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Leaving Hessen: Departing is such sweet sorrow

Many of us will pack some sadness and regrets when we eventually leave Germany, even though we may be returning home to loved ones and familiar settings. The process of leaving can be viewed as a mirror image of your preparations for arriving. While you could just ignore proper procedure and simply depart, it would be very disrespectful of the country and town that hosted you. Moreover, it could cause nasty problems down the line (for instance, if you qualify for a German pension and would like to collect it eventually).

You have to go to your local registry office (Meldestelle) and deregister as a resident. This is a fairly quick process, even easier than your first registration, though you will probably need to get a letter from your landlord confirming when your tenancy officially ends.

You will also want to deregister with your health insurance company (Krankenkasse), as your coverage does not end until you have done so. You may want to set the deregistration date for a short time after your planned departure, leaving you covered in case some last-minute health problem creeps up.

Until you are officially deregistered, your health insurance provider can keep withdrawing monthly fees from your account. Even if you leave and close your bank account without ending your health coverage, the insurance company can take legal action against you. 

If you resided in Germany for less than five years, you might be able to get a refund on your contributions into the German pension system (only the the employee portion, not the employer’s contribution). Conservely, if you have paid into the pension system for longer than five years, you will be entitled to a pension. Before you leave Germany, you should sort out your personal pension situation with your employer or your own tax consultant. 

You should also make sure that you have copies of relevant documents for any marriage or divorce that took place while you were in Germany, as well as the birth certificates of any children born here. Needless to say, it is much easier to obtain these documents while you are still here.

Most importantly, you should see to paying all outstanding bills before departing. While there is a clear temptation to skip out without paying, doing so could tarnish your reputation and even lead to legal penalties. It also hurts the standing of foreign residents who may come after you, as well as of the company that employed you.

Of course, in the bustle of relocation, it is easy to overlook an outstanding invoice. To avoid this situation, it is probably best to leave a certain amount of money in your bank account to cover any late-arriving charges. This is particularly true for the service companies that you have authorized to automatically debit your bank account with a so-called standing order (Einzugsermächtigung).

Probably the most valuable thing you can take back from your time here is something that we do not need to remind you to take along: a huge cache of memories, rich experiences, wonderful times, insights into different ways of seeing and doing things - and maybe even the resolution to introduce some of the new ways you have learned here into your life elsewhere.