Since October 1, 2016, I am a postdoctoral researcher in Berlin, Germany. Nevertheless, I had to go through the German bureaucracy way before that date. I was lucky to have some experience with it and to know German. Once the process started I immediately thought to write down the steps and then compare with the process I went through in Jerusalem, Israel.
Before I start here are a few tips for Germany:
- Everything is written down: read everything and bring everything to every appointment. They love paper.
- If you do not know the language, try to at least use basics to show your interests in learning it. This will ease the communication (was useful when I arrived in Germany)
- Always plan for the worse: when you think it is going to be settled after the appointment, it has a high chance of not being the case. This is not always your fault: a server breakdown, a faulty waiting number distributor, the employee is sick, etc.
- Get many many passport pictures in many different formats.
- Get a German friend to host you for the first few weeks this will ease the process by far. Hosting in the 'loose' sense: crashing on the couch, getting a mailing address, etc.
So, here is the list of things (with long names) to do in order to get a life in Germany as a postdoc:
- Amtliche Meldebescheinigung für die Anmeldung: Registration at the mayor's office: you need your passport, the rental agreement and now another form signed by the landlord stating that you arrived in the apartment. Go at 6-7 am to wait in line as soon as you can. Nothing is possible without that paper.
- Führungszeugnis: At the same time that you get the Anmeldung, you should order an extended police certificate that proves that you did not commit any offense in Germany before. This costs 13 euros and takes two weeks to get to the university.
- Register to a Health Care insurance (needs a mailing address to receive documents and card). This will give you a Social Insurance number if you never had one in Germany.
- Get a Tax Payer Number at a Finanzamt if it is the first time that you have a job in Germany. This is usually an easy step, you should bring the job offer and your Anmeldung.
- Open a Bank Account: You need your passport, your Anmeldung, an Address and have some persuasive arguments to tell them that you are going to get a visa soon, but you need a bank account soon (otherwise entering an vicious bureaucracy circle). While you are at it, you should get a "Haftpflicht insurance" which insures you against damage that you can eventually cause others (breaking washing machine that destroys your neighbors apartment).
- Get an appointment for a medical exam at the Personal hiring department of the nearest Hospital. Go there and fill 2-3 forms and give a urine probe.
- Fill in the following forms and send it to the correct person: Erklärung und Begründung zur wissenschaftlichen Qualifikationsgelegenheit im Rahmen des Beschäftigungsverhältnisses als wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiter, Erklärung über Promotionszeiten und Beschäftigungsverhältnisse, Erklärung über Vorbeschäftigungszeiten an der Freie Universität Berlin, Erklärungsbogen zur Stufenfeststellung, Personal Fragebogen, Erklärung über Pflichtversicherungszeiten in der Zusatzversorgunggemäß, Erklärung zur immatrikulation und Berufsausbildung, Erklärung auf Verurteilung 2, Neuantrag auf Überweisung der Dienstbezüge, Erklärung über anhängige Verfahren, VBL-Erklärung, Registration for Public transportation.
- Go to the Personal Hiring Office to sign your contract (after making an appointment) with the following documents IN ORIGINAL: birth certificate, wedding/divorce certificate and kid birth certificates (if applicable), all university diplomas (of course in original), all other working contracts (in original), Anmeldung, TaxNumber, Bank coordinates, proof of medical exam appointment, proof of ordering of Führungszeugnis, Social number, and the tax certificates of previous jobs in Germany (if applicable). Oh! And the contract should be signed in the month previous to your employment, otherwise making it impossible to hire you for the present month.
- Apply to get the University keys and go get it 1 week later.
- Get a university server account
- Once these things are done, wake up again at 6 am, this time to get an appointment online at the Ausländerbehörde within the first 90 days of your stay to get a visa so that your pay does not get cancelled due to your then illegal length of stay without a visa.
- Make sure your passport is valid long enough so that you do not need to renew it while you work: otherwise you have to got again at the mayor's office and transfer your visa (costing money and time). Then renew your passport: go to the Canadian Ambassy for the renewal, and wait 2 weeks where you can not travel or get the appointment for the visa.
- Carry the proof of appointment along with your old passport when going out of Schengen in order to avoid getting further interrogation at going out and coming in.
- Show the proof of appointment to your institution so that they can emit a new working contract that lasts more that 90 days.
- At the Ausländerbehörde, bring passport, recent passport picture, proof of prolongation of contract, proof of health insurance, EC Karte (no payment in cash), Anmeldung and visa-formular filled.
- The next day, phone the administration and go to the hiring office to sign your official contract and make a copy of your visa.
Congratulations! You have obtained a German Visa to work as a postdoc! After 2 months of constant care and preparation.
After that, you can look for an apartment in Berlin, (good luck!). For this you will need (at least, and may vary): proof of income of the last 3 months (well, you realize you won't get an apartment within the first 3 months, do you?), Schufa-Auskunft (a proof that you do not owe money to banks), Proof that you not owe money to your last landlord, Copy of Passport and visa, Formular of interest in the apartment.
Now, let's compare with the bureaucracy in Israel. You will receive a letter of invitation from your institution. This is a master key.
- Bring the application form for visa, Invitation letter, passport pictures, proof of finance (in the invitation letter), passport and money to the Israel ambassy and get a visa within 30 minutes for 1 year.
- Once in Israel, find an apartment, sign the lease. (Lasted 1 week for me as I got the apartment before-hand)
- Go to a bank and open a bank account with your passport and visa. (Took 30 minutes)
- Get a simcard for your cell phone. (Took 20 minutes)
- With your passport, visa and bank account in hand, go to the university and register with your secretary and register for an health insurance, you will get a computer account, student card and your next pay in 15 days. (Took 30 minutes)
- Once a year, you receive the municipality tax that you go pay at the post office.
Congratulations, with 5 working days, you could start working in Jerusalem as a mathematician and do all this speaking French. Yes, indeed, I could do all these things with french-speaking secretaries, seller, bankers, etc. I have to say that renewing your visa is a bit more of a struggle but goes smoothly nevertheless.
What can we learn from this comparison? I let you draw your own consequences on the amount of stress and efficiency of the first months of employment. I have to say that all this process in both cases went smoothly which was not the case of most of my colleagues in both places. I was very lucky to know how to handle german bureaucracy and language and I had many very helpful colleagues. I decided to write this down in an effort to help others and also to raise consciousness around this cause of stress for academics.