At some point in our expat lives, at least some of us will decide to return home or to a better place for good reason. However when it comes to expats in Germany, like you’ve done it when you arrived here the first time, there are certain processes to follow when you leave the country to avoid future bureaucratic headaches.
Are you an expat who is planning to leave Germany soon? Whether you are moving to another country, going back to your home country, or just taking a break from Germany, there are some important steps that you need to take before you say goodbye to this beautiful country. In this guide, we will provide you with a comprehensive checklist of what to do when leaving Germany, covering everything from notifying your employer and canceling your contracts to selling your belongings and booking your flight. We will also give you some useful tips and links for each step to make your departure as smooth and hassle-free as possible. Let’s get started!
How to Deregister from the city hall and get a confirmation letter
An important thing that you need to do when leaving Germany is to deregister from the city hall (Bürgeramt) where you live and get a confirmation letter (Abmeldebescheinigung). This is mandatory by law and must be done within two weeks before or after you leave Germany. If you fail to do this, you might face fines or penalties.
You will need to fill out a deregistration form (Abmeldungsformular) and bring it along with your passport and residence permit (if applicable) to the city hall. You can also send the form by mail or email if you cannot go in person. You will receive a confirmation letter that proves that you have deregistered from Germany.
Here are some tips and links for this step:
Go to the nearest city hall where you can deregister.
To download the deregistration form in English or German, you can use this link.
Find the guidance to fill the deregistration form here.
What Happens If You Don’t Deregister In Germany?
A person must deregister when they move abroad permanently. In the event you fail to deregister when leaving the country permanently, whether on purpose or not, you could be fined up to 1.000 euros.
Additionally, the authorities may consider you still as a resident in Germany and make you liable to pay taxes. Your health insurance may still charge you as you need to have mandatory health insurance while in Germany.
I forgot to deregister in Germany when I left. What to do now?
If you left Germany without deregistering your address here, you still have the possibility to send the deregister application from the place wherever you are through post to the city or town where you lived in Germany. You must also send copies of the passports of all persons who lived with you along with the application form.
As we know, there are no fines for late deregistration. However, your local citizen’s office will be able to give you a precise answer to that.
Opt in for a mail forwarding service
It would be a good idea to set up mail forwarding with the Deutsche Post before moving out. Even though you are not expecting anyone to send you a post after you’ve left, there could come some confirmation letters for a service that you canceled or a notice for a service that you forgot to cancel due to missed payments.
Deutsche Post offers mail forwarding service within Germany as well as internationally for a fee for up to 12 months. You can either visit a branch and request mail forwarding or do it online in deutschepost.de.
Deregister From TV and Radio Tax (Rundfunkbeitrag)
When you register in Germany for the first time, your data is sent to ARD - ZDF and they will onboard you automatically for the TV and radio tax in Germany. However, when you deregister from Germany, it's your responsibility to deregister from the Rundfunkbeitrag.
To deregister from Rundfunkbeitrag, you can go to their “Abmelden” portal and fill the form. You also need to upload your deregister confirmation from the BürgerBüro as proof.
If you don't deregister, they will continue to charge you for the TV and radio license fee.
While you are waiting for the last week of your stay in Germany, you are required to do some other things too. Perhaps, you need to start the preparation at least 2 to 3 months before.
Make sure the necessary people are informed in advance
As you may already know, in Germany you cannot end a contract in a short time. You are expected to inform the necessary people way ahead before the date you actually want to end the contract.
Send the notice to your landlord
The German rental contracts in general demand a three-month notice period to allow the landlord time to find a new tenant. However, some landlords may let you leave early if you could identify a confirmed new tenant who can move into your apartment when you plan to leave.
Most contracts require you to send your notice of termination to your landlord via post. Legally, an email with a signed letter attached, or a PDF is not sufficient. The termination notice must also be signed by all parties listed in the rental contract.
Please note that just sending a letter of notice does not make you legally safe. The actual date of notice only begins from the date of receipt of the letter by the landlord. While sending the notice, ask Deutsche Post for an Einschreiben Rückschein or simply the receipt confirmation.
Send your resignation to your employer
Employees are required to submit their resignation letters to their reporting manager or HR directly when they plan to leave their company. While most companies have a common framework for resigning, at least a few roles in some companies may have additional clauses in the employment contract in terms of resignation. Therefore, carefully read your work contract way ahead to avoid any last minute hastles.
In general, the companies in Germany have a notice period of 30 to 90 days before you can actually leave the company
How to deregister in Germany as a self-employed?
Freelancers and self-employed people in Germany need to deregister their business with the Finanzamt or Gewerbeamt. Each city may have different deregistration processes and application forms. Therefore, please check the citizen portal of the city or town where your business is registered for specific rules.
Deregistration of children form the schools in Germany
Like you need to send the resignation letter to your employer, you are also obliged to inform the school where your child(ren) studies when leaving the country. The same applies for kids that go to Kindergarten or Krippe.
Since different schools, kindergartens or krippes have different rules, please talk to the responsible person and get to know the process ahead in time.
Additionally, if you are receiving Kindergeld, you are obliged to inform the familienkasse about your plan to leave the country. In case not informed and you still take advantage of the kindergeld even after leaving Germany, there's a chance that you get fined at some point when the authorities notice that you left.
Check out this section of the Arbeitsagentur website and select Veränderungsmitteilung für das Kindergeld (KG45) to get the change information form. You need to fill it out and send it to the Familien kasse in your town.
Inform service providers
You must also cancel the contracts with various service providers before leaving Germany.
A few examples include electricity, internet, telephone contracts, fitness memberships, cable or digital streaming services, etc.
The cancellation notice period is determined by the terms of your contract. While you may be able to cancel the contracts online or by calling the customer care service, some service providers require you to send a signed letter by post to make the cancellation.
Can I cancel my internet contract?
Yes, you can cancel your internet contract if it is older than 24 months. As per the new amendment in the telephone and internet contract regulation passed by the government on 01 - 12 - 2021, you can cancel your internet or telephone contracts with a 30 days notice period if they are older than 24 months.
You will have a much harder time canceling your contract early if your contract has not completed the minimum contract length of 24 months. In most cases, the service provider will ask you to provide the proof of you leaving Germany with a confirmation of your deregistration in Germany, or any other proof they suggest.
Your phone contracts can usually be canceled at the end of every month. However, make sure to check with your provider for any additional requirements.
How to cancel the electricity contract in Germany?
Most providers such as Eprimo and SWM let you file your cancellation online in their customer portal. Alternatively, you can also call their customer service and request for support. In general, there are no hard restrictions to change or cancel the electricity contract.
However, It is recommended that you update the last reading on the meter in your online customer portal account to avoid overcharging. If possible, take a picture of your electricity meter for future reference.
How to cancel your insurances in Germany?
Living in Germany requires you to have mandatory health insurance and a couple of additional insurances as per the individual needs. You need to cancel all of them as you wouldn’t need them if you don't live here any more.
You can easily cancel insurance from digital providers like Feather Insurance or Getsafe through their website. However, you may only be able to cancel them on a 30 days cycle. For instance, if you sign up with a start date on the 1st, you have to cancel before the 1st of the next month to avoid being charged and covered for an additional month. Please check with the insurance provider for specific policies.
In contrast, traditional German insurance companies usually require a longer notice period and only accept cancellations by post. It is also possible that your health insurance requires a letter and proof of you leaving Germany to terminate your policy, as you are legally required to have health insurance in Germany.
How to close your German bank account?
Usually, there is no notice period or restriction for you to close your German bank account unless you have an outstanding settlement. Most banks in Germany offer online account closure and this is usually an easy process. Just login to your online banking portal and you should be able to find a corresponding link. In some cases, you may be asked to visit the local branch to complete the procedure.
Nevertheless, you may still need your regular bank account for some final transactions even after you leave, such as settling your electricity bill, gym membership, or getting your deposit back from the landlord, etc.
Prepare to claim your German pension
You may be entitled to claim your contributions and interest back from the German pension fund if you contributed while living in Germany. Your nationality, the country where you are moving, and Germany's alliance with that country all play a significant role in claiming your contribution.
We’ve written a detailed article on the process of claiming your German pension while leaving Germany.
Decide whether you want to ship your possessions to your new country or sell them.
It is better to think in advance whether you want to take your possessions to the new country you are moving to or sell them.
Think and compare the costs of shipping the items to the new place and selling them in Germany,
You can sell your possessions on eBay, eBay Kleinanzeigen, and in expat groups on Facebook, Telegram, and Whatsapp. If you price your items reasonably, they are more likely to be sold.
If you plan to ship your possessions, before choosing a moving company to ship your belongings to the new country, compare quotes from different companies. A good Packers and Movers company usually provides transit insurance to protect your goods like valuable furniture, electronic equipments and other fragile items from damage. The terms and conditions may vary from company to company. Therefore, please understand the details well in advance.
Usually, you will have to pay an insurance premium which is based on the total value of the goods that you declare and is around 3% of the total value of the goods. In most cases, this amount has to be paid in full before the move.
Few popular moving companies in Germany which you can choose from are AGS Movers Germany, Crown Relocations, movinga, etc.
Handing over the apartment
Most rental contracts would have a section about how the apartment should be prepared for the handover.
You should, in general, restore the apartment to the original condition just like how it was when you took over it, no matter how you design and decorate it. Repainting, repairing damages, and covering holes are part of this process.
One common question that arises when leaving an apartment in Germany is whether you need to repaint your apartment or not. The answer depends on the terms of your rental agreement. Be sure to check your rental agreement for a provision regarding cosmetic repairs (Schönheitsreparaturen).
Cosmetic repairs usually include painting the walls and the ceilings, repairing holes you made in the walls, etc.
In the event that your contract does not mention cosmetic repairs, you are very fortunate! You just need to do an extensive cleaning and leave.
Additionally, your landlord cannot demand you to arrange a professional cleaning service. Regulated by law, you have the right to do the repairs yourself.
Finally, leaving Germany in a rush will only increase your blood pressure unlike leaving from some other countries. In addition to bureaucratic and financial problems, unpaid bills can cause you legal implications as well as unnecessary stress.
Gyms, clubs, and telephone companies usually refer your case to debt collection companies, which won't give up so easily and follow you overseas.
Make sure to pay your bills on time to avoid any complications in your new life!
Furthermore, along with other tasks, make sure you keep enough time to plan and execute the movement much smoothly.
Some fequently asked questions about the procedures while leaving Germany
When should I start the process of leaving Germany?
It is recommended to start the process of leaving Germany at least a few months before your planned departure date to allow enough time to complete all necessary steps.
How can I sell or dispose of my belongings before leaving Germany?
You can sell your belongings through online marketplaces or second-hand shops. For disposal, check for Wertstoffzentrum (recycling center) near you. The waste management agency in your town may have an Wertstoffzentrum somewhere outside of the town.
Can I still use my German bank account after leaving Germany?
It depends on the bank and the type of account you have. Some banks may allow you to keep the account open if you provide them with a new address, while others may require you to close the account.
Do I need to return my residence permit when leaving Germany?
After deregistering, returning your residence permit is unnecessary. However, your German residence permit will automatically expire if you have been away from Germany for more than six months. The EU Blue Card will expire after twelve months of leaving Germany.
Is it necessary to notify the tax office before leaving Germany?
Although there is no legal requirement to inform the tax office, it is recommended to keep your documents in order in case of any inquiries. Failure to do so may result in issues with taxes or penalties in the future.
What happens if I don't follow the necessary procedures when leaving Germany?
Failure to follow the necessary procedures when leaving Germany can result in bureaucratic issues, fines, or other penalties. It is important to plan ahead and follow all necessary steps to ensure a smooth departure from Germany.