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Expats Relocating with Families and Pets in Germany

Author: Jim Newham
Submitted: September 2014

Relocating to Germany with your family can be an exciting adventure for all family members. However, it is crucial to start planning well in advance, as sorting out the required paperwork and finding appropriate schooling and childcare can be a lengthy process.

The first thing to look into is entry requirements. If your spouse and dependents are EU citizens, they will automatically be eligible to live in Germany. If they are not, however, each will need to apply for a visa. For more information on family entry requirements, see Family Members and Marriage. To read more about Immigration matters in general, see Immigration.

In Germany as anywhere, it is important to find a family-friendly area to live, one that has adequate facilities for children and access to good medical care and schooling. In this respect, it is advisable to have a look at your local municipality’s website and consult online blogs and forums for first-hand information. See for example the Expat Briefing Forum.

Overall, most expats in Germany prefer to send their children to private or international schools and nurseries, though German state schools are more than adequate. It is advisable to research these places online and check online forums for school and nursery reviews. Also, keep in mind that popular institutions have long waiting lists, so make sure to contact the schools or nurseries before you move. For further information on schooling options, see Education. To read more on childcare, see Family Life and Childcare.

Finally, make sure to prepare your children for the move. If approached the right way, the move will be an exciting new start for your children. Tell them about Germany and teach them about the local culture before you leave your home country. It is also important to enrol them into a language school if they cannot speak German. For further guidance on preparing children for relocation, see Kids’ Relocation Issues and the relevant article in Help I Am Moving.


Relocation of Pets

There is a lot of red tape involved when bringing a cat or dog into Germany. You will have to ensure that you have all the right documentation and that your pet meets all the necessary requirements. If the German immigration authorities find that your pet has not been adequately vaccinated and that its documentation is not up to date, it may be put in quarantine or sent back to the country you travelled from, at your expense.

Expats relocating to Germany are allowed to bring up to five pets into the country. These can be brought in either as guest baggage on a plane or as unaccompanied cargo. If you are moving your pet into Germany from outside the European Economic Area, you must have it vaccinated against rabies and other infections before you travel. To prove this, you need to have a rabies vaccination certificate that was issued no earlier than 30 days and no later than twelve months before your date of arrival into Germany. Pets from countries with a high incidence of rabies may also be subject to blood titre tests.

Cats, dogs and ferrets can only be imported if they have a microchip or a visible identification tattoo. Pets moving from within the EU into Germany are subject to the Pet Travel Scheme. This means that each cat, dog and ferret must have a pet passport. The passport uses the pet’s microchip or tattoo number as a means of identification, and contains confirmed details of vaccination (notably against rabies) and medical treatments. Once you have secured this, your pets are free to travel across EU borders.

Dog owners should note that it is illegal to bring any kind of bull terrier into Germany; for more information, see this Zoll webpage. Other breeds of dog, such as the Rottweiler, are restricted in some states. Note also that all dog owners have to pay a dog tax.

It is a good idea to hire a specialist pet relocation company to help you move your pet to Germany. Not only do these providers have suitable travel containers for pets, they also assist with the complicated paperwork. Among the most prominent companies offering pet relocations to Germany are:

If you are relocating to Germany with your pet dog, cat or ferret, your pet will generally need to have a microchip (compliant with standard ISO 11784 or 11785), vaccination against rabies, and an EU pet passport or an official third country veterinary certificate. Dogs will also have to be vaccinated against distemper, hepatitis, parvo and leptospirosis, and cats for feline viral rhinotracheitis, calicivirus and anleukopenia. Additional blood testing may be required for animals travelling from non-EU countries.

For more information on travelling into Germany from outside the EU, see the Provisions on the import of pet animals from non-EU states page.



Moving to Germany

If you are considering moving to Germany or are soon to depart, you can find helpful information and advice in the Expat Briefing dedicated German section including; details of immigration and visas, German forums, German event listings and service providers in Germany.


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