Moving from Canada to Germany

Last year, I spent 8 months in Berlin for an internship. I fell in love with the city, Germany and Europe, and thus vowed to return.

Moving from Montreal to Berlin requires a lot of paperwork, so after doing it twice in a row, I figured I could document the entire process so others could benefit from my experience. If you are only looking to live in Germany temporarily, I suggest that you start with my earlier article, From Montreal to Berlin. If you would like more guides about living in Germany, check out my other blog, All About Berlin. My superguide about moving to Berlin is much more detailed.

Visa requirements

As a rule of thumb, countries don't let people in without a motive. Unless there are agreements in place, you can't move to a country without a job offer, savings or a place to live.

In most cases, the host country will ensure that you are filling a position you are uniquely qualified for. Depending on which visa you get, there might also be minimum salary requirements. This means they don't hand out work visas for unskilled labour, with the exception of the youth mobility visa and student visas.

In order to get a German work visa, you need a job offer from a sponsoring company. For the first few years, your visa will be tied to your employment, before you can apply for permanent residency or citizenship.

You can find more details about visa requirements on the German Consulate's website. There is also a goldmine of information on, including travel advisories, visa requirements and cultural information.

In my case, I went with a youth mobility visa for my internship, and for a regular work visa when I returned. In both cases, the entire process took about a month.

The checklist for the youth mobility visa should give you a good idea of which documents you are expected to produce. When I applied for a work visa the second time, the only extra document I needed was a copy of my degree, translated to English by a certified translator. For your proof of first housing, you can simply use a hotel reservation. However, you will need a real address to start working, because you can't get a tax ID without a fixed address, and you can't get paid without a tax ID.

You will likely have to make a trip to the German Consulate in Toronto or Vancouver, even if you live a thousand kilometres from there. Megabus is a cheap way to travel between cities.

Leaving Canada for good

Moving out of the country involves all of the regular headaches associated to an address changes, but that is not the end of it.

Health insurance

As a Québec citizen, there are a few important considerations to make before leaving Canada. If you leave the country for over 183 days, you are no longer covered by your health insurance, and travel insurance requires you to be covered by the RAMQ. You will need to ask for an exemption in order to be covered for the duration of your trip. If you leave Quebec indefinitely, then you must inform the RAMQ by contacting them.

If you must get travel insurance, I urge you to get quotes from multiple companies. For my 8 month internship, estimates varied from $500 to $1300. In the end, my university's health insurance offered free coverage, since it was a school-related trip.

In Germany, you are mandated by law to have health insurance (more on that later), so if you stay for 6 months or more, you will end up with coverage from the RAMQ, your travel insurance company and your German health insurance company.


There is an agreement between Canada and Germany so you do not pay taxes twice for your German income. You are unlikely to pay any Canadian taxes for your German income, but you still need to declare it if you are still a resident of Canada for tax purposes.

The Canadian Revenue Agency has a somewhat clear definition of what constitutes a Canadian resident for tax purposes on their website. You will find the more verbose legal definition here. Essentially, it says that you should not have significant ties to Canada (apartment, credit cards, material possessions).

Address change

Usually, changing your address in Canada is a fairly simple procedure. You can notify the Canadian government of your address changes by filling a simple form, and most provincial governments have similar procedures in place.

Make sure you notify your banks (including PayPal) and your schools about your address change. Although this is not as important, you will also need to update your address on various websites so they can work properly in Germany. Pretty much every application, music, book and video store has issues with using their service in another country. For instance, iTunes won't let you download your banking apps on the Canadian app store and Spotify won't let you log in until you update your country. Your PayPal account is tied to your country of origin.

Other considerations

Before you leave Canada, you must remember to shut down all of your services, including:

  • Internet, cellphone and cable contracts
  • Credit cards (see Taxes)
  • Home, car and health insurance

The best way to do this is to look at your bank statements from the last few months.

Getting to Germany

You can save several hundred dollars by flying from a larger city. For instance, I have seen 3 different countries on my way to Montreal, and my tickets were still cheaper than a direct flight from Berlin. Likewise, flying from Toronto is much cheaper than flying from Montreal.

No matter where you fly from, use as many fare comparison sites as you can. I saved $200 on a flight that was not even listed on other sites, and the same flights were priced differently on separate websites.

If you are moving, you will probably bring more luggage, in which case a direct flight will save you a lot in luggage fees. In general, it will be cheaper to add extra luggage than to ship 30kg boxes to your German address.

As always, make sure your luggage can get through Canadian and German customs.

Your first week as a German

Welcome to Germany! Now that you are on this side of the Atlantic, there is still a bit of work left for you. Although I recommend you do it yourself, I can vouch for Wilde Relocation if you want to alleviate your burden.

Finding a place to live

Finding a place to live is one of the hardest part of moving to Germany. Searching for a flat 6000km away when you don't speak the local language is nearly impossible. I strongly recommend you to find a temporary place, then look for a more comfortable place once you are there.


First, you need to learn a few terms. An apartment is called a flat in Europe, or a Wohnung in German. A furnished apartment is a Möbliert Wohnung. A shared living apartment is called a WG (vay-gay), an abbreviation for Wohngemeinschaft.

There are some cultural differences when it comes to renting in Germany. For instance, you should not take kitchen cabinets and light fixtures for granted as they are not necessarily included. This article has all the information you need.

I used Nestpick to find a furnished bedroom in Berlin. Their website is easy to navigate, their fees are low and their customer service is simply amazing. Alternatively, there are rental agencies that can help you find a place, but their fees amount to 1 or 2 months of rent. If you feel very courageous, you can also book a hostel for a week and hope you find a nice apartment before your sanity runs out.

To find a more permanent place to stay, I recommend ImmobilienScout24. It's very popular and amazingly well-designed, but it's mostly used by Marklers (real estate agents) and the competition can be pretty intense. I had far more luck with eBay Kleinanzeigen, since I dealt directly with the tenants. Craigslist is 90% scammers in Germany, but some of my colleagues had some success with it. I compiled a complete list of apartment search websites on All About Berlin.

If you are looking to share an apartment, then you should look on WG-Gesucht. You can also find local apartment listing groups on Facebook, as many of them are English-speaking. If you are not too familiar with your new city, you can use Mapnificient to find the best places to live.

In any case, be very wary of rental scams. Usually, scam ads have an uncannily low price, brochure quality photos and no phone number. The announcers will try to talk you into paying before you see the dwelling. As a rule of thumb, no keys, no money.

Before you visit an apartment, make sure to obtain a SCHUFA. This is the German equivalent to a credit check. It costs 25 euros and is valid for 6 months, but you can get one for free. Here are the locations that deliver SCHUFAs instantly. As a new Berliner, you might also want to bring a proof of income and your passport. Landlords usually ask for your last 3 pay slips, but my work contract sufficed.

Financially, you should have enough money to cover 4 months rent, since the deposit is usually 2-3 times the rent.

I have written a detailed article about finding your first flat in Berlin, as well as a guide to finding a furnished room in Berlin. It offers information specific to Berlin that I could not find elsewhere. I also wrote a long list of apartment search resources for All About Berlin.

Health insurance

In Germany, health insurance is mandatory, and not being insured is illegal. Your health insurance fees are taken directly from your salary by your employer.

Depending on your salary and age, public or private health insurance will make the most sense. You will need to carefully compare their policies and see which makes the most sense for you. Start with this introduction to public and private health insurance. Private insurance is said to give you better service, but is only available to eligible people (see the article below).

For more info, see An introduction to health insurance in Germany

Registration as a resident

Germans need to register themselves when they move in (Anmeldung) and when they move out (Abmeldung). This involves setting up an appointment with a local Einwohnermeldeamt for a 10 minute tête-à-tête with a German bureaucrat.

Getting an appointment is by far the hardest part of the process [update: not anymore! they hired more staff]. In Berlin, your appointment can be several months in the future. You can find a few tricks to get an earlier appointment on the Berlin subreddit, but expect a frustrating process in any case.

During your appointment, you will be asked about your religion. This is for the Kirchensteuer. It amounts to 8-9% of your income tax and it goes to your religious community. Only specific religious communities have to pay this tax, and officially leaving your church exempts you from it. You can find more details about it here.

On your way out, you need to fill an Abmeldung. Fortunately, you only need to send a letter to your the registration office you went to when you arrived. It is very important that you do it, because you can be forced to pay for health insurance while you weren't even in the country!

Bank accounts and finances

In order to open a bank account in Germany, you will need to be registered as a resident. This is what most sources say, but I was able to create an account at Commerzbank on the condition that I bring them my Meldebestätigung in the next 7 days. That was 9 months ago, and my account is still working, even though I never showed them anything. Later, I learned that some banks let you open an account without an official address.

I do not have specific bank recommendations, but make sure you can get English service online and at your local branch. I went with Commerzbank because they had a branch in my building, but I had a hard time getting help in English, and their fees were ridiculous. I wrote a detailed review of N26, after having an account with them for over a year. I also wrote a comparison of German banks for expats so you can pick the best one for your needs.

Keep in mind that almost everything in Germany is paid in cash. Aside from grocery stores and fast food chains, many places won't accept credit and debit cards. Cheques are also seldom used, since bank transfers are the norm for rent and other large payments.

If you want to bring your money over from Canada, I highly recommend TransferWise. It's nearly free, and it's far more pleasant than wire transfers. I've transferred several thousand dollars in both direction without any issues.

Driver's license

In Germany, your Canadian driver's license is valid for 6 months after taking up residence there, but you need to carry it with a certified translation or an international driver's license. In Québec, you can get an international driver's license for $25 without an appointment at any CAA Travel store or CAA driving school. All you need is a valid driver's licence and a passport picture.

Keep in mind that the legal driving age in Germany is 18 years old, while you can get one at 16 years old in most Canadian provinces. If you are under 18, you will not be able to drive in Germany.

Once you are in Germany, you can exchange your license for a German one without having to take the entire driving test. I have written an article that describes the process.

Cellphone and internet

Telecom in Europe is radically different from in Canada, so I think it deserves its own section.

Torrenting illegally in Germany is a very risky activity. There are ways to torrent movies in Germany, but it's still risky.

Just like in Canada, there is hardly a good internet service provider, but there are worse ones. Redditors can help you pick one of the better ones.

On the bright side, there is no internet censorship, and you can get a 10mbps line with no download limit for 10 euros a month.

Cellphone plans are much cheaper than in Canada. During my internship, I paid 10 euros a month for Vodafone's 750mb prepaid plan. It cost me 8 cent a minute to place a call, and 8 cent per SMS sent, but since everyone in Europe communicates using WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, that was hardly a problem.

If you are bringing over your Canadian cellphone, make sure it supports the bands offered by your European carrier. Otherwise, you might get signal, but no 3G or 4G.

App store accounts

Wait, what? Yes. App store accounts. You will need a German app store account to get your carrier's voicemail and cellphone usage apps, among others. If you use Android, you can create a second Google account in Germany and add it to your device (in Settings > Accounts). In the Play Store app, you can switch between your German and Canadian accounts depending on which app you want to download.

Buying alcohol, food and other things

It's legal in Germany to drink beer in the streets. You can buy beer bottles individually and consume them in a park, on your way to the club and even at the movie theatre. Germans don't sell beer by the pitcher, but it's already cheap. Usually, it's barely a euro more than water in restaurants. Beer bottles can be returned for a few cents, just like in Canada.

You will find German grocery stores very small compared to their Canadian counterparts. Germans make smaller, more frequent grocery trips, and usually have much smaller fridges. Some ingredients can be especially difficult to find in Germany, so I wrote an article to help you prepare Canadian recipes in Germany.

Aside from restaurants, everything is closed on Sundays. I've been caught several times with an empty pantry on a Sunday morning. Fortunately, there is plenty of good street food in Berlin, and some grocery stores remain open.

There are no Tim Hortons in Germany, but the plentiful bakeries and coffee shop offer far superior products. Likewise, you won't find a Canadian Tire here, but you have the amazing Décathlon for sports gear, and specialized shops for the rest. Luckily, Amazon is much better in Europe than it is in Canada.

For furniture, IKEA is still king. For electronics, you have Saturn, Media Markt and Conrad.


That is all I know about moving from Canada to Germany. If I missed something, feel free to email me your questions, and I will add the missing information to this article. Have a safe trip, und Willkommen in Deutschland!


Edit (2016-03-11): Added info about the SCHUFA, added eBay Kleinanzeigen to recommended websites

Edit (2017-04-10): Small corrections. Removed the part about GEMA.

Edit (2017-05-10): Linked to the article describing the driver license exchange process.

Edit (2017-10-04): Added links to All About Berlin

  1. Marilyne said (14 Mar. 2016):

    Hi There,

    I wrote your blog post “Moving from Canada to Germany” and I wanted to thank you. I found it really useful! I am in a very similar situation to yours…I stayed in Germany for 2 months last year and felt in love…I came back to Canada and saved money for a year, and I am now applying for a youth mobility visa and looking for an internship related to my career path…hoping this could lead to something more permanent. I am looking into health insurance plans…I was wandering what did you go for when you first applied under the YMV for that 8 month period? I value your opinion so just curious to see what you found/did! Thank you for your time!

  2. Nicolas Bouliane said (22 Mar. 2016):

    Awesome! In which city are you moving?

    As for health insurance, I had my travel insurance while applying for the YMV, then switched to German health insurance as mandated. When returning to Germany as a worker, I went with Techniker Krankenkasse, since it’s what I had before. I never had to use it, so I can hardly comment about it.

  3. Danny said (1 Aug. 2016):


    Seeing as you have done something quite similar to me, I hope you would be able to answer a quick question.

    I came over to Germany as well on a YMV and searched for a job. I now have found a job and I guess as is mandatory I would need to take the German health insurance. I will select Techniker Krankenkasse as well since it was recommended to me be friends. Is the process of signing up quite straightforward? I’m assuming I simply need to provide them with my visa, registration and my job contract. Could you shed some light on the process?

    Once more question – I’m assuming to start work you will need the German equivalent of a social insurance number as we have in Canada. How do you go about getting this? Is it a similar case of simply showing up to the office with your visa and a signed contract? i assume this will be required for signing up for insurance as well.

  4. Nicolas Bouliane said (2 Aug. 2016):

    Hi Danny,

    I had no trouble signing up with TK: I only had to send a form back and I got my insurance card a few days later. I used it recently to get my knee checked, and it went as smoothly as expected.

    I frankly don’t remember the details about the insurance number, but this is information you should update when you do your Anmeldung at the Bürgeramt, so it shouldn’t add extra steps to your journey.

    Good luck!

  5. Dodo said (7 Apr. 2017):

    Bonjour Nicolas,

    Thank you very much for your useful informations. I would like to eventually get the Work and Travel Visa for Germany (in one year or two). I would like to go there as a freelancer I am musician and also a NLP life coach. It is possible from your experience to go there as a freelancer and if yes, is the path the same than what you wrote? Vielen dank!

  6. Nicolas Bouliane said (10 Apr. 2017):

    I can’t speak from experience, but to get a freelancer visa, you would need to prove that you already have a successful freelancing business and freelancing income.

  7. Rolland said (17 Apr. 2017):

    Hey guys ,thank you for all useful information you were mentioned for ability and accessibility to legally living in Germany.I’m so excited to move there but I missing the point to start what the two three steps should I do it firstly?
    Find job then after apply for visa?
    Or I I travel to Germany then find a job then get residents because I’m already canadain

  8. Nicolas Bouliane said (26 Apr. 2017):

    Hi Rolland,

    The very first step is to get a job offer, since it will be needed when applying for the visa. You can spend up to 3 months in Germany as a tourist, during which you can apply to different jobs, but before moving there for good, you will need a solid offer to show the immigration office. Keep in mind that this process takes a while, so your employer needs to wait 1-2 months to get you.

  9. Clint said (2 May. 2017):

    Hello Nicolas,

    Thank you for all the great info!
    I am applying for my Visa through mail as I live in Victoria and the Vancouver office no longer issues passports. The online checklist from the German embassy says the you need to have a ‘flight reservation to Germany, rail tickets or others’. Does this mean I have to book my flight and prove it before I apply? Thank you for any info.



  10. Nicolas Bouliane said (3 May. 2017):

    I believe so, yes. I had my plane tickets when I went to the visa office.

  11. Katy said (18 Jun. 2017):

    I enjoyed reading your experience. I’m moving from the states to Canada so a bit different but nevertheless a move is a move:)

  12. Devon Baird said (9 May. 2018):

    About how much money did it cost and how did you learn German

  13. Lucie Bergeron said (16 May. 2018):

    Bonjour Nicolas, You probably speak french but since this page is in English I will write my comments in English too. First, thank you very much for all the l information you provide here. That is very very useful.
    My 27 year old son just got a YMV for Germany. He’s leaving for Berlin on June 25th 2018. for a year. I was wondering if there was a group of Québécois in Berlin who meet from time to time.

  14. Nicolas Bouliane said (24 May. 2018):

    Hi Lucie,

    As far as I know, there are none. I only know another Saguenéen in Berlin. However I’d be glad to welcome him.

  15. Nicolas Bouliane said (24 May. 2018):

    I am still learning German. It’s a looooong process. This is an overview of how I include German in my day to day life:

    The costs are hard to describe. You have to sell everything and buy it again, not to mention the rent deposit which is 3x the monthly rent. I’d plan 5 000 to 10 000€ if you want to be 100% safe, but you can probably do with less.

  16. Stéphanie Chabot said (18 Aug. 2018):

    Salut Nicolas,

    I just wanted to thank you for all your websites. I have recently moved to Germany and I am still struggling with all the links to cut from Canada and things to organize in Germany. I found your blog really useful for all the process ! It’s funny because I also looked at your page about the comparison regarding the German bank accounts and I didn’t realize that it was from you before I saw the link here.

    Thanks for sharing your experience with us, it makes my move a way easier !


  17. Sarah said (12 Sep. 2018):

    Hey Nicolas – thanks so much for all this valuable information, it definitely makes the move a lot more simple. Quick question about the youth mobility visa: were you actually going to Berlin for an internship, or did you apply for the visa and declare the job as an internship? I’m potentially moving to Germany for a full-time permanent role, but would like to apply for the YM visa since it’s a much simpler process, and figure out the actual visa after i’ve been there for a bit. Let me know.


  18. Nicolas Bouliane said (20 Sep. 2018):

    Hey Sarah, you might want to check out this guide I wrote some time later. It’s a far more detailed guide about moving to Germany.

  19. Move said (18 Oct. 2018):

    your guide on Moving from Canada to Germany was amazing Thanks for sharing your experience with us, it makes me move away easier!

  20. Monique said (15 Dec. 2018):

    This is sehr cool Nicolas and much appreciate, merci! Also from Montreal and hoping one day I’ll be able to make it over there.

  21. Micheal D Johnson said (4 Feb. 2019):

    Good work, really loved your guide on moving from Canada to Germany. It is very helpful and informative, as now it will help me out in moving Germany. Looking forward for more article like this.

  22. Sophie said (21 Aug. 2019):

    Hello! Fellow Canadian here and relieved to have stumbled across this blog. I’m also moving to Berlin but from Toronto. I’m just wondering if you had to give up your Canadian residency for tax purposes? It sounds like you didn’t because you said Canada and Germany have an agreement but would love some confirmation because I don’t want to pay taxes in both countries! (I’ll be living and working in Berlin). Thanks.

  23. Shauna Griffin said (9 Sep. 2019):

    Thanks Nicolas, this is very helpful. I’m also a web developer moving to Berlin from Vancouver and I really appreciate your post!

  24. Nicolas Bouliane said (15 Sep. 2019):

    Yes, I did. I didn’t have any financial ties left in Canada, and I didn’t want to make 3 declarations (Canada, Quebec, Germany) every time.

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