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US citizen moving to Germany
Thread poster: xxxgltietje
xxxgltietje
Dutch to English
+ ...
Mar 15, 2006

Hello all. I have been translating part time for about 2 years now and am now considering a move to Germany. Right now, I am planning on supporting myself by teaching English part time and continuing to translate part time. However, I've looked around on the German Embassy in Washington's website and several German government agencies and have not been able to tell whether I would need any type of special permit for this type of arrangement, or whether the permit I would receive from an English language school would suffice. Do any of you know? Also, any practical tips (such as tax regs) related to setting oneself up as a foreign national translator in Germany would be appreciated. Thanks!

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Woodstock  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:10
Member (2005)
German to English
+ ...
In Germany you need permits for everything Mar 16, 2006

Hi!

First, are you coming here by yourself or do you have a German spouse?

You had better check with the German Embassy or Consulate for the latest information, as I have been here so long I don't know what may have changed. Plus I was married to a German citizen when I got here.

Once here, you have to register with the Auslandsamt and Einwohnermeldeamt to get your residence and work permits. I'm not sure in which order, but bring a thick book to read while you wait at the various agencies. The bureaucracy is quite daunting.

Once you have those permits, you have to get a Gewerbeschein (usually at the Einwohnermeldeamt, but I live in a small town, so that could be different elsewhere) to register your business. Unless you have a translator's credential (and getting it recognized would be another story), you cannot register a translation business, so you could go with the teaching (but still do the translating on the side, that's not illegal).

Breaking into teaching is not difficult if you start with a language school, but the pay is pretty terrible. It only becomes worthwhile once you find your own clients, but that will take some time, so unless you have quite a bit saved up, be ready to tighten your belt.

Being a member of the Chamber of Commerce is mandatory, so be prepared for that. Taxes here are quite high, and the much-touted health care system is not what it once was, but still better than in the US. Don't forget that as a self-employed person, you will have to pay for all your own insurances and pension plan, which will cost a chunk. You will also probably need a tax consultant, at least at first, which will cost again. Rents in big cities are high, so if you don't have to, live in a more rural area. But then you will probably need a car, insurance and gas, all much more costly than the US, and the car will need to be inspected every couple of years.

Are you still sure you want to do this? I'm getting ready to go back to the US after more than 20 years here. If you have any other questions, feel free to send me an e-mail via my profile here on ProZ.

Good luck!


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 14:10
English to Russian
+ ...
Maybe this will be useful too Mar 17, 2006

If there is something missing in your info that clears all legal formalities than all this is for nothing:-) but...

Some time ago I took time to figure out possibilities of spending a year in one of the EU countries (Italy, to be specific) and did some research and found out some generally applicable rules. Not that easy, I bet ya...

With the US passport, which let us enter any EU country without visa, you still have to leave that country every 3 months for a 6-month period - at the airports they know what they are doing... As a visitor you must register with the police - in Italy, for example, for any stay exceeding 8 days - well, I didn't in 3 weeks:-) but who knows what might happen in a long term.

There is a non-immigrant visa valid for 1 year and extendable for 2 more years (each year separately), which gives you more freedom (you can bring your car duty-free but either sell it or send back or pay Customs duties after you n-i visa expires, for example), but for that you have to prove an income (or savings) sufficient enough to sustain yourself without work (formally you cannot even work over the Internet after you set foot on the EU land, start breathing EU air and place your chair in the EU flat without work permit - risk of catching you stays with you:-) - even if you know for sure that you'll be fed over the Internet or FedEx you have to keep your mouth shut and any contracts proving this type of income source away from the authorities - no good:-(. Such income can be US SS or other retirement check, income from renting your property and the likes - anything but actual work. Overall, at least 2.5-3 guaranteed grand a month without work is required to consider you plus medical insurance.

In some former Eastern European countries you have to register a business to get a residence permit or buy real estate but overall it's not that complicated and/or expensive.

You CAN't work in the EU at will without being a lawful resident, period, and I doubt that you can just enter Germany and apply for a work permit out of the clear blue.

BTW, I had real trouble thinking about tiny living spaces after US footages and amenities for the same or lesser money:-) CA excluded:-)

Embassy is your best bet for any questions and answers. Call them, they talk:-)
Good luck
Irene


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Barbara Wiegel  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:10
English to German
+ ...
If you still have questions... Mar 17, 2006

... I might be able to help you finding the relevant information.

My husband works at the Legal department of the Foreign Office and is in charge of basic issues relating to German immigration law. He might be able to answer any specific questions of yours or, as the US are not his "field of expertise", get you into touch with one of his colleagues who are dealing with questions from the US.

As far as I know, the 'safest bet' - as Woodstock pointed out - would indeed be to move here as the spouse of a German citizen. You would then receive a residence and work permit that is limited for the first 3 years of your residency here but will become 'unlimited' (unbegrenzte Aufenthaltsgenehmigung) after continuously living for 3 years in Germany.
I'm not sure what the deal is when you plan to move to Germany without a German spouse - but I'm sure my husband can answer you that.

You are more than welcome to send me an e-mail via my profile - I'll try to get you into touch with people who can help you!
If you let me know what your next German consulate or embassy is (where do you live in the States?), I should be able to provide you with a name of a direct contact person in this consulate/embassy.
It's always difficult from the outside getting through to the relevant people in the legal and consular sections of the embassies if you don't know a name. If you can say that you'd like to talk to Hans Schneider in his capacity as head of the visa section you will have a better chance of being passed on than if you were just asking for general information.
You might also want to check out some general info (if you haven't already) from the German embassy's website
http://www.germany.info/relaunch/info/consular_services/visa/employment.html

Good luck!


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xxxgltietje
Dutch to English
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Thanks! Mar 17, 2006

Thank you all for your help! I really appreciate it. I'm not married and am not planning on getting married any time in the near future, so while it would be the easiest option as far as immigration is concerned, moving to Germany as the spouse of a German citizen is not currently an option.

Irene - Germany is one of the few EU countries that is fairly tolerant of US citizens teaching English, and it is actually quite possible to get a residence permit and work permit to teach English there, although, as Woodstock said, the pay is not very good at all to start. I would be counting on teaching English for my initial work and residence permits.

Barbara - Thank you so much for your kind offer to help. I really appreciate it and may e-mail you soon to ask some more specific questions.

My main question, I suppose, is whether I would be able to continue to translate part time and what, if any, hoops I would have to jump through for that to be allowed. I haven't yet found an answer entirely, but I have been in contact with some freelance writers that one of my host families know and they have answered a couple of questions about working in Germany as a freelancer, although not as a translator. It sounds as though it may be feasible, although potentially complicated when it comes to taxation.

Again, I appreciate everyone's onboard and offboard responses!


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xxxIreneN
United States
Local time: 14:10
English to Russian
+ ...
From a former applicant to a future one, even if offboard Mar 17, 2006

Dear gltietje,
Sorry if my comments seem like a waste of your time and totally irrelevant but as someone who'd been through this process I simply can't refrain from trying to help in any way possible even if Germany is not my area of expertise. Yet immigration authorities worldwide appear to be composed of genetically identical twins - I have many friends who went thought similar processes in different countries. After hearing their stories I, who was a firm believer that outdoing American bureaucracy and it's dumbness is Mission Impossible was about to stand at "room shun" and sing "God Bless America" in the middle of a street:-)
I went to the German Embassy site and it seems so easy - just a few papers and off we go. Please!!! pay attention to one short line that does it all - proof of employment or letter of intent from your prospective employer - a must for application. This unequivocally means that before grabbing your stuff and saying farewell to the US you must find a school which will take it upon itself to hire you and go through all the formalities with you and for you. I don't know, maybe the first school you step into will gladly do that. I'm terribly sorry for sounding so discouraging but find it first! Check how much lawyers will cost you - a school will definitely involve them and you are the one to pay for it. Same as in the US for a greencard through business.
I wish you the utmost success but before you actually move maybe it's worth going for a visit or sending resumes in search of such prospective employer? And, should you be searching "on site", there is another line in the application itself - Your means of sustaining yourself - again, as you can't work while waiting you must show them some stashed cash or assets bringing dividends. How much would be sufficient - I don't know, you should find that out too.
Also, I would wonder why Employment in Germany link on the site is currently inactive.
I've noticed that you mentioned "getting permit from school' - they can't give any such permits, they can only certify that they will hire you if with "if" being entirely up to Immigration.

I won't be intruding any more:-)
Best, best, best of the luck
I love and miss all the beauty of good old Europe too:-)
Irene


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