Post-COVID-19 changes in Germany

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Updated 2020-08-21 14:58

Germany has reopened its borders to most foreigners, but some criteria have to be met, and specific formalities have to be completed upon arrival. So if you are planning to move there after the COVID-19 crisis, learn about what's changing in terms of entry conditions and visas, employment, real estate, education, lifestyle, etc.

What are the current regulations for entering Germany?

Since July 2, 2020, most foreign nationals are allowed to enter Germany without any restrictions. However, exceptions apply where there is no reciprocity agreement. Note that the list of COVID-safe countries is updated regularly, so make sure to have a look before planning your move. Also, keep in mind that your eligibility to travel to Germany depends not your nationality but on the country where you stayed before your move. In addition, citizens from third countries that are not COVID-safe have to meet specific conditions. In fact, you are allowed to enter the country if you are the holder of a valid residence permit, if you're visiting your family or for family reunification, or if distance learning is not an option following your enrolment in a German university. Highly-qualified foreign experts and professionals whose presence is essential for the German economy, healthcare professionals, as well as asylum seekers, are also allowed to enter Germany. Newcomers who have been in a high-risk region during 14 days prior to their move to Germany are required to undergo a COVID-19, head directly to their destination and self-isolate. They must also inform local authorities about their arrival by phone or email. Find out more on the Federal Foreign Office website and the Ministry of the Interior website. The Ministry of Health website is another great source of information.

Have there been any visa changes recently?

To date, there hasn't been any visa or resident permit changes in Germany. However, foreigners making a short stay in the country can rest assured. Holders of national D visas which will soon expire can request an extension at the nearest immigration office. However, it is recommended that they be in possession of their expired visa and ID documents at all times until their visa has been extended. Those who are abroad when their residence permit expires and are unable to return to Germany can apply for renewal to the nearest Immigration bureau by email. If the request was made before the expiration date, the visa remains valid until the final decision. In the case of re-entry, you will need a Fiktionsbescheinigung, that is to say, a fictitious certificate which will generally be sent to the nearest diplomatic mission to your place of residence. Find out more on the Federal Foreign Office website. On the other hand, some visas such as the Working Holiday Visa and the Au Pair visa will not be issued until further notice.

Is it easy to find work in Germany following the crisis?

The coronavirus pandemic brought about a job crisis in Germany. According to the Federal Employment Agency, there are currently more than 2.8 million unemployed people in Germany, and by the end of the year, the number could rise to over 3 million. The unemployment rate thus drops to 6.2%. There's also a significant drop in the number of job vacancies. In June, there were only 570,000 vacancies. Aviation, tourism, metallurgy, and the automotive industry, which was already in decline for several months, are some of the most affected sectors by the COVID-19 crisis. Besides, many big companies are already anticipating their difficulties and planning layoffs for the next few years even though they have received government financial aid. In June, for instance, Lufthansa announced the cutting off of some 22,000 jobs, most of which are in Germany. MTU Aero Engines is also planning to cut its workforce by 10% to 15% by the end of 2021 while the Thyssenkrupp conglomerate is cutting 3,000 jobs in its German units. It's also worth noting that over 500,000 companies in Germany have introduced the Kurzarbeit concept, that is, reduced hours which also means wage cuts. In this way, they are trying to preserve their workforce and avoid layoffs. Also, in many sectors, employees still working from home. So if you have always dreamed of working in Germany, now might not be the right time to get started. Besides, it's harder to find a job in Germany when you don't have a work permit.

How has the German healthcare system performed during the crisis?

The German health system performed well during the COVID-19 crisis although more than 225,000 positive cases were recorded. Its strength relies in detection, treatment, management and prevention. You are perhaps aware that Germany has a highly-developed health system with state-of-the-art hospitals and clinics, not to mention its highly qualified and competent doctors and nurses, at both public and private levels. For a population of 83 million, Germany has more beds than any other EU country for every 1000 inhabitants and 13.2 nurses and 4.2 doctors for every 1000 patients. Also, nearly 90% of the population is covered by the public health insurance scheme, while the rest have private health insurance plans. Waiting times are also shorter compared to other EU countries. During the crisis, the number of beds in intensive care units rapidly increased from 12,000 to 40,000, which greatly facilitated the treatment of positive cases. COVID-19 screening tests are also available free of charge. Protective equipment was provided to the medical staff to limit the risks of contamination.

Has anything changed regarding universities and schools?

The new academic year in Germany started in August 2020. While most schools have reopened, some are closing again due to the emergence of new COVID-19 cases. However, the authorities are playing it safe and have listed a series of recommendations for schools to follow. However, education in Germany is managed by the different States, so regulations are likely to vary from one State to another. In general, the wearing of masks, hand sanitising and social distancing are mandatory. Also, classes are being held in small groups that are not allowed to mix so as to reduce the risk of exposure. Regarding universities, classes resumed in April 2020. Arrangements have also been made for distance learning, especially for international students who wish to study in Germany but cannot travel for the time being.

How is the real estate market following the crisis?

Despite speculation, the German real estate market is doing pretty well amidst the COVID-19 crisis. In fact, real estate specialists expect a rise in the transaction rate over the coming months. According to the German authorities, real estate investments amounted to some 41.8 billion euros during the first half of 2020. Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne and Stuttgart are the most attractive cities in Germany. However, a slight price rise (1.3%) compared to before the crisis was recorded, especially for houses, given the demand. Regarding rents, a slight 0.4% rise has been recorded in recent months. So if you are looking to move to Germany or are already there, this might be the right time to become a homeowner. Note that interest on bank loans in Germany is lower compared to other EU countries.

Has the cost of living in Germany changed because of the crisis?

The cost of living in Germany remains affordable despite the COVID-19 crisis, with rents being the most significant expense for expats. It is interesting to note that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has been reduced from 19% to 16%. Food and essentials are also 5% cheaper. In general, 853 euros per month are enough to cover your expenses in Germany. Moreover, Germans are now keener on buying local produce, thanks to the crisis.

How about lifestyle? Have there been major changes in habits following the sanitary crisis?

Life in Germany hasn't gone back to normal even if businesses, companies and schools have reopened. Cultural and social activities, as well as festivals, which are an integral part of life in Germany, are still prohibited. Also, less people are using public transport due to recommendations issued by the local authorities. Today, more Germans prefer to travel by car or bicycle. The wearing of masks, social distancing and hand sanitising have become the new norm.

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