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Germany: Imports and Customs

In eager anticipation of your move to Germany, you may already be busy packing crates, boxes, and suitcases. The importation of certain items, however, can quickly become complicated. Our overview of Germany’s imports and customs restrictions guides you through some issues that you should be aware of.
When relocating to Germany, you should know which items to declare to the customs office (“Zoll”).

While preparing your move to Germany, you may be wondering which personal belongings to take with you. The good news is that bringing most personal items through customs won’t get you into any difficulties. However, there are some regulations strictly enforced by the customs office in Germany. The importation of some items may be restricted or prohibited by the German Customs Administration, even when being transferred within the EU.

Some of these restrictions won’t come as a surprise (e.g. drugs, weapons, pornography). However, you might not have expected a few other rules upheld by the customs administration in Germany, such as restrictions on importing certain breeds of dog or so-called “unconstitutional media”. 

Imports and Customs: Personal Items and Household Goods 

When it comes to shipping your personal belongings, your household goods will pass customs authorities in Germany without trouble. However, you should take note of certain limitations: You must declare cash, securities, or checks in excess of EUR 10,000 in value. Cash equivalents such as raw or polished jewels and precious metals must also be declared. If you are caught trying to slip these items past customs, the resulting fines can be rather heavy (up to EUR 1 million).

Moreover, alcohol and tobacco products, as well as items used to exercise a trade or profession, are not considered personal property moved in connection with a transfer of residence. This means that, if the amount you import of these items exceeds a certain volume or quantity, you will have to pay duty. Please refer to the German Customs Administration for further details.

Moreover, the Customs Administration also needs you to fulfill several requirements in order to be able to import furniture and household goods free of the usual import duties. Germany’s customs laws state that you must…

  • have lived in your country of origin for at least 12 consecutive months.
  • be planning to take up official residence in Germany.
  • have owned the imported items for at least six months.
  • intend the goods for personal use only.
  • wait at least one year before reselling them in Germany.

If your belongings meet these conditions, passing the customs inspection shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you import very expensive things for personal use (e.g. a luxury car), you may have to leave a deposit with the customs office. They will pay you back once you re-export the item in question.

Imports and Customs: Restrictions and Prohibitions

There are several strict customs regulations in Germany. The importation of the following items is either forbidden or heavily restricted by the German Customs Administration:

  • You have to declare all weapons (including ammunition) at customs. The possession of firearms has to be authorized under the rather strict German gun control laws. This also applies to hunters and competitive shooters. If you are planning to bring, for example, your hunting rifle, contact the nearest German Embassy or Consulate. In Germany, imports like these may require a special permit or be forbidden altogether.
  • Only small quantities of fireworks officially approved by the Federal Office for Material Searching and Testing can be imported.
  • Drugs – both narcotics like marijuana and certain medications like morphine – are absolutely forbidden.
  • There are also a few restrictions concerning medical prescription drugs. Please see our article on pharmacies in Germany for further information.
  • Counterfeit products – for instance, pirated DVDs or fake designer wear – will be confiscated.
  • Pornographic material in any form (books, magazines, films, etc.) can quickly become problematical if it depicts sex acts involving extreme violence or sexual intercourse with animals. If the media show the sexual abuse of children / minors, even the possession of such material will justifiably land you in jail.
  • Moreover, in Germany, imports of all media featuring “unconstitutional” content are outlawed, especially if such media aim to incite racial hatred, call for violence, or glorify war. This restriction frequently applies to literature, etc. with an extreme right-wing bias, trivializing or glorifying the Third Reich, Germany’s role in World War II, or the Holocaust. Everything showing symbols associated with the Nazi regime, such as swastikas, is forbidden (unless it’s part of a history textbook or documentary).
  • You have to declare all kinds of food to the customs authorities, too. In practice, unless it poses a general health hazard or violates animal health laws, food and drinks usually are ignored.
  • Plants can be imported from other member states of the European Union. Some species may actually require a so-called “plant passport”. If you arrive from outside the EU, you should get in touch with the German customs office: The plants have to comply with the sanitary plant protection code.
  • The importation of pets (especially dogs) is subject to complicated regulations. You can find more details in our guide on pets in Germany.
  • If you wish to import plants and/or animals, the protection of endangered species must first be taken into account. In order to protect the environment and biodiversity, Germany upholds the agreements of the Washington Convention as well as a number of EU regulations and national laws. If you aren’t sure if some of your imports (especially exotic travel souvenirs) might violate these provisions, contact the German Customs Administration.

If you follow all of these complicated rules, you should have no problem importing your personal belongings. In the vast majority of cases, expats are able to start their new life abroad with their most treasured possessions.  


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