Glossary

A glossary of terms that are frequently used on All About Berlin.

A written warning (Abmahnung) is a formal request by one person to another person to immediately stop a certain behaviour, and sometimes to pay someone for the damage you have caused. These letters are often sent to people who pirate movies.

The Abmeldung is the process of deregistering your address when you move out of Germany. This is an important step to take before you leave the country. For more details, see this guide.

A letter of intent (Absichtserklärung) is a letter written by a company that wants to hire you. This letter states that the company will hire you for a specific project at a specific hourly rate. Letters of intent are not legally binding. The companies who sign them are not forced to hire you; they just intend to.

When you apply for the German freelance visa, you must have at least 2 letters of intent from German companies. This proves that you can find work in Germany. For more information, see this guide.

The Anmeldebestätigung or Meldebestätigung confirms that you registered your address in Germany. You get this document during your Anmeldung appointment. This document is often required to open a bank account, get a cellphone contract or apply for a residence permit. This document is often called the Meldebescheinigung, because both documents have the same purpose.

For more details, see this guide.

The Anmeldung is the process of registering your address at the citizen's office (Bürgeramt). Every time you move in Germany, you must register your new address at the Bürgeramt.

During your Anmeldung appointment, you will receive an Anmeldebestätigung. This document confirms your official address in Germany. It's usually necessary to open a bank account or get a cellphone contract. During your first Anmeldung, you will also receive a tax ID (Steueridentifikationsnummer).

For more details about the Anmeldung, see this guide.

The artist visa is a type of freelance visa. It's only available for freelance artists and journalists who want to live in Berlin.

The process for getting an artist visa is the same as for getting a freelance visa.

The foreigners' registration office (Ausländerbehörde) is the office in charge of granting visas and residence permits. This is where foreigners must go to apply for a German visa.

A bookkeeper (Buchhalter) is a person who can help you with your bookkeeping. Unlike tax advisors (Steuerberater), being a Buchhalter does not require specific qualifications. For more details, see this guide.

The citizens' office (Bürgeramt) handles many aspects of German bureaucracy. This is where you go to register your address, exchange a foreign driving licence, apply for an International Driving Permit and more. There are dozens of Bürgeramt locations in Berlin.

The BVG (Berliner Verkehrsbetriebe) is the public transit company that manages the U-Bahn, the trams and the busses in Berlin. The S-Bahn is managed by the Deutsche Bahn.

Degiro is a discount stock broker that operates in several European countries, including Germany.

Deutsche Bank is a German bank. This bank is popular with foreigners because it offers a blocking account (Sperrkonto)1, and because it offers service in English.

The Deutsche Rentenversicherung is the German public pension insurance scheme.

The DSGVO (Datenschutz-Grundverordnung) is a privacy regulation that came into effect in May 2018. It's called the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the English world.

This new regulation defines how businesses must treat their users' data. For more details, see this guide.

The profit and loss statement (Ertragsvorschau) is a requirement for the German freelance visa. This document shows what your business income and expenses should be.

The tax office (Finanzamt) is responsible for collecting taxes in Germany. When you start a business or become a freelancer in Germany, you must declare your business with them by filling the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung.

A proof of financial resources (Finanzierungsnachweis) is required when applying for foreign student, au-pair, language student and job-seeker visas. Usually, this means you have to open a blocking account (Sperrkonto).

The Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung is a form you must fill to declare your business to the German tax office (Finanzamt). This is how you become a freelancer or start a business in Germany.

See this guide for instructions on how to fill the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung. An English translation of this form is available here.

The freelance visa is a type of National Visa that allows you to be self-employed in Germany. The artist visa is a type of freelance visa.

The trade licence (Gewerbeschein) is a certificate that allows you to do business in a specific location. This licence is issued by the trade office (Gewerbeamt) or by the Ordnungsamt. Some businesses do not need a Gewerbeschein. For more details, see this guide.

The German Trade Register (Handelsregister) is a register all businesses must be listed in, except for small businesses (Kleinunternehmer), freelancers (Freiberufler) and companies constituted under civil law (GbR). For more details, see this guide.

The Handelsregisternummer is a number every business gets when it's listed in the German Trade Register (Handelsregister). You get a Handelsregisternummer by filling the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung. For more details, see this guide.

The main tenant (Hauptmieter) is the person who is responsible for paying the rent to the landlord. The Hauptmieter can sublet the apartment with the permission of the landlord.

The Hauptmieter can act as the Wohnungsgeber and sign the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung. You need this document to register an address in Germany.

The house administration (Hausverwaltung) is the people in charge of an apartment building. You call the Hausverwaltung when you have problems in your apartment: loud neighbours, lost keys, problems with utilities etc. In some smaller buildings, this can be the landlord himself. In larger building, it's usually a separate company.

The Impressum is a page on a website. This page should contain important information about the owners of the website, such as their contact information. In Germany, an Impressum is required on all commercial websites. For more details, see this guide.

The job seeker visa is a type of National Visa. It allows to come to Germany to look for work. Once you have found work, you can apply for a freelance visa or a work visa.

The apartment deposit (Kaution or Mietkaution) is an amount you give to your landlord when you sign an apartment contract. This amount is usually 3 times your monthly rent (Kaltmiete). This is the legal maximum. When you leave the apartment, this amount will be returned to you, with interests. If you broke something in the apartment, the landlord can use the money from your Kaution to fix it.

In Germany, churches can collect taxes from their members. This is called the church tax (Kirchensteuer).

The church tax is 8% of your income tax in Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, and 9% in the rest of Germany1. If you earn 50 000€ a year in Berlin, you would pay around 800€ in church tax1. You can use this calculator to know how much church tax you should pay.

These religious communities collect a church tax12:

  • The Evangelical Church (Evangelische Kirche)
  • The Roman Catholic Church (Römisch-katholische Kirche)
  • The Jewish Community (Jüdische Gemeinde)
  • The Old Catholic Church (Altkatholische Kirche)
  • Various Free Religious communities (Freireligiöse Gemeinden)

If you are not a member of a church that collects church tax, you do not have to pay the church tax1. If you are, the only way to stop paying the church tax is to leave the church. You declare your religion during your Anmeldung. If you were baptized in your home country, the church can tax you even if you registered as an atheist.

The Kita or Kindertagesstätte is a type of preschool or daycare centre for children who are under 6 years old. Every child in Germany is entitled to a place in a Kita, but finding one can be extremely difficult. For more details, see this guide.

A Kitagutschein is a voucher that allows you to get free childcare in Berlin. This document is required when applying for a place in a Kita. The Kitagutschein states how many hours of Kita your child is entitled to. Many Kitas won't put your child on the waiting list unless you have a Kitagutschein1.

For more information about the Kitagutschein, see this guide.

The certificate of registration (Meldebescheinigung) is a document that confirms that you still live at a certain address. You can request a Meldebescheinigung from the Bürgeramt.

The Anmeldebestätigung is often called the Meldebescheinigung, but that's a different document. You only get the Anmeldebestätigung when you register your address, but you can request a Meldebescheinigung anytime. If you moved a long time ago, you might need a recent Anmeldebestätigung to prove that you still live there.

For more details, see this guide.

The Mietschuldenfreiheitsbescheinigung is a document from your previous landlord that confirms you don't owe him/her any money. This document is useful to have when you are applying for an apartment.

A Mini One Stop Shop (MOSS) makes it easier to sell digital products and services in other EU countries. Instead of register for VAT in every country where you have customers, you only need to register for VAT in Germany. This guide and this guide explain how a Mini One Stop Shop works.

N26 is an online bank that operates in multiple European countries, including Germany. N26 is a popular bank for expats who settle in Germany, because it offers its services in English, and does not require an official address in Germany. For more details, see our review of N26.

The National Visa (also known as Type D or Category D Visa1) is a category of visas that let you stay in Germany for a longer period. These visas allow you to stay in Germany (and other Schengen countries) to work, study, search for work or reside permanently.

The job seeker visa, the freelancer visa, the work visa and the artist visa are types of National Visas. The tourist visa is not a National Visa.

The Nebenkosten is the amount you pay for utilities (heat, hot water, electricity). You pay your Nebenkosten every month with your rent. This is an estimated amount; you might have to pay more at the end of the year, when you receive your Betriebskostenabrechnung.

The Nebenkosten are added to your cold rent (Kaltmiete). The total amount is called the warm rent (Warmmiete).

The public order office (Ordnungsamt) is responsible for various aspects of public order in Germany. They handle noise complaints, wild animals and parking spaces, among many other things.

The Maklergebühr or Provision is the fee you pay to the rental agent. This fee is usually 2-3 times the monthly rent. The person who hired the agent pays this fee. If the landlord hired the agent, you should not have to pay the fee. If you hired the agent, you will have to pay the fee.

For more information, see How to find an apartment in Berlin.

The Ringbahn is a railroad that runs around Berlin. The S41 train goes around the Ringbahn in one direction, while the S42 goes in the opposite direction. The Ringbahn is often used to separate what's in central Berlin, and what is not.

The area inside the Ringbahn is an environmental zone. Only low-emission vehicles with green stickers can drive in this area.

The GEZ or Rundfunkbeitrag is a monthly fee every household in Germany must pay. This pays for public radio and television. You can read more about it here.

The Schengen visa allows you to stay in Germany and other Schengen countries for up to 90 days. It's often called the tourist visa.

Australian, Israeli, Japanese, Canadian, South Korean, New Zealand and American citizens do not need a Schengen visa. They can visit Schengen countries without a visa for up to 90 days12.

European Union, Icelandic, Liechtenstein, Norwegian and Swiss citizens do not need any visa to live and work in Germany1.

Schufa is a document that is a bit like a credit report. On this document, you will find a score that proves your ability to pay your rent, bills and loans on time. For more details, see this guide.

The Sozialversicherungsnummer, Versicherungsnummer, Rentenversicherungsnummer or RNVR is the German pension insurance number. It's the unique number the german public pension scheme (the Deutsche Rentenversicherung) uses to identify you. You can request this number from your health insurance company. For more details, see this guide.

A blocking account (Sperrkonto) is a special type of bank account. A Sperrkonto is a requirement when applying for certain visas.

Unlike a normal bank account, a blocked account only lets you withdraw a fixed amount every month.

Deutsche Bank, Fintiba, X-patrio and some Sparkasse branches offer blocking accounts1.

A tax advisor (Steuerberater) is a professional who can help you with your personal and business taxes. Steuerberater is a protected title in Germany, and only people with specific qualifications can be tax advisors.

For more details, see this guide.

The tax ID (Steueridentifikationsnummer) is a unique identification number all German residents receive. This is the number the tax office (Finanzamt) uses to identify you. You receive that number after registering your address in Germany. Do not confuse the tax ID with the tax number (Steuernummer). For more details, see this guide.

Tax classes (Steuerklassen) determine how much income tax you pay. There are 6 tax classes (Steuerklassen) in Germany12.

Tax classDescription
I Workers who are not in category II, III or IV.
IISingle parents who are entitled to single parents' allowance.
IIIMarried workers whose spouse does not have any income, or whose spouse is classified under tax category V. Widowed workers in the year that follows their spouse's death.
IVMarried couples if both spouses earn a wage and live together in Germany.
V Married worker whose spouse is in tax class III.
VIWorker who receives a wage from multiple employers.

The tax number (Steuernummer) is a unique number that identifies businesses and freelancers. You obtain this number when you submit the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung to the tax office (Finanzamt). Do not confuse the Steuernummer with the tax ID (Steueridentifikationsnummer). For more details, see this guide.

The VAT number (Umsatzsteuernummer) is a number that's used to identify you when you make VAT payments to the Finanzamt.

The power of attorney (Vollmacht) is a document that gives another person (usually a lawyer or a tax advisor) the legal right to act in your name. This allows other people to handle legal matters for you. You need a Vollmacht to let someone else file your taxes for you, represent you in legal cases, do the Anmeldung for you, apply for a Kitagutschein for you etc.

The warm rent (Warmmiete) is the total amount you pay in rent every month. It's the cold rent (Kaltmiete) plus the cost of utilities (Nebenkosten).

WG or Wohngemeinschaft is an apartment where multiple tenants share the rent. It's called a flatshare in English. Living in a WG is a good way to save on rent. Most WGs are listed on WG-Gesucht and eBay Kleinanzeigen. For more details, see this guide.

The Wohnungsgeberbestätigung or Einzugsbestätigung des Wohnungsgebers is a document you receive from your landlord or from the main tenant (Hauptmieter). This document proves that you can live at this address. The Wohnungsgeberbestätigung is required for the Anmeldung.