What is it?
Whenever you move to a new location in Germany, you need to register (anmeldung ~ registration) with the state for tax purposes within two weeks. The document they give you in return is required for many functions in Germany, including most contracts, for employment, banking, taxes, or even getting your visa.
In Berlin, it can actually be quite difficult to meet this two-week deadline since appointments can be scheduled months out. In my experience, and from many people I've talked to, the authorities aren't too harsh about this, so just make a good-faith effort.
How do I get it?
First you need to collect the appropriate documents. You'll need the following:
- Anmeldung form (German .pdf) (see below for English-annotated version)
- Signed letter of residence from your landlord (German .pdf)
- Visa if you need one to visit Germany (non-visa Schengen exemption stamps are fine)
- Rental agreement (I've never needed this, but just in case)
Once you have all of those together, you need to visit a local "citizen's office" (Bürgeramt) in Berlin. It doesn't have to be your nearest Bürgeramt -- any will do, and there are many around Berlin. You will either need to make an appointment or try your luck as a walk-in.
If you choose the walk-in path, it's a three-step process. First, you'll want to pick an office that allows walk-ins -- not all do (you'll need to check each office at berlin.de individually with Google translate at hand). Second, you'll want to arrive early -- at least thirty minutes -- before the office opens and wait in line. I was given a number and an approximate time later that day for my appointment. Third, show up early as your assigned time and wait for your number to be called.
In my experience, my anmeldung appointments have been non-eventful. The workers either spoke English, or I came prepared enough that it wasn't a big deal. Once you get past the waiting room, you should be in and out within five minutes. YMMV.
A final tip: Go to less-busy Bürgeramt! Rathaus Neukölln might be next door, and they're definitely used to English speakers there, but you can save hours of your life by hitting up the Moabit or Tempelhof office instead.
The anmeldung form
The anmeldung form can be a bit intimidating. To help everyone out, I've provided an English-annotated form:
Note: There's a column for your new residence, and a column for your previous residence. For the purposes of registration, you can have a single residence, or one primary and many secondary residences. For most people, this won't be a concern and you should just check the single residence ("alleinige Wohnung") checkbox.
When I moved from the United States, I supplied my previous address within the United States as my previous residence, and indicated that I wasn't maintaining my previous residence. No questions, no problem.
Second, there's a field for religion. Be aware that if you state a religious affiliation, the state will take between 8-9% more taxes to give to your local church or community organization.
The rest should be pretty straightforward. Good luck, and welcome to Berlin.
Berlin's Anmeldung site (in German): https://service.berlin.de/dienstleistung/120686/
Anmeldung appointments can be made by clicking the "Termin Buchin" button on the previous link, or clicking here (which may stop working).
Other resources and experiences I've found useful: