Germany has been the leading economy in Europe for years now, and one city lies in the center of it all. If you’re planning on moving to Frankfurt, the country’s main financial hub, you certainly won’t be disappointed with what it has to offer. Still, not everyone has the same preferences, so we highly recommend you go over Frankfurt’s most important features before deciding to move there.
Is Frankfurt Good for Expats Relocating to Germany?
Many people relocating to Germany tend to overlook Frankfurt, but it doesn’t take a genius to realize how good this place truly is. The city’s strong economy easily makes it the most important financial center in the entire country, housing many global corporations. While it might only be the fifth most populated place in the country, its multicultural and diverse expat communities allow just about anyone to feel at home here. There are also plenty of excellent amenities, which will undoubtedly make your life easier and a lot more enjoyable.
What Documents Will I Need When Moving to Frankfurt From the US?
While American citizens can enter Germany without a visa, anyone who wants to stay in the country will still need to apply for a residence permit before the initial three months have expired. Considering processing can take anywhere from a few weeks to a month, it might be good to start the application as soon as possible, preferably even before shipping overseas. You’ll need to gather all the important documents, including proof of sufficient funds, healthcare coverage, and residence in the city.
It’s highly recommended to get a Registration Certificate as soon as you find a place to call home, as this document is the only proof that you’ve actually lived there. You only need a valid passport and the rental agreement to register, and you can finish everything at any of the city’s registration offices. Since not everyone will have the same reasons for relocating, there are several options to choose from for those looking to get a long-term visa, including:
- Employment visas – Any expats looking to move for work in the city or anywhere else in Germany will need to apply for a working permit first. You’ll need to have a job, though, so try to look for potential career opportunities before moving overseas. Highly-skilled individuals can also apply for the EU Blue Card permit, which gives many other benefits not covered by the standard European working visa.
- Job seeking visas – Considering we’re already talking about jobs, expats with a local degree or its equivalents can get a special six-month permit that will allow them to stay in the country while looking for work. However, be aware that the application requires proof that you can support yourself in the meantime.
- Family reunion visa – If you’re moving abroad alone but have family in the US you want to bring over, each household member will have to apply for this visa separately. The process is not guaranteed, however, and will mainly depend on the legal status of your residence.
How Can I Get a Permanent Residency and Citizenship?
All the options we just mentioned are usually valid for a specific period, meaning they are not ideal for anyone planning to relocate here for the long haul. The good news is that in certain cases, you can apply for permanent residence after just five years of living in the country. The permit has several benefits, even allowing you to get financial aid and use the social benefits.
It will also provide you with free mobility within the EU, enabling you to live and work in Europe without almost any restrictions. Getting German citizenship is the next step, but this won’t be as easy as getting a permanent residency. Some of the requirements an expat would need to meet for naturalization include:
- Lived in the country for eight years,
- Proof of German language proficiency (at least B1),
- No criminal history,
- Financial stability,
- Passing a citizenship test.
Which Districts and Neighborhoods Are Good Choices for American Expats?
Considering the sheer number and diversity of Frankfurt’s communities, you’re probably wondering which of these places is the best choice for you. While it has plenty of excellent neighborhoods and suburbs, most Americans relocating here prefer to live in the inner city area, including:
- Westend – Considering its proximity to Innenstadt (Frankfurt’s central business district), it’s not surprising that this is one of the most desired places in the city. Those who can afford the local renting prices will have an opportunity to enjoy the district’s beautiful parks, as well as a ton of excellent bars and restaurants.
- Nordend – Finding a home here will have access to all sorts of bars, and restaurants, as this is another district located right next to the city’s business center. Nordend’s diversity and colorful facades attract artists and activists alike, while the excellent local schools prove that it’s one of the best places to live abroad with family.
- Bockenheim – One of the city’s most densely populated areas, the neighborhood is perfect for students or any other people relocating on a smaller budget. It’s well connected to other districts, allowing for a relatively easy commute.
- Sachsenhausen – Although the district is home to many historic buildings, there’s also a modern side to it, making it a popular place for both students and young families. All sorts of amenities can be found here, from world-class museums and galleries to numerous international bars and restaurants.
- Ostend – While this neighborhood is currently going through an extensive gentrification period, it still has one of the lowest rents out of all the places we mentioned so far. It’s surprisingly quiet and features all kinds of affordable amenities despite being so close to the center.
- Bornheim – A favorite among the younger crowd, the district is known for housing the largest concentration of bars in the entire city. Its liveliness is not limited to nightlife, though, as the local markets attract all kinds of people to the area every single weekend.
What’s Frankfurt’s Cost of Living Like?
Before you book an overseas moving company and start planning the relocation, take some time to learn more about the local cost of living. With that in mind, you’ll be glad to know that Frankfurt’s expenses are significantly lower compared to many US cities. According to Numbeo, rents are about 60% cheaper than in NYC, with one-bedroom apartments going for $1,000-$1,250 depending on the location.
When it comes to real estate, buying a home in the center is 40% more affordable, going for $850 per square foot, while properties on the outskirts go for $700. You also won’t need a lot of money to lead a good life here, as most consumer prices are on average 30% lower. Although relocating to Berlin might be slightly more affordable for some people, you’ll have a hard time finding lower expenses in any of the other best cities to live in Europe.
Most Kindergartens and Schools Are Also Much More Affordable
While the lower housing prices will undoubtedly attract many young professionals, anyone who plans to move across the world with their kids will want to learn more about the city’s childcare and education costs. Although these expenses often take up a considerable portion of a family’s income in America, expats will appreciate that Frankfurt’s kindergarten and preschool are four times cheaper than in NYC. In fact, you’ll only need $650 to cover the entire month. International elementary schools are a lot more affordable as well, costing about $13,000 for a whole year, a third of what they do in NYC.
Looking for a Job? You Won’t Find as Many Opportunities Anywhere Else in Germany
Considering Frankfurt’s status as the country’s main financial hub, it’s not surprising that the local economy makes Germany a significant player on the global stage. As a center of commerce, it features an abundance of offices and skyscrapers which house countless international corporations. Some of the most important businesses operating in the area include the European Central Bank, Deutsche Bundesbank, Frankfurt’s Stock Exchange, and Fraport.
The city’s incredibly rich job market features a ton of opportunities in finance, technology, automotive, and research fields, making it one of the best places to find a job in Europe. The average salary is €55,000 per year (about $64,000), which is 10% higher than Berlin’s $50,000. Although these numbers might not seem like much for someone who lives in Orange County, they are more than enough to cover all expenses and still leave you with enough money for a comfortable life.
Be Aware That the Country Has a Progressive Income Tax
How much do you need to pay the taxes when relocating here? Germany’s income tax system is progressive, with rates starting at 14% and capping at 42% for salaries over €57,918 (a bit over $67,000). Additionally, very high incomes of over €274,613 (about $318,000) have a tax rate of 45%. Everyone also has to pay the solidarity tax, which caps at 5.5% of the income tax.
More importantly, these numbers change every year, which can make calculating taxes particularly difficult. If you’re having trouble balancing finances abroad, feel free to use an online tax calculator to figure out how much you owe.
Public Healthcare Is Top Quality and Free for All Legal Residents
Unlike the US, health insurance is mandatory in Germany. It’s primarily funded by statutory contributions included in the taxes, with the cost being split between the employee and the employer. This means that all residents can use public healthcare for free, no matter how big or small their wage is. Most of the population doesn’t mind paying higher taxes, as you’ll never have to wait for too long just to get the necessary treatment.
Additionally, Frankfurt’s system is one of the best in the country and provides all the necessary services, including mental healthcare and prescription medication. More importantly, you can access all its benefits as soon as you become a legal resident. Lastly, if you don’t want to wait to get treatment, simply opt for premium insurance. There are several options to choose from, and some companies might even offer it as a work benefit. That’s why you shouldn’t hesitate to add healthcare to the list of questions to ask the employer before you go to the job interview.
Can I Move to Frankfurt Even if I Am Not Fluent in German?
If you’re hesitant about living in another country because it has a different language, rejoice. While Frankfurt’s residents officially speak German, you won’t have to be fluent in it to communicate with them. A large chunk of the population is multilingual, with English being widely spoken in the city’s business hub. More importantly, this means that not knowing the language won’t hinder your chances of getting the job you want.
Learning a Few Phrases Can Do No Harm
However, if you plan to venture out of the central districts, don’t be surprised if not everyone can understand what you’re saying. While most English speakers consider German very hard to learn, knowing even a bit of it will undoubtedly make your life a lot easier. Using some common phrases like Hallo, Danke schön, or Tschüss in your everyday speech is an excellent way to start learning a new language abroad.
This will also do a lot to break the language barrier and help you feel like a local. Finally, let’s not forget that being proficient in the language is necessary for becoming a naturalized citizen. With that in mind, if you need some tips for learning a new language, the video below explains how you can pick it up relatively quickly.
The City’s Excellent Transportation Options Won’t Leave Anyone Disappointed
The entire country is known for its incredibly efficient transportation systems, and the city is no exception. Residents have access to several public transit options, from buses and taxis to commuter trams and subways. The city’s S-Bahn and U-Bahn train systems are the preferred form of commuting, allowing you to travel to any location without much trouble. Driving is also a solid option, as the city’s Autobahn motorway system houses the busiest interchange in entire Europe. However, be aware that finding a free parking space in the busiest districts can sometimes be a nuisance.
Considering you’ll be relocating to one of the most pedestrian-friendly cities in the country, you can easily explore all of Frankfurt’s features on foot. There are also dedicated cycle lanes throughout the entire area, making cycling very popular among the locals. If you don’t have a bike of your own, you can easily rent one using the local Call-a-Bike service.
How to Import a Car When Moving to Frankfurt? Can I Drive Here Using My Existing Driving License?
If you’re still planning on hiring an international moving company to ship your car overseas, be prepared to deal with a lot of administration. In order to register an imported vehicle in the country, you’ll be required to provide the customs with all the necessary documents and paperwork, including:
- Proof of ownership,
- Original Title and Registration,
- Proof of insurance,
- Evidence that the vehicle has passed the safety inspection.
Additionally, although the German Driver’s License Reciprocity allows you to transfer your existing driving license quickly, its full extent is only valid for half of the states. Depending on the state you come from, you might be required to listen to lesions, retake the written test, or even repeat the practical exam, all of which can be significantly harder than in the US. Also, don’t forget that Germans commonly drive vehicles with the stick shift. Unless you want to limit yourself to automatics only, you might be required to retake the entire driving course.
There Are a Ton of Historic Landmarks and Museums for You to Explore
Although it’s primarily known for being the country’s main financial hub, you can still find an abundance of amenities throughout the city’s landscape. Considering it played a key role in both the country’s and European history, it features numerous historic landmarks and over thirty museums waiting to be explored. Those interested in arts, culture, and history will have an opportunity to visit Frankfurter Dom where kings and queens used to be crowned, as well as the Goethe House, the famous writer’s birthplace.
What Else Can an Expat Living Here Do Besides Exploring the Art and Culture Scene?
Art and history aside, what else can an expat do after relocating here? Well, you’ll be glad to hear that public events and fairs are organized throughout the entire year. This includes the Music Fair and Frankfurt’s Book Fair, the largest of its kind in the world. Additionally, due to the city’s multicultural status, the local cuisine is to die for.
You’ll easily find restaurants that serve either traditional food, as well as typical international dishes you would expect from a global metropolis. Every district has a story to tell, and since there are forty-six of them, it might take some time to explore all the city’s features.
Moving Internationally Takes a Lot of Preparation, so You Better Start Planning the Move Right Away
Now that you know what to expect with moving from America to Frankfurt, it’s best to start preparing for the relocation right away. If you don’t want to waste months on boxing everything up, hiring an overseas shipping company is highly recommended. Professional packing services will help you prepare everything much more quickly, leaving you more than enough time to gather all the necessary paperwork and set the grounds for your arrival.
Considering the stuff you bring over will have to go through customs, it’s also a good idea to have everything shipped in advance. In case you don’t find a place that can fit it all, renting a professional storage unit will keep these belongings protected until you’re ready to decide what to do with them.