How to Move to Germany from the US

Joe Roberts
May 04, 2022
Icon Time To Read12 min read
Icon CheckSarah Cimarusti

Guten tag! Have you decided to pack up and move to Germany? Well, we can’t blame you. Deutschland is one of the most beautiful countries in Europe. But before you start enjoying the Alps, the delicious food, and Germany’s great work-life balance, there are several things you need to do.

Unfortunately, moving to Germany isn’t as easy for US citizens as it is for those in Schengen countries. But don’t fret! We’re here to help you with every part of your overseas relocation.

Whether you’re moving to Germany for work, school, or to live with a German spouse, we can help you select your international moving company, apply for your residency permit, and more! Keep reading to get the full picture of everything your move to Germany will require.

Tooltip: The Schengen Area is a group of European countries that don't enforce border control between them. Because of this, travel and immigration is much easier between two Schengen countries than it is for countries outside of the Schengen area.

Best international moving companies for a move to Germany

Moving to Germany is a lengthy and complex process, and there are a few ducks to put in a row before you actually book with your moving company. That said, now is a great time to get a few quotes from our favorite international movers and decide which will give you the best price for your move to Germany.

Use case
Moving company
Star rating
Customer service
Phone number
Best overall
northamericanNorth American Van Lines
4.8 out of 5 stars
7 days/week customer service89 years of experience855-898-6625
Employee relocation
unitedUnited Van Lines
4.7 out of 5 stars
Weekday only customer service94 years of experience877-740-3040
Most popular
internationalvanlinesInternational Van Lines
4.3 out of 5 stars
7 days/week customer service18 years of experience855-930-4574
Wide availability
alliedAllied Van Lines
4.1 out of 5 stars
Weekday only customer service94 years of experience855-886-2648
Excellent reviews
bekinsBekins Van Lines
4.1 out of 5 stars
Weekday only customer service131 years of experience800-456-8092

Once you’ve received a handful of moving quotes, you can budget and plan more effectively. And after your plans are set in stone, you should then request an in-home estimate and officially book your moving service. Ask about your mover’s cancellation policy, though, in case something goes wrong with your residence permit application later on.

How your stuff can be shipped overseas

When you move overseas, your moving company can either deliver your household goods by air or sea. Ocean freight is the most common option because it is several times cheaper than air freight though much slower. Your stuff can take up to eight weeks to arrive by ocean. This won’t be a problem, though, if you plan—and pack—accordingly. Learn more by reading our guide to international moving.

You probably can’t take everything to Germany

Moving with fewer things is cheaper, and that’s especially true for international moves since you’re shipping your stuff thousands of miles. Because of this, you can save a whole heap of money on your move to Germany by downsizing. If there are any clothes, furnishings, or dishes in your home that would be cheaper to replace than ship, consider donating those items to your local charity.

And there are some things you can’t take to Germany anyway. Every country has a list of items you’re restricted from importing, and Germany’s list includes typically restricted items like fireworks, weapons, and certain types of food.[1]

Instead of paying your moving company to ship these items overseas where German customs will promptly dispose of them, carefully read the list of restricted imports and dispose of them yourself ahead of time.

Info Box
What about the stuff you shouldn’t donate?

Got useless, old stuff like broken furniture you’ve been meaning to repair, dead appliances you haven’t had the heart to throw out, or boxed-up clothing that the moths found? Instead of donating these items, take them to a recycling center or hire one of our favorite junk removal companies to take them off your hands.

Bringing pets to Germany

The good news is that you can probably bring your pets to Germany with you. The bad news is that importing pets comes with its fair share of regulations and requirements. For example, any pets you import must have up-to-date vaccinations and paperwork. You can also only bring a total of five pets into the country.

Read the German Customs Authority’s resource on importing pets to learn more.

And be warned that you can’t bring these dog breeds into Germany:

  • Pitbull terriers
  • American Staffordshire terriers
  • Staffordshire bull terriers
  • Bull terriers[2]

Unfortunately, the German Customs Authority regards these breeds as too dangerous to import. If you have a furry friend who belongs to one of these breeds, you may want to reconsider your move to Germany.

If you need help picking a company that will deliver your pets, check out our list of the best pet shipping companies. A few of them handle international shipping.

Bringing your car to Germany

You can import your car to Germany, but if you plan to live there for more than six months, you’ll need to get it registered. Check out the German Customs Authority’s guide to importing a vehicle to learn more.

It’s also worth noting that shipping a car to another country can cost thousands of dollars, and you may not even need a car in Germany anyway. The country’s public transportation system is famously good, so if you live in or near a big city like Munich, Berlin, Frankfurt, or Hamburg, you can probably get by without a car.

If you sell your car in the states and find you actually need one once you’re in Germany, you can simply purchase a German vehicle with the money you made selling your old car. In the end, this might be more cost-effective than shipping and registering a vehicle from the US.

If you do want to ship your current vehicle to Germany, our guide to shipping a car internationally can get you started.

Light Bulb
Can you drive in Germany with a US license?

Yes, your US driver’s license will allow you to drive in Germany for six months. After that, it depends. Licenses from some US states can be transferred to German licenses easily, while licenses from other states can’t.[3] This blog post from the German Embassy in Washington provides more detail.

Make a budget for your move

After you’ve received quotes from a few moving companies and started downsizing to cut costs, it’s time to budget your move to Germany. Unfortunately, the cost to ship your household goods isn’t the only expense to plan on paying. You’ll also need to account for your rent or mortgage in Germany, your living expenses, and the application fees for your visa and residence permit.

Also, if you’re moving to Germany before you have a job lined up (more on that later), you’ll need to cover all these costs with your savings for a while. Lastly, you have to prove that you can support yourself in Germany by providing a bank statement showing you have the necessary funds. The exact funds required can vary depending on your situation, so be sure to check the financial requirements for your visa so you know how much to save up.

How much does a move to Germany cost?

The average cost to ship your household goods to Germany is $6,000. This is a very rough average, though, and we’ve seen some moves to Germany cost nearly double this average. Your international moving price depends on a lot of factors like where in the United States you currently live, which region of Germany you move to, and how much stuff you’re shipping.

If you move to Germany from California with a ton of stuff, your price will likely be higher than average. Alternatively, if you move to Germany from New York City (which is closer to Germany than California) and only bring the bare necessities, you’ll probably pay less.

Because of how these factors affect your price, there’s really no way to know what your move to Germany will cost until you get your own quotes. And even those quotes won’t be set in stone. You’ll only know the exact price of your move after getting a written moving estimate.

If these prices are higher than you can manage in the near future, use our guide to paying for your move to peruse your financing options.

What is the cost of living in Germany?

Despite having much higher taxes for individual earners than the US,[4] Germany’s average cost of living is lower. According to Numbeo, the average single resident of Germany pays €803.52 ($865.58) in pre-rent living costs, while a family of four Germans pays €2,761.75 ($2,975.04). This makes Germany’s average cost of living 8.62% lower than the US’s.

Info Box
Need help with those conversion rates?

The relative worth of every currency fluctuates constantly, and so conversion rates between dollars and euros are always in flux. This can make precise budgeting difficult unless you check the current conversion rates. To know exactly how many euros your dollar is worth today, use this currency conversion tool.

Renew your documents

Before you move much further in the planning and application process, you should take some time to renew any American documents that will expire soon. Things like your passport and your driver’s license become much harder to renew when you’re living abroad, so if any of your essential records will expire soon, take care of them ASAP.

Apply for your first German visa and residency permit

Now it’s time to apply for your travel visa, and this is where you have some options. If you have a US passport, you can actually stay in Germany for up to 90 days without getting a travel visa.[5] During this 90-day period, you can start your apartment hunt and job search if you didn’t do those things in the states. You can’t actually start working in Germany yet, though. 

If you want a little more time to take care of all of this, you can apply for a Job Seeker Visa, enabling you to stay in Germany for up to six months.[6] This step isn’t necessary, but it’s nice to have so much extra time to take care of everything. You’ll apply for this visa through the German Embassy that services your area.

And it bears repeating that neither of these options actually allows you to start working in Germany. They just allow you to seek employment with a German company. You’ll still need to apply for a work visa and a residence permit before you’re legally allowed to work.

It’s also possible to seek a German employer while you’re stateside. If your skills are in high demand, your new employer may be willing to wait for you to make the trip and apply for residence before you start working. If you want to start looking for jobs before your move, this resource can help.

Processing fees for visa applications

Unfortunately, visa applications aren’t free. Visa processing fees vary depending on your situation, and they’re subject to change, so you should visit the Federal Foreign Office’s page about visa fees to get the most accurate info.

Applying for your residence permit now vs. later

Your residency permit is what allows you to work, study, and live in Germany long-term. You can apply for your permit after you’re living in Germany or before. There are a few different kinds of residence permits:

  • Residence permits for work
  • Residence permits for study
  • Residence permits for family reunification (for spouses or children of German citizens or foreigners with German residence permits)

To get the official breakdown of each visa type and decide which one is right for your situation, carefully read over the German Embassy’s guide to residence visas.

Applying for your residence permit before you’re actually in Germany guarantees you’ll have all the documents you need before you get there, but it also has one distinct drawback: it takes much longer to get your application approved.

When you apply for your residence permit in the US, your application gets sent from your nearest US consulate to Germany for processing. Then, after you’re approved, everything gets sent back along with your permit. This whole process can take months.

Applying when you’re already in Germany is much faster because it cuts out the delivery time between countries. And since US passport-holders get to stay in Germany for 90 days without residence permits, many opt to apply when they’re in Germany so that the process is running in the background while they’re starting their new lives abroad.

Waiting to apply until you’re already in Germany takes a leap of faith, though. It’s always possible that your application might be denied and you’ll have to leave.

If the complexities and particulars of this process are overwhelming and confusing, we can’t say we blame you. Luckily, Germany’s Federal Foreign Office has you covered. To clarify everything, the office has put together a list of answers to frequently asked questions.

Heads Up
Get a lawyer on the case

If you plan to immigrate to Germany permanently, you shouldn’t do it alone. Immigration is a complicated bureaucratic process with a lot of confusing steps, and immigrating with children or a spouse can greatly increase these complications. If you’re serious about applying for permanent residency and eventually becoming a German citizen, you should hire an immigration lawyer to help.

The case for storage

If you decide to fly to Germany before getting your residence permit, consider storing your household goods in the US instead of paying your moving company to ship them immediately. This means you won’t have most of your stuff during your first few months in Germany, but it will save you money if your job hunt or permit application goes south.

If your residence permit gets denied while you’re in Germany, you have to leave after 90 days—or six months if you got a job seeker visa. And if all your stuff is in Germany with you, you’ll have to pay a moving company to ship it all back for you when it’s time to leave. In short, you’ll pay for two international moves without actually getting to stay in Germany.

The easiest solution is to box all your belongings up and leave them in the home of a friend or family member while you’re abroad. Once you have a job offer with a German company and your permit is approved, the person you left your stuff with can coordinate with your moving company for delivery.

If this isn’t an option, you can leave all your belongings in a storage unit instead. Moving companies can pick things up from a storage unit if someone is there to let the moving crew into it, so you’ll still need to enlist a friend or family member who lives near the storage facility. Check out our list of the best storage companies to find a unit for your household goods.

Alternatively, you can even ask your moving company about storage. Many moving companies own storage facilities, and storing with the company that will eventually deliver your stuff would remove the necessity of help from friends or family.

Book your flight

After you’ve applied for your visa and permit—or decided not to—it’s time to book your flight to Germany. If you’re not going to apply for these documents beforehand, you can book your flight for when your stuff is all in storage and you’ve made plans with your movers.

If you’ve started the visa or residence permit application process, though, you’ll want to pick a later flight date to give you some time to hear back. Also, if you book your flight before all your applications are approved, consider getting some cancellation insurance in case you need to scrap your flight.

Whether or not you’ve already got your residence permit in hand and a job lined up, you should still pack plenty of checked luggage. Even if your moving company picked up your household goods on the same day as your flight, they would take weeks to arrive.

Because of this, you should pack plenty of clothes, all your important documents, and anything else you’ll need during your first few months in Germany.

Get settled in Germany

Once you arrive in Germany, there’s still a lot you need to do. You need to find a place to live if you haven’t already and apply for your residency permit if you didn’t take care of that while stateside.

Then, after you find a place to live (anywhere you’ll be staying that isn’t a hotel), you’ll need to register that residence with the German authorities. You’ll need to take care of this before you even have a job lined up, even if you’re only guaranteed to be in Germany for the 90 days your passport allows.

Once you’ve taken care of this step, you can open your German bank account and apply for your German tax ID, both of which you’ll need to start working in Germany.

If you won’t be working in Germany—say if you’re studying abroad at a German university or you moved to live with your spouse who’s the breadwinner in your relationship—your work is basically done. Now it’s time to unpack and get started with your new life.

However, if you do intend to work, it’s now time to search for a job in earnest. Even if you’ve got a job seeker's permit, you’ve only got a few months to find an employer. No time to waste!


Moving to Germany will take a lot of work on your part, and it’s understandable that you might feel overwhelmed by everything it will require. But don’t worry! By doing the research, you’ve already taken the first step. Now it’s time to make a game plan and live your dream of starting a new life in Germany. Good luck, and auf Wiedersehen!

FAQ about moving to Germany

Do they speak English in Germany?

English is widely spoken in Germany, though you shouldn’t rely on English if you intend to live there long-term. Learning to fluently speak the German language—or Deutsch—will help you get by and find employment. It’s also a prerequisite for becoming a German citizen.

To start learning German, use one of these language learning apps.

What is the primary currency in Germany?

The primary currency in Germany—and many countries in the European Union—is the Euro, which is symbolized with the “€” sign. This has been the case since the Euro replaced the German Mark in the early 2000s.[7]

Does Germany have universal health care?

Yes, Germany has a state-run health insurance system that covers most medical needs. German citizens and residents both get enrolled in this system by default, often with their employer’s assistance.[8]


  1. Central Customs Authority, “Restrictions.” April 20, 2022.
  2. Central Customs Authority, “Dangerous Dogs.” Accessed April 19, 2022.
  3. Germany In USA, “Driving in Germany: Is a U.S. Driver’s License Sufficient?” April 18, 2019. Accessed April 19, 2022.
  4. Money, “This Chart Shows How Much Americans Pay in Taxes vs. the Rest of the World,” July 19, 2017. Accessed April 19, 2022.
  5. German Missions in the United States, “Residence Visa / Long Stay Visa,” January 19, 2021. Accessed April 20, 2022.
  6. Germany Visa, “Germany Job Seeker Visa.” Accessed April 20, 2022.
  7. European Commission, “Germany and the Euro.” Accessed April 20, 2022.
  8. Germany Visa, “Health Insurance in Germany – The German Healthcare System.” Accessed April 20, 2022.
Joe Roberts
Written by
Joe Roberts
Joe Roberts is a professional writer with a degree in writing studies and over four years of copywriting experience. He previously worked at, where he wrote about furniture, home decor, and moving. Joe has moved all over Utah, so he knows his way around a moving truck—and he spends his time (and money) expanding his personal library so it will be even heavier next time he moves.