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WHAT CHANGES IN GERMANY

Everything that changes in Germany in April 2023

From the €49 ticket pre-sale to higher tax allowances for employees and single parents, here's everything that's set to change in Germany in the coming month.

Blossom tree in Hannover
A tree in bloom outside an evangelical church in the Kleefeld district of Hannover. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

End of the (last few) Covid rules

“Rules – what rules?” is likely to be the question on everybody’s lips when the Infection Protection Act quietly expires on April 7th – and it’s true that, unless you work in a clinic or care home, the end of this bill probably won’t change much in your day-to-day life. With the end of masks on public transport in large swathes of Germany back in February, Germany toppled one of the last few Covid rules it had – and since then people have generally only needed an FFP2 mask for the odd doctor visit.

That said, the end of the bill is pretty significant in another way. It signals the end of a three-year pandemic that shook the world and the official recognition that a virus that was once so deadly has now become endemic. Just like the winter flu and common cold, Covid is here to stay, but nobody will be feeling too sentimental about leaving the days of lockdowns, tests, and vaccine passes behind us. 

No more sick notes by telephone

On March 31st, special regulations allowing people to get a sick note from their doctor over the phone will expire. This was initially intended to avoid unnecessary Covid infections but, given the much less risky situation at present, officials don’t think there’s a need for it anymore.

However, there could still be a way to avoid lengthy stays in the doctor’s waiting room in future. If your GP offers the service, you can always get your sick note (or Krankschreibung) after a video appointment instead – provided your illness doesn’t require a physical inspection. 

Higher tax allowances

In the days of grim financial news, there’s a bit of light on the horizon for taxpayers as higher tax-free allowances for both employees and single parents will apply from April. 

Starting next month, the so-called Arbeitnehmerpauschale (employee lump sum) will be hiked up to €1,230 per year. This is the amount of expenses the tax office assumes you’ll have in relation to your work and deducts from your taxable salary (without needing proof) each year.

The tax-free allowance for single parents will also be increased to at least €4,260 (plus €240 for additional children), meaning single mums and dads get to keep a little bit more of their salaries. 

If you’re feeling a slight sense of deja vu, it may be because both of these tax-free amounts actually went up at the start of this year, but April marks the first month they will be factored into your payslips. So if you see a little bit extra in your bank account next month, that could be why. 

READ ALSO:

Deutschlandticket goes on sale

It was meant to be hitting the ticket offices back in January, but as the saying goes: better late than never. 

From April 3rd, the official pre-sale of the €49 ticket will kick off, allowing early birds to set up their Abo via Deutsche Bahn ahead of the launch of the ticket in May.

Of course, some states have been much quicker off the mark than Germany’s rail operator, so if you live in Frankfurt or Berlin, for instance, you may have already got your subscription sorted. 

It’s worth noting that some states are working on further concessions for students or pensioners, while some people may be able to get the ticket cheaper via their work, so be sure to check with your employer first to see if you’re entitled to a ‘Jobticket’. 

READ ALSO: State by state: Who will get a discount on Germany’s €49 transport ticket?

?An S-Bahn train in Cologne.

An S-Bahn train in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

Microsoft hikes its prices

First it was gas, then it was groceries, then it was beer – and now even software products are going up in price. 

Starting in April, tech giant Microsoft has announced price rises across its cloud products, which include Microsoft 365, Office 365 and Dynamics 365 as well as Microsoft Defender and Teams. The price hikes will depend on the product, but some customers could see their subscription go up by as much as 20 percent.

To justify the move, the company pointed to changes in the value of global currencies and said it wanted to make its pricing more consistent for customers around the world. This is also something they’ll look at twice a year going forward – so brace yourself for even more price hikes six months down the line. 

Gay men are allowed to give blood

A rule that banned homosexual men from donating blood will be scrapped in April. From then on, anyone will be allowed to give blood regardless of their gender or sexual orientation, or whether they are cis or trans.

What will continue to remain the case is that people who regularly change their sexual partner – or have multiple sexual partners – will not be permitted to give blood. This is determined via a questionnaire that potential donors fill out beforehand. 

Painters, builders and agency workers get a pay rise 

Life is getting more expensive in Germany, but some workers are also set to get a healthy boost to their wage packets from April.

Under a collective agreement that was signed back in January, painters and varnishers got their basic hourly wage hiked to €18.39 in the western states and Berlin and €17.86 in the eastern states. 

Workers a little lower down the pecking order are now due a pay rise as well, as the industry-specific minimum wage for helpers will rise to €12.50 per hour and the second minimum wage will increase to €14.50.

Painter and decorator

A painter and decorator at work. Low-paid workers in this sector are set to get a pay rise in April. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Kirsten Neumann

As well as painters and varnishers, construction workers can also look forward to more money from April 1st. Wages in western Germany will be increased by two percent and in eastern Germany by 2.7 percent, and workers will be given a bonus of €1,000 to compensate for inflation.

The collective agreement also stipulates that workers will receive compensation for travelling to construction sites. These are paid as lump sums and are based on the number of kilometres.

Temp or agency workers will also be taking home a little bit extra next month as the minimum wage in their sector increases to €13 per hour. 

New questions on driving tests

Thinking of biting the bullet and getting a German driving licence? Then make sure you have an up-to-date practice test, as 44 new questions are set to be added to the theory test from April. 

Of these new questions, 23 will only apply to Class B licences – the type that most drivers need in order to get behind the wheel. 

If you’re using one of the popular apps to prepare for your test, you’ll need to ensure this is fully up to date by the time you sit down for the exam. 

READ ALSO: How to get a German driver’s licence as a third-country national

Lights go back on in towns and cities

The clocks are going forward this week, and the evenings are set to get lighter in more ways than one. As well as a precious extra hour of sunshine late in the day, towns and cities will once again be permitted to illuminate their statues, fountains, building sites and public buildings at night. 

Cyclist in Saarbrücken

A cyclist rides past the fountain on St. Johanner Markt in Saarbrücken. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Dietze

That’s because the emergency energy saving measures introduced last September are due to expire on April 15th – provided they’re not extended. This legislation was initially brought in following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine at a time when Germany was struggling to reduce its energy usage and its dependence on Russian gas. But with winter behind us and the gas storage facilities still relatively full, this summer will likely see a much more relaxed approach to energy usage.

READ ALSO: What to know about Germany’s energy saving rules

Nuclear power plants to close

Just as Germany looks set to loosen up its energy-saving rules, the country’s three remaining nuclear power plants –  will be powered down for (potentially) the last time. 

As part of the government’s transition away from nuclear power and coal, these three plants – Isar 2, Neckarwestheim 2 and Emsland – were originally set to be shut down at the end of 2022. However, due the war in Ukraine and the ensuing energy crisis, the government kept them in operation – but the Federal Office for Nuclear Waste has announced that these will close in the middle of April. 

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EURO 2024

Germany prevents hundreds of illegal border entries ahead of Euro 2024

Police detected well over a thousand illegal entries or attempted entries into Germany shortly before the start of the Euro 2024 championship.

Germany prevents hundreds of illegal border entries ahead of Euro 2024

German authorities put temporary border controls in place on June 7th in the run up to the UEFA European Football Championships in a bid to clamp down on any violence. 

Police announced that shortly before the start of the tournament on June 14th, 1,400 unauthorised entries were detected during border checks.

A total of 900 people were prevented from entering Germany or deported during this time, while 173 arrest warrants were served, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser told German newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

“This shows that our measures are working,” Faeser said, adding that the aim is to recognise and stop possible violent offenders at an early stage. 

According to the minister, 19 perpetrators wanted by police due to politically motivated crime were also found, while 34 people smugglers were arrested.

The extended checks are taking place at the borders with Denmark, France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg where no checks were previously carried out.

READ ALSO: Germany to check passports at Danish border during the Euros

Travellers from the Schengen zone may also face random checks during air travel, at ports or on buses and trains. 

The controls are in force until July 19th – a few days after the Euro 2024 final on July 14th.

Travellers should be prepared for possible longer waiting times at borders – and should carry valid ID as well as any travel documents they need to enter Germany. 

READ ALSO: What to know about Germany’s extra border checks for Euro 2024

22,000 officers on the job

Security is a huge factor for the event that sees 24 teams competing in several German cities. Millions of visitors from all over the world are heading to Germany to stadiums and fan zones across the country.

A total of 22,000 federal police officers are on duty to ensure security during the event – the largest deployment in the history of Germany’s police force, according to Faeser.

“They are protecting our borders, airports and rail traffic,” said the minister.

Existing controls at the borders with Poland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland were recently extended by six months until mid-December. The ministry said the aim is to continue combating smuggling offences and limiting irregular migration.

Spike in number of unauthorised entries on eastern borders

It comes as the number of migrants at the German borders with Poland and the Czech Republic – along the so-called ‘Belarus route’ – has risen again.

Police recorded 2,215 unauthorised entries on this route between the beginning of January and the end of May, authorities told DPA.

In January and February there were 26 and 25 respectively, in March the number rose to 412, in April to 861 and in May, according to initial data, to 891.

A total of 1,021 unauthorised arrivals have been detected in Brandenburg since the beginning of the year, 867 in Saxony and 327 in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania.

But despite this recent rising trend, the overall figures are significantly lower than last year. By the end of May 2023, federal police had recorded 6,000 unauthorised entries on the ‘Belarus route’, as reported by Mediendienst Integration, which processes police statistics.

Poland and the EU have accused Russia and Belarus of deliberately helping people from crisis regions to enter the EU without permission by providing visas and logistics since 2021.

Poland has now erected a 5.5 metre high fence at its external EU border. But according to Polish border guards, people are still trying to cross the border. Since the beginning of the year, 16,500 attempts have been registered, compared to 11,200 in the same period in 2023.

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