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Suppose that married persons X and Y are moving to Germany. They will share a Hauptwohnung (primary residence) in city A, but X will additionally occupy a Nebenwohnung (secondary residence) in city B because X has a job at the other end of the country. So far so good: both will register as Hauptwohnung in city A, and X will additionally register as Nebenwohnung in city B.

However, due to timing reasons, X is moving to Germany before Y does, and will live primarily in what will be the Nebenwohnung for the first 6 weeks or so. Can X register their residency in city B as Nebenwohnung, before X and Y together register their residency in city A as Hauptwohnung? Or must X initially register residency as city B as Hauptwohnung, and then re-register in city B as Nebenwohnung as soon as Y moves to Germany and both partners register together in city A as Hauptwohnnung?

The registration form (example from Offenbach, but I expect it's the same elsewhere) appears not to ask people registering a Nebenwohnung, what their Hauptwohnung is, although it does ask for address details for the Ehegatte (partner).

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German residence registers only care about residences in Germany. You can’t have a secondary residence if you don’t have a primary residence (in Germany).

Therefore, X will need to register in B as their only residence (treated the same as a primary residence), and later X and Y will register their shared primary residence in A. Downgrading the residence in B isn’t a separate step, it will be done registering in A.

  • You can’t have a secondary residence if you don’t have a primary residence (in Germany)., that directly contradicts the other answer. Do you have a source backing up that one cannot? – gerrit Nov 25 '18 at 0:20
  • @gerrit: I can refer to the law (in German only, of course), § 21 BMG. Note how it always speaks about residences “im Inland”, i.e. in Germany. – chirlu Nov 25 '18 at 3:27
  • It says Hat ein Einwohner mehrere Wohnungen im Inland, so ist eine dieser Wohnungen seine Hauptwohnung., but in the case described in the question, the Einwohner hat nur eine Wohnung im Inland, nicht mehrere... – gerrit Nov 25 '18 at 10:58
  • I'm just worried about the tax consequences if, for six weeks, we would have different Hauptwohnung despite being married, which may lead the authorities to conclude that we live separated. – gerrit Nov 25 '18 at 11:01
  • @gerrit: Separation requires intent (“… wenn zwischen ihnen keine häusliche Gemeinschaft besteht und ein Ehegatte sie erkennbar nicht herstellen will, weil er die eheliche Lebensgemeinschaft ablehnt”, § 1567 BGB). Regarding the other comment: As I say in my answer, it is technically not a primary residence but the only residence (alleinige Wohnung), but treated the same. See, e.g., the final part of § 21 BMG (“… die für die alleinige Wohnung oder die Hauptwohnung zuständig ist“). – chirlu Nov 25 '18 at 12:06

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