Glossary

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

A written warning (Abmahnung) is a formal request to immediately stop a certain behaviour, and sometimes to pay someone for the damage you have caused. It is similar to a cease and desist letter, but the sender can request that you pay damages. These letters are often sent to people who pirate movies in Germany.

The Abmeldung is the process of deregistering your address when you move out of Germany. It's important to deregister before you leave Germany. 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. 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 (with some exceptions) or get a cellphone contract. This document is often called a 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. This will become your official address in Germany.

During your Anmeldung appointment, you will receive an Anmeldebestätigung. This document confirms your official address in Germany. It's often required 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. This visa is given to freelance artists and journalists who want to live in Berlin. It's only available in Berlin. It is not available in the rest of Germany.

The process for getting an artist visa is the same as for getting a freelance visa. The only difference is that you can get the visa on the same day, without having to wait 3-4 months.

The residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel) allows you to settle in Germany. This is what long-term German visas are called. The freelance visa, the artist visa, the work visa and other Category D visas are types of residence permits. The residence permit is usually a plastic card or a sticker in your passport.

The foreigners' registration office (Ausländerbehörde) is the office that gives visas and residence permits. This is where foreigners go to apply for a German visa.

Job disability insurance (Berufsunfaehigkeitsversicherung) helps you if an accident stops you from working. For example, if you are a surgeon and you lose a finger, this insurance can be useful.

This insurance makes sense if you have people who depend on you, or a mortgage to pay. It costs around 20€ per month for most professions. It's cheap because accidents that prevent you from doing your job are rare.

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, and is not liable for his mistakes. For more details, see this guide.

The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) provides services for the German labour market. It is responsible for the employment of foreigners, the job centres, unemployment benefits and labour statistics.

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 Bürgertelefon is a special phone line in Berlin. It gives information about administrative services. It can help you find an appointment at the Bürgeramt or at the vehicle registration office. Their phone number is 115.

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 not managed by the BVG, it's managed by the Deutsche Bahn.

The Category D visa is just another name for the National Visa. Category D visas are long term residence permits.

Commerzbank is one of the large German banks. They offer general and business banking services to German residents.

Degiro is a discount stock broker that operates in several European countries, including Germany. For more details, see our review of Degiro.

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 English.

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

Income tax (Einkommensteuer) is the percentage of your income that goes to the German tax office (Finanzamt). The amount you must pay depends on your income. The maximum income tax rate in Germany is 42%.

You can use this calculator to calculate your income tax.

A registered letter (Einschreibebrief) is a type of letter with a proof of delivery. If you need to send legal documents, you must send them per Einschreiben. These letters require a signature from the recipient, and they come with a tracking number1.

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.

When you want to register a vehicle, you must get an eVB number from your insurance company. This number tells the registration office that vehicle will be insured.

The Fahrzeugbrief is the old type of vehicle registration papers. It looks like this. It was replaced by the Zulassungsbescheinigung.

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

For more information, read this guide.

If you are a freelancer, or if you make over 60750€ per year, you are voluntarily insured (freiwillig versichert). This means that public health insurance companies are not forced to accept you. It also means that you can choose private health insurance. Teachers and students are also voluntarily insured.

Statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV), or public health insurance is a type of health insurance in Germany. The price statutory health insurance is based on your income. The alternative is private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung or PKV).

Public health insurance companies are often called Krankenkassen.

For more details, see this introduction to German health insurance.

In Germany, the trade licence (Gewerbeschein) is a certificate that lets you to run your business in a city. This licence is issued by the trade office (Gewerbeamt) or by the Ordnungsamt. In Berlin, you can apply for it online. Some businesses do not need a Gewerbeschein. For more details, see this guide.

If you cause an accident in Germany, you can be sued by the victim. If the victim wins, you will have to pay reparations1. A lawsuit like that can easily ruin you.

Liability insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung) protects you from these damage claims. If you cause an accident, your insurance company will pay the legal fees and the reparations.

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.

Home contents insurance (Hausratversicherung) insures the content of your house, up to a certain value. This includes your furniture and all the other movable things in the house. It can also cover things like computers and bicycles.

If you don't own expensive furniture, it's cheaper to insure items individually. For example, you can get bicycle insurance instead of a home insurance that covers bicycles.

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 price of public health insurance is based on your income. If you earn more money, you pay more for your health insurance.

The Höchstbeitrag is the maximum amount you can pay for health insurance. If you earn more than 54450€ per year, the price stops going up.1

There is a different Höchstbeitrag for freelancers, the Selbstständige Höchstbeitrag. In 2019, it's around 815€1.

The IBAN number is used to transfer money between bank accounts. In Germany, IBAN numbers have the following format: DE 1234 5678 9012 3456 7890 12.

You will usually find your IBAN on the front of your bank card (Girokarte or EC-Karte). You can usually see it when you log into your online banking account.

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 job seeker visa is valid for up to 6 months.

In Germany, you have cold rent (Kaltmiete) and warm rent (Warmmiete). The cold rent (Kaltmiete) is the amount of rent you pay before heating and other variable costs (Nebenkosten). The cold rent is a fixed amount. It only changes if your rent goes up.

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.

The vehicle registration office (Kfz-Zulassungsstelle) is where you register a vehicle you just purchased. You must register your vehicle there before you can drive it on the road.

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.

A small business (Kleinunternehmer) is a Freiberufler or Gewerbe with a revenue of less than 17 500€ in the first year, and a revenue of less than 50 000€ in the following years1,2. Note that this is revenue, not profit. The law that defines small businesses is called the Kleinunternehmerregelung.

The main benefit of being a Kleinunternehmer is that you don't need to charge VAT to your customers1.

For more details, see this guide.

Krankenversicherung is the German term for health insurance. For more information about health insurance in Germany, 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.

The price of public health insurance is based on your income. If you earn less money, you pay less for your health insurance.

The Mindestbeitrag is the minimum amount you can pay for health insurance. If you earn less than 1038€ per month (in 2019), the price stops going down.1

There is a different Mindestbeitrag for freelancers, the Selbstständige Mindestbeitrag. In 2019, it's around 180€1.

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.

A minijob or a 450 Euro job is a job that pays 450€ per month or less. There are a few benefits to minijobs:

  • If you only have a minijob, you don't need to pay income tax1.
  • If you only have a minijob, you can use your spouse's or your parents' public health insurance1.

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 type of visa that allows you to reside in Germany (and other Schengen countries). With a National Visa, you can work, study, search for work or reside permanently.

The job seeker visa, the freelance 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. Each year, you receive your Betriebskostenabrechnung. This shows you how much hot water and electricity you really used.

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.

Ottonova is a private health insurance startup in Germany. It's a 100% digital insurance company that offers English customer support.

If you are an employee and you make under 60750€ per year, you are compulsorily insured (Pflichtversichert). This means that public health insurance companies must accept you. It also means that you can't have private health insurance.

When you are not Pflichtversichert, you are voluntarily insured (freiwillig versichert). Public health insurers do not have to accept voluntarily insured people.

Private health insurance (private Krankenversicherung or PKV) is a type of health insurance in Germany. The price of private health insurance is based on your health condition. It is cheaper when you are young, and more expensive when you are old. The alternative is public health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung or GKV).

For more details, see this introduction to German health insurance.

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.

Legal insurance (Rechtschutzversicherung) will cover your legal costs if you need to hire a lawyer.

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.

Map of the Berlin Ringbahn

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.

Seasonal plates (Saisonkennzeichen) are vehicle registration plates that only let you drive during certain months. For example, a motorcycle can have Saisonkennzeichen from April to October, or March to November. You can choose the dates when you register the vehicle.

When people talk about the Schengen visa, they usually mean the German tourist visa. That visa allows you to stay in Germany and other Schengen countries for up to 90 days.

In reality, there are many kinds of Schengen visas. The job seeker visa, the work visa and the freelance visa are also Schengen visas.

Australian, Israeli, Japanese, Canadian, South Korean, New Zealand and American citizens do not need a tourist visa. They can spend up to 90 days in Germany and other Schengen countries12. If they want to stay longer than 90 days, or work in Germany, they need a visa.

European Union, Iceland, 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.

A direct debit authorization (SEPA-Lastschriftmandat) allows a company to withdraw money from your bank account. You must sign one when you sign an insurance contract or register a vehicle.

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.

The tax ID is also called a Steuerliche Identifikationsnummer, Persönliche Identificationsnummer, Identifikationsnummer, Steuer-IdNr.IdNr or SteuerID.

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. It's a 10 or 11 digit number, and has the format "12/345/67890". It's sometimes written in the unified federal format as "3012034567890", where the first two digits are the number of your Bundesland12.

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 German student visa allows you to study in Germany. With a student visa, you can also work a limited number of hours.

The student visa is a type of Schengen visa1.

Techniker Krankenkasse (or TK) is the largest public health insurance company in Germany.

Teilkasko car insurance only covers the damage to other people and vehicles. If you cause an accident, your Teilkasko will pay to fix other people's cars, but it will not pay you to on your own car. If the accident is someone else's fault, their insurance will pay for the repairs on your car.

The Übergabeprotokoll is a document you fill with your landlord before moving out of an apartment. It describes the state of the apartment, and the damages that need to be repaired.

The VAT number (Umsatzsteuernummer) is a number that's used to identify you when you make VAT payments to the Finanzamt. You can request a VAT number by filling the Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung.

In Germany, the VAT number has this format: DE123456789.

The VAT number is also called a Umsatzsteuer-Identifikationsnummer, or USt-IdNr.

Scooters and mopeds don't need to be registered at the Kfz-Zulassungsstelle. They only need to have insurance plates (Versicherungskennzeichen). Insurance plates look like this.

Vollkasko car insurance covers the damage to your car and to other cars, even if the accident is your fault. If you destroy your car in an accident, the insurance company will replace it. Vollkasko insurance is usually several times more expensive than Teilkasko.

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 Wohnungsgeber (the "apartment-giver") is the person who gives you a room or an apartment to rent. It can be the landlord, or the main tenant (Hauptmieter). The main tenant must always get the permission of the landlord before subletting a room or subletting the apartment, and the landlord can refuse1, 2.

The Wohnungsgeber can sign the Wohnungsgeberbestätigung. You need this document to register your address in Germany.

The Wohnungsgeberbestätigung (also called Einzugsbestätigung des Wohnungsgebers or Vermieterbescheinigung) is a document given by the landlord or the main tenant (Hauptmieter). This document proves that you are allowed to live at this address.

The Wohnungsgeberbestätigung is required for your address registration (Anmeldung). Without it, you can't register your address.

The main tenant can't sign this document without the permission of the landlord1, 2. This means that you can't register a place as your official address without the permission of the landlord. This also means that you can't use a hotel or an AirBnB as your official address.

Official example of a Wohnungsgeberbestätigung

The German work visa (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Aufnahme einer Beschäftigung) allows you live in Germany and work for a German employer. It's officially called a "residence permit for the purpose of employment", but everyone calls it a work visa or work permit.

The Working Holiday Visa lets citizens of certain countries work in Germany for up to 1 year.

Argentina, Australia, Chile, Hong Kong, Israel, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Taiwan and Uruguay citizens between 18 and 30 years old can apply for a German Working Holiday Visa1.

Canadian citizens between 18 and 35 years old can apply for a Youth Mobility Visa, which is very similar.

The Youth Mobility Visa allows Canadian citizens between 18 and 35 years old to work in Germany for up to 12 months1. It is similar to the Working Holiday Visa.

The Zulassungsbescheinigung is a vehicle's registration papers. In Germany, this document has two parts. The first part (Teil 1) folds to the size of a business card. You must carry it with you. The second part (Teil 2) is the size of a sheet of paper. You must leave it at home.

You get a Zulassungsbescheinigung when you register the vehicle in Germany.

The Zulassungsbescheinigung replaces an older type of registration paper, the Fahrzeugbrief.