10.02.2016 – The most recent article about registering your address is available here.
A seemingly easy process can cause a lot of frustration when you’re new in Berlin and not quite sure where to go or what to do. Here are the basics + hot tips + FAQ.
- You need to register your address within 14 days of moving into your new apartment.
- It won’t cost you anything.
- You will get a certificate that will come in very useful in a whole range of situations.
- You need to visit an office in person, it’s called a Bürgeramt (citizen’s registration office). You can go to any of the Bürgerämter in the Berlin region to register: there are over 40 of them. You don’t have to go to your local office.
- You need to take your passport or EU ID card with you and you might need to fill in a form that you can download here. You also need a form filled out by your landlord that confirms your occupancy. You can find it here.
- More and more Bürgerämter will only take appointments, which means you can’t always just walk in, take a number, and wait. Check the website for your Bürgeramt’s opening hours and appointment requirements before you make the trip.
- If your local Berlin Bürgeramt is overcrowded or you can’t get an appointment for weeks, get out your smartphone and book the next available appointment in ANY Berlin Bürgeramt: chances are there will be something free soon enough in Bürgeramt Lichtenrade, for example. It might be a bit of a hike, but much better for your sanity.
- Some Bürgerämter (Prenzlauer Berg, for example) prefer to go paperless, which means instead of getting you to fill out the form, they will just take your registration verbally and make a copy of your passport.
- If your name isn’t on the mailbox, mention that to the case worker, so that they can apply a c/o label to any post. In Germany, if your surname is not on the mailbox, any mail you get sent often gets returned to sender.
- Guard your registration certificate with your life! Make lots of copies of it, and carry one with you along with your passport. It’s amazing how often you need to show it – at any sort of public office appointment, at the post office, even when you’re trying to join the local DVD store or library.
- Take a Red Tape Translation interpreter with you if you’re worried about communicating. I’m happy to book the appointment for you at no extra cost.
If you just don’t have the time or inclination to do this yourself, check out the Berlin Residence Registration Service from Amtio. They take over the whole process and deliver your certificate directly to your door, so you don’t have to lift a finger. Except maybe to sign the already-completed form.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Why do I need to register?
You are registering your address and identity with the local authorities. It’s compulsory, so you’ll be obeying the law like the good citizen you are. If there are problems or official matters, they will be able to contact you or find you. You’ll also get official mail, like your German tax ID number. Also, all the public offices (like the foreigner’s office and the job agency) need to know that you’re registered in Berlin before they can serve you.
What happens if I am late registering my address?
A case worker at the Bürgeramt in Pankow told me once that Berlin is a bit more flexible than other cities, which is why their deadline is 14 days instead of 7. If you don’t get around to registering in a timely manner, you could get an infringement notice and maybe a fine. I have never actually witnessed a client getting fined, and it would be challenging to send you an infringement notice if you’ve never been registered in Germany (where would they send it?), but stories on the internet indicate that the fine is around 10-25EU if you’re a month or two late, up to about 70EU in significantly longer cases. The absolute maximum penalty possible in Berlin is 500EU.
Do I need some sort of proof that I’m staying at this apartment?
Edit (2017): Yes, a form filled out by your landlord called a “Wohnungsgeberbestätigung”. That’s it. There’s no getting around this.
Kathleen Parker founded Red Tape Translation in summer 2012 to help English speakers with bureaucracy in Berlin. Red Tape Translation offers well-priced appointment help, telephone interpreting, English-German-English translations, and certified translations.