Costs of Moving to Germany from the USA: Guide

Mar 11, 2020Move to Germany

Germany is a European leader in the economy, besides that, it’s one of the most diverse countries on the continent. People from Germany constantly move to the USA and simultaneously US citizens decide to live in Germany. But what does it cost to move from the USA to the European financial center – 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, most of the time it takes a lot of time, effort, and, of course, money. Read below the cost breakdown for moving to Germany from the USA.

Main Costs of Moving To Germany from USA

When moving to Germany from the USA you will have various expenses in different categories. Certainly, these numbers will vary for all of us, as we have different preferences, however, the main items on your list will be remain the same. Below you can see the full 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 2 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 by far the first expense you should keep in mind when moving to Germany for the long term. US citizens do not need a visa to enter Germany, not do they need to have a job offer before entering Germany. However, they need to apply for a residence permit either 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:

  • Education/Training
  • Employment
  • Family Reunification

The Cost of 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 qualifications job upon arrival. Another requirement is the minimum salary of 53,600 EUR per year or 41,808 EUR – for STEM professions (2020).

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, 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 Germany. The reason for this is regional differences in the economy and therefore in the costs of living inc. 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.

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, country has many cities that are reasonably cheaper than mentioned above, including Leipzig, Dresden, Bochum, Magdeburg, Bamberg, Rostock, and Kiel.

How Much Should You Save Up?

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

Some fixed cost 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 next 2 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:

  • Household costs 500 EUR
  • Groceries and eating outside 300 – 400 EUR
  • Miscellaneous 100 EUR
  • Utilities and Internet 200 – 300 EUR
  • Personal care items 50 – 100 EUR
  • Clothing & shoes 100 – 200 EUR
  • Entertainment 100 – 300 EUR
  • Phone (internet) 30 EUR

Total average: 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, in the kitchen equipment and other important for living items.

So the minimum will be 500 EUR but you almost 100% will need more unless you are moving in 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 be able to move to Germany and pay your for the first two months.

Shipping Your Furniture

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

Sea freight shipping

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

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

Depending on the route of the shipment, you could be waiting for up to 2 months for your items to arrive. You will also need to consider the transportation of 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 with 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 ocean freight. It takes just 2 to 4 business days for your stuff to arrive. However, the price can be the reasonable factor to shore 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 way to expensive because it is 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 parcel to Germany if your belongings are small in volume and weight. Just be sure it packed well and you have someone in Germany who can actually receive it.

Before you decide to send your parcel make sure to do some research into German customs; particularly when it comes to sending 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 whilst 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?

Some drawbacks of moving large items to Germany such as furniture and cars is that you might have additional costs by customs. Second is transportation to and from port/airport as I mentioned above.

Most importantly you will need to decide is it really worth it? Or better to leave it or sell in the USA? You might spend $5,000 to transport the goods but your working contract 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 in 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 lots of furniture stores and online second-hand shops, some have really good value and price proportion!

What Will be 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.

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

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

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

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 as such, 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 are very variable depending on the location, condition, 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 3,000 – 5,000 EUR so be prepared.

In case of a shared apartment, 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 very common housing way in Germany, not only for students but also for working adults. You will have your room and shared the kitchen, living room and bathrooms with your flatmates.

It does not 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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