Costs of Moving To Germany from the USA: Guide

Germany is an economic leader in Europe; besides, it’s one of the most culturally diverse countries on the continent. No wonder you are considering leaving the States for the better. People from Germany constantly move to the USA, and at the same time, US citizens relocate to Germany. But what does it cost to move from the US to Germany?

The average minimum cost of moving to Germany from the USA is 3,640 EUR (without shipping), and the average maximum of 9,670 EUR, including shipping your items.

Changing a place of residence is never free. Moving needs time, effort, and, of course, money. Read below the cost breakdown for moving to Germany from the US.

Main Costs of Moving To Germany from the US

When moving to Germany from the USA, you will have various expenses among different categories. Indeed, these numbers will vary for all of us; however, the main items on your list will remain the same. Below you can see the complete list of what you can’t avoid when moving to Germany.

  • Visa: 110 – 140 EUR
  • Flight: 600 EUR (depends)
  • Security deposit for the apartment plus rent for the next two months: 1,600 – 5,000 EUR
  • Emergency savings: 1,000 – 2,000 EUR
  • Health insurance: 150 EUR
  • Mandatory monthly costs without rent: 630 EUR + health insurance
  • In case of shipping items: +1,000 EUR

Minimum3,640 EUR (without shipping)

Maximum: 9,670 EUR

Residence Permit

A residence permit is the first expense you should keep in mind when moving to Germany for the long term. US citizens don’t need a visa to enter Germany, nor do they need to have a job offer before entering Germany.

However, they need to apply for a residence permit at the German embassy in the US or at the Foreigners’ Office in Germany.

In general, a residence permit in Germany can only be issued for a specific purpose:

The cost of a residence permit is 110 EUR / EU Blue Card – 140 EUR

US citizens may also apply for an EU Blue Card, which costs 140 EUR. For this residence permit, you need to find a suitable job upon arrival. Another requirement is the minimum salary of 56,400 EUR per year or 43,992 EUR – for STEM professions (2022).

Knowing how to get a German residence visa and work permit will likely be crucial to settling down successfully in the country.

When applying for a German visa, there are various things to take care of, and you will need to meet certain German visa requirements, including proof of income and health insurance. Additionally, you will need to have at least some basic German language skills.

The main requirements to get a work residence permit in Germany are:

1. Financial proof of your ability to cover your expenses in Germany, such as bank statements and tax documents.

2. Confirmation letter from your employer that you have an employment offer

Depending on your situation and reason for moving, requirements might vary. For example, if you are joining a spouse or family member, you don’t need both two mentioned above.

If you want to come to Germany for business purposes, you will need some other documents to provide.

Once you’ve received your residence permit, you can renew it every year until five years into the future, after you’ll be able to apply for a Permanent Residence Permit.

The City You Are Moving To

Your costs might drastically vary depending on the city you move to in Germany. The reason for this is regional differences in the economy and therefore in the costs of living, including housing, goods, food, entertainment, transportation, etc.

If your future base will be in the south or southwest of Germany, be ready to spend significantly more than in the east or northwest.

The most expensive cities in Germany are Munich, Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Bonn, and Heidelberg. Not all of them are the biggest cities, but they still have very high prices and standard of living.

Apart from this, the country has many reasonably cheaper cities than those mentioned above, including Leipzig, Dresden, Bochum, Magdeburg, Bamberg, Rostock, and Kiel.

Read our article on the best German cities to live in as a foreigner.

How Much Should You Save Up?

When moving abroad, you’ve got a couple of crucial expenses. Some of them are fixed costs some can vary.

Some fixed costs will be:

1. Your flight: 1,000 EUR, depending on the time of year, where exactly you’re flying from, and how much luggage you want to bring.

2. Security deposit for the apartment (usually 3 months rent) plus rent for the next two months: 1,000*5 EUR

3. Emergency savings: 1,000 – 2,000 EUR just in case some unexpected costs

4. Insurances for current and next month:

  1. Health insurance 150 EUR*2
  2. Liability insurance (inc. for an apartment) for a year 50 EUR
  3. Car insurance for a year 500 EUR (if you plan to have one)

5. Other expenses:

  1. Gym membership 30-70 EUR
  2. Public transportation card 70-80 EUR

Total maximum: 9,000 EUR

Total minimum: 4,050 EUR (if choosing a shared apartment)

The variable costs for the first month would be:

  1. Household costs 500 EUR
  2. Groceries and eating outside 300 – 400 EUR
  3. Miscellaneous 100 EUR
  4. Utilities and Internet 200 – 300 EUR
  5. Personal care items 50 – 100 EUR
  6. Clothing & shoes 100 – 200 EUR
  7. Entertainment 100 – 300 EUR
  8. Phone (internet) 30 EUR
  • The total average is 1,300 EUR for the first month; 630 EUR from them is mandatory.
  • Total maximum: 1,900 EUR

With the household costs, you never know ahead what you need to buy in a new country, what is missed in your new apartment, kitchen equipment, and other important living items.

So the minimum will be 500 EUR, but you almost 100% will need more unless you are moving into the shared apartment where you will get everything ready.

Conclusion: you will need to save up a maximum of 10,900 EUR and a minimum of 4,680 EUR to move to Germany from the US and pay for the first two months.

Shipping Your Furniture

Transporting belongings is the biggest concern people have when moving to Germany from the US. It can be pretty expensive if done in the wrong way. You have several ways to transport your items.

Sea freight shipping

The first and less expensive way is sea freight shipping, although it’s the most time-consuming way to transport your belongings. Sea shipping takes around 43-47 days to reach Germany. The average price for a 20 ft container is $286 and for a 40 ft container is $330.

If you need to send several large items to Germany, such as furniture or a car, sea freight is the best solution.

Depending on the shipment route, you could be waiting for up to 2 months for your items to arrive. You will also need to consider transporting your items to and from ports, both departing and upon arrival in Germany – which can be rather costly and inconvenient.

If you decide to transport your car, calculate at least 850 EUR additionally.

Air freight shipping

The second and the most expensive one is air freight, which can be up to 18 times more expensive than the ocean freight.

It takes just 2 to 4 business days for your stuff to arrive. However, the price can be a reasonable factor inshore the ocean above the air. The good deal will be considered around $1,000 for the small container.

Similar to sea freight, air freight allows you to easily transport some large, bulky items to Germany. It tends to be too expensive because it’s charged by weight and volume. Again, you will also need to think about the transportation of your items to and from airports.

Parcel

And the third one is the classic parcel. Yes, you can also easily send a box to Germany if your belongings are small in volume and weight. Just be sure it’s packed well, and you have someone in Germany who can actually receive it.

Before you decide to send your parcel, make sure to research about German customs; particularly when it comes to shipping goods, there are some restrictions.

Also, make sure you invest in a new sturdy, double-walled (or even triple-walled) cardboard box and pillow items with plenty of internal packaging to avoid any damage occurring while in transit.

Costs for the parcel are growing with the weight:

  • 1 lb – $33
  • 5 lbs – $73
  • 10 lbs – $87

It’s only a good option if you don’t have much to transport. Express parcel shipping will take 3 to 4 business days, and Economy shipping between 5 and 10 business days.

Should you do it?

A drawback of moving large items to Germany, such as furniture and cars, is that you might have additional costs for customs. The second disadvantage is transportation to and from the port/airport.

Most importantly, you will need to decide whether it’s worth it, or if you will be better off leaving or selling it in the US? You might spend $5,000 to transport the goods, but your working contract is only for 2 years.

So you will need either to take it with you back home or sell everything in Germany. In my opinion, a better option is to sell your belongings or rent out your apartment with all the furniture and things you don’t need in Germany.

Moreover, you will be able to find cheap furniture in Germany; there are many furniture stores and online second-hand shops, and some have really good value and price proportion!

Your Monthly Expenses in Germany

It would be hard to get by for less than 1,000 EUR a month as an adult in Germany. You will need at least 1,500 EUR – 2,000 EUR per month to be able to rent an apartment instead of a room.

Students can usually cover living costs for around 850 EUR – 1,000 EUR a month. A family must have at least 3,000 EUR in the disposable income.

Moving to Germany can be beneficial for people from the US. You will pay for some things significantly less and some considerably more. In general, your monthly expenses must go down if you know what you are doing and ways to save money.

If we compare Berlin and New York eating out and buying beer is half as expensive in Berlin as in New York, you’ll also save more than 50% buying groceries in Berlin instead of New York.

Moreover, you will save on transportation too. Public transportation is excellent in all German cities, even at night. Thus, you don’t really need a car to get around.

Housing in Germany

First, let’s look at accommodation. Most people in Germany live in apartments. Demand for housing in the most popular cities is high, and so are the prices.

Average prices for rents in Frankfurt, Germany:

  • 1 bedroom apartment – 700 – 1,000 EUR
  • 2 bedroom apartment – 1,000 – 1,400 EUR
  • 3 bedroom apartment – 1,200 – 1,800 EUR
  • 4 bedroom apartment – 1,500 – 3,000 EUR

You need to calculate additional utility costs which are around 100-250 EUR monthly.

As you can see, prices vary depending on the location, condition, and how new and modern the apartment is. Therefore you can be lucky and get a house for a relatively low price, or you will be overpaying.

Keep in mind that in Germany, you would need to pay a security deposit together with your first-month rent. In many cases, that could be 3,000 – 5,000 EUR.

In the case of a shared apartment, the deposit isn’t always necessary, but if required, you will pay 1 or 2 monthly rents and first-month rent as well. Cost breakdown would be monthly rent 400 EUR, deposit 2*400 EUR.

Shared apartments are very common in Germany. Not only students but also working adults live together to save money. You will have your own room and share the kitchen, living room, and bathrooms with your flatmates.

It doesn’t only help to save some money from the beginning but also to socialize and build some friendships with locals.

Recommended products and services in Germany:

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Anna

Anna is an enthusiastic expatriate with experience of living in Germany, Austria and Greece. She shares her passion for living abroad on this website.

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