The first bureaucratic step in Berlin is registering as a resident. This step is performed in a government office called "Bürgeramt" which is roughly the parallel to city hall. There are different Bürgeramts in the different neighborhoods of Berlin, and you are able to register in any one of those "branches" around the city, and not necessarily in the one closest to where you live.
What is it, actually?
The municipality registration document is your most important document in Berlin. This document determines that you are, in fact, residents of the city and contains basic personal details about you, such as your familial status and the number of your citizenships. Officially, the document is a part of your ID card, so that anywhere you go, you need to show your passport along with the registration document. For example, one needs to show the document in the immigration office and in the job center, as well as when opening a bank account, when registering to the public library and when renting a DVD in any video rental shop. It is important to mention that when registering in the Bürgeramt, some duties are applied to you, such as paying the television tax.
What do I need to do?
In principle you need to go to the Bürgeramt within two weeks after you've entered your apartment and register as residents. However, since it is not easy to get appointments to the Bürgeramt, you will not be fined if you will arrive a bit later than two weeks after moving in to the apartment. If you're subletting, it is recommended you discuss the Bürgeramt registration with the person you're signing the contract with before you sign it, in order to prevent misunderstandings and disapproval of the registration from the other side.
What do I need to bring?
The Bürgeramt registration process is bureaucratically simple. You need to bring your passport, a filled out form and a confirmation from the person who rents the apartment to you. In many cases, the clerks overlook the form and fill it out with you in the meeting, but it is better to come in prepared and fill it out in advance.
What do I get?
You will receive a page in which your address in Berlin, your name, your date of birth and an original stamp of the city of Berlin will appear. Keep this document very safe. I recommend scanning the document and save it to your computer or any backup device.
And how much does it cost?
Registration in the Bürgeramt is a free of charge service.
How do I make an appointment?
The best way to register an address in city hall is by making an appointment. It is much recommended to try and do so before you arrive in Berlin as waiting times in the different Bürgeramts could be long and sometimes all appointments run out very early or are not given for the same day. The best way to book an appointment is by calling the Berlin-Hotline 115. Please note, that service is usully provided in German. If you were not able to make an appointment in advance, and decide to que, I recommend you go before opening hours to get a good place in line. It is important to first check the opening hours and whether one is able to go without a preset appointment. Here you are able to see a list of all the Bürgeramts in Berlin and the availability to make an appointment in each of them.
Do I need someone to go with me to register?
Most of the new comers in Berlin deal with the registration by themselves even without speaking German, as it is a simple process, bureaucratically which does not require much interaction with the agent. It is recommended to take someone with you if there are certain emphases you want registered in the data pool, such as familial status issues, or if you don't feel confident to do it by yourself.
I'm registered. Now what?
Congratulations, you have now registered your address in Berlin! In the next few weeks, you will receive two letters via post. In the first letter you will find your tax identification number. You will recognize it as it has a black box in the upper right hand side of the page, in which the number will appear. In the letter, the words "steuerliche Identifikationsnummer" will appear. You will need your identification number when you begin to work, and until then, you should keep it with your documents. It is also recommended to make an excel table with all the numbers you will get while living in Berlin, so that they will be at reach for you. If you didn't receive the number via post, you can go to any Bürgeramt in the city and ask for it. You will receive it free of charge and immediately, as long as a few weeks have gone by since you registered in city hall. In addition, you will receive a demand to pay the public television tax.
When is my address registration cancelled?
The address registration is not cancelled as long as the mailman can put your official mail in your mailbox. This means that the registration is not automatically cancelled when you move to a new apartment, even if you have a time limited lease. You are obliged to change the address in the Bürgeramt after each time you move. Also, take notice that if the mailman will not find your mail box, your address registration might be cancelled. You can prevent that by applying a sticker with your last name on the mailbox, or, when this is not possible, registering with someone by using the field "bei" in the application form for the address registration. If you used the "bei" field, the official mail will be posted to you, but the mailman will know in which mailbox the letter should go. In this case, your address will look, for example, like so:
c / o Hauptmieter
Pay attention: if your name does not appear on the mailbox, your full address will include the "bei" or "c/o" line. You will have to provide that detail whenever you give your address.