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Coming with your Family

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Partners accompanying doctoral candidates may want to study, earn their doctorate, or work during their stay in Germany. In the following, you will find some general information which could be helpful before coming to Germany with your family.


Partners interested in studying need to apply at the respective university where they wish to study. (Berlin has four universities: Freie Universität, Humboldt-Universität, Technische Universität, Universität der Künste). Application procedures vary among the universities, so please check the requirements before coming to Germany. Germany’s university system is at the moment undergoing a substantial transition. To comply with the Bologna process, German universities now mostly offer a two cycle system with Bachelor and Master degrees instead of the traditional Magister or Diplom. There is not only a change in name but also in substance: the bachelor’s degree is awarded after three or four years of study. Afterwards, students can apply to go on with their studies on a postgraduate level and get a master’s degree which usually lasts two more years.

Earning a Doctorate

If your partner intends to earn a doctorate at a German university, he/she should check the application requirements and deadlines of the doctoral program of the respective university. Likewise, if he/she wishes to do an individual doctorate, he/she should contact the intended main supervisor for the project as well as check the deadlines and requirements of the respective Faculty (information will be provided by the graduation offices).

Most doctoral programs offer scholarships which have to be applied for in due time. Various public and private foundations also offer research grants for doctoral candidates independently if they are enrolled in a doctoral program or if they do an individual doctorate.


Those intending to engage in regular employment need a work permit (exceptions: nationals from EU-countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). Prior to departure for Germany you must inform the German consulate and apply for the respective residence permit (indicating “employment permitted”). To get a work permit you must apply at the local employment office (Arbeitsagentur). The procedure is time-consuming (processing of the application alone takes several weeks) and is not always successful. In view of the tense labor situation in Germany, it may be difficult to find a vacancy.

Tax Card

Upon obtaining a residence and work permit, anyone working as an employee must obtain a tax card (Lohnsteuerkarte) from the local registration office. Initially, you will have to pick it up or phone for it to be mailed; after that it will automatically be sent to you every year.

Health Insurance

You must make sure to have health insurance for all family members. If you are covered through a health insurance company from your home country, please check the conditions applying to your family. If you are covered through a German statutory (public) health insurance company and your partner does not generate an income above € 360 per month, he/she can also be covered by your health insurance policy. If his/her income is above € 360 per month he/she will have to take out health insurance himself/herself. Children are generally covered by the health insurance of one of the parents.


If you intend to bring your family with you, please make sure that you have secured appropriate housing in advance. This means that a minimum space of approx. 12 m² per person is required. Otherwise you will not be able to obtain a residence permit for your family members. For more information check our information about finding accommodation.

Housing Allowance

Housing allowance is a contribution paid by the state to the rent. It is paid to all persons whose income is considered low (approx. 345 € plus 2/3 of the rent). Housing allowance is generally paid for a period of twelve months; after twelve months it has to be applied for again. In order to benefit from this support three factors will be taken into consideration: the number of people living in the apartment, the total income of all persons living in the apartment, and the rental fee. You can apply for housing allowance at your local residents’ registration office. More information and application forms (in German) can be found here.

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Pregnancy and childbirth

In the case of pregnancy or childbirth, the statutory (public) health insurance usually will pay the following costs:

  • Medical care (e.g. regular prenatal check-ups) and midwifery care
  • Provision of medicines/drugs, health aids
  • Childbirth in maternity clinic/ward (general care category)

Please ask your health insurance concerning the exact benefits.

Maternity allowance (Mutterschaftsgeld)

If you or your partner are having a baby in Germany, you/she may qualify for maternity allowance (Mutterschaftsgeld). It is financial aid paid by the statutory health insurance to pregnant women, 6 weeks prior and 8 weeks following delivery, in what is referred to as the mandatory maternity leave (Mutterschutzzeit). Maternity allowance is based on the existing employment income and will be covered by state health insurance and, if the net income is more than 13 € per day, by the employer.

Pregnant women who have compulsory health insurance and are employed qualify for maternity allowance. The earliest application date is 7 weeks prior to the expected delivery date. Your gynecologist will fill out the form “Certificate of Expected Date of Delivery” (Bescheinigung über den mutmaßlichen Tag der Entbindung) which must be handed over to your health insurance provider.

Women insured through a private health insurance company, as well as women working "Mini-Jobs" without health insurance, and insured family members receive a maximum one-time payment of 210 €. (However, the employer of those privately insured will usually pay the difference between this one-time payment and the net income. In these cases, the responsible authority is the German Insurance Office (Bundesversicherungsamt, Mutterschaftsgeldstelle):

Housewives and self-employed persons without entitlements to sick leave benefits do not qualify.



Friedrich-Ebert-Allee 38

53113 Bonn

Tel. +49 (0)228 / 619 18 88

Office hours

Mon – Fri 9:00 a.m. – noon

Thu 1:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Registering your child after birth

After birth, the registration of a child in Germany will be made in some cases by the administration of the hospital. If the hospital does not provide this service, you will have to go to the city office (Standesamt) of the local district in which the child is born to register your child and receive a birth certificate. This has to be done within a week after the child’s birth.

To apply for a birth certificate you will need the following documents:

  • The record of birth from the hospital or birth center (completed and signed)
  • The parent’s passports
  • The parent’s birth certificates
  • An official translation in German of your marriage license (if applicable) or
  • Acknowledgment of paternity if you are not married (this has to be done prior to your child’s birth at the youth welfare office of your local district (Jugendamt).

Once you have provided the necessary documents, the office will issue several copies of a German Birth Certificate and an International Birth Certificate. In order to register your child as a national of your home country please contact your consulate or embassy [e.g. US citizens: need to fill an application form called Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA)].

Residence permit for children

The residence status of a child of international doctoral candidates depends on the residence status of its parents. The residence permit for children mirrors the status of the parent who is entitled to custody.

To receive a residence permit for children from non-EU citizens proof of health insurance and finance will have to be provided. In addition, you will need the children’s passports, the passports of both parents, 2 passport photos per child and their birth certificates (German original or certified translation). Children of EU-citizens receive a certificate of free movement (Freizügigkeitsbescheinigung).

Financial support for parents

If you come from an EU or EEA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland) or if you are married to a German you can receive child allowance (Kindergeld) and parental allowance (Elterngeld).

Doctoral candidates from non-EU countries who have a residence permit for studying are not entitled to the benefits. Exception: Doctoral candidates from non-EU countries are eligible for parental allowance if their residence in Germany is deemed permanent according to the type of residence title they possess and their access to the employment market. Those holding a settlement permit automatically fulfil this requirement. Those holding a residence permit only fulfil the requirements if they are also entitled to take up employment in Germany or have already worked here legally.

Parental allowance (Elterngeld)

Parental allowance compensates for loss of income following the birth of a child. After deducting taxes, social security payments, and tax allowances, it amounts to 67% of the average monthly income available prior to birth, or a maximum of 1,800 € per month, or a minimum of 300 € per month. Non-working parents receive the minimum amount in addition to the family income. Parental allowance is paid to the father and mother for a maximum of 14 months. Both are eligible to divide up the period between them. Neither parent may claim allowance for more than 12 months. A further 2 months may be paid if income is lost during this period and the partner is caring for the child. Single parents drawing parental allowance to compensate for loss of income are eligible for the full 14 months parental allowance.

Mothers and fathers are eligible for parental allowance if:

  • they care for their children after birth
  • they are not employed for more than 30 hours per week
  • they are residents or their permanent place of residence is in Germany.

Please note: As a scholarship is not considered income, the parental allowance amount for scholarship holders will usually be 300 €.

Applications for parental allowance must be made in writing to the youth welfare office (Jugendamt) of your local district. Each parent may apply for parental allowance for him- or herself. The application does not necessarily have to be submitted immediately after birth. Parental allowance can only be retroactively implemented 3 months from the date the application is turned in. More information (only in German) can be found here.

You need the following documents:

  • your child’s birth certificate
  • your ID or passport
  • proof of income
  • proof of maternity allowance (Mutterschutzgeld)
  • confirmation about weekly working hours from the employer (if applicable) and employment contract
  • non-EU residents: residence permit

Child allowance (Kindergeld)

At present, the monthly child allowance rates are 164 € for the first and second child, 170 € for the third child, and 195 € for each additional child. Child allowance is paid for every child from birth through the age of 18. How to apply: You submit the completed and signed application together with your child’s birth certificate to the family office (Kindergeldstelle) at the local employment agency (Arbeitsagentur). The application form (in German) can be downloaded here.

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Kindergarten  (Children age 3 to 6)

In Berlin, there are sufficient places for all children between the age of 8 weeks and 6 years. Child care facilities (in German called Kindertagesstätte, short Kita) are usually open non-stop from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (sometimes even 6:00 p.m.). The fees depend on the income of the parents and on how many hours per week your child is to receive child care. Child care is free of charge during the last year of kindergarten before your child is to attend school; only a contribution for the meals of approx. 23 € per month has to be paid.

In order to enroll your child in a kindergarten, you need a voucher (Betreuungsgutschein) which is issued by the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt) of your local residents’ registration office. Then you contact the administration of the kindergarten of your choice and hand in the voucher. Please be aware that this has to be done within 2 months after having received the voucher.

Please note: Kindergarten places are allocated as early as spring of the respective kindergarten year (beginning in August or September). Many kindergartens also admit children during the year, if there are vacancies, so you may be able to enroll your child at a later date.

More information about children and education here.

Kindergarten at Freie Universität

Freie Universität Berlin has its own kindergarten which provides places for up to 165 children from the age of 8 weeks up to 6 years. Information can be found here.

Bilingual Kindergarten

There are a number of international and bilingual day care centers in Berlin.

Nannies (Tagesmütter)

Nannies usually look after several children in their own homes during the day. They care for young children (usually between 8 weeks and 3 years) on a flexible time-basis. Nannies can be found through newspaper ads or the local youth welfare office. If you contact a nanny through the youth welfare office the monthly fee will be estimated on the same basis as for kindergarten (i.e. income, number of children, hours per day). You also need to apply for a Kita-voucher if you want to place your child with a nanny via the youth welfare office.


Babysitters care for your child for a few hours during the day or in the evening. They can best be found by word of mouth or through ads on notice boards in supermarkets and kindergartens. You should also ask both your neighbours and colleagues for recommendations.

Family Support Center at Freie Universität Berlin

The Family Support Center (Familienbüro) provides short-term child care services such as KidsMobil (in case of an emergency, e.g. in case of illness of your babysitter or when a parent goes on a business trip).We recommend you to contact the Family Support Center in order to join the mailing list for current information about short and long-term child care facilities and services such as KidsMobil finding a child-care facilities in emergency situations and contacting and exchanging information with other parents with similar needs, etc.

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All children aged 6 to 15 have to attend school in Germany. First they are enrolled at the Grundschule (elementary school, grades 1 to 6). After completing elementary school, pupils choose one of the following secondary schools:

  • Hauptschule (Intermediate school, grades 5-9): Intermediate school provides general education and orientation for occupational choice. Pupils attain the Intermediate School Certificate.
  • Realschule (Secondary school, grades 5-10): Secondary school provides general education as well as the basics of vocational education. Pupils attain a Secondary School Certificate after grade 10 which qualifies for upper secondary education.
  • Gymnasium (High School): Gymnasium generally starts with grade 7, but high schools with special profiles start with grade 5. During the last two school years, each student selects basic core and elective courses from a structured program. Passing the final exams (Abitur) students attain a General Higher Education Certificate that provides access to university or college.

In some federal states the Gesamtschule (Comprehensive secondary school) is organized not according to subject preference, but to individual ability and combines the various types of schools. For subjects like German, foreign languages, and mathematics, there are courses offered at different levels. The kind of certificate attained mainly depends on the levels of these courses.

Note: In Germany, school classes are only held in the morning between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. In elementary school the time spent at school is usually even shorter and classes are more irregular. Exception: all-day schools (Ganztagsschule) which in addition to timetabled lessons in the morning offer an all-day program comprising at least seven hours per day on at least three days per week. They provide afternoon activities that have a conceptual relationship with the lessons in the morning and a midday meal.

Pre- and after-school care centers affiliated to schools (Hort) look after children during specific hours prior to and after school, e.g. from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. These facilities include lunch and supervision of homework, and allow time for play. Costs amount to approx. 80 to 120 € per month. Application has to be made through the youth welfare office of your local district. The application form (Antrag auf schulergänzende Betreuung) can be downloaded here

Attending state-run schools is free of charge. If you have a child to enroll, contact the administration of the school of your choice. There you can also inform yourself about the class to which your child will be assigned and whether additional German lessons are offered for children from foreign countries.

Information about schools can be obtained from the School Administration Berlin (only in German), from the school office of your city district or here.

European and International Schools

Berlin has several European schools with bilingual programs. Within the network of the Berlin State Europe School (Staatliche Europa Schule Berlin,SESB) there are 18 elementary and 12 secondary schools. Beginning with grade 1, 50 percent of lessons are taught in German, 50 percent in the partner language. To be admitted, the partner language must be the student’s native language or the student must speak the language as well as a native speaker. All standard German school-leaving qualifications can be attained.

A number of public and private international schools also offer bilingual classes or instruction in English or French only. Public international schools are, like state-run schools, free of charge. Private international schools are quite expensive and some of them are inconveniently situated on the outskirts of Berlin. A list of these schools can be found here.

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