The standard German ID card, known as the Personalausweis, is used like a U.S. driver’s license. German-speakers, accustomed to a level of official registration and supervision that Americans find rather Orwellian, carry this card as a handy mini-passport. In fact, the Personalausweis functions as a sort of passport for Germans and Austrians traveling within the European Union, where they do not need a regular passport.
But even if a German-speaker just wants to move from one apartment to another in the same building, he must register his new address with the authorities. This Anmeldung is required within a few days of moving, whether within a building or across the country. If you move away, then Abmeldung (deregistration) is necessary before you leave. To take care of Anmeldung or Abmeldung, contact the registration office (Einwohnermeldeamt) at the city hall (Rathaus) …
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