Welcome Office

The Welcome Office supports our researchers and visiting scientists in getting settled into life in Germany. We are your go-to source for all non-academic matters, offering the advice and practical support to help you with a smooth transition to Konstanz. We help you understand the confusing rules and get you past the red tape so you can focus on the important things. If you’re starting with us, make a video appointment with our Welcome Officer, Jennifer Golbol, to find out more.

Preparation before coming to Germany

Visa Questions

If you are not a citizen of the EU, you will most likely need permission to work in Germany.  Even if you are able to enter the country without a visa, you will not be able to work until you have a visa or a residence permit that allows employment.  In most cases, we advise to apply for a research visa

Important Documents

This is a non-exhaustive list of documents to bring with you:

  • a valid passport or form of identification (valid for your entire stay in Germany)
  • if required, a visa
  • passport photos for ID cards and documents (if required, biometric passport photos)
  • written documentation in German or English of how you are funding your stay (scholarship, salary from your home country)
  • proof of health insurance in German or English with a written confirmation of the monthly payments. If your employment in Germany is subject to compulsory insurance, please provide: documentation of your current health insurance (e.g. European Health Insurance Card from your current provider)
  • certified copies of your academic degrees in German or English translation
  • if applicable, birth certificate of your children and certificate of marriage, in German or an English translation, if possible. Depending on the country, certificates will need to include an apostille or form of legalization
  • a credit card and/or EC card
  • an (international) immunization record as well as documents on illnesses or medications
  • If you would like to drive a car while you are in Germany, please bring along an international driving license and a valid driving license from abroad.
Preliminary Housing

It can be quite difficult to find housing in and around Konstanz.  Homeowners often want to meet their potential tenant in person before they draw up a lease. Therefore, we recommend booking a room in the MPIAB guesthouse for the beginning.  Please contact Elke Henkenhaf in order to reserve a room.

The University of Konstanz also has a few rooms available, you can ask here as well

Of course, you are welcome to try the housing market in advance. Here are some of the biggest regional housing portals:

Südkurier Immobiliensuche




Vierwaen.de (especially for shared-living arrangements)


Travel to the Institute

The closest airport is located in Zurich, Switzerland.  The next airports in Germany are Friedrichshafen, Stuttgart, Munich and Frankfurt.

Your department’s assistant can help you with your initial travel plans to the institute or see our Addresses and Directions page.

First Days at the Institute

Meeting with our Welcome Officer

Once you arrive, our Welcome Officer will approach you to set up a meeting. This is an opportunity for you to find out more about life at the institute and determine which bureaucratic steps need to be taken in the next few days. Our goal is to get these steps taken care of as soon as possible so that you can concentrate on your research.


The first step to life in Germany is registering with the local authorities.  You must tell the citizen’s office (Bürgerbüro) what your current address is.  Every time you change your address or leave the country for good, you must also tell the Bürgerbüro. You must do this within 14 days.

You will need two things in order to do this: your passport and a landlord’s certificate (Wohnungsgeberbestätigung), which is a document from your landlord confirming that you live at this address. If you are married and your spouse lives with you or you live with your children, you will need to take all passports, your marriage license and the child(ren)’s birth certificate(s).  One surprising question that the authorities ask is, “Which religion do you belong to?”  By mentioning your religion, you agree to pay a tax to the catholic or protestant churches. You do not have to answer this question.

You will receive a certificate with your new address on it, please keep this document. With this certificate, you can now open a bank account. The citizen’s office also tells the immigration office that you here.

When you register for the first time, you will automatically get the following things in the mail within a few days:

  • Tax-ID:  This is an eleven-digit number, which your employer needs, and which you need for your income tax returns. This is your German tax number for life, so please hold on to it.
  • Municipal waste service: Garbage fees differ depending on where you live and how many people live in your home.  Please contact your property owner to see if these costs are already included in your “warm” rent.
  • Public television and radio licence fee: Every household must pay a monthly mandatory fee for public news. This fee must only be paid once per household.


Whenever you move to a new address, you are obliged to re-register and when you leave Germany completely, it is also important to de-register.  By doing so, you inform the local immigration office and you receive a certificate that can help you end some contracts (telecommunication, electricity, etc).

Immigration office

If you entered the country with a visa and you are planning on staying in Germany beyond its validity, you must apply for a residence permit with the local immigration office. In general, you must prove that you have sufficient income, housing and health insurance to be granted a residence permit. In some cases, you must also show that you speak German. Our Welcome Office will help you with the application, please set up an appointment.

Social Security

Social security covers in Germany health insurance, pension schemes, unemployment benefit, accident and long-term care insurance. Social insurance is usually mandatory for all employees in Germany. Therefore, researchers who are employed in Germany via an employment contract take part in the full German social security system. A certain percentage of your monthly salary are automatically allocated to the social security system.

Researchers on a fellowship are generally exempt from the obligation to pay contributions to the German social security system. However, they need to be insured in a health insurance scheme. We recommend that this group of people purchase a substitutive private health insurance.

Health Insurance

Once you are employed in Germany, you must take out statutory health insurance. The choice of health insurance company is up to you, there are dozens of insurances to choose from. The EURAXESS website for researchers in Europe describes the social security system in Germany and offers links to both statutory and private health insurances.


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Dual Career Policy

The Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior is committed to supporting dual-career couples. We realize that in order to recruit and retain leading international researchers, the entire family needs to have a perspective in Konstanz and Radolfzell.Our dual career support strives provide professional and competent support to the accompanying partners of our postdocs and group leaders. They receive information, advice and assistance services to facilitate their integration into the regional job market. This service is a support measure meant to expedite the partner’s job search. This professional process also involves defining the specific support provided and clarifying the expectations of everyone involved.

Our services include:

  • Individual counseling sessions
  • Sharing applications with regional Dual Career Network
  • Feedback on application documents
  • Advice on application procedures in Germany
  • Assistance with recognition of qualifications from abroad in Germany
Visas for family

Your family members may also require a visa. Please consult your local German diplomatic mission for details.

Kindergarten and schools

Please give us plenty of time to find an appropriate childcare facility or school for your child(ren).

Both Konstanz and Radolfzell have a centralized registration for daycare.

In general, elementary school is for children aged 6-10; there are special classes available to help youngsters learn German and integrate into the German school system.

Please contact our Welcome Officer for a personal consultation so that we can find the right solution for your family.

Information about the German child care  

Information about the German school system

Starting a family in Konstanz

Starting a family and pursuing a career in tandem can be challenging--especially in a foreign country. We have established transparent and accessible guidelines for employees who are starting a family in Konstanz. This includes practical resources for finding a doctor, giving birth, and applying for financial assistance. It also covers explanations of German laws and institute policies protecting the rights of parents. The guidelines are available to MPI-AB employees. If you would like to know more, please contact our Welcome Officer.

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