Second residence in Germany – How to register it!

couple with piggy bank and keys with moving boxes, concept saving

A secondary residence is not only an option for commuters, but also for students or tourists from abroad who would like to settle in Germany for educational or holiday purposes. However, anyone who wants to apply for a secondary residence in Germany must pay attention to a few (legal) things.

  • What is a secondary residence?
  • Registration of the secondary residence
  • Secondary residence tax Germany
  • Secondary residence in Germany as a foreigner

What is a secondary residence?

In general, a secondary residence can be identified by the fact that the person lives there for less than half of the year. The main residence, on the other hand, is the “centre of vital interests” and is occupied for the majority of the year (i.e. more than half).

Most people only live in one residence and this is therefore automatically their main residence. However, there are a number of reasons why a second home makes sense. For example, for people who would have to commute too long to work from their main residence or students who study in the city but live with their parents at weekends. Furthermore, there are also holidaymakers from abroad who would like to buy a holiday home in Germany or Germans who buy a second home for the weekend or holidays.

For whatever reason a secondary residence is kept, it is subject to compulsory registration in Germany. A secondary residence tax may also be due, but this varies from municipality to municipality.

Registration of the secondary residence

As already mentioned, moving into a second or secondary residence is subject to compulsory registration in Germany. It makes no difference whether the property is rented or purchased. It is also irrelevant whether the moving takes place within the municipality or the federal state or outside.

This must be reported to the Residents’ Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) or the Citizens’ Registration Office (Bürgerbüro) no later than 14 days after moving into the secondary residence. The registration fee varies depending on the municipality, but is rarely more than €10. However, if the deadline is exceeded, a fine of €1000 or, in the worst case, up to 5 years in prison can be expected.

The application itself can either be made directly at the office by appointment or, for most municipalities, online.

To register, you need a valid ID (identity card or passport) and the completed registration form. If required, you should also bring your marriage certificate, the birth certificates of your children or divorce papers. In the case of rented accommodation, you will also need the landlord’s certificate of residence.

Secondary residence tax Germany

Whether a tax is due for the secondary residence and in what amount depends on the relevant municipality, because the secondary residence tax is a municipal expense tax. It affects all persons who have a secondary residence in the municipality in question – regardless of income. Again, it does not matter whether the second home was rented or purchased.

However, there are some reasons why you might be exempt from second home tax. For example, students or young people in education are often exempt. So are spouses who own a second home for professional reasons but share the main home with their partner.

The calculation basis for the second home tax is either the annual net rent or the living space.

The location where you register your second home can be important from a tax point of view, as some municipalities do not charge any tax and some already tax a rented room or a campsite.

As a rule, the tax is between 5 and 15 per cent of the annual net rent, but there are also municipalities that charge up to 35 per cent (e.g. Baden-Baden), so you should think twice before registering a second residence.

For more detailed information, it is best to contact the relevant Residents’ Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt) directly.

Secondary residence in Germany as a foreigner

As with German citizens, secondary residences occupied by foreigners are subject to compulsory registration.

EU citizens can enter Germany and live and work there without a visa. People from third countries (e.g. USA) are usually only allowed to stay up to 3 months without a visa. If there is no entry agreement between the two countries, it is necessary to apply for a visa before entering the country.

In order to register a secondary residence in Germany, you have to go to the Foreigners’ Registration Office and receive a so-called “Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung” (certificate of freedom of movement). This regulates the financial situation and health insurance and is usually issued for 5 years with a chance of extension (“Daueraufenthaltsbescheinigung”).

Anyone who registers a secondary residence in Germany for professional purposes and also earns their salary here becomes liable to pay tax in Germany as a foreigner.

Anyone who does not have a fixed employment contract in Germany must prove that he/she can support him/herself. 

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