Registration in Germany: Dos and Don’ts for your Anmeldung Appointment

Registration in Germany: Dos and Don’ts for your Anmeldung Appointment

Your registration, or Anmeldung, is one of the first appointments you’ll have after arriving in Germany. What you say and do during the appointment can have far-reaching effects, so it’s essential that you get this right.

The first time I went to register my residence in Berlin

I first registered when I was an exchange student in Berlin in the early 2000s. I really had no clue about German paperwork in those days.

The registration took place in an unspectacular-looking government building.

There were no online appointments, so I had to “take a number” (yes, literally pull a piece of paper out of a machine) and then sit in a gloomy waiting room until my number appeared on a sign to show it was my turn to register.

I couldn’t remember ever having done anything this “official” before, apart from going through passport control at the airport. So needless to say, I was apprehensive as I waited.

When my number appeared, I thought, “Good, I don’t need this scrap of paper anymore,” and promptly threw my number in the bin on my way to the room I had been called to.

As soon as I arrived, the official asked to see my number. 


I explained I had just thrown it away and offered sheepishly to pull it out of the rubbish bin as proof. She raised her eyebrows, decided to believe me, then pointed for me to sit down. 

I handed my passport over the enormous desk and waited uneasily while she entered my information into the computer. I felt guiltily nervous for no reason at all. There were a few questions to answer, then the official handed me back my passport and a thin piece of paper. 

That was it. I was officially “registered”.

My only mistake during the registration appointment had been to throw away the number. 

But other faux-pas during the registration can haunt you for years, even leading to an unnecessary increase in taxes. And every day dozens of expats unknowingly make these same mistakes, again and again.

So if you’re about to move to Germany soon, please read through these dos and don’ts of registration appointments below. You could save yourself a lot of grief.

Registration appointment in Germany: DO these things

1. Take your passport

Do take your passport with you. You won’t be able to register without it!

2. Take your Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung

This is arguably the most frequently forgotten document when going to register. A Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung (or Wohnungsgeberbestätigung) is a written confirmation that you have moved into a certain address. Your landlord or estate agent signs it and gives it to you—usually when you get the keys to your new place. 

But some landlords and agents forget to give you this document! 

So to be on the safe side, take a blank Wohnungsgeberbestätigung form along (Düsseldorf’s one is in the hyperlink), and remind the landlord or agent to fill it in for you on the spot.

(By the way, if your landlord sends you a picture or signed PDF copy by email, you can print it out and take it to your registration. The registration office is usually not concerned if the Wohnungsgeberbescheinigung is a printed scan.)

3. Take your spouse and children

This is an important appointment that you need to attend in person, and all together, especially if it’s your very first registration in Germany.  Children under six years old are usually the only exception. They don’t need to be there in person.

4. Take your marriage certificate

Present your marriage certificate when you register, even if no one asks for it. 

If you don’t, you may be assigned to the wrong tax class and you’ll create unnecessary tangles to fix up later.

Some cities require the marriage certificate to have an apostille on it, so make sure to get an apostille affixed to your marriage certificate before leaving your home country.

Do not do these things

1. Don’t wait too long to do your registration

Usually the legal limit is two weeks. That means, from the day you move into your new home in Germany, you have 14 days to complete your registration. 

But a lot of offices have a backlog because of the pandemic, so if you’re a few days late, they’ll probably turn a blind eye. I wouldn’t recommend testing their patience further than that, though.

By the way, if you’re visiting or staying with friends or in an Airbnb, where you can’t receive mail, you don’t yet need to register. Registration or Anmeldung is only necessary once you have a place you’ll be reachable by mail – usually your own rental apartment.

2. Don’t be late

You may not be given another time slot if you are late. You can try begging and smiling but you’ll probably be told to come back another day. Instead, plan to be at least five minutes early. (But still expect to wait for your turn). 

3. Don’t get the religion question wrong

The official at the registration asks about your religion. You might fall into the trap of thinking they’re actually interested in your beliefs. 


The question about religion is actually a question about compulsory tithing that will be collected with your taxes and passed on to the religious bodies… and it will affect your pay stubs in the future. If you’re moving to Germany to work, you will feel the results of this compulsory tithing almost immediately in your net salary.

Unless you do actually want to pay this religious tax through the German system, I recommend you give a clear “no” when asked about your religion. If you answer with the words “KEINE Religion“, that will remove any doubts.

So many people I know have smiled and mumbled something about their faith, only to discover later that the state was chasing them up for unpaid religious taxes to the Catholics, Lutherans or even Huguenots.

4. Don’t take a solemn face personally

If no one smiles at you, don’t take it personally. It’s completely normal in Germany for officials to look very serious. They’re probably not angry at you. And if they sigh, it’s likely out of frustration with their printer, not with you. German officials often keep their smile “inside”, so instead of worrying about their facial expression, concentrate on what they are saying and where you need to sign.

5. Don’t lose the printed registration paper

You’re going to need the registration paper you’ll receive at the end of the appointment a few more times. Maybe to open a bank account, get health insurance, sign up for a library card… You never know. But you’ll definitely need it again.

So take a photo of it, store it on your phone and in a cloud. Also, save the hard copy version. 

In Germany, keep all your paperwork.

My first registration in Germany still follows me

After my first stay in Berlin in 2002 I moved to the UK.

When I returned to Germany several years later—this time to Dusseldorf—a funny thing happened. 

Here’s the thing—during my absence I had changed my name (through marriage) and my citizenship (through naturalization). So there I was, in a completely different city holding a different nationality and bearing a different name….

But the system still knew it was me. Yes, the registration official found the record of my previous stay in Berlin in his computer

He even had an old photo of me from 2002 in his database! 

Now that’s a distinct example of how the German state efficiently stores information on you beginning with your registration—and apparently keeps it forever. 

In any case, my story does show how crucial it is to get your first registration right.

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