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Registering with a Government When Working Abroad

By: Paul Geraghty - Updated: 19 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Carte De Sejour Registering With The

The idea of needing to register with the government wherever you go is something that strikes the average Briton as bizarre and even a little creepy. It’s certainly not something that we’re used to doing here in Britain, so when many of us go abroad, we often don’t realise it’s required. But in many European countries, registering with the government is regarded as perfectly normal. It’s a bit like ID cards, when tend to provoke fierce passions here in Britain, but have been in daily use on the continent for decades.

Why You Should Register

If you don’t register with the government, you can be subject to a fine. Of course, more often than not, this fact won’t be discovered, but if you’re planning to live and work abroad long-term, you may as well do things by the book. You’ll also often find that your access to many other local facilities – such as bank accounts, library services or the local school system – hinges upon proof that you’re properly registered with the relevant authorities. Participation in the country’s social insurance scheme, and therefore your entitlement to medical treatment, pension and welfare benefits, is also usually based on your registered status.

The Registration Requirements

Customs vary from one country to another, and sometimes even within countries, so you’ll have to do a bit of country-specific research when you’ve made you mind up to move to a particular place. If you can hook up with other expats in the area, they should be able to set you straight.

Some generalisations can be made, however. Usually, registering is a local thing rather than a national thing. Often it’s done at the local town hall; sometimes it’s done with the police; or sometimes the police come and visit you after you’ve registered, just to make sure that everything is as you said it was. After you’ve moved into a place of residence, you are usually required to register within a specific period of time. In France, for example, the limit is three months. In Germany, it is a week. Failing to register in a timely fashion can result in penalties being imposed, usually a fine. If you move within the country (even if it’s just to another flat in the same building), you have to re-register. And when you’re eventually ready to leave the country, you’re often supposed to de-register too.

The Process of Registration

To register you usually go to the offices of the local council and fill out a form. You will be expected to provide some documentation such as your passport and proof of residence. This might, for example, be a rental contract from your landlord or the deeds of your property if you own your own home. There probably won’t be an English-language version of the form available and the local staff may not be able to speak English, so if you have a friend who has mastered the native language, it can be very helpful to take them along with you. Registering in most cases is free, though sometimes you may have to pay something. In the end, you usually get a card or certificate to prove that you’ve been registered properly. Sometimes it is issued there and then; at other times you may have to wait a bit, but even then you will usually be given something signifying that you have at least initiated the process of registration.

Registering with a Government – Conclusion

When you move abroad to live and work, you’re going to have to adapt to the local customs, some of which will undoubtedly seem strange to you. Registering with the government is one of those, and you should make it a priority as soon as you arrive.

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