Important steps to take if your application is successful
41. Do I need a visa to enter Germany?
In many cases a visa is required for entry into Germany. This can be obtained from the German embassy in your home country. You should allow two to three months for the application process. Visas for family members who are travelling with you should be applied for at the same time.
You will find the addresses of the German missions along with details of visa requirements for citizens of your country and further information regarding the visa regulations on the following German Foreign Office web pages:
42. Who is exempt from the visa requirements?
If you belong to one of the following groups, you do not need a visa for entry into Germany:
- Group A: Citizens of the European Union (EU) member states, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Liechtenstein do not need a visa.
- Group B: The same applies to citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the USA.
In general, a visa only entitles you to enter the country and remain for a period of 90 days. If you are planning a longer stay, shortly after arrival you should apply for a residence permit. This also applies to citizens of countries in Group B. For EU citizens, rather than a residence permit a so-called ‘Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung’ is issued on a relatively informal basis (literally, this is a Freedom of Movement Certificate, a document which confirms your status as an EU citizen).
43. What types of visa are there?
Dependent on the length of your stay in Germany, there are various types of visa:
- National visa: This visa is valid for a stay – in Germany only – of more than three months. If during your time in Germany you are planning to visit another country, please say so when making your visa application so that instead of a national visa you are issued another or additional type of visa. After entering the country you should, with your visa, apply to the local ‘Ausländerbehörde’ (Aliens’ Registration Authority) for a residence permit, since the national visa is generally issued initially for three months only.
- Schengen visa: The Schengen visa is valid only for stays of up to three months and cannot be extended. For this reason, a Schengen visa is recommended for tourists, rather than for students and scientists who will remain in the country for a longer period.
- § 20 Forschervisum (research visa): Since 2007, specifically for research scientists, there has also been a “research visa” (issued pursuant to § 20 of the Residence Act). Only specially licensed research institutions and universities are permitted to take part in this procedure. The research visa can offer advantages in particular for researchers who bring their families with them, insofar as it simplifies entry, residence and mobility within the EU. Accompanying spouses will find it easier to obtain a work permit.
There are however certain conditions attached to the research visa: Your salary must be above a certain minimum level, and there must be a hosting agreement between you and the host institute. If you meet the § 20 statutory requirements, you will receive a hosting agreement direct from your institute which you can then use to apply to the competent German mission for a research scientist’s visa.
Please note that when registering – irrespective of your type of visa – you should always quote your research purposes as the reason for your visit. You will find further information on the following German Foreign Office website.
44. Do I need health insurance?
Yes, you will require adequate health insurance coverage in Germany – and must show proof of this in order to obtain a residence permit. It is therefore advisable to check in advance whether your existing health insurance is adequate or whether you should, if necessary, apply for a health insurance policy in Germany.
The insurance provider in your home country can advise you whether your coverage extends to Germany. Please make certain that accidents, medical treatment and hospitalisation are all covered. If the coverage is adequate, you should obtain confirmation of coverage from your health insurer and Form E 101, which confirms that you remain insured in your home country and are exempt from obligatory health insurance in Germany.
For EU citizens making short visits, there is the European Health Insurance Card. For longer stays, you can obtain Form E106 from your health insurer at home. This will enable you to register with a German health insurer and receive all of the usual benefits which the German insurer will charge on to your insurer at home. If you have family members who remain at home, special rules will apply. In this case you should contact your Institute in good time.
45. What must I do if my health insurance coverage is not adequate?
If your health insurance coverage does not extend, or does not adequately extend, to Germany, and if you are staying for a longer period it is recommended that you arrange German health insurance. While you are in Germany, by agreement with your insurer, you may be able to suspend your coverage at home.
In general there are two forms of health insurance in Germany: Private health insurance and statutory health insurance. Please note that:
- Recipients of grants and scholarships are as a matter of principle only eligible for private insurance.
- If your have an employment contract and an annual salary in excess of 49,950 euros (as of summer 2010), you can choose whether you prefer state or private insurance.
- With an employment contract and an income below this limit, you automatically qualify for statutory health insurance.
In all cases it is worth comparing the benefits offered by the various health insurance funds. Your institute will be able to give you details of the different providers. You can then arrange insurance coverage in Germany before leaving home.
It is essential to ensure that you are comprehensively covered from the moment you arrive in Germany. Please make sure that family members travelling with you also have health insurance coverage!
You will find further information on the following website.
46. Am I solely responsible for paying my health insurance premiums?
No, in Germany the cost of health insurance – both state and private insurance - is paid half by the employer and half by the employee.
47. Do I need a work permit?
The following Max Planck employees do not require a work permit:
- Non-German academic/scientific staff members: The ‘Arbeitsamt’ (Employment Office) will exempt you from needing a work permit. In some cases you will be required to submit an employment contract, a job description and your degree or doctoral certificate. This privilege is reserved exclusively for academic/scientific staff and does not apply to spouses – unless they too are members of academic/scientific staff.
- (Non-German) grant and scholarship holders do not require a work permit as they are not classed as employees.
- Students do not require a work permit, provided that they do not undertake employment for more than a maximum of 90 days or 3 months per year.
If you do not fall into one of these categories, you will require a work permit. You can obtain one via the ‘Arbeitsamt für Ausländer’ (Aliens’ Employment Office). However, you should in this case discuss the procedure in advance with your supervisor at the institute.
48. What must I do to register myself (and my family) in Germany?
Within one week after arriving in Germany you must register with the ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’ (Residents’ Registration Office) in order to register your new place of residence. Your institute will advise you of the name and address of the competent office. In order to register with the ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’ you will require:
- Your passport / identity card
- Your visa
- An application to register
You can obtain a registration form direct from the ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’ or online via the website of the local municipality. Your institute will explain the procedure to you in advance and if necessary accompany you. If you are bringing your family to Germany, each family member must be registered. For this purpose you will need the same documents, along with birth and marriage certificates (if necessary with translations).
After completing the application you will receive your registration certificate, as well as a sticker with your new address to attach to your identity document. Keep the registration certificate in a safe place, it is an important document.
49. Will I be liable for taxes during my stay in Germany?
Whether or not you have to pay taxes while working at a Max Planck institute will be dependent on various factors:
- Grant and scholarship holders are generally exempt from paying taxes.
- If you have an employment contract and are staying for less than six months, you will pay taxes in your home country.
- If you have an employment contract and are staying in Germany for longer than half a year, you will automatically be liable for income tax and social security deductions. The taxes and deductions due will in this case be withheld from your salary by your employer and paid direct to the state.
In order to ensure that you do not have to pay taxes in two countries, there are double taxation agreements in place between Germany and numerous other states which determine where your tax is payable. The administration department at your Institute will provide you with information. Alternatively you can visit the German Federal Ministry of Finance website.
50. When must I file a tax return?
If you are liable for tax in Germany, at the end of the year you will receive your annual tax certificate. You should submit this along with a tax return to your competent ‘Finanzamt’ (Tax Office). The amount of tax due will depend on your level of income, family status and resulting tax category.
51. What support is available to help me find accommodation?
Quite a few Max Planck institutes have their own apartments for visitors, or are networked with other institutions that offer accommodation. Ask your institute whether any apartments will be available at the time of your arrival. This may only provide an interim solution, however it will allow you, after your arrival, to look around locally without undue pressure. Alternatively, there are also ‘Mitwohnzentralen’ (flat-sharing agencies) or ‘Wohngemeinschaften’ (shared accommodation), which are popular above all with younger tenants.
Occasionally the opportunity also arises to “swap” accommodation. Scientific staff and university teachers frequently move out of their apartments for a certain period of time, for example when going abroad, and are often willing to make their furnished accommodation available.
52. What must I be aware of if I want to rent an apartment?
Regional newspapers carry advertisements for accommodation on specific days, usually on Fridays or Saturdays, but occasionally during the week as well. The adverts can usually also be viewed on the newspapers’ websites.
Apartments may be let either privately or via an agent. In the latter case there will be additional fees to pay of around two to three months’ rent. You can place an advertisement yourself in a regional newspaper or on the Internet. Ask your institute whether you can advertise as a Max Planck employee.
If you have any communication problems when seeking accommodation, your institute will gladly assist you, for example with interpreting, checking contracts, deciphering advertisements, and ultimately when taking possession of your apartment.
53. Which websites will help me when looking for accommodation on the Internet?
The following websites may assist you in finding accommodation:
54. Is my driving license valid in Germany?
You can drive in Germany for six months with a license from abroad. After that, driving licenses not issued in an EU state must be converted into German licenses. Please contact the competent authority in good time as the procedure can be somewhat complicated and time-consuming. There will also be taxes to pay and insurance issues to consider.
55. How do I open a bank account?
If you are staying in Germany for an extended period, receiving a regular salary and paying rent, it is recommended to soon open an account with a bank, savings bank or the ‘Postbank’. The benefits are similar; however, there are differences in the service you receive and the account charges.
In order to open an account, you must be registered with the ‘Einwohnermeldeamt’ (Residents’ Registration Office) and be able to submit a ‘Meldebescheinigung’ (registration certificate). Once you have opened an account, an ‘EC-Karte’ (bank card) will be sent to you. The associated PIN number will be sent under separate cover. You can use the card to obtain statements, withdraw cash and sometimes also transfer payments. There is no charge for withdrawing money from the ATMs at branches of your bank or other members of the same banking group. However there will be additional costs for withdrawals from ATMs belonging to other banks. Transfers abroad can also be expensive. You should ask your bank at home for details of its cooperating partner bank in Germany.
Besides the usual ‘EC-Karte’, credit cards can also be used to make non-cash payments. You can use your credit card to make withdrawals from ATMs, however the associated charges are high. The most widespread cards in Germany are Eurocard/Mastercard and Visa cards. However, cashless payments in German stores are generally made using an ‘EC-Karte’.
Banks are normally open Mondays to Fridays (8:30 am -4:00 pm), whereas ATMs are available around the clock.
56. Will I be able to get acquainted with the Max Planck Institute on my first day at work?
On your first day at work at the institute you will be taken on a tour to give you an overview of the institute. You should discuss with your supervisor the arrangements that need to be made, such as visits to the authorities, registrations, opening a bank account and finding accommodation. You will also have an opportunity to clarify any further questions you may have.
The formalities in Germany may perhaps be a little more elaborate than you are used to. It is not without reason that Germany has a reputation for being bureaucratic. But don’t be discouraged. The initial hurdles are soon overcome. Your contacts at the institute will gladly assist you with any of the questions that may arise throughout your stay.
57. How can I get to know other PhD students and post-docs?
You will soon meet other PhD students and post-docs at the introductory events organised by the Max Planck institutes. In addition, many institutes offer a broad range of leisure activities - from sports to orchestras and choirs. For more information, keep an eye on the notice boards and your institute website. Talk to your supervisor, too. He or she will certainly be able to offer plenty of suggestions.
58. Are there any student networks?
Many of the PhD students researching at Max Planck Institutes are members of PhDNet. This network aims to improve the quality of education and training by exchanging information and organizing seminars and interdisciplinary scientific events. The clearly designed WebPortal regularly carries reports of the activities of various work groups. There is also a forum which allows everyone to play an active part in discussions.
Another network “under construction” is LeadNet for Max Planck Research Group Leaders. The first meeting took place at the end of February 2010 with a view to establishing a network along the lines of PhDNet for PhD students. LeadNet aims to improve communication between Research Groups at different institutes, arrange joint interdisciplinary symposia and provide mutual support on employment law issues.
59. What can I do about discrimination?
The Max Planck Society expressly disassociates itself from any form of discrimination whatsoever.
Even though Germany can be considered a safe country, it can be advisable to avoid certain places at certain times. Whenever you find yourself confronted with discrimination, if you are the victim of an attack, verbally abused or threatened, inform your supervisor at the institute at once. You will immediately be provided with appropriate, and if your wish, confidential support.