Simple step by step guide to unemployment benefits in Germany

If your life in Germany is mostly filled with new and exciting experiences, there are times where it doesn’t turn so much in your favor. One of these times can be to learn one day that you are going to be out of a job soon. In this case, you are faced with different options. Either you saw it coming and you have already secured your next job, or it came out of the blue and you best option will be to claim unemployment benefits in Germany.

Although i do have job again now, i did go through all the steps in order to gain those. I thought i would lay it out clearly for you how it happened. It can be quite challenging, especially if you don’t speak German. However, i have found that it’s relatively simple if you know the way.

Who qualifies for unemployment benefits in Germany?

Before taking an attempt at claiming your Arbeitslosengeld (Unemployment money), you should probably find out if you have any. As a rule, it is any registered person that has worked at least 12 months in the past 2 years. However, self-employed people don’t have this kind of protection and can only claim an allowance (more on that later). Employees who have resigned on their own initiative can also claim those benefits but must first wait 3 months after registration.

How much can I claim?

In terms of support length: the rule is pretty simple here. You contribute twice as long as you can receive. For example as an employee (aged below 55), you need to work 24 months to be able to claim a full-year worth of benefits (ALG 1). You cannot claim more than one year if you are aged under 45. In terms of support amount, you will receive 60% of your net salary, 67% if you have children. Also remember that your health insurance will be covered too during that time.

The difference between Arbeitslosengeld 1 (ALG 1) & Arbeitslosengeld 2 (ALG 2)

If you have made a bit of research or talked to your HR department, you might have seen ALG 1 or ALG 2 already and wondered what it meant. They are different types of unemployment benefits in Germany. Just to be sure:

What is Arbeitslosengeld 1:

Arbeitslosengeld 1 are unemployment benefits you can claim after having worked as an employee in Germany for at least 12 months. It equals to at least 60% of your net salary. You refer to the Arbeitsagentur. This is what we help you to get in this guide.

What is Arbeitslosengeld 2:

Arbeitslosengeld 2 is an allowance (also called Hartz 4) you can claim after your ALG 1 rights have ran out and you still haven’t found a job or alternatively, if you never worked in Germany before. This benefit equals to a much lower amount of money than ALG 2 and comes with further restrictions. You refer to the Job Center. We will not talk about this on this page. You will find more info in English about it here.

ALG I & ALG II: Like pears and apples.

How to apply for unemployment benefits in Germany (ALG 1):

1- Learning the news

This is happening between your employer and you but it’s still an important part of the process. It’s something that defines what’s next or to be more accurate: it defines the timing with which you will register at the Arbeitsagentur. This founding administrative step is really important and when you do it changes depending on your situation.

Situation 1: You are fired without any warning – your contract ends. A notice period applies.

You boss announced the news personally or over email: you’ve been let go and the notice period written in your contract applies (usually 3 months). In this case, since you have now knowledge you will be jobless in the near future, the Arbeitsagentur will ask of you to plan ahead as well and already register yourself. Same if your contract is simply not renewed. You must register as soon as possible, up to 3 months prior the last day of employment.

Situation 2: No notice period applies.

In some cases, it’s not possible to know that the end of the contract is so near. Maybe the contract has a shorter notice period or maybe you have agreed to a voluntary resignation type of deal. In any case, if your employment ends in less than 3 months, you need to register at the latest 3 days after you have had knowledge of that decision.

In both cases, make sure to obtain a termination letter that indicates the reasons of the decision, when you became aware of it and when your last day was (Arbeitsbescheinigung). If you are just quitting your job, please note that you won’t be able to receive unemployment benefits in Germany for a period of 3 months after your registration at the Arbeitsagentur.

What happens if you fail to register in time

The Arbeitsagentur is incentivizing a pro-active approach to doing everything in time by threatening an exclusion of those benefits for a few weeks. In short, if you fail to register in time, be prepared to lose money.

Failure to register in time will result in losing money.

2 – Registering (online or not) as looking for a job

It is recommended to use the online platform to register yourself as soon-to-be out of a job. You can do this very easily by following this link. You will need to first create an account on the platform (scroll down to “Noch nicht registriert“, tick the disclaimer boxes and click “Registrieren als Bewerber“). Once you have confirmed your account, you will be able to complete the rest of the process. If you are unsure about what to do, you can always call the hotline and get help in English if you have any questions about unemployment benefits in Germany.

3 – Registering in person as being unemployed

Once you have completed the first step, you will need to free up a few hours of your time to also go on site and register yourself as “properly” unemployed. This is to be done at the very latest on the first day without a job. You will go to your local Arbeitsagentur for that. If unsure where it is; use this form. Make sure to bring all the following documents with you:

  • Passport
  • Meldebescheinigung (Registration certificate)
  • Visa (If applicable)
  • Your Krankenkasse card
  • Termination letter from your employer (and contract)
Do prepare for some queuing (Credits: Pexels.com)

You will obtain a number to wait in line and a person working there will process your case and give you more instructions. Don’t hesitate to ask questions, especially if the person talks fast.

So far so good. Well done. But it doesn’t end there.

4 – Filling in the application document

This is what you came for and it’s the last step to take in your quest. Once you are registered as having no job, you will have now have to ask for support from the state during these hard times. To do that, you will fill in the “Antrag auf Arbeitslosengeld” (Application for unemployment money in Germany). This is can be done on a good ol’ fashioned paper form that you can obtain at the Arbeitsagentur directly, or it can be done online on this page. Simply use the account you created on step 2. If you are a bit lost while doing this, you can refer to this guide, which explains in simple German what is expected of you.

This form is mainly asking of you more details about your personal situation (kids too, if applicable), why you are applying, which resources you have at the moment, where your insurance is and more. All those details are needed to measure whether you really qualify for unemployment benefits in Germany.

5- Receive confirmation at home

Once your application is sent, it will processed by the Arbeitsagentur relatively fast; usually within 2 weeks. You will receive an official confirmation by post which puts together your unemployment benefits in Germany. Among other things; how much you will get (per day, that’s the way it’s done), when it starts and finishes,  where the money goes, etc.

6- Fulfill your duties and prepare the transition

Now that you don’t need to think about how you will pay your rent, you can start to plan again. Soon after having registered at the Arbeitsagentur, you will receive a convocation to meet your counselor there. It is compulsory to attend in order to communicate what your plan is. Make sure to come prepared with an updated CV and already some applications for jobs in the pipe. If you are planning to become a freelancer, show that you have done your research too (which can start here btw 🙂 ) and that you need time to prepare it. It’s important you establish a good relationship with your counselor.

Prepare for a bumpy ride (Source: Giphy.com)

You can find on this page here all the steps we just covered on the Arbeitsagentur’s website. It’s well laid-out and explains again the different steps to get unemployment benefits in Germany. I strongly advise you to have a look to get familiar with all the terms. Part of the platform is also available in English.

FAQ

Can i transfer unemployment benefits earned back home to Germany?

Yes. If you have been working long enough in another E.U country, you have the legal right to have your unemployment be transferred to Germany when registering. This involves asking for an authorization before leaving your country and submitting this authorization when you register in Germany. More info on how to transfer unemployment benefits to Germany this way.

After working in Germany, i plan to be abroad before coming back. Can i still apply for ALG 1 then?

In the case you were eligible before leaving Germany, you can still get ALG1 if you do the timing right. You are eligible if you contributed at least 12 months in the past 2 years. Thus, you can still receive benefits if you apply less than 12 months after your departure.

Example: you stay in London 15 months after your time in Germany. You come back to Germany, this time frame rule won’t let you have ALG1 (15 months in the UK + 9 months in Germany before that = 24 months)

Can i calculate in advance how much i will be getting?

Yes. You can get a rough idea with this small calculator provided by the Arbeitsagentur here.

I am in Germany on a Blue card or working visa, can i still get ALG1 benefits?

Yes, but it lies in the hands of the foreigners’ office. When you lose your job, you have to notify the immigration authorities (section 82 subs. 6 of the German Residence Act) and they make a call on whether or not you qualify.

The foreigners’ office can decide to extend your residence permit by 6 months to give you a chance to find a job again, while getting ALG1 too.

What helps in that case:

  • That you have been in Germany under a work visa or blue card long enough (about 2 years).
  • That your visa is non employer-dependent.

Please bare in mind that i am no immigration specialist. Interesting thread on this matter here.

I have a mini-job or freelance opportunity: can i still have a small side gig and ALG1 at the same time?

Yes, this is possible but often times not a very attractive option. Here are the limitations:

  • You are not allowed to work more than 15h a week (since you need time to find a real job again)
  • You can’t earn more than 165€ per month (eg: if you earned 300€ that month,  135€ will be deducted on your ALG1 amount for that month)
  • You must let the Arbeitsagentur know before it starts.

Who pays for my Krankenkasse while the 3 months waiting period applies?

If you are with a public Krankenkasse, there is a month after you quit that is part of normal coverage (=no need to pay yourself), then the Arbeitsamt covers those costs for the rest of the time and also after, while receiving ALG1.

If you are a private Krankenkasse, there is a also a month “free” included after you quit, but then you ought to pay yourself, until you receive ALG1. More info here.

Please note that this post is aiming at providing an overview of the process and that i made it to the best of my ability based on my experience. I believe it to be accurate but cannot be held accountable for any wrong-doings or wrong decisions you might do on this information. Feel free to correct me or give more details about to best get unemployment benefits in Germany in the comments.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

370 Comments

  • Reply Khoo Siao Jean 19/05/2019 at 21:37

    Hi Bastien,
    Currently, I am receiving the ALG1 (March-Aug 2019) and attending to German Integration course which is a daily basis (5hrs/day) (May-Jan 2020). My previous employer would like to hire me again from Jun to Dec 2019 as a part-time worker (20hrs/week). This means that I need to inform Agenture to stop my unemploy benefit if I accept the job offer. The question now is, after the part-time contract end, am I still eligible for ALG1 and how much I can get and how long? Thank you^^
    Best regards.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/05/2019 at 09:55

      Hey Khoo. The rules don’t change: refer to the eligibility criteria mentioned in the post.

  • Reply Ivan 18/05/2019 at 20:04

    I have worked for more than 12 months in Germany but now in December 2019 I have to return to my non-eu state for 9 months, my plan is to return to Germany after these nine months (August 2020), so I want to ask you whether if I get a rejection of my new work,will my previous working period be counted or not? Certainly in these nine months I will withdraw of Germany and registered in my non-eu country, whether this can also be a problem?
    Best Regards

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/05/2019 at 09:32

      Hey Ivan. You might want to check with the Arbeitsagentur directly because of possible bilateral agreements with your country, but since you were eligible as a resident here, and the rights are valid up to 2 years after last employment date, and you are gone less than a year. i’d say it should not be a problem. Source.

  • Reply MR 06/05/2019 at 19:53

    Hello, Thank you for the great article,
    Me and my wife were both working, but recently my wife got fired!
    She have done an internship for 6 months (she didn’t pay any kind of pension, unemployment insurance or taxes), and then got hired as a full-time employee for another 6 months before getting fired, is she eligible to get any kind of benefits?
    PS: I’m earning a high salary.
    All best.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/05/2019 at 10:18

      Hey there. Eligibility requirements are clearly listed in the post.

  • Reply Georgi 02/05/2019 at 20:11

    Dear Bastien,

    I have worked as a working student (werkstudent) from 03.2017 until 09.2018 and from 10.2018 until 31.05.2019 on a full-time position. My contract on the full-time position was terminated during the probation period, therefore I am not sure if I can receive arbeitslosengeld, because I have 8 Months of Full-time employee and before that I was Werkstudent (not paying anything from my Brutto salary besides Rentenversischerung).

    Do you think its possible to receive arbeitslosengeld in this case? I just learned today that probably its not going to be possible due to the 12 month rule of paying insurance for unemployment…

    Thank You!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/05/2019 at 12:46

      Hey Georgi. Yes, the requirements are stated in the post.

  • Reply Nat 30/04/2019 at 13:04

    Hey Bastien, I was wondering if you knew much about applying for educational financial assistance. I have worked full time for more than a year, and now currently work part-time. I would love to study again – for career advancement. The course fees are very high – but they will accept an educational voucher. Any direction is appreciated. (Love your site!) Thanks, Nat

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 01/05/2019 at 22:43

      Hey Nat. Unfortunately no, i don’t have experience with this. Sorry. Maybe something to improve on in the future. Have you checked this link?

      • Reply Nat 03/05/2019 at 09:48

        Thanks for your response. I have just started to have a look at this site, yea. I think I’ll just send them an email to check – it’s faster :0)

  • Reply Roger 26/04/2019 at 11:55

    Hello Bastien,
    First of All – Very Informative Post. Thanks a lot.
    Q1 – Is the 1 year period (minimum period) inclusive of Notice period ?- Reason for the question – say someone resigns in 11th month but still serves 3 months notice period – so at the last day, total job period is 14 months.
    Q2 – If i worked in Germany for 20 months, then go back to non-EU country for 4 months, to return in a different city and different company in Germany, Will the first 20 months be counted?
    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/04/2019 at 12:53

      Hey Roger. Q1- At the point when you apply for ALG1, you should have worked a year. So it looks good.
      Q2- If this was less than 2 years ago, yes.

  • Reply Berlin guy 25/04/2019 at 14:49

    Hi there,

    I recently moved from Berlin to Hamburg but haven’t registered in hamburg since I’m in the probation period. It seems like I will have to end the contract soon.
    I’m still registered in Berlin and have my apartment in Berlin as well.
    Do I need to visit the office in Berlin or in hamburg?

    How do I find this above piece of important information.

    I might be terminated soon or I will quit myself since the Agency is not that great unfortunately.

    Please share some.advice on the process.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/04/2019 at 21:25

      Hey Berlin guy. You’d need to talk to your Agentur at your place of residence.

  • Reply Caroline 25/04/2019 at 14:14

    Hi there,

    I have a question, I was unemployed last year for one year. But before I worked for 6 years straight. Now since September, I´m employed again but things are not working well in the company and I´m fearing they will want to get rid of me by an agreement but I´m not sure if I´m entitled to unemployment benefits again in the scenario that I will lose my job.

    Can you help?

    Thanks so much!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/04/2019 at 21:24

      Hey Caro. You are entitled to ALG1 up to 2 years after the end of your last employment.

      • Reply caroline 29/04/2019 at 12:17

        Thank you!
        I forgot to mention I actually used ALG1 last year for one year. So that also makes me have unemployment rights in case I would lose my job?

  • Reply Rowena 24/04/2019 at 03:57

    Hello, I’m an interior designer but very hard to find a design job in Berlin – people love minimalism and Ikea here too much to hire a designer. Any way, long story short…I took on a nanny job where a lot of travel was necessary. I started working for my boss in oct 2018 cash in hand, salary officially started jan 22nd. Full time, 45 hours a week. I had to travel to LA for 18 days and worked really hard, it was incredibly hard, over worked and under-slept. Had the flu while away and a finger infection that almost required medical attention, I nearly went to the emergency room but my friend was able to ask her doctor for antibiotics and so I avoided going as I was worried my boss didn’t have travel health insurance for me. I found out while there that my boss didn’t actually have health coverage for me while I was in LA so couldn’t see a doctor. Infection got way worse. Worked my way through the pain etc. on the last day, my boss showed her true colours, our flight was missed due to her taking too long a time to get from a to b. She had a meltdown and shouted at me. Threatened to fire me in a heated moment. We went our separate ways at the airport. Any way, I don’t want to return to work now. She mistreated me and made me feel humiliated and dehumanized. I am almost certain she will beg me to return tomorrow.
    … my question is: after officially only working for 3 months, will I be entitled to any benefits. I was taxed 40 % of my salary, a crazy amount. My husbands thinks not. I was trying to do a year of this job so I could get maternity leave hoping myself and my husband could try to have a baby.
    Hope to hear from you, thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/04/2019 at 21:15

      Hey Rowena. Sorry to hear about your issues. The conditions to qualify are stated in the post and haven’t changed.

  • Reply John 23/04/2019 at 17:01

    Hi, There,
    My contract with current company is until end of May and I will have ALG1 from June (already finished registration)
    My question is about vacation things which Company give me 2.5 days per month.
    In end of May I have around 13 days and among this, already 5 days was used.
    What if I cannot use my leftover vacations(8 days) until May, What happens ?
    Thanks a lot in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/04/2019 at 21:11

      Hey John. You should discuss this with your company directly. This belongs to company affairs.

  • Reply Wriju 23/04/2019 at 10:28

    Hello,

    Thank you for this very informative post. I have a doubt though.

    I have been working in Germany for the past three years. My contract is expiring soon and I will be applying for unemployment benefit, while looking for a new job. I am entitled to receive unemployment benefit for 1 year. My question is explained below – say I receive unemployment benefit for 2 months (out of the 12 months that I am entitled to) and in the mean time find a job outside Germany (in a different country). In that case, after completing the job in the new country, if I return back to Germany within 2 years and request for unemployment benefit again, will I receive it for the remaining 10 months that I did not require before?

    Thanks.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/04/2019 at 21:09

      Hey Wriju. I couldn’t find any source that is conclusive on the topic. I’d say yes but the best is to ask your Beamter at the Arbeitsagentur.

  • Reply Peter 21/04/2019 at 20:07

    Hi,

    I have an important question. I am a professional dancer, working in Germany since 4 years with contracts by theaters and companies.

    I recently received an offer from Israel. I would like to go for a year only and I want to be back after.

    Regarding this: I am wondering can I get my unemployement money or to get it, what do I have to do? In Israel I would get only a netto salary about 6000 shekels what is a bit more than 1500 euros, which is not much especially fr the prices there.

    Do I have to pay taxes to Germany or unemployement insurance or can I just freeze the unemployment benefit and start to receive it from the month I return to Germany?

    I would really appreaciate your answer and help.

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/04/2019 at 20:19

      Hey Peter. There are multiple questions in your question that arent linked to ALG 1 directly. On that topic; if you are unemployed, you are not obligated to receive benefits no. You can decide to wait until next year to apply for that. They are yours for up to 2 years after the end of your last job in Germany.

  • Reply JH 16/04/2019 at 20:19

    Hello Bastien,
    I have 1 qestion that I cant find answer to anywhere.

    If my 2 year contract is finishing and a company offers me a new one and I reject it am I by the büro considered as a “fired” person or “resigned” person?

    Thanks a lot!
    jh

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 09:31

      Hey JH. Good question, i would tend to think that you would be considered to have resigned, since there was a new opportunity from the same employer. They would ask about that.

  • Reply Frankie 16/04/2019 at 17:42

    Hi there,
    Firstly thank you for all you for all of the work you have done to maintain this site.
    I am in a situation where I will be leaving my job and then will need to claim ALG 1 after 3 months, I don’t think my savings will be sufficient to support me through the first 3 months if I have no new job lined up. If I undertake part time work or a mini job for that 3 month duration can I still claim ALG 1 after the 3 month window ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 09:32

      Hey Frankie. Yes but under some conditions, refer to the FAQs.

  • Reply Giulio Lambini 16/04/2019 at 14:59

    Hi there,
    extremely god and informative article, thank you.
    Could you please support me on the following questions?
    – Pension contribution is covered by the Government during the Unemployment Benefit?
    – The amount saved in a German Bank account as a result of savings made out of working are considered a blocker for the Unemployment Benefit?
    – With part of the money saved during my working activity, I’m planning to buy the 22% share of a small company in Italy with a shareholder role only (no monthly compensations). Is this a blocker for the Unemployment benefit or a decadence cause?
    Thanks in advance and all the best

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 09:36

      Hey Giulio.

        2- No
        3-This is not relevant for ALG1
      • Reply Giulio 18/04/2019 at 16:08

        Hi there,

        thanks a lot for the prompt and detailed reply.
        It’s rare to find such a professionalism, willingness and seriousness.

        All the best and Happy Easter,
        Giulio

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/04/2019 at 20:12

          <3

  • Reply Jonathan 13/04/2019 at 09:40

    Hi there, great post really,

    My question is simple. Am I eligible for ALG1 if I am founding my own business? I have a specific idea for which outside investment will be needed. If I am still eligible for the unemployment benefit, this would help greatly as I will need less outside investment. Under normal circumstances I would would be eligible, but I don’t know if I am encouraged or discouraged by the state when founding my own business. Obviously I would not want to apply for jobs as I will focus all my time on my new business. Neverthesless getting any real profit out will be difficult in year 1. What do you think?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/04/2019 at 10:12

      Hey John. It is possible to apply for “Gründerzuschuss” under certain conditions, which is a way to let you work full time on your business while receiving ALG1. It depends on your situation and the assessment done by your Beamter at the Arbeitsagentur really. You need to talk to him/her about it.

  • Reply KH 03/04/2019 at 10:56

    Many thanks for this informative post. I am about to start collecting ALG1 benefits and am wondering if it’s possible to choose the amount/how long one wants to collect them for. I’ve been working for 4+ years straight, but my salary in the last year was significantly more than my previous one… Is it possible to choose to collect a higher ALG1 payment for only 6 months, rather than a lower one for 12 months?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 21:58

      Hey KH. I don’t think so.

  • Reply William Taylor 01/04/2019 at 15:58

    Hi Bastien,

    You seem to be doing an amazing piece of public service here, thank you.

    I am getting very confused with my Arbeitsagentur.

    I have been working in Berlin for 12 months and the company has decided to close its offices here. I was working before this in the UK for a year or so and the Arbeitsagentur seem to want something from them to confirm that I was working there. But I’m not sure what form this needs to take.

    Do you know what i need to provide to them in this case when the work experience over the last two years is split over 2 countries in the EU?

    Your help is greatly appreciated,
    William

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 21:34

      Hey William. Did you take a look at this?

  • Reply Massoud Rahimzadeh 01/04/2019 at 14:56

    Hello, I am in a tricky situation now. I have applied for freelancer residence permit and since I am going to become a freelancer still I don’t have sufficient income as a freelancer. I am currently an employee (full-time) and I showed my salary payslips and contract as my source of living expenses.
    When I received my residence permit as freelancer and I brought it to the HR of my company, they told me that I cannot continue working with then and they have to get approval from job agency but they do not think “Arbeitsamt” is going to verify my job at “Arvato”.
    Is there any possibility that I can use the unemployment benefit until I get on my feet as freelancer or find a professional job related to my academic degree?
    I really appreciate if you can give me some hints.
    Best Regards

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/04/2019 at 21:32

      Hey Massoud. Possible yes but refer to the FAQs for the limitations around getting benefits and working as a freelancer at the same time.

      • Reply Berlinbuddah 27/04/2019 at 01:16

        Hey,

        Great post. I have a couple follow up questions. You wrote in the text – “If you are just quitting your job, please note that you won’t be able to receive unemployment benefits in Germany for a period of 3 months after your registration at the Arbeitsagentur.

        Did i understand you right that if it was the employees decision to quit he or she are still eligible to receive unemployment benefit? However that he or she will need 3 months of registration time before he or she will be able to use it?

        So to put this is context. My contract end in September. If I’d go to Arbeitsamt and register 3 months ahead, in June, and I quit at the end of my current contract “at my own will”. I would be able to get unemployment benefit directly after my contract is ends?

        Best

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 28/04/2019 at 12:56

          Hey there. Yes, you understood it right: 3 months after you are effectively unemployed. So in your position no: it’s 3 months after your contract ends at the earliest. Be aware that you need to have given notice to your employer before you can register with the Arbeitsamt as “looking for a job”.

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