Everyone who is a resident in Berlin must register with the city council and give their address, a process known as Anmeldung or registration.
You must register in person in one of Berlin’s network of Bürgerämter or bureaucracy offices. By law, you must register within 14 days of moving to a new (or your first) address, although in practice this is often disregarded due to the congested system at the present time.
After registering, you’ll receive a Anmeldebestätigung or registration certificate. Asides from fulfilling your legal responsibilities, you will need your registration certificate to open a bank account, get a job and for a whole load of other essential administrative tasks.
Preparing for your visit
A bureaucrat’s fantasy, the Bürgeramt, can be a real hassle.
Opening times, as with all government type things, are rather limited and vary widely depending on the individual office. Standard opening times are from around 8am in the morning and to around 5pm in the afternoon. Most are closed at least 2 mornings or afternoons during the week. For full opening times, consult the official website.
You can register at any of Berlin’s Bürgerämter, it doesn’t matter where you live.
To get your appointment, you have two options:
The preferable option. Book in advance on the official website (click on ‘Termin Berlinweit suchen‘), choose a time and office, go to the office a little bit before the appointment, tell the receptionist that you’re there and fill out the form. You may need to wait 30 minutes or so.
The big issue with this method is the crazy waiting time for an appointment. Expect to wait at least 6 weeks. Occasionally cancelled appointments are re-released, so you should keep checking the website to see if more appointments become available.
2. Turn up first thing in the morning
Some Bürgeramt including Bürgerämter Sonnenallee and Rathaus Neukölln also release a limited number of appointments on the day. For this option, you should aim to arrive at least an hour before opening time to get into the inevitable queue. On entry, go to the ticket machine and get a number for your appointment. Beware that waiting times can be rather long.
At your appointment
In order to register, you need your passport or national ID card, a completed registration form – Anmeldung bei der Meldebehörde (available at the office or download) and your rental agreement. They may also accept a signed letter from your landlord.
Bürgeramt agents don’t speak any English, or are not allowed to according to some reports, so you will need German. However, the appointment itself is relatively straightforward so anyone with a modest level and a dictionary should be fine. If you don’t feel confident, then it would be best to take a German speaking friend with you.
One last point to consider is Germany’s Kirchensteuer or church tax. You will be asked at registration if you are a member of any religion. If you reply in the afirmative, church tax of 9% will automatically be deducted from your monthly salary.