Put your name here, your address there, then sign on the dotted line... if you want to be able to watch television in your new home, make a phone call, turn on the heating or the lights, you have to fill in lots of forms.

The trip to the Einwohnermeldeamt (Residents Registration Office) should be one of the first things you do because according to North Rhine-Westphalia’s registration law you are obliged to register in your new district within a week after moving.

Penalties may apply if you leave it longer. Furthermore, you’ll only feel like a genuine citizen of Dortmund, Essen, Duisburg or Bochum when it’s official, won’t you?

And it’s easy to register. You just need to go to any registration office in your city (in the local public office or citizens’ assistance office).
You need to bring ID documents for everyone who is moving (ID, child’s ID or birth certificate), as well as a registration form filled out and signed by the persons to be registered.

The form usually can be downloaded from the city’s Web site. Registration is free. Only address changes of a motor vehicle registration certificate have a fee, which amounts to a good € 10.

You don’t have to deregister from your previous district if you move within Germany.
This is done for you by the registration authority at your new residence.

For foreigners there are a few more steps in the authorization process after registration.
They must get a residence permit, which since September 2011 comes as a credit card-sized document with an electronic chip (elektronischer Aufent­haltstitel – eAT) – from the Office for the Affairs of Non-Germans.

Citizens of the EU, European Economic Area countries and Switzerland can obtain a freedom of movement certificate from the foreign nationals’ office or at the time of registration at the appropriate registration office.