Looking for advice about moving from the United States to Germany for a year. Have any?
August 7, 2011 12:51 PM   Subscribe

Looking for advice about moving from the United States to Germany for a year. Have any?

I'm an independent developer (freelance) exploring the possibility of moving to Berlin for a year with my girlfriend (also freelance), just to get a change of pace. I don't need a full-time job, but I do have a cat.

Has anyone done this who can give some advice? What's the best way to make sure I've got everything covered? Has anyone used a relocation agent? I'm seeing some references to that in my googlin'.

posted by chasing to Travel & Transportation (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Ask here.
posted by martinrebas at 12:54 PM on August 7, 2011

Response by poster: Also curious if anyone has any sense of the expenses involved in such a move...

Thanks, again!
posted by chasing at 1:00 PM on August 7, 2011

Best answer: I don't have direct knowledge of a US-DE move, but in general..
Expenses will depend massively on many factors that you haven't covered. Are you looking to move furniture? (I'm going to guess that doing this for a year is not worth it.) A car? (Ditto.) Just clothes & books? Are you putting everything you own in 2 suitcases, and just concerned about the paperwork costs? I recommend you read up on using movers/shipping companies on MovingScam.com. I wish I had before I moved. Shipping may require a lot of organization and legwork on your part.

You'll need a "pet passport" from a vet that just says your cat is up to date with shots, etc.

I'm going to advise keeping US bank accounts open. If you have at any point, total, more than USD10,000 in foreign bank accounts, you will have to report it to the IRS. You will probably want a specialized expat tax preparation service, at least in the US. (Memail if you want a recommendation for one.)

Have a trusted person on this end have copies of paperwork, who can also act as a mail drop for you, and perhaps also have some financial abilities, depending on your needs & situation. For instance, I needed a birth certificate with an Apostille when I registered with my city of residence. My state Health Department didn't want to send it to me in Europe, so my family in the States acted as a go-between.
posted by knile at 1:19 PM on August 7, 2011

Response by poster: @knile,

Thanks for the info!

Yeah, we're thinking more of the "fit what we can in suitcases" approach. We don't have that much furniture, anyway (live in an NYC apt). And most of our work will still be US-based.

Good idea about making sure to have a go-between in the States, as well.

Also: I'm assuming Germany and the EU in general have the same or very similar requirements. Anyone have experiences moving to any EU country?
posted by chasing at 1:26 PM on August 7, 2011

I should've specified: I moved from the US to the Netherlands a year ago, and arrived with a job offer from an organization in hand & contract all set up. This made entering the country fairly easy for me. I have NO clue how the immigration officials in any country take to freelancers. That seems to me to be the biggest hurdle, but IANAIO and IANAL and IANAF :) Hopefully for your sake, somebody here has a better idea.
posted by knile at 1:58 PM on August 7, 2011

You can't stay longer than 90 days without some sort of work visa or residency permit.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:20 PM on August 7, 2011

Response by poster: @humboldt32

Yup, I know. I guess I'm wondering what sort of experiences people have had with these. And whether I'll need a work permit since I don't plan on working full-time while there (and I possibly won't work with any German clients at all).
posted by chasing at 3:03 PM on August 7, 2011

Best answer: In my experience (academic, with sabbatical leave every 6-7 years or so), it's fairly easy to get a long-term visa for Europe if you meet one of these conditions:

1. You do not intend to work and you can demonstrate that you have the financial resources (savings or overseas income that does not take work from an EU citizen) to support yourself while in Europe;

2. You are a researcher and have been invited by a European research institution (university, lab, etc.); or

3. You have been offered a job by a European employer who will handle the visa/residence permit arrangements.

4. You are enrolling as a student in a European institution of higher education that will vouch for you.

Otherwise, it can be difficult. And it can be difficult to change from one status to another once you're there. If you go on a visitor visa (no work permitted), it might be difficult to change your status. I don't have any experience working as an independent contractor, so I won't say anything about that, other than that you may find it easier if you are incorporated in the USA, so that any clients would be dealing with a business in the USA, whose principal employee (i.e., you) happens to be telecommuting from Berlin. I'm neither a businessman nor a lawyer, though, so if that's the direction you might be heading, I'd advise talking with a lawyer who specializes in international employment law before making any decisions.

By the way, #1 requires having bank or investment account statements proving that you do not need to work at all for the period you plan to be in Europe. My experience has been with French immigration and they're persnickety about that. For my most recent visa my wife and I had to prove we had non-working assets sufficient to maintain a middle-class lifestyle for a year in France.
posted by brianogilvie at 3:57 PM on August 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

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