What rules must everyone follow now?

When shopping and on the bus & train, you must cover your mouth and nose with a so-called “medical mask” - at term which includes surgical masks and FFP2 masks. Cloth masks or scarves are no longer allowed for shops and public transportation. You also need to wear a mask in front of the shops and in parking spaces. If you do not wear a mask, you will have to pay a fine of at least 50 euros. Saxony-Anhalt is an exception: there is no fines apply there. Some cities also require you to wear a mask in certain public spaces and streets. At work, you must either maintain a distance of 1.5 meters between people or wear a medical mask.

Strict contact restrictions continue to apply. In private, you are only allowed to meet people from your household and one other person (from another household). In most federal states, there is no exception for children - this means, for instance, that your family can invite the neighbour's child (for a play date), but not the child’s mother as the child counts as “one person”.

In regions with an incidence rate of over 200 new infections per 100,000 population, there will be further restrictions, including restricting the range of motion to 15 km from your place of residence. In other words, you are only allowed to move within a radius of 15 km from your city or municipality if there are many new infections in your region. Visits to the doctor or commuting to work are still permitted as the regulation is primarily intended to prevent day trips.

In other regions, private travel and day trips are not prohibited. However, the government urges citizens to abstain from unnecessary travel. Overnight stays in hotels or holiday resorts are currently not allowed for tourists.

You must keep a distance of at least 1.50 meters from people who do not live in the same household as you.

Church services are allowed- however, the participants must wear a medical mask and keep a minimum distance of 1.50 meters. Singing together is not allowed. Church services with more than 10 participants must be registered with the office for public order (Ordnungsamt).

Visiting retirement homes and assisted living facilities is possible. Visitors need to get a coronavirus test prior to the visit. In general, it is possible to get tested directly before visiting a retirement home or assisted living facility.

There may be some additional stricter rules in your federal state or region- for instance, there may be a (nightly) curfew.  This means everyone must remain indoors, preferably at home, between specified hours. Leaving your place of residence is only permitted for urgent reasons, such as grocery shopping, work, doctor visits, etc.

To learn more about the current corona rules in your state /your city, check corona-was-darf-ich.de- the information is available in many languages.

Important: The police is tasked to enforce compliance with corona rules. Those who break these rules face a penalty which can range from a fine to a prison sentence.

These regulations are currently valid until at leas February 14, 2021.

What is a "hotspot"? And what does that mean for me?

If a city or district registers more than 50 new corona cases per 100,000 inhabitants within seven days, it will be considered a "hotspot"-  however, stricter preventative rules should apply as soon as 35 new corona cases per 100,000 inhabitants are recorded. If the number of new infections continue to rise, even stricter regulations may apply, e.g. mask requirement in public places, stricter contact limitation or a movement restriction according to which everyone has to stay in. Each municipality decides which regulations should be implemented. If you are unsure,  you can ask a neighbour about current regulations. On corona-was-darf-ich.de, you can sometimes find information about regulations which apply specifically to your particular district of residence in various languages. Everyone must follow these rules to protect public health and avoid hefty fines.

Can I currently travel abroad?

Many countries have currently enforced entry bans or extra checks to curb the spread- same applies to parts of the European. Before you travel, check the situation in your travel destination carefully. To learn about the situation in EU countries, visit reopen.europa.de. On auswaertiges-amt.de you can find contact information of the embassies and consulates in Germany. For many countries, the travel warnings issued by the Federal Foreign Office still stands. On the website of the Federal Foreign Office you can find all essential information.

You can learn about your rights as a holidaymaker whose trip is affected due to the current situation on the website of the Consumer Center and the European Information Center Germany.

Can I currently travel to Germany?

There are currently no entry restrictions for people from the EU, Lichtenstein, Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. However, anyone who enters Germany from a risk area must do a corona test shortly before entry or within 48 hours after entry and stay in quarantine at home for 10 days regardless of the result of the test. You can shorten the quarantine period if you present a negative corona test no earlier than the 5th day after your arrival. Before entering the country, you have to register online at einreiseanmeldung.de. You can find a list of current risk areas at rki.de.

For people travelling from a so-called area with a “high incidence” or “virus mutation” into Germany, the following also applies: They must be able to provide an official, confimed negative coronavirus test result upon entry. The test should not be older that 48h at the moment of entry. The results need to be presented in German, English or French. To find out which areas are currently considered areas with a “high incidence” or “virus mutation”, please check: Website of the Robert-Koch-Institute.

Currently, the following individuals can travel to Germany: Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Uruguay, Singapore. The list is to be expanded to include Japan, South Korea, China, Hong Kong and Macau as soon as these countries allow people from Germany to enter again. The list is to be updated regularly.

Important: Whether you can enter Germany depends on your place of residence not your nationality. For instance, if you If you live in Australia or have spent at least 6 months there, you are currently allowed to enter Germany (regardless of your own citizenship) since Australia is not currently a high risk area.

Strict entry regulations still apply to the rest of the countries. Only the following individuals can currently enter Germany from other countries:

  • German nationals and close family members of German nationals (Spouses, minor children, parents of minor children) who return to their common place of residence
  • Citizens of other EU countries as well as those from UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland and their close family members (Spouses, minor children, parents of minor children)
  • Third-country nationals with a permanent residence permit in Germany, EU member state, Schengen states or UK. Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
  • Close family members (spouses, minor children, parents of minor children) of third-country nationals with a long-term residence permit in Germany
  • Relatives (siblings, grandparents, children of legal age, parents of children of legal age) of German citizens, EU citizens, citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Great Britain as well as relatives of third-country nationals with a long-term residence permit in Germany are only allowed to visit their families for urgent family matters. Urgent reasons include: births, weddings, funerals, serious illnesses of a close relative.
  • People who come to Germany in the framework of family reunification.
  • People who want to get married in Germany and have obtained an appropriate visa.
  • People who want to visit their long-term partner in Germany and can prove that they are in a long-term relationship and have already met at least once in person.
  • People who work in medical and health care service.
  • Professional workers who are urgently required in Germany and their tasks and cannot be postponed or done abroad.
  • People who work in transportation sector.
  • People who work as agricultural workers in the field.
  • People who have to travel to Germany for urgent family reasons.
  • Seafarers who have to reach a certain port or return home via Germany.
  • Diplomats, employees of international organizations, humanitarian workers and military personnel who travel to Germany for work.
  • Students whose studies cannot be completed abroad.
  • Those in vocational training whose training cannot be fully carried out abroad.
  • People who travel to Germany for a preparatory measure to have their foreign professional qualifications recognize- given the measure in question requires their presence in Germany.
  • Au pairs, interns and people doing voluntary service, face-to-face training or a face-to-face language course if they stay for at least 6 months.
  • Asylum seekers
  • People who urgently need medical treatment in Germany and have an appropriate visa. You are allowed to bring up to 2 companions.
  • Passengers in transit
  • German emigrants who return to Germany (“Spätaussiedler”)

Important: The officers at the border will decide about your entry. Make sure you bring relevant proofs (marriage certificates, family register, certificates, ...) with you if you want to cross the border. If you do not need a visa for entry, you must also ensure that your foreign documents (e.g. marriage certificate) are recognised in Germany. Or whether a so-called legalization or apostille is necessary. You can find an overview in German on dnoti.de. In some cases, you will also need invitations and applications. Unmarried couples in particular have to prove their relationship with private documents (previous flight tickets, photos, ...).

Make sure you carry all the necessary documents if you plan to travel across international borders. Inquire in advance at the German embassy in your area or directly at the Federal Foreign Office. If you have specific questions about your entry, you can also call the Federal Police on 0800 6 888 000 (free of charge). The staff speak German.

Important: Anyone who enters Germany from a risk area must do a corona test shortly before entry or within 48 hours after entry and stay in quarantine at home for 10 days regardless of the result of the test. You can shorten your quarantine time if you can present a negative test result (the soonest) five days after your entry. You need to register online before your entry at einreiseanmeldung.de . You can find an updated list of high-risk areas on rki.de. For people traveling to Germany from an area with a so-called “high indicidence” or “virus mutation”, the following applies: You must provide a negative coronavirus test result upon entry. The test must be no older than 48h at the moment of entry. Test results must be in German, English or French. Current areas considered areas of “high incidence” or “virus mutation” can be consulted here: Website of Robert-Koch-Institute.

Please note: The German embassies in many countries are currently closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Please check the website of the relevant embassy regularly for more information. 

What should I watch out for when I come back to Germany?

Anyone who enters Germany from a high risk area must register online before their entry at einreiseanmeldung.de. You need to get a corona test shortly before entry or within 48 hours after entry and -stay in quarantine at home for 10 days regardless of the result of the test. Plus, you must report to the proper Health Department. You can find the health office responsible for you in the database of the database of the Robert Koch Institute (RKI). From the fifth day of your home-quarantine on, you can take a Corona test. If the result is negative, you can end your quarantine. You need to pay for this test yourself. Please note that the Health Office checks whether you observe the self-isolation period- and those who do not will face a fine.

Important: For people traveling to Germany from an area with a so-called “high indicidence” or “virus mutation”, the following applies: You must provide a negative coronavirus test result upon entry. The test must be no older than 48h at the moment of entry. Test results must be in German, English or French. Current areas considered areas of “high incidence” or “virus mutation” can be consulted here: Website of Robert-Koch-Institute.

When new regulations are enforced, they may differ from one federal state to the other.  You can find more detailed information about your state/town/neighborhood in various languages on corona-was-darf-ich.de. To learn more about “home quarantine” check out our chapter "Coronavirus".

A list of the current risk areas can also be found on rki.de. To take a test, call your doctor or the on-call medical service at 116117. Current areas considered areas of “high incidence” or “virus mutation” can be consulted here: Website of Robert-Koch-Institute.

If you return to Germany from a country that does not count as a risk area, you do not have to take a corona test and you do not have to self-quarantine. However, you can take a free test up to 72 hours after your return.

Important: If you have only traveled through a „risk area“ and did not stop there (transit flight), the same rules apply to you as to those who enter (directly) from a non-risk area. Those who spend less than 24 hours in a high-risk area do not have to go into a quarantine either.

The exemption from quarantine also applies to people who have a reasonable ground to visit close family members (spouse, parents, children) in a risk-area for less than 72 hours. This way, for instance, one would be able to visit an ill family. But the exceptions form quarantine only apply if you don't show any typical symptoms. If you have visited close family members for more than 72 hours for an urgent reason, you can exempt yourself from the quarantine obligation by presenting a negative corona test. The test must not be older than 48 hours when you enter Germany. In addition, the test must meet the criteria listed by the Robert Koch Institute. You can find out which countries meet these criteria on the website of the Robert Koch Institute.

Which shops and facilities are currently open?

Almost all shops and facilities will be closed at least until February 14, 2021 Only the following stores are allowed to open:

  • Supermarkets
  • Weekly groceries markets
  • Pick-up and delivery services
  • Beverage shops
  • Health food stores
  • Specialist baby stores
  • Pharmacies
  • Medical supply stores
  • Drugstores
  • Opticians and hearing aid professionals
  • Gas stations
  • Car and bicycle workshops
  • Banks
  • Post Office
  • Dry cleaning and laundromats
  • Newspaper sales
  • Animal food shops
  • Christmas tree outlets
  • Wholesale markets
  • Physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, podiatry

However, all shops which are allowed to open must observe the required hygiene and distancing rules: Shops can let only a few customers inside at a time and others need to wait outside.

Restaurants, cafes, bars, etc. will probably remain closed until 14.02.2021. Pick-up and delivery services will remain possible. Hotels and holiday homes are only allowed to open to guests who travel for work.

Nail salons, cosmetic studios, tattoo studios, hair salons, massage parlors, etc. must also remain closed- at least until 14.02.2021.

Theatres, cinemas, concert halls, etc., as well as swimming pools, fitness studios, alike, must remain closed at least until 14.02.2021. Amateur sports clubs will also remain closed.

When shopping, make sure you follow the regulations: keep your distance from others. And wear a face mask which covers your mouth and nose. Many stores now only allow a small number of people to enter at the same time. The others have to wait outside.

If your income has been affected by the closings, check our chapter "Coronavirus: State Aids" where you can find out more about types of corona-related financial aid available.

Is there going to be enough food and hygiene products for everyone?

You may face empty shelves sometimes when products are temporarily sold out. But in principle, there is enough of everything- only the stores have to refill shelves faster than before. Currently, there is no reason to buy more food or hygiene products than you regularly need. In some shops, even, buying too much of some products have been forbidden, which means you can only buy them in "usual" quantities. Such decisions are made to ensure that there is always enough for everyone.

Can my child go to school as usual again?

Schools will be closed until at least 14.02.2021. Online lessons take place on the school days- and there will be emergency care available for students who cannot study at home. You can ask your child's school about the requirements for emergency care.

Important: Some federal states are planning to gradually re-open schools before 14.02.2021. On mdr.de you can read about plans to re-open schools in your federal state, in German.

Working parents who have to look after their children at home: In 2021, you can stay at home for up to 20 days per parent to look after their children if the school or daycare center is closed due to Corona. Single parents can stay at home for up to 40 days. For you, this will be a paid sick leave benefits- and your employer will be compensated by the government for these days. For more info, check out our chapter Corona and Work.

Can my child go to daycare again?

The daycare centers will be closed from December 16, 2020 until (at least) 14.02.2021. Emergency care is available for children who cannot be looked after at home. Ask at your child's daycare center about the requirements for emergency care.

Working parents who have to look after their children at home: In 2021, you can stay at home for up to 20 days per parent to look after their children if the school or daycare center is closed due to Corona. Single parents can stay at home for up to 40 days. For you, this will be a paid sick leave benefits - and your employer will be compensated by the government for these days. For more info, check out our chapter Corona and Work.

Are state offices opened now?

Many government offices have been either closing their doors or are only open to the public for limited hours. If you have an appointment or an urgent query, check the proper offices' website or call them.

How can I extend my residence permit?

Check the website of the relevant Immigration Office to see if it is open. If they are partially opened again, you can apply for the extension online on their website. You can Search for your Immigration Office’s website on webgis.bamf.de. Check the website and inform yourself thoroughly about the procedure. After you apply online, the Immigration Office will then send you a so-called "Fiktionsbescheinigung" in your mailbox- and your residence permit will remain valid for the time being.

Please note: Even if you are currently abroad and cannot find a returning flight to Germany, you can still extend your residence permit. To do this, write an email to the relevant Immigration Office.

My visa has expired during my stay in Germany. What should I do?

If your visa expires and you cannot leave due to coronavirus, you will need to apply for a visa extension. You need call or write an informal e-mail in due time and specify relevant personal data (name, date of birth, etc.) to the Immigration Office in your area. To find the Immigration office responsible for you, check webgis.bamf.de.

Please note: If your stay depends on the continuation of your employment and you lose your job, you may have to leave the country. in case that is not possible for the time being, you will be issued a tolerated stay permit or "Duldung". You can find out more in our chapter "tolerated stay permit".

My visa expired before entering Germany. What should I do?

You have to apply for a new visa. The simplified process of renewal for so-called D visas (family reunification, study, etc.) was only valid until December 31, 2020.

I would like to apply for a visa but I can't acquire a language certificate at the moment. What now?

If you are unable to acquire a language certificate, you may be eligible for a visa nonetheless if you fulfill certain requirements. Nevertheless, you have to prove that you are unable to attend a language course due to coronavirus.

When will my language classes start again?

Each federal state decides about the reopening of language schools independently. The same applies to music academies and driving schools. Check with your school to find out more.

In our chapter "Learning German", you can find plenty of helpful materials which allow you to practice online and offline.

How can I help my child to study from home?

There are several opportunities for children to find help studying online:

  • On stayschool.de, students starting from 5th grade can get help with learning without paying anything. Volunteers help your child learn via video chats. The tutoring is available in many languages.
  • On corona-school.de, children starting from 1st grade can also find cost-free advice from university students who are working voluntarily to help school children with their homework through video chats while the schools are closed.
  • On daserste.de, you will find various learning possibilities for students of all levels.

My child needs a laptop for homework. Any help?

If you receive assistance from Jobcentre or Social Welfare Office, you can obtain a grant of 150 euros to buy a laptop for your child- and in some municipalities, the amount is higher. Ask your Jobcentre or Social Welfare Office for more information and seek advice from a counselling centre, in case your application for the grant is not accepted. You can find counselling centres nearby at jugendmigrationsdienste.de. You can also reach them via phone or email. Check tacheles-sozialhilfe.de for further information and sample applications. Plus, there are organisations which give away used but functional laptops to students in need. You can find an overview of these initiatives at computertruhe.de. Another worthwhile option is to check lapdoo.org and search for a laptop for donation.

Are counselling centres open now?

Due to the Coronavirus pandemic, many counselling centres throughout Germany had to close down. You can still reach many of these centres by phone or email. Under the sections "Where can I find help?" and "Help for special target groups" on our page Local Information you will find several direct links to counselling centres' websites where you can find help with various problems.