consists of preschool ( Kindergarten ), primary ( Grundschule ), secondary ( Sekundarschule ), and tertiary ( Hochschule ) education. Full-time schooling is compulsory at primary and secondary levels for all children aged six to 16. However, German education generally lasts until the age of 18. The state runs most German schools and they are free to attend. However, parents can also opt for one of the many fee-paying private or international schools.

Preschool education is optional and not free in Germany. It is available for children aged three to six and aims to prepare them for primary school. Preschools are run by various organisations such as churches, charities, or private companies. The fees vary depending on the provider, location, and quality of the preschool. Some preschools may offer bilingual or multilingual education, which can be beneficial for expat children who want to learn German and other languages.

Primary and secondary education is mandatory and free in Germany. It starts at the age of six and lasts for four years. Primary schools teach basic skills such as reading, writing, math, science, etc., as well as social and emotional development. Primary schools are usually located close to the children’s homes and have small class sizes. At the end of primary school, children receive a recommendation from their teachers on which type of secondary school they should attend.

Secondary education starts at the age of 10 and lasts for six to nine years. Secondary schools are divided into different types depending on the academic level and vocational orientation of the students. The main types of secondary schools are:

  • Gymnasium : This is the most academic and prestigious type of secondary school in Germany. It prepares students for university education and offers a broad range of subjects such as languages, math, science, arts, etc. Gymnasium lasts for eight or nine years and ends with the Abitur , which is the highest school-leaving certificate in Germany and allows students to apply for any university course in Germany or abroad.

  • Realschule : is a more practical and less academic type of secondary school in Germany. It prepares students for vocational training or higher education in technical fields. Realschule lasts for six years and ends with the Mittlere Reife , which is a medium-level school-leaving certificate that allows students to apply for some university courses or vocational schools in Germany.

  • Hauptschule : This is the least academic and most vocational type of secondary school in Germany. It prepares students for low-skilled jobs or further vocational training. Hauptschule lasts for five or six years and ends with the Hauptschulabschluss , which is a low-level school-leaving certificate that allows students to apply for some vocational schools or apprenticeships in Germany.

  • Gesamtschule : This is a comprehensive type of secondary school in Germany that combines elements of Gymnasium , Realschule , and Hauptschule . It offers different levels of courses for different abilities and interests of the students. Gesamtschule lasts for six to nine years and ends with either the Abitur , the Mittlere Reife , or the Hauptschulabschluss , depending on the performance of the students.

With different types of institutions to choose from at the secondary level, in particular, it’s a good idea to think carefully and weigh up the different options before choosing a school in Germany. You can find more information on the German education system on this website.

Tertiary education is optional and mostly free in Germany. It includes various types of institutions such as universities ( Universitäten ), universities of applied sciences ( Fachhochschulen ), colleges of art or music ( Kunsthochschulen ), etc. Tertiary education usually lasts for three to five years and leads to different degrees such as bachelor’s ( Bachelor ), master’s ( Master ), or doctorate ( Doktor ). To enter tertiary education, students need to have a valid school-leaving certificate such as the Abitur or equivalent qualifications from other countries. Some institutions may also require entrance exams, language tests, or interviews.

After you move

Once you arrive in Germany with your kids, there are some practical steps you need to take to settle in and enjoy your new life.

Registering address in Germany

Within two weeks of moving into your new home in Germany, you must register your address ( anmelden) at the local registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt). This is a legal requirement and it will allow you to access various services and benefits in Germany. You will need to bring your passport, visa or residence permit, rental contract or proof of ownership, birth certificates of your children, and marriage certificate if applicable. You will receive a confirmation of registration ( Anmeldebestätigung ) which you will need for opening a bank account, applying for social security benefits, getting a tax number, etc.

Finding a Hausarzt for your child in Germany

One of the most important things to do when moving to Germany with kids is to find a good general practitioner (GP) or Hausarzt for your child. A Hausarzt is the first point of contact for any health issues and can refer you to a specialist if needed. You do not have to register with a specific Hausarzt, but it is advisable to do some research and find one that meets your needs and preferences. Some factors to consider are:

  • The location and opening hours of the practice

  • The languages spoken by the doctor and the staff

  • The experience and qualifications of the doctor

  • The acceptance of your health insurance plan

You can find a local Hausarzt by asking your friends, family, or colleagues for recommendations, or by using online directories such as Jameda or Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung. You can also contact your health insurance provider for a list of English-speaking doctors. To make an appointment, you can call or visit the practice in person. You may have to wait for a few days or weeks for a routine check-up, but some practices offer walk-in appointments for urgent cases.

Remember to bring your health insurance card and your child’s passport or ID card to the appointment. If you have private health insurance, you may have to pay upfront and then claim reimbursement from your provider.

Learning German

Learning German is not only beneficial for finding a job or integrating into the society, but also for helping your children adapt to their new environment. Children under six years of age learn a second language as easily as their mother tongue. This is because children at this age are highly motivated and enthusiastic about learning a language. However, older children may need more support and encouragement to learn German. There are various ways to learn German in Germany, such as taking courses at language schools or online platforms, joining language exchange groups or clubs, watching TV shows or movies with subtitles, reading books or magazines, etc. You can also help your children learn German by exposing them to the language and culture at home, such as playing games, singing songs, reading stories, etc.

One of the most effective ways to learn German is to enrol in an integration course (Integrationskurs). This is a government-funded program that aims to teach newcomers the basics of German language and culture. The integration course consists of 600 hours of language instruction and 100 hours of orientation on topics such as history, politics, law, values, etc. The integration course is free for some groups of people, such as refugees, asylum seekers, spouses of German citizens, etc. For others, the cost is €1.95 per hour. You can find more information on the integration course on this website.

Another option to learn German is to attend a voluntary language course ( Freiwilliger Sprachkurs ). This is a program that offers additional language support for children and adults who have completed an integration course or have a sufficient level of German. The voluntary language course consists of 300 hours of language instruction and focuses on improving communication skills in everyday situations. The voluntary language course is free for everyone who meets the eligibility criteria. You can find more information on the voluntary language course on this website.

If you want to learn German at your own pace and convenience, you can also use online platforms or apps that offer interactive and engaging lessons. Some of the most popular ones are:

  • Duolingo : This is a free app that teaches you German through gamified exercises and quizzes. You can set your own goals and track your progress. Duolingo also has a community feature where you can chat with other learners or native speakers.

  • Babbel : This is a paid app that teaches you German through dialogues and scenarios that reflect real-life situations. You can choose from different topics and levels according to your interests and needs. Babbel also has a speech recognition feature that helps you improve your pronunciation.

  • Lingoda : This is a paid platform that offers live online classes with native teachers. You can book classes anytime and anywhere according to your schedule and preferences. Lingoda also provides learning materials and certificates that you can use for official purposes.

Making friends in Germany

Moving to Germany with kids can be lonely and stressful at times, especially if you don’t know anyone in your new city or neighbourhood. However, there are many ways to make friends and socialise with other expats or locals in Germany, such as:

  • Joining expat communities or groups: There are many online platforms or forums where you can connect with other expats who share your interests, hobbies, or background. For example, you can join InterNations, Meetup, Facebook Groups, etc., and find events or activities that suit you and your family.

  • Volunteering for a cause: There are many organisations or charities that welcome volunteers who want to contribute to a good cause or help others in need. For example, you can volunteer for Caritas, Red Cross, Amnesty International, etc., and meet like-minded people who share your values and passions.

  • Joining sports clubs or teams: There are many sports clubs or teams that offer opportunities for people of all ages and abilities to exercise and have fun. For example, you can join a football club, a tennis club, a yoga studio, etc., and enjoy the benefits of physical activity and social interaction.

  • Taking part in cultural events or festivals: There are many cultural events or festivals that celebrate the diversity and richness of German culture and history. For example, you can take part in Oktoberfest, Carnival, Christmas Markets, etc., and experience the traditions and customs of Germany.


Moving to Germany with kids can be an exciting and rewarding adventure, but it also requires careful preparation and adaptation. In this article, we have provided you with some useful tips and information on how to make your transition to Germany as smooth and successful as possible. We hope that this article will help you and your family enjoy your new life in Germany.

Frequently asked questions

What are the benefits of moving to Germany with kids?

Moving to Germany with kids can offer many advantages, such as:

  • A positive parenting style that encourages children to be self-reliant and independent.

  • A great range of international schools that provide high-quality education and multilingual environment.

  • A huge variety of family attractions, such as museums, parks, castles, zoos, and festivals.

  • An abundance of child-friendly facilities, such as playgrounds, bike lanes, public transport, and health care.

  • Generous welfare payments, such as child benefit, parental leave, and child care subsidy.

What are the challenges of moving to Germany with kids?
Where can I find help and support as a parent in Germany?
What are some key factors to consider when moving to Germany with kids?
How can I help my kids adapt to the German culture?
What should I know about the German school system for expatriate families?
How can I find suitable childcare options for my kids in Germany?
What are some family-friendly activities in Germany?
How can I help my children maintain their language skills while learning German?
What should I know about healthcare and medical services for expat families in Germany?
How can I help my kids make friends and socialise in Germany?
What's the process for enrolling my kids in school in Germany?
What's the best way to handle homesickness in kids during the transition?
How can I balance work and family life as an expat parent in Germany?
What should I know about celebrating holidays and festivals with kids in Germany?
How can I ensure my kids' emotional and social development while adjusting to a new country?
What are some tips for adapting to the German parenting style?

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