family sitting around in kitchen

Help for Expats in Berlin


As an official service of Berlin Partner and the Senate Department for Economics, Energy, and Public Enterprises, we are here to help Berlin’s international community during the COVID-19 crisis. Concrete measures are currently being taken on both the city and national level to support the economy and jobs across the country. Our team of advisors joins this effort by offering you support in English and walking you through administrative procedures. You will find below a list of questions and answers to help you with the basics. Get in touch with us and we will answer your individual questions via email. Follow us on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram to stay informed.

Don't miss our next Town Hall Call in English on Wednesday, May 27, at 12:00. Register here.

YOU ALREADY LIVE IN BERLIN

I worry about being infected. What should I do?

The Charité developed in cooperation with Data4life CovApp, an online questionnaire in English, evaluating your symptoms, travel history, and potential contacts to give you recommendations in just a few minutes. You will find all major health recommendations, such as relevant hotlines and addresses of screening centers on the website of the Senate.

Life seems to progressively go back to normal in Berlin, but what is now reopening or will reopen soon?

All shops will be allowed to reopen as of May 9, and many museums are slowly opening again as well, but be aware that visitors' capacity is considerably reduced to ensure hygienic measures. Restaurants in Berlin will be allowed to reopen on May 15, subject to conditions. Bars, pubs, and clubs will remain closed for now. Hotels and guesthouses will be allowed to open from May 25.

However, you should continue to practice social distancing and keep a minimum distance of 1.5 meters. You may practice sports outside but without contact and in small groups. Wearing a mouth-nose mask in public is strongly recommended, and it is compulsory in public transportation and shops. 

If you have any questions about rules in Berlin at the moment, get in touch with us via email.

As a small business owner or freelancer, I’m currently losing a lot of money and I need financial help. Can I get some assistance?

As a small business owner or a freelancer, you can still apply for a “Soforthilfe Corona” grant. This federal program helps micro-enterprises with a maximum of 10 employees that were particularly hard hit by the Covid-19 crisis. Applications can be made daily between 6 p.m. and 9 a.m. as well as on weekends and public holidays on the IBB’s website.

If you need help with this procedure, please get in touch with us via email. 

I have applied for the Corona Zuschuss and have received the money, but I am not sure if I am eligible. What should I do?

Any applicant for the Corona Zuschuss has to fulfill the following criteria in order to qualify for this grant. As a company or freelancer, if your current income (estimated) for the next three months is lower than your projected material and financial expenses for the same period, you are entitled to receive this grant. To calculate these expenses, only the following costs must be considered: 

  • rent for your work or operations space (such as a studio, office, or small shop etc), 
  • leasing payments and interest rate payments for necessary equipment, 
  • insurance fees for your professional insurance
  • costs for a vehicle, should this be necessary for your work

Unfortunately, you cannot include your personal expenses in those expenses as well as, managing director salaries or health insurance costs. The IBB strongly advises to look into other government sponsored help such as tax payment relief, Kurzarbeitergeld or any insurance you might have against loss of revenue. 

Please also take a look at the possibilities of applying for unemployment benefits (ALG II) which is meant for people that have no income at the moment and that need government assistance in order to fulfill their basic needs. See below for more information about that topic.

If you need more assistance on that matter, please feel free to get in touch with us via email.

I had to stay in quarantine and could not work during this period. Can I get some compensation?

Yes. The Senate Department for Finances offers compensation following the Protection against Infection Act in the case of activity bans and quarantine. You can find more information about this procedure on this website (in German).

Get in touch with us so we can assist you personally and answer your questions via email. We can help you understand the process and required documents.

All my contracts/projects got canceled. What can I do?

Start collecting information about your canceled services such as event cancellation and your projection of loss. Prepare an overview of your own estimate of the damage caused by the pandemic. Soon, more information will be published about the exact documents that are required to receive financial help.

I do not have enough money to pay for my health insurance. What should I do?

Contact your health insurance to announce a recent decline in income. If you are an artist, for example, you should report this to the Künstlersozialkasse (KSK) to reduce your monthly contribution payments. To do so, fill out the form "Änderungsmitteilung der zu erwarteten Arbeitseinkünfte aus selbständiger Artistic / Publizistischer Tätigkeit" and send it to the KSK. Similar procedures are possible with other health insurance providers (Krankenkasse).

Can I receive unemployment benefits or some other form of basic income?

Freelancers and self-employed individuals in need of support have the option of applying to the Job Center for unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II, or ALG II) in emergencies to provide them with basic financial support. The Job Center is aware that the current situation is an exceptional one for self-employed individuals and will endeavor to process applications as quickly as possible.

Upon recent consultation with the Job Center, we have been informed that the following aspects are absolutely vital for the rapid processing of applications for basic financial support:

  1. ALG II main application form (Hauptantrag)
  2. EKS Appendix (appendix on income from self-employment – Anlage zum Einkommen Selbständiger (EKS)), complete
  3. Fill out both forms and email them to the Job Center.

We recommend you to attach your business registration (Gewerbeanmeldung) and tax return (Steueranmeldung) to the email. In the section dealing with the reason for your application, mention the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, and explain the fact that you have suffered a loss of revenue as a result. Get in touch with us if you need personalized help in English, we will be happy to walk you through.

Find all documents for download on this page, and more information (in German) on the Job Center's website.

Because of the crisis, I cannot pay my current tax bills. Can I delay their payments?

To prevent liquidity bottlenecks, companies affected directly and significantly can submit deferral applications to the responsible tax office, stating their circumstances. It applies to taxes due in the past but not yet paid, as well as taxes due by December 31, 2020. The tax authorities will process the applications in a simplified procedure, taking into account the particular circumstances. There are no strict requirements for granting the deferral. Businesses must demonstrate that they are directly affected. This measure affects income and corporate tax as well as sales tax.

The Senate Department for Finances provides all information and forms (in German) here. We can assist you in English, and help you understand these measures. Contact us.

Do I still need to file my sales tax payment (UmSt Vorauszahlung)?

Yes, the statutory submission deadlines do not change. But you can apply for adjustments to advance income tax, corporate income tax, and trade tax payments at any time. The authorities will also process these requests in a simplified procedure, taking into account the particular circumstances.

To find out more, visit this website (in German). If you need assistance in English, get in touch with us, we will be happy to walk you through.

I can’t take care of my child because I have to work. How can I find emergency childcare?

For emergency care in day-care centers and schools, parents must submit a self-declaration where they confirm that they:

  • work in fields that are categorized as relevant to the system by the senate; and,
  • have no other option to provide care for the child or children.

Both criteria have to be met. We recommend each employee concerned to submit an individual application.

More information and corresponding applications for daycare centers and schools can be found on this webpage (all documents are available in English, Turkish and Arabic).

I need to work at home and take care of my child. Are there any online resources for them to learn at home?

We recommend parents to check online teaching websites for children to learn at home. A lot of companies are adapting their programs or offering special offers to help parents during this period. This American resource will help children learn at home in English, and here is a list of German websites: sofatutor.com, Planet-schule.de, and Duden Lernattack. Broadcast channels are also adapting their programs accordingly such as KIKA or ARD Alpha.

My employer is talking about Kurzarbeit. What does it mean?

Short-time work (Kurzarbeit) means the temporary reduction of regular working hours. Companies that suffer from a significant impact on revenues because of COVID-19 are allowed to reduce the working hours of their employees to pay lower salaries. It has to be temporary (maximum period of 12 months), and a short-time work agreement must be concluded between the employee and the employer before starting the procedure with the Federal Employment Agency. The short-time work allowance is calculated based on the net loss of earnings. Short-time employees generally receive 60 percent of the flat-rate net wage.

Find more information (in German) on the Federal Employment Agency and IHK Berlin websites. If you have questions about this in English, get in touch with us. We can help you understand the procedure.

Is short-time work (Kurzarbeit) impacting residence permits extension or applications?

The LEA (Landesamt für Einwanderung) assumes that short-time work will not have a negative impact on residence permits. At least the LEA has no plans to interfere with the validity of the titles. Neither the short-time work nor the restrictions caused by the virus can be long-term.

My employer had to terminate my contract because of the coronavirus pandemic, what should I do?

If you worked in Germany for more than 12 months, you qualify for unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld), and you should contact the Federal Employment Agency. If your visa is no longer valid upon the termination of your contract, you either have to start looking for a new job or prepare your departure. In reaction to the current crisis, some new job opportunities in the medical field are listed (in German) on our website talent-berlin, but speaking German is often a prerequisite. We will be posting new job opportunities on our social media channels as they come up. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, and we will do our best to help you.

I was looking for a job before COVID-19 and I notice that most offers are now gone. Where can I find valid job offers?

Considering the current context, some job opportunities in the medical field are listed on the website talent-berlin, but speaking German is a prerequisite. We will be posting on our social media channels job opportunities in English when we find some. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us, and we will do our best to help you.

Because of the crisis, I can not pay my rent at the moment. Are there exceptional measures to help me?

Rental agreements may not be terminated for non-payment of rent due to the COVID 19 pandemic for the period from April 1st to June 30th, 2020. However, the rent remains due for this period and interest on arrears may also be asked. Rent debts from the period from April 1st to June 30th, 2020, must be paid by June 30th, 2022. In the event of a dispute, tenants must provide credible evidence that they will not be able to pay the rent due to Corona-related circumstances.

More information can be found in this press release (in German), but we will gladly help you via email or phone if you need advice in English. Contact us here.

The District Office Mitte offers entrepreneurs in financial distress the possibility to defer rental and lease payments. A simplified, unbureaucratic procedure is now available for this purpose on the website of the District Office (in German). Get in touch with us via email to receive help in English with this procedure.

Due to my profession, I have protective medical equipment that I want to donate. How does it work?

There is still an urgent need for medical protective equipment to help hospitals, emergency staff, police, and firefighters of Berlin. Whoever would like to donate protective equipment is very welcome! For coordination, you can contact the dedicated hotline: 030 4664 616161, every day, from 08:00 am to 04:00 pm or find more information (in German) on the IHK website.

I am a local fashion designer and I have all the material to sew masks. How can I help?

The Berlin hospital association calls on volunteers to produce textile masks. Any professionals having tailoring facilities at their disposal are invited to produce textile masks to cover the urgent need of healthcare staff for protective material. The Senate Administration for Health, Care and Equality offers the possibility to purchase the textile masks at a unit price of 2 Euros.

More information can be found on this page (in German), but we will be happy to help you via email if you need more information in English.

My shop could reopen, but I now experience problems with long waiting lines at the door. What can I do?

The 2meters App is a digital solution that has been created to avoid queues in front of shops or museums. Entrepreneurs can register their business in only 2 minutes and avoid long waiting times. This allows for better control of customer flows during peak hours.

YOU JUST ARRIVED OR ARE PLANNING TO MOVE TO BERLIN

I did not receive my tax ID (Steueridentifikationsnummer) yet and all administrative offices are now closed. What can I do?

If you have already registered in Berlin in the past month and are waiting for the Tax ID number, it will likely be delayed, but it has been generated and will be sent to you via postal mail with delays. Make sure your name is on the mailbox of the address where you registered.

If you have not been able to register with the city of Berlin, you will have to wait until the Registrar's Office (Bürgeramt) will re-open. You can work without a Tax ID but will be categorized in a less favorable tax bracket (Steuerklasse 6). However, you can remedy this situation once you are able to submit your Tax ID and claim this money back in your 2020 Tax Declaration.

For any other problem, get in touch with us, we will be happy to help you as we can.

I was in the middle of my visa/ residency permit procedure before the crisis. What can I do now?

The Berlin Immigration Office has published a helpful online FAQ in English on the handling and processing of applications during the coronavirus pandemic. If your questions are still not answered, please get in touch with us. We will be happy to help solve your problem as we can!

I do not have health insurance yet in Germany and I’m afraid to get sick. What can I do?

As it is not allowed to enter Germany without health insurance, you must have contracted overseas travel insurance. Our tip would be to keep this travel insurance for now, until things get back to normal. If you have an employment agreement, you are automatically in the public insurance program. If your questions are still not answered, please get in touch with us. We will be glad to help you as we can!

How can I open a bank account at the moment?

Most offices are closed until the end of April, so we recommend using online services, such as online banks. It might be the right option for you to open a bank account fast, despite the situation.

I was planning to move to Berlin, I have my visa, and I still want to move. What should I do?

Germany introduced an entry ban for non-EU citizens, which has been in place since March 18, 2020. Cross-border travel into Germany is permitted for EU citizens as well as non-EU citizens for work purposes or professional contractual services supported by appropriate documentation (i.e. contract). If you already have a fixed date for your move to Berlin that is tied to the start of a new job, please contact your employer first and inquire directly about the company’s current situation. If it is possible to delay your move, we would highly recommend doing so; moving here would be difficult at the moment. Currently, there is no reliable information regarding when the restrictions now in place in the capital will be lifted.

For more information on global travel warnings because of the coronavirus, visit the German Foreign Office’s special website on the matter. You can also contact us here.

I have a job starting very soon in Berlin, everything has been arranged for a long time. Should I cancel my plans?

If you already have a fixed date for your move to Berlin that is tied to the start of a new job, please contact your employer first and inquire directly about the company’s current situation. We will inform you regularly here as soon as there are any new developments, but you can always contact us.

For a broader response on the measures taken by the city of Berlin to curb the rapid spreading of the coronavirus and their impact on Berliners’ day-to-day life, please visit this website.