Dictionary of Bureaucracy

– this small dictionary of bureaucracy will be extended constantly, if there is something missing for you, let me know in the comments –


Foreigners office. You’ll have to go there for renewal of your visa, Blue Card and everything else, which is related to immigration. For some inquiries, it is possible to book an appointment. For others though, you’ll have to go there and just wait in line. It is horrible, but I strongly recommend going there around 6 in the morning the latest and wait until they open their doors (7am9 to have a chance of getting in the same day and not having a waiting time of 5 hours.


Registration place for your address, dog, drivers license and many other things. Very bureaucratic place with not many people who will help you in English, expect meeting mostly German language speakers there and forms to fill in are only in German.


If your salary isn’t high enough to be accepted for a contract for an apartment, you are still looking for a job or you’re a student, of course, you do not have to remain homeless. “Bürgschaft” is a paper, which says, that in case you won’t pay, someone else will take over the rent for you (usually parents or relatives). This person has to sign the Bürgschaft paper and also deliver three payslips to the landlord (sometimes also Schufa). Also have this already on hand, when you start your flat hunt.


Tax authority. You’ll have to give your tax declaration to this place and register there if you start freelancing


Freelancer.  For freelancers (different to self-employed people) certain rules apply, or better: do not apply. The freelance Visa application is easier (you don’t need a full business plan or a investment plan) and also you do not have to register with the Gewerbeamt, but can start business right away without prior registration. Another good point about being considered a freleance is that you won’t have to pay business tax. Freelancers are: Artists, consultants, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, journalists, translators. Important: the tax office (with which you have too register in any case) will put you into either the category of self-employed or freelancer.


Health authority. See: Rote Karte


Authority to register a business. Quite simpe process, you just go there, pay 26€ and then you’re allowed to do business (if it’s a small business. If you form company with more than one person or a company with no private liability, it’s a bit more complicated)


 EU citizens can go to the Jobcenter of their district and apply for financial support for the time they are looking for a job. You are not eligible for this month if you’re not from Germany three months after arrival, but after this time you are. The minimum they pay is 399€ + rent + health insurance each month. The process of applying for this money is really complicated though and don’t expect to meet someone there speaking English with you. You almost definitely need a German speaker for the appointments there and for dealing with the paperwork.

Kita Gutschein

If you have a kid and want it to go to kindergarten, then you’ll have to go to the Jugendamt and apply for a Kita-Gutschein. This document will pay all or some of the costs for your kids kindergarten, depending on your income. If the child is older than three, all will get this document, if the child is younger than three, there must be a proof, that both parents work at least part-time and thus can’t take care of the child at home all day.


Probably, it will take longer for you to pronounce this word, than finding a place to live in Berlin. This paper comes from your previous landlord and simply says, that you don’t owe him/her any money. It is not an official form, but just a few sentences, signed by your previous landlord.

Rote Karte

The “red card” is a certificate on hygiene regulations and you’ll need it,if you work in any job related to food or drinks. You have to go to the Gesundheitsamt (health authority), watch a 20 minutes movie, pay 20€ and you’ll get the certificate, which allows you to work with food. The movie is in German only, if your German is not sufficient, you are obliged to take a German speaker with you, who will translate for you.


Every household in Germany has to pay 17,50€ a month for TV and radio service – unfortunately it does not matter at all if you have a TV or a radio. You’ll receive a letter a month or two after registration at the Bürgeramt or you can register here (Link GEZ). If you live with flatmates, check who of your flatmates pays and you can register under one number (and share the costs). Ignoring the letters from this company is something many people do or did, but this can lead to very high bills after some time and I would not recommend this.


This paper states that you do not have any unpaid debts in Germany. You can get it online here (link schufa), but until it will be sent to your house (maybe a friends address?) some weeks can pass. The easier and faster solution is going to Easy Credit close to Alexanderplatz (Rathausstr. 5) and get it there for 24,95€ immediately printed out. Take your ID/Passport with you and it is only possible to pay by card there, no cash.


Tax identification number. Once you are registered in Germany, you’ll get this number by post. It is your lifelong identification number, you basically just have to keep it somewhere, but mostly you won’t really need it anywhere.


Tax number, you’ll have to give to your employer or write on your invoices (in case, you’re freelancing).