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.

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.

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

240 Comments

  • Reply Tanya Patwa 06/11/2018 at 03:16

    Hi Bastien!

    I am an Irish citizen and resident but I work in the offshore wind turbine industry in the North Sea off the coast of Germany. I spend two weeks working on sea and then fly straight back to Ireland for two weeks. I work for a German company under a German contract and have had to pay taxes to Germany for the past 18 months. My project and did a few weeks ago and I just received notice that my contract is ending November 30 as they have no more work for me. Since I paid full tax in Germany, am I eligible for unemployment? It is unclear to me if I have to be a German resident or what the process is. I hope to find work again in the EU/ Germany soon but would like to collect German benefits rather than Irish.

    I hope you can help.

    Best,
    Tanya

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 07/11/2018 at 10:03

      Hey Tanya. I’m afraid this is a bit beyond my knowledge as your status seems to be close to a “detached worker” or “posted worker” (entsandter Arbeitnehmer), so are you submitted to the “Entsendegesetz” by any chance? On this topic, i could only find sources (like here) about German residents coming back to Germany after being posted somewhere else in the EU. By default, being a German resident is a must to apply for ALG 1, however maybe as a detached worker, you have some exceptions applying to you? As an alternative, you can maybe claim your German benefits through the Irish system too? Good luck with everything.

  • Reply MP 25/10/2018 at 16:22

    Hello,
    Apologies if you have already answered this question elsewhere/earlier in your blog but I had a question that I couldn’t find an answer for.

    If someone receives unemployment I for a year and then begins working again how much time does one need to be working again in order to be eligible to receive unemployment I benefits in the future? Would it always be 12 months? Also are unemployment benefits also available if someone willingly leaves their employment or are there specific criteria in this circumstance.

    Many thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/10/2018 at 22:43

      Hey MP, if i understand this piece of law correctly, it would be 12 months yes, provided you have “used” on your benefits in the first place. For your second question, please read the post again, situation 2.

  • Reply Ana 17/10/2018 at 10:51

    Hello,
    does anyone know if there is a law that protect the renter, and how to terminate the rental contract before the minimum period of 1 year, because he was fired?
    So as a it contractor, there are no unemployment benefits, so no income what so ever and we will nee to move to our country back home, but we have a contract made in august for a new apartment (1 year contract).
    Can we resign that contract maybe paying 1 month notice or there is no possibility and we need to pay for 1 year?

    Thanks for any info or advise you can give me

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/10/2018 at 14:01

      Hey Ana. Depends on your contract and the German law. This is best solved with a legal expert instead of a comment section. Hope you can pull it off.

  • Reply Sam 16/10/2018 at 12:09

    Hi Bastien,

    I am a bit worried about the amount of time one need to stay in the town where you are registered. I understand they want you there looking for jobs and that you only get a couple of weeks and have to explain why you are away, but I feel like I am going to get a bit of a trapped feeling. My question is, do you know if they count the weekends? as in could I travel on the weekend and be back in town by Monday and be fine

    Thanks a lot, this website is amazing!!!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/10/2018 at 09:29

      Hey Sam. In my opinion, just be transparent with your contact person. Tell them you want to pursue opportunities in other cities and that you need to be onsite for interviews, applications, etc.

  • Reply ChandanB 14/10/2018 at 13:47

    Hello,
    Greetings!!!
    Thank you very much for detailed info on unemployment benefit in Germany. I have some doubts. It would be really helpful if I get some more details on my quesries.
    1. I am working in Germany from last four years with Blue Card and permanent employment contract. Recently I got Permanent resident permit (Niederlassungerlaubniss) Visa also.
    2. I am not an EU citizen
    3. I have very basic German language (done only A1 certificate), trying to improve further by taking the online classes.
    4. Still I am working, but seeing at some dynamics in current company, I maybe unemployed from April’2019 (if dynamics went negative to me)
    5. If I am unemployed, may I get the unemployment benefit? If yes how long I will get the support? Is there any concern to get the unemployment benefit if I don’t have German language certification?
    6. I am staying in Germany with my wife (no kids).
    7. Currently My wife is also working as Mini job (415 Euro/month) from last one year and she may get extension another 5-6 month, after that she also has to search for a new job, after contract finish and if she not get new job till then, can she also apply for unemployment benefit?
    I request you to please provide some details, it will be really helpful for me to get prepared for the further steps.
    Thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/10/2018 at 11:18

      Hey Chandan. There is no more requirements to be eligible for benefits than listed in the post. Language proficiency is not one of them.

      • Reply Chandan 16/10/2018 at 19:36

        Dear Bastien,

        Greetings!!!

        Thanks a lot for your feedback.
        If I need any support regarding this I will keep you posted.
        Really you are a awsome person, your informations are realy supportive and helpfull to many people.
        thanks a million again.
        best regards
        Chandan

  • Reply Bogdan 11/10/2018 at 20:58

    Hello, my wife is in a tough situation. She was fired without notice end of July .
    She applied for ALG immediately but because the employer refused to send the Arbeitsbescheinigung until now, the Arbeitsagentur didn’t calculate any money .
    They are sending letters and requiring the Arbeitsbescheinigung, even if she explained many times that the employer refused to send it .
    Now the health insurance also is saying that she is not insured since she is not receiving any unemployment .
    But she should be covered by the Arbeitsagentur right ?
    Before being fired she worked for 5 years in Germany .
    Do you have some advice ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/10/2018 at 10:25

      Hey Bogdan. Your wife’s employer is required by law to provide a Bescheinigung of this nature. She is stuck between 2 situations because of this. If i were you, i would show them this bit of law and threaten legal action if they don’t comply. Just an opinion though.

  • Reply Martin 10/10/2018 at 12:06

    Hello! My work contract is ending in 2 months but I have not registered to Job Centre yet, now I found out I suppose to do that at the latest 3 months in advance. Does anyone know what the consequences will be for me? Will they reject me or not pay me for the first 3 months? Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/10/2018 at 13:07

      Hey Martin, they won’t reject your application but they might delay the moment they will start transferring you benefits.

  • Reply Kasia 06/10/2018 at 14:23

    Hey! Thanks for that article. I still have a question and hope you will be able to help me…my 2 year contract finish on the 31st of December so I will be without a job up from January 2019. I didn’t know that before, so I booked a 1 month holiday from mid Dec till mid January. I paid lots of money for the plane ticket and I don’t want to cancel them now. In that case, what should do? How is the process if I will not be able to register myself directly on the first day of uneployment? Pleaaseeee, can you give me some advice! I am sure there is any solution for that. Will be very greatful if you could help me:)

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2018 at 09:16

      Hey Kasia. I suggest you proceed as normal and be very transparent with your Arbeitsagentur. They will understand that you had plans before-hand.

  • Reply Eugenie 06/10/2018 at 00:32

    I have aGerman passport but have never lived in Germany. I would be coming with my son and would be starting from scratch-no home, no job etc. Any advice on what I would be able to apply for and how best to find a job would be appreciated.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2018 at 09:14

      Hey Eugenie. You would not be eligible for ALG 1, i’m afraid.

  • Reply Aleksandra 03/10/2018 at 19:54

    Hi Bastien,

    Your posts are amazing and very helpful. I’ve no idea how I would survive here if it weren’t for your knowledge 😀 I have a question regarding unemployment benefits. I’ve had a part-time job in Bavaria since October 2017 so I’ve been employed for 1 year . The contract I signed was initially for one year but the company I work for would like to extend it. Unfortunately, due to my husband’s work we need to move to another city in Germany so I cannot continue working for my company and have to decline their offer…do you think I’ll be eligible to apply for unemployment benefits in the new city straight away or will the “3 months rule” apply? Also, my contract ends on October 14 and we’re moving on the very same day. Can I apply for the benefits in the new city or do I have to do it in the city I’ve worked in? Thank you very much for any input 🙂 Aleks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/10/2018 at 10:15

      Hey Aleksandra. You’ll need to do the application Arbeitsagentur corresponding to your registered address. Concerning the 3 months rule, i am not sure. On the one hand, you knew the contract was coming to an end, but you were offered something more too. but on the other hand, you had to move to follow your partner. I guess it depends if the Arbeitsagentur thinks that moving with the family is reason enough to be out of a job, if you know what i mean.

      • Reply Aleksandra 10/10/2018 at 15:15

        Thank you very much 🙂

  • Reply Gigi 03/10/2018 at 12:44

    Hi Bastien!
    I have been unemployed for awhile now and did a German course before which I had to stop for family reasons. However I did not mention it to the Arbeitsamt that I was doing a course, because I was told by others that in that case I would not receive the benefits I am otherwise entitled to after having to worked for 2 years previously in Berlin already.
    I have been looking for jobs again in the past months but no success yet. On my last appointment with the office I was told I have to learn German of course and do an Integration course? Now I really just want to concentrate on studying the language first rather then looking for a job.
    However since I’m an EU citizen, I do not need any type of Visa to be here and I find it unnecessary to the Integration course. I also have doubt on other peoples opinion on: if I enter a language course which would be 12h/week, I would not receive benefits anymore….
    So my question is, do you know if I can enter to a course myself which would be 12h/week, tell the Arbeitsamt I’m doing a language course and still get the benefit?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/10/2018 at 10:12

      Hey Gigi. In my opinion, this course can be seen as an attempt to improve your chances on the job market, so i don’t see why it would make you not eligible anymore. You need support while your improve your profile.

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