A little about Germany…
Germany boasts one of the largest economies in the world, as well as being one of the founders of the European Union. It is divided into 16 separate states called the Bundesländer and these combine to make the German population of just under 82.5 million people - the second highest population in Europe (behind Russia). Despite this, Germany has a declining birth rate (an annual deficit of about 150,000 per year). Because of this, the German authorities are very open to immigrants - young people in particular. Therefore, there has never been a better time to move there!
Have you always dreamed of going to Germany? If so, sit tight and strap on your seat belt as we tell you everything you need to know about how to make this dream become your reality.
Shouldn’t you be receiving healthcare?In January 2009, Germany abolished its compulsory retirement age for doctors when they turn 68 in order to combat low numbers in that profession. The average age of doctors retiring has risen accordingly, so don’t be surprised if they are nearing 80!
I love schoolEven if you don’t, there’s no need to worry about it as it’s not going to cost you. All universities in Germany are free, even to non-German international students.
Can you spell it?The German language has the longest word in the world; Donaudampfschifffahrtselektrizität enhauptbetriebswerkba uunterbeamtengesellschaft. It is 79 letters long and the name of a company, luckily for us it’s usually condensed to DDSG.
The Healthcare System
Germany’s health system is one of the best systems used in Europe and is in fact the oldest, having begun in the 1880s. Similarly to the UK, it is made up of both public and private insurance. It is a legal obligation in Germany to have adequate health insurance (private or public) that adheres to its legal standard. There is a slight Catch 22, as in order to obtain a VISA, you will need to show proof that you have adequate health insurance, but to register for the government healthcare system, you must prove that you have a VISA. Therefore, most likely you will need to have your own private insurance before you arrive in Germany. However, before we worry about VISAs, let’s unpick the differences between the private and public insurance systems.
Public Insurance (GKV)
Anyone living and working in Germany is eligible to register for the government health scheme (GKV). This scheme can be called many things; “statutory”, “public” or “national” health insurance - so don’t worry if you hear these other phrases. 90% of German residents use this scheme and it covers visits to the doctor, surgery, hospitalization costs, medication and basic dental care as long as you use one of the hundreds of Krankenkasse (literally translated as ‘sick fund’). These are corporations that have billing agreements with public doctors, dentists etc. and are more like insurance companies, as they offer slightly different benefits in terms of coverage - so compare them if you can. The scheme costs around 14.6% of your salary (around 7% you - 7% your employer) and is mandatory unless you are an exception (details below). You must also become part of the government’s long-term nursing care scheme, this covers the risk of you becoming badly injured and dependent on nursing care. This other scheme costs around 3.05% of your salary, slightly more if you don’t have children. The employer deducts the costs for both of these from your salary and pays it directly.
GKV: Advantages & Disadvantages
Advantage: Non-working family members (spouse and children) are covered for free under your policy, even for non-Germans. Disadvantage: There are long lines, less doctors, the doctors prefer private clients as they get higher tariffs.
Private Insurance (PKV)
Public insurance is mandatory for all however, to be allowed to change to private insurance you must be at least one of the following cases: 1. You are a non-German citizen who is temporarily staying in the country. This can be as a student for example. 2. Your annual wage exceeds €60,750 (as of 2019). 3. You are self-employed (non-employees). 4. You work in a government-owned company (public sector). 5. You are a part-time employee earning less than €450 a month.
PKV: Advantages & Disadvantages
Advantages: a. Broader coverage in areas such as alternative treatments, private hospitals, dentistry and more. b. Their premiums and benefits combinations are flexible in accommodating most salary brackets, depending on age of entry and previous medical conditions. c. You get the same, if not better coverage than the public scheme, yet it is often cheaper. d. There are more doctors available and short lines, on account of unofficial preferential treatment. Disadvantages: a. It is almost impossible to switch back from PKV to GKV unless in exceptional circumstances (don’t worry if you are an expat, as you have the choice to switch). b. Most services require you to pay a small doctor’s fee. c. Your premium increases with your age but is not taken as a percentage of your salary. d. You have to pay an additional fee for each family member, unlike in the public scheme.
We hope that you are now beginning to get your head around what is a very complex system. Next, we need to tackle the problem of VISAs, which (thankfully) is much easier to understand.
1. Job Search VISA
This VISA allows for you to enter Germany for up to 6 months whilst looking for a job. However, your profession must be on a special list of required professions in the country.
2. Hired Employee VISA
This VISA allows for you to stay in Germany for up to 3 years if you have an official job offer from an employer. The job, once again, must be on the special list for required professions in the country. This VISA is valid only as long as you work for that employer until the deadline and requires permission from the Ministry of Labour.
3. Student VISA
If you have been accepted at a German university to study, you must apply for this type of VISA in the city where the university is located. It is valid for 1-3 years and allows for you to work up to 20 hours a week (if you’re an EU citizen) or 120 full days a year.