Part of working, next to paying the bills and following your career path, is putting money aside for when you retire. Maybe you’re dreaming about using that money to live quietly in a cottage by the sea or to travel the world. Picture it already: doing whatever you want with your time, spending it with your loved ones and pursuing your passions. Until then, like most Germans, you’re probably looking forward to getting your hard-earned pension someday.
But what if you don’t plan on living in Germany much longer? Don’t worry, those monthly pension contributions won’t just disappear! Keep reading to find out how you can get a pension refund after leaving Germany.
Pension refund Germany: let’s take a look at the requirements
Most people in Germany automatically pay into the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, or German pension system, each month. You and your employer evenly split the contribution, which is set at 18.7% of your gross income. This is the same for all employees, regardless of their citizenship, contract length or existing private pension contributions. In addition, contributions are made on your behalf even while you’re sick, on unemployment benefits or in occupational training. Once you retire, you receive a regular pension from the government based on your contributions to the system.
Please note that it’s not possible to receive the full 18.7% refunded; only your half will be refunded to you.
If are not an EU citizen and you contributed for less than 5 years (60 months) to the German pension system, then you might qualify for a refund of your contributions according to the exceptions outlined in Article 210 in the sixth book of the code of social law (§ 210 Sozialgesetzbuch Sechstes Buch (SGB VI)). However, there might be additional conditions depending on social security agreements between your country of residence/citizenship and Germany. Currently, there are agreements with the following countries:
Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada / Quebec, Chile, India, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Morocco, Macedonia, Montenegro, Philippines, Serbia, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, and the United States.
Even if you qualify for the pension refund Germany offers, you still need to apply to receive it.
Finding out how much you might get back
Ok, so now you have an idea about whether you qualify for a refund. But how much will you get?
While living in Germany, you should be receiving yearly pension information in addition to any paperwork from your employer. Of the contributions made to the pension system, only the ones you made (not your employer) are eligible for a refund.
It can be difficult to calculate the amount on your own though. Use a tool like the German pension refund calculator to estimate your pension after retirement and how much you’ve already paid into the system. This one is in German, but only requires your birth year and gross income for each year you lived in Germany. Under “Solidargemeinschaft und Rendite” (collective insurance and return) you can see an estimation of the net contributions to your account, including employer contributions (Gesamte Nettozahlung in die Rentenkasse inklusive Arbeitgeberanteil).
No matter what the German pension refund calculator says, the pension refund Germany offers depends on your specific situation. To get more detailed information about your potential refund, contact a Deutsche Rentenversicherung representative and ask for an overview of your account. This is a free service and just requires you to make an appointment.
You can book an appointment online very easily here.
The process for applying to get a German pension refund
The application process itself is straightforward but I recommend gathering all relevant documentation while you’re still in Germany, so you’re prepared for the application.
- First, there’s a two-year waiting period, which starts when you leave the EU/EEA/CH region, as Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 Article 10(2) states that you’re not eligible for a pension refund while residing in a member state.
- Once that period is over, you should go to your local German embassy to get the right paperwork (Form V0901 for English or V0902 for French) and check any specific requirements for your country. Forms for specific countries can be found here.
- Once the forms are completed, send everything to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung office you were most recently in contact with. The contact information is listed on their website.
And now the wait begins…
While the process isn’t difficult, waiting for the pension refund Germany will send you takes 2 to 6 months. Once that goes through, all contributions so far are removed from your account. You’ll no longer receive pension payments from Germany and if you ever return, you’ll have to start from scratch.
What now? Well, you could take all that money to the casino and try your luck, invest it, use it to start a business, travel the world, add to your savings account… the choice is yours!
I hope you got a clearer idea on how to get your pension refund Germany. Feel free to post a comment if you have any questions.
Can i also just wait until i’m retired to get the money?
Yes. Regardless of your citizenship or location at your retirement age (German retirement age: 67), it is also possible to have the German system directly transfer you the pension in monthly installments. However, those installments are likely to be very small as you contributed less than 5 years into the system. It’s usually more beneficial to get a refund and invest that money some other way.
I am a EU citizen; can i get a pension refund too?
No. As long as you live the E.U, the pension system reciprocity agreements between EU member states applies.