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Information for foreign research-fellows

Hier bieten wir allgemeine Informationen, die vor Beginn der Tätigkeit am Institut und bei der Einreise nach Deutschland zu beachten sind.

Before entering Germany

General information about Germany
Visa regulations

All foreigners require visas for stays of more than three months or stays leading to gainful employment.
Exemptions apply to EU and EEA (European Economic Area) citizens and Switzerland. Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America may obtain any residence permit that may be required after entering Germany.

Citizens from all other countries must obtain a visa to enter and stay in Germany.
After you have received a letter of invitation or a written confirmation from the Institute stating that you will be working in Germany, please contact your local German embassy or consulate-general as early as possible to apply for a type D entry-visa.
This visa will allow you to enter and stay in Germany for the duration of its validity (usually up to 90 days). If you wish to stay longer, the visa can be extended or changed to a longer-term residence title (e.g. residence permit).

Do not apply for a tourist visa. This visa would not allow you to work in Germany and would require you to return to your country of origin after 3 months.

The approval procedure may take between 3 weeks and 3 months to complete.

Please note that the visa will not allow you to travel to other European countries. Once you obtain a residence permit (Aufenthaltsgenehmigung) from the local Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde), you will be free to travel to other European countries in the European Economic Community.

If you will be accompanied by your spouse and/or children, they must obtain visas as well.

For more information about visa regulations, please visit the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

For general information on studying and working in Germany please visit the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.

Health insurance

Before you travel to Germany, please check with your health-insurance company to verify that you will be covered in Germany. If you are not, it would be advisable to obtain a travel insurance from your local health insurer that will cover you for at least the first days of your stay in Germany until you are able to purchase a policy from a German health-insurance company.

Where to stay for the first days

The guest house of the Max-Planck-Institute for Infection Biology provides temporary accommodation until you are able to secure an apartment of your own. The House is located close to our Institute.

Another possibility is to make a reservation in the guest house of the Humboldt University.
Please do bear in mind, however, that the guest houses are in high demand. For this reason, we ask that you inform us as soon as you are able if you wish to make a reservation for an apartment in the Max-Planck guest house.

For a listing of apartments, shared rooms and vacation apartments, you might try

What to do when you arrive

Registration of your address

Everybody who lives in Germany must register with the local Citizens’ Registration Office (Bürgeramt) within 14 days of moving into an apartment. You may register the address of the guest house until you find an apartment. Any change of address must be registered with the local Citizens’ Registration Office.

Please bring your valid passport, your birth certificate, the confirmation of your landlord (pdf, website)  and the completed registration form: „Anmeldung bei der Meldebehörde“ (in German only).

You will get a stamped registration confirmation (Anmeldebestätigung), which may have to be presented to other authorities as well.
An appointment with the office should be made in advance.

The addresses of the appropriate offices and their opening hours can be found here:

The office closest to DRFZ:

Rathaus Mitte
Karl-Marx-Allee 31, 10178 Berlin
(Schillingstraße underground station/ U5 line)
office hours:
Mo 8.00 – 15.00
Tu, Th 11.00 – 18.00
We, Fr 8.00 – 13.00
Phone: (+49 [0]30) 90 18-4 32 10

Additional information can be found here

Residence permit

All citizens from countries outside EU, EEA must apply for a residence permit at the Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) within 3 months of entering Germany. As it can take up to 6 weeks until you receive the document, it is advisable to apply as soon as possible.

An appointment for researchers with the office should be made in advance.

The following documents have to be submitted:

  • valid passport
  • 1 current biometric photo
  • current certificate of employment, scholarship confirmation
  • registration confirmation (Anmeldebestätigung)
  • proof of health insurance coverage
  • money (cash) for the mandatory fee (50 € for 1 year, 60 € for more than 1 year). Students funded primarily through German public financial resources (scholarships or grants) are exempt from paying fees
  • completed application form
  • Certificate of employment (not older than 2 weeks)

More information

Address and opening hours of the Foreigners’ Registration Office:

Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten (LABO)
Foreigners’ Registration Office
– Abteilung (Dept.) IV –
Friedrich-Krause-Ufer 24
13353 Berlin
Phone: (+49 [0]30) 90269-0
Fax: (+49 [0]30) 90269–40 99

For Researchers
Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten
Ausländerbehörde Berlin, Standort Keplerstr.
Keplerstraße 2
10589 Berlin

Office hours
Mo, Tu 7.00 – 14.00
Th 10.00 – 18.00

Public transport
U-Bahn U 7 (Mierendorffplatz)
Bus M27 (Haltestelle Keplerstraße)


If your research visit is based on an employment contract in Germany and will last more than 6 months you will effectively be liable to taxation in Germany on your globally-earned income and assets.
In Germany, income-tax as well as contributions to pension fund, health insurance, unemployment insurance and care insurance are deducted from your salary by your employer and paid directly to the respective offices in monthly rates.When you register with the Residents’ Registration Office (Bürgeramt) you will be assigned a life-long identification number (please ask for it). After about 3 months you will get a letter from the Federal Central Tax Office (Bundeszentralamt für Steuern, BZSt) telling you your tax ID number/personal identification number. Please be sure to give a valid address so that the letter can be delivered correctly.
Once you have received this number please hand it over to our administration.
The amount that you are taxed depends on your income and family status. The tax classes are:• single, without children: tax class 1
• single/divorced/widowed, with children: tax class 2
• married couple, of which only one partner earns an income: tax class 3
• married couple, of which both partners earn roughly the same income: tax class 4
• married couple, of which one partner earns more than the other (tax class 3 for the partner with the better income and tax class 5 for the partner with the lower income)Any changes in your personal records relevant to calculating your taxes (number of children, family status) must be announced to your local tax office (Finanzamt) immediately.NOTE: Scholarship holders are not considered employees: they are exempt from taxationDouble taxation agreements
To prevent foreigners paying taxes in both Germany and their home country double taxation agreements have been signed with many countries. Details can be found here.
Tax return
At the end of each calendar year you may apply to the tax office in your place of residence to have your income tax adjusted (“Lohnsteuerausgleich”). This may entitle you to a partial reimbursement of tax paid. Information and necessary documents can be found here.

Health insurance coverage

When you start work in Germany, you are required to have health insurance coverage.
You must register with a recognized, mandatory health insurance provider of your choice within seven days of arrival.
Employees and students must obtain insurance with a statutory/compulsory health insurance company (for example: Techniker Krankenkasse)
Self-employed persons and scholarship-holders must obtain private health insurance. The following companies may be of interest in this respect:

People from countries which have reciprocal arrangements with the Federal Republic of Germany (EU and EEA countries, accession states, Switzerland) should ask their national health insurance provider about the best insurance coverage. A European Health Insurance Card (EHIC, form E 101/A1) may be sufficient for this purpose.

Information about German health insurance can be found here

Bank accounts

In Germany it is necessary to have a bank account to pay bills or to receive your salary. We therefore ask you to open one as soon as possible.Most banks will require that you show your passport, a copy of your registration confirmation (Anmeldebestätigung) and a confirmation from:
a) your employer that you work here or
b) a scholarship/grant awarding organization.
Services and fees can differ considerably from bank to bank.
Please note: the Postbank will ask for at least a 6 month residence permit

List of banks in Germany

Child allowance (Kindergeld)

Child allowance (Kindergeld) is usually paid when the applicant is domiciled or normally resident in Germany and is liable (without limitations) to taxation here. All children are entitled to child allowance from birth up to the age of 18. Payment can continue until the children are 25 if they are still in education.
Child allowance is €190 per month for each of the first two children, € 196 for the third child and €221 for each subsequent child.
You can apply for Kindergeld at your local Family Benefits Office (Familienkasse) which is operated by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit).The following documents have to be submitted
. your passport
. registration confirmation
. birth certificate of your children
. translation if they are not in German

Please be sure to report any changes to the Office, if your employment ends or you and your children leave Germany.
For more information see here (in German only) and here (English)

Living in Berlin


Your success in finding suitable accommodations may depend on the kind of apartment you are looking for.
It is especially difficult to find a furnished or partly furnished apartments rented for short periods, or a reasonable rate on apartments for larger families.Again, we encourage you to look for an apartment as soon as possible.
The IBZ (International Center for Academic Exchange) offers furnished apartments for academics and scientists.
How to find accommodations:
Finding apartments is normally done by searching the internet or local newspapers. Employing real-estate agencies is the most expensive method, as they will charge two months’ rent for the successful procurement of an apartment.
Links to search for accommodations:

Links to search for rooms in shared apartments (Wohngemeinschaft)

For a listing of apartments and shared apartments, you might also try

Renting an apartment
Special terms and abbreviations are common in German housing advertisements.

An ad will indicate the total number of rooms in an apartment, including a living- or dining-room. If, for example you wish to rent an apartment with a bedroom and a living-room, you must look for a 2-room apartment. A bathroom, kitchen or hall would not be included in the number of rooms listed.

The size of the apartment is indicated in square meters (qm²) and describes the size of the entire apartment.

Apartments are usually completely unfurnished, i.e. without lamps, curtains or carpets. The kitchen often is equipped with an electric cooker and a sink. Second-hand furniture can be bought easily. For example at Kleinanzeigen or

The rent is paid monthly, and usually consists of two parts: the basic rent and operating costs (Betriebskosten), which include running costs such as water, waste collection, street cleaning, staircase cleaning etc.

You generally pay separately for heating, electricity and/or gas and must therefore register with an energy and/or gas supplier. The charges differ considerably.
To compare energy costs, visit: (in German only).

The landlord will typically ask for a deposit, which can amount up to three months’ basic rent and is provided to cover any damage the tenant may cause to the property. The sum will be refunded to you – including interest – when you move out, provided the apartment is in good order. Simple measures to restore the apartment to its original condition (painting, filling holes, cleaning etc.) will typically be required of the landlord before you move out.

All details of the agreement are stated in the written lease. It covers, among other things, the amount of rent and operating costs, period in which you may give notice that you intend to terminate the lease, lease-period, terms for an increase in rent and additional agreements like parking the car or what and how many animals you are allowed to hold as pets etc.

As your signature binds you to the terms of lease, please read the lease carefully before signing it

List of terms and abbreviations used in housing advertisements

Abbreviation Meaning
2-Zi-Whg 2 room apartment
Abstellk Storage room
Blk / Balk. balcony
DG attic room
D hall
DU shower
EBK fitted kitchen
EFH one family house
EG ground floor
EB you would be the first tenant
G-WC small separate toilet for guests
HK heating costs
HH high-rise building
KM rental fee excl. extra costs such as heating, cable TV, cleaning of shared areas, waste removal etc.
Kaution deposit
Keine zusätzl. Prov. no additional commission
KDB kitchen, hall, bathroom
MM monthly rent
NBK extra costs such as: heating, cable TV, cleaning of shared areas, waste removal etc.
NR non-smoker
OG top floor
RH terraced house
Stellpl. parking space
TG underground garage
TL bathroom with window to outside
warm / WM rental fee incl. all extra costs such as heating, cable TV, cleaning of shared areas, waste removal etc.
Wfl. living area
WG shared apartment
WK Combined kitchen and living room
ZH central heating
Radio and television licence fees

For using radio and/or television and/or computers through which internet can be accessed you have to pay a users’ fee (Rundfunkbeitrag). Currently the fee is €18,36/month, payable in quarterly rates (€ 55,08 for 3 months). It is payable once per flat and is valid for everyone who lives there regardsless of how many people live in the flat or how many broadcasting devices they have. It also covers car radios.

You are required to to register with the “Beitragsservice” which compiles data for the public broadcasters.

There are severe penalties for not paying the users’ fee.

Here you find all registration forms

For more information see here (in German only)

Cable subscriptions have to be paid additionally and run about €20 to €30 a month. They are sometimes included in the operating costs for your apartment.

Telephone Services

Most apartments already have a telephone line installed. When registering for your telephone service, make sure to provide the complete address, including the postage-code and which part of the house your apartment is situated in. Knowing name and telephone number of the previous tenant may also simplify the registration process.

The easiest and most direct path to activating phone and internet in your apartment is through the Deutsche Telekom. Telekom shops (T-Punkt) can be found in all cities.
Other providers do exist, however. Competition between providers is high, which has driven down prices on services including long-distance calling. A comparison of providers is therefore strongly recommended.

You may have to wait between 3 and 14 days from the time that you apply until the services are activated . You will receive written confirmation with your new telephone number and the activation date. A Deutsche Telekom technician may have to come to your apartment to activate a line or to switch your line over from an analogue to ISDN connection. Additional charges will apply in those cases.

Itemized Phone bills are sent on a monthly basis. You must pay your bill on time, either as cash payment at any German post office or via bank-transfer. The preferred payment method is to set up a monthly transfer from your bank account to the provider.
Your provider will send you notice and possibly fine you if payment arrives late. Please be advised that Deutsche Telekom tends to shut off service soon after such a notice is sent out. Reconnection will likely be slow and costly.

Many telephone plans are only available with a 1- or 2-year contract and must be cancelled months in advance to avoid an automatic extension.

Please keep in mind that your bills, correspondences, customer care and service agreements will often be in German only. We therefore suggest that you sign up with a provider that offers contracts and customer support in English.

TKS, for example, offers English step-by-step set-up guides and manuals, and an English call-in technical support center.

Another telephone and internet service offering English customer care is extelsol.

For detailed information see How to Germany or I am expat.

Internet providers in Germany

Access rates differ considerably, so be sure to compare the services and fees offered by different providers. Detailed information and a comparison of internet plans and rates can be found at:

Check24 (in German only) or I am expat

Note: There are many ads offering seemingly good bargains. Please read the small print carefully as some may have major drawbacks.

Please keep in mind that your bills, correspondences, customer care and service agreements will often be in German only. We therefore suggest that you sign up with a provider that offers contracts and customer support in English.

TKS, for example, offers English step-by-step set-up guides and manuals, and an English call-in technical support center.

Another telephone and internet service offering English customer care is extelsol.

For detailed information see How to Germany or or I am expat

Mobile Phones

As mobile-phones differ considerably in their capabilities, and international calls can be extraordinarily expensive, it would be advisable to get a German mobile-phone or at least a German SIM-card.

There are many service-providers which offer a wide range of products.

You have the choice between prepaid phones and signing a contract.
With prepaid phones, you just pay as you go using a rechargeable card (Wiederaufladekarte) which can be purchased at provider-stores, kiosks or bookstalls.

The advantage of a contract is that you pay lower calling rates and get new phones at a lower price. Please keep in mind, however that you have to pay monthly fees (Grundgebühr), connection fees (Verbindungskosten) and that often a minimum monthly usage (Minimalumsatz) is required. The duration of a standard contract is 2 years. If you cancel before the contract expires, you may have to pay the sum of the remaining monthly fees in the contract-period. Meanwhile some providers offer contracts with a month’s notice.
A pre-paid plan might therefore be the better option if you are unsure as to how long you will be staying in Germany.

To compare offers and tariffs, visit (all available in German only):

International prepaid calling-cards, which can typically be used from every phone (home, mobile or public) often represent the most inexpensive way to make phone-calls abroad.

English language service offers

Note: In Germany it is forbidden to use a mobile phone while driving, be sure to use some sort of hands-free kit.

Driving licence

In Germany, driving without a valid driving license is illegal.

Foreign driving licenses or international driving licenses are usually valid for six months from the date of entry into Germany. „Learners’ permits“ or „provisional licenses“ are not accepted.

After six months, you must be in possession of a German driving license (Führerschein) to drive a car. A license issued by an EU country can be used as long as it is valid.
Getting a new license can take up to three months, so applying for a German license as soon as possible is advisable.

For citizens from some countries, a German license can be issued without a theoretical and/or practical driving test; in these cases, a valid license can be exchanged for a German license.
Nationals from other countries must take the entire test (theoretical and practical).
Information can be obtained from driving schools (Fahrschule).

Detailed information at the website of Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten (German only) or How to Germany


Third-party Private Liability Insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung)

In Germany one is generally liable for damages caused to a third party. This includes, for example: damaging someone else’s property, causing an accident as a pedestrian or cyclist, or while playing sports. Parents are liable for their children.

It is therefore strongly recommended that you take out a Third-party Private Liability Insurance (Haftpflichtversicherung).

A policy will provide financial coverage for claims compensating a third party resulting from accidental damage.

Further insurance options include:

  • Legal Assistance insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung)
  • Accident insurance (Unfallversicherung)
  • Household-insurance (Hausratversicherung)
  • Travel-insurance (Reiseversicherung)

For more information, visit the webpage on insurances at How to Germany

The terms and conditions of insurance policies differ considerably, so please read carefully before signing a contract.


In Berlin, every child from 1 year on until he or she starts school, is entitled to up to 7 hours care in a daycare center (Kindertagesstätte, “Kita” for short) or family daycare.

Daycare hours depend on the needs of the parents and on the facilities’ concepts. These can range from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 or 6:00 p.m.

Some parents prefer to have their children looked after in family day-care or by a day-nanny (Tagesmutter). Tagesmütter normally care for younger children (up to 3 years) and are more flexible with their hours of availability. They offer part-time or full-day-care as well.

In Berlin, the daycare centers are free of charge for all children. Only for lunch you still have to pay.

An exception to this principle applies to parent initiative day-care centres (EKT). These are institutions established and managed by parents.

In an EKT you are not entitled to a place without copayment. However, a  maximum contribution also applies to these facilities.

Before you can enroll your child in a Kindergarten, you must apply for a place at the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) in your local residents’ registration office (Bürgeramt).

You will get a coupon for care coverage (Kita-Gutschein). The coupon must be handed over to the Kindergarden you choose. Most day-care centers in Berlin take part in the coupon system.
Very few are privately operated; these have their own cost-sharing systems.
A contract is made with the daycare center or day-nanny you have chosen. Your contribution is paid directly to the facility.

A list of daycare centers can be found here here (in German only). There are a number of international or bilingual daycare centers as well. To find them search for bilingual

Addresses of day-nannies can be found through local newspaper ads or your local Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt).

Additional information can be found here.

Language courses

German language courses are offered by several institutions and private language schools.
Many language-schools can be found in Berlin:

Public transport

Germany has an excellent public transport system. You can easily reach almost every destination by train, bus, tram or the underground.

Travel conveniently throughout Germany with just one ticket. The Deutschland-Ticket (D-Ticket for short) lets you travel easily by all means of local public transport from for just 49 euros per month.

Deutsche Bahn (German Railway) – Deutschlandticket
BVG (Berlin Public Transport) – Deutschlandticket

Deutsche Bahn
Trains operated by the state-run Deutsche Bahn DB (German Rail), connect all of the larger and many of the smaller towns.
You can purchase tickets online, at ticket machines on railway platforms, at ticket counters at train stations or at travel agencies. Tickets should be bought before boarding.
There are many ways to obtain discounts and inexpensive tickets.

More Information on German Rail can be found at their English website.

Long distance coach

Traveling by long distance coach becomes more and more popular and comfortable.

Long distance coach agency is


Tickets can be purchased online. Many agencies offer discounts.

An overview of traveling by long distance coach in Germany  you can find here.

Ridesharing agencies and carpools (Mitfahrzentralen)
Ridesharing agencies (Mitfahrzentralen, agencies that coordinate shared-rides) are platforms that list carpools and ride-shares in Germany or other European countries.

The details of the arrangement, like point of departure and arrival, departure time and price are arranged between driver and car passenger via email, telephone etc.

Such listings include:

Public transport in Berlin
Berlin has an excellent public transport system. It even runs all night on every day of the week.
It offers transportation with S-Bahn, U-Bahn, buses, trams and ferries.

The S-Bahn (suburban train) is a mainly above-ground network of local trains and is operated by Deutsche Bahn (DB). The lines connect the suburbs with the city-center.

U-Bahn (subway, metro), bus, tram and ferry-networks are run by Berlin’s transport company: the BVG.

Berlin is divided into three ticket-zones: Zone A represents the city-center within and including the S-Bahn ring-line, Zone B includes the rest of Berlin up to the city limits, Zone C is the surrounding area of Berlin, including Potsdam.
Tickets are valid for two or three zones: AB, BC or ABC. They can be used for all forms of transportation.

Tickets can be bought at ticket machines on station platforms, at ticket offices, at tourist information offices or some newspaper stands. If you use a bus, you can get a ticket from the bus driver.

A basic ticket (for 1 journey = Einzelfahrschein) must be stamped at the red or yellow ticket validator on the platform (Entwerter).
Please be sure to stamp your ticket. If you are caught without a valid ticket by a ticket-inspector, you will be subject to a 60€ fine.

If you make more than 2 journeys a day, a day-ticket would be the best choice.
If you make more than 2 journeys every day, a 7-day-ticket or monthly ticket would be a cheaper choice.

There are also special offers for visitors:

  • Kleingruppen-Tageskarte: day ticket for up to 5 people
  • A WelcomeCard with several features: A ticket for the transit system valid for the chosen zones, which also provides discounts for more than 120 attractions (tours, museums, theatres etc.)
  • A CityTourCard with several features: A ticket for the transit system valid for the chosen zones which also provides discounts for more than 50 attractions

If you only want to use public transport and are not interested in the discounts for attractions, a normal day-ticket would be the cheapest choice.

For prices and more information about Berlin public transport, visit

Taxis in Germany are relatively expensive but are useful under special circumstances like getting to the airport or train station when carrying luggage, or for getting home late at night.
The fares are regulated.

Emergency numbers

Police: 110
Emergency/Ambulance: 112
Fire department: 112
Medical on-call duty: (030) 31 00 31
Dental emergency service: (030) 89 004 333
Poisoning emergency number: (030) 19 240
Drug-helpline Berlin: (030) 19 237
Drug-helpline Germany: 01805 31 30 31
Midwives service: (030) 214 27 71
ADAC Pannenhilfe (roadside-assistance): 0180 222 2222

English-speaking physicians
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