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. Here are the conditions to meet:

  • Current registered residence in Germany.
  • Worked at least 12 months in the past 30 months in a job (or several jobs) that pays into social welfare (versicherungspflichtig). This excludes mini jobs paid under 450€/month.
  • You are registered at the Arbeitsagentur.
  • You are available and proactively looking for new employment.

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. In terms of support amount, you will receive 60% of your net salary, 67% if you have children. In terms of support duration, 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.

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, please refer to this detailed guide about ALG 2 benefits in Germany instead.

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. Registering online is only about saving time however, it is still required to book an appointment at your local office to finish this step.

3 – Registering in person as being unemployed

Update 03.04.2020: due to the current Corona virus situation, this step can now be done online or via phone. Please reach your local Arbeitsagentur for more details.

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:

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:

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.

When you complete the process, you will have access to the portal with your own account as well, where you will be able to most of the document filling online, receive electronic copies of the documents issued by the authorities and adjust communication preferences.


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 30 months. Thus, you can still receive benefits if you apply less than 18 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.

Do unemployment benefits decrease chances to renew or prolong my visa in Germany?

In the case you don’t have permanent residence yet, this might be a question. Trusting this source, it seems that being on ALG1 does satisfy the prerequisites to prove you have enough means to support yourself during your time in Germany. Being on ALG2 does not. However, this means that your new visa’s validity might be limited in time, to the point your benefits run out. Or simply, you might only obtain a Fiktionsbescheinigung for now.

A strong indicator there might be negative consequences is the following sentence on your current residence permit:

Nebenbestimmungen: […] erlischt beim Bezug von Leistungen nach dem SGB II / XII

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.

Can I benefit from unemployment benefits as a freelancer?

Yes, but only if:

  1. You have been employed at least 2 years before starting as a freelancer, or if you were already receiving ALG1 before starting out as a freelancer.
  2. You agreed with your local Arbeitsagentur to pay voluntary contributions within the first 3 months of your freelancing.

Rules for how much you pay and how much you get aren’t the same as with employees, but you can still get ALG1 and work, provided you work less than 15 hours a week. Detailed info about this on in German.

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.

I have been on Kurzarbeit lately, how does that impact calculation?

Shortly put, it doesn’t. Your time spent on Kurzarbeit will be considered normal working time, thus benefits will be calculated as if you were working all hours. That is true for duration of benefits as well. There is no drawback going from Kurzarbeit into unemployment. Welfare state powa!

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, 5


  • Reply Dave P. 20/01/2021 at 02:42

    Hi Bastien, hope you’re doing well.

    Quick question… how does income tax work for those who receive unemployment benefit? Do I need to fill the forms myself or Arbeitsagentur does that automatically on my behalf? Perhaps, as unemployed am I exempt from doing that?

    Thanks for the invaluable information posted in your blog.

  • Reply Tracy 16/01/2021 at 17:11

    Hi sorry I posted my question at the wrong place. I have a question, I was informed by my company yesterday that I will be laid off. They have prepared a termination contract but without stating any reasons however there are compensation clauses in there and my last working day will be end of April. So may I ask when is the correct time to go to the Arbeitsagentur for the registration? As I am currently overseas, I will only be back in March so there is a lapse of 1.5mths since the notification by the time I arrive back in Germany. Will this affect the registration date? Can you please kindly enlighten me? Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2021 at 12:07

      Replied on the other comment.

  • Reply Zhivko 15/01/2021 at 05:04


    I am writing because I would like to ask something. I moved to Germany in September 2020 and in November I found a job. However, my contract expires in the end of January this year (2021), in such case, do I still have to inform die Agentur für Arbeit and am I allow to apply for ALG1 or ALG2? And also do I have to inform AOK, the Krankenkasse for my work status, that I will be unemployed and do I start to pay my heath insurance on the first month after I do not work anymore or I am allowed to have this one month, where they pay for me? In such case, should I again inform them? Thank you very much in advacne! Nice website with nice info?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/01/2021 at 15:14

      Hey there. From what you tell me, you are not eligible to ALG1. You can try to apply for ALG2. Call AOK directly to ask about the transition period, Krankenkassen usually offers some leniency and flexibility when transitioning from employed to unemployed, provided you have started an application for benefits.

    • Reply Tracy 16/01/2021 at 07:29

      Hi I have a question, I was informed by my company yesterday that I will be laid off. They have prepared a termination contract but without stating any reasons however there are compensation clauses in there and my last working day will be end of April. So may I ask when is the correct time to go to the Arbeitsagentur for the registration? As I am currently overseas, I will only be back in March so there is a lapse of 1.5mths since the notification by the time I arrive back in Germany. Will this affect the registration date?

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2021 at 11:54

        Hey Tracy. You can do steps 2 and 3 remotely in most cases, because of the current situation. Check what your local Arbeitsagentur states.

  • Reply Gokhan 13/01/2021 at 18:38

    Hello Bastien,
    Hope you have a great year ın 2021 and thanks for this valuable informations.
    I would like to ask something about my transition to ALg 2
    I was receiving ALG 1 after I have lost my job in banking field and I have entitled to 6 months ALG 1 allowance and also 3 extra months with current pandemic period I have receieved my payments as ALG 1.
    But I think this allowance wşll stop and accordşng to some informations I have found I have toı have transition to ALG 2.
    However I have no idea how should I do this.
    Does my allowance change to ALG 2 by Agentur fur Arebit system to Jobcenter automatically?
    Or should I again apply for ALG 2 from the beginning?
    I am totally lost in informations and thank you in advance for your help.

  • Reply Pallavi 17/12/2020 at 16:12

    So I worked for 4 and half years in Germany my contract ends in March 2021. Also I will be having baby in April 2021 Can I still apply for AGL1 if yes how and which documents are required ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/12/2020 at 14:18

      Hey Pallavi. Requirements, eligibility, criteria are all clairly laid out in the post. Your pregnancy doesn’t impact any of this.

  • Reply Nancy 16/12/2020 at 23:59

    Hi Bastian
    Thanks for this Blog post. I been working full time here for 18 months under the EU Blue card. Unfortunately my job has been terminated due to the company financial losses this year based on the pandemic issue. Do you know anything/have heard anything about foreigners being entitled to ALG1 while on the blue card for less than 2 years? I think I have to apply for a job seeker visa however I am waiting to hear from the Arbeit Agentur about my unemployment benefits that if I am entitled to this ALG1.
    Could you share any tips? Thanks

  • Reply TOMI 29/11/2020 at 09:27

    Hello Bastien, thank you so much for writing this helpful article. Since I just recently got laid off at my company due to financial difficulties, I will be applying for unemployment benefits and wanted to ask you about my specific situation. Given that I have only worked in Germany for 3 months and prior to that in another EU country for more than a year, am I eligible for any of the benefits? I want to submit my country’s documents on the arbeitsagentur website but I am afraid they won’t be able to read the contracts since they are in another language. Do you know what do to do in these specific situations? Thank you so much!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/11/2020 at 10:40

      Hey Tomi. Have you read this bit here. It’s the most relevant for your situation.

  • Reply Ismi 28/11/2020 at 18:19

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you very much for your help.

    I was in kurzarbeit before getting fired and was getting ALG II on top to cover the minimum income, now I got it renewed after getting fired (they increased the amount of money) while I applied for ALG I and I’m still waiting for an approval (I am eligible) . Does ALG I prevail? Meaning that since harz VI can be considered a side-help, my ALG I won’t be affected by harz IV but the other way around, right? I’ll have to talk to Jobcenter to confirm that I have ALG I and eventually pay the excess back. Is it correct? Thank you very much for your answer.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/11/2020 at 10:38

      Hey Ismi. Yes, this is correct. When you know how much ALG1 you will get, you need to let the job center know to see how it impacts your eligibility to ALG2.

  • Reply Ilenia 28/11/2020 at 16:37

    Hi! I’ve just been made redundant due to the “Corona Crisis”. My intention is to stay in Germany for a few months, then go abroad. How does that work?
    Thanks 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/11/2020 at 10:37

      Hey Ilena. You can make use of your benefits in Germany and then if you have some left, transfer them with you home, if you move back to a EU country, as outline here (works the samw way).

  • Reply Chantal Pinzi 28/11/2020 at 11:48

    Hi Bastien.
    I would like to ask you, once you are in the Jobcenter system, How can you apply for the BerlinPass and get a discount for the public transportation?
    Thank you in advance for your help

  • Reply Krisztina 27/11/2020 at 00:22

    Hi Bastien,

    May I ask your help please?
    I’ve been living and working in the UK for more than 6 years, but I’m thinking of moving to Germany and looking for a job there. Btw, I’m Hungarian. Have I got any chance to claim unemployment benefit in Germany based on my job history in the UK? I haven’t lost my job here just things happened in my life plus Brexit doesn’t look good, so I’m not too sure that I want to continue my living here. Could you please help me what options I have in Germany until I can find a job there?
    Thanks for your help in advance.
    Kind regards

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 27/11/2020 at 10:16

      Hey Krisztina. I’m no consultant but you can take your benefits from the UK with you, highlighted here.

  • Reply Luca 23/11/2020 at 13:04

    Hello Bastien,

    Thank you for taking the time in helping others. I need your help too.. and sorry if my problem has already been answered. I arrived in Germany on the 01.01.2019 as an EU citizen. I worked 6 months in a company and had been fired for economical reasons. Then, I did an internship of 3 months (02/2020-05/2020) and was supposed to be hired at the end but the corona pandemic happened. So, long story short, during my internship I got financial help (ALG II) to offset my low income. I asked for financial support right after the end of my internship and have been entitled to 6 months of unemployment benefits. I did my really best to find a job. Unfortunately, after the 1st wave of corona and now the 2nd one, it has been too complicated for me to find a job. I asked again for help although I’d have preferred to have a secure job… The Jobcenter rejected my request because according to them I didn’t work enough (yes it is right but I didn’t plan a pandemic) and I am registered in the city exclusively to seek work. Well it is exactly what I am trying to do. I am very surprised because they accepted to help me before. I truly think, a lot of people are in the same situation as me at the moment and don’t know what to do … I am utterly lost. I am running out of money and have the feeling I will end up in the street if I don’t have support.

    What can I do I this case? Is there another financial help benefit I could be entitled for?

    I really don’t understand that they can give up on people in need especially with this economical crisis due to the pandemic that we are all facing. (FYI, I’ve already replied to their letter and said that I wasn’t agreeing with their decision etc.. They rejected all my arguments again..) Your help would be more than welcome.

    All the best,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 24/11/2020 at 10:05

      Hey Luca. I’m very sorry to hear about your trouble. It’s horrible. You have a right to protest their decisions. Their rationale seems faulty to me as well as ALG2 is not in any way related to how much you have work in Germany (only ALG1 is related to how much you have worked). I’d suggest you get some professional help with one of the centers helping people in your situation. Google something like “Hartz 4 Beratung [your location]” or “ALG2 Beratung [your location]”. You can also apply for “Wohngeld” which helps you pay your rent : Good luck with it all.

  • Reply Alejandra 20/11/2020 at 10:09

    Hello Bastien,

    Thank you very much for this useful information.
    I have a question:
    I have been working and living in Germany for the last 7 years.
    Now I’m planning to leave Germany and live somewhere else.
    Can I still claim the ALG1 somehow ?

    I believe it is still my right to do so, or?
    Thank you very much in advance!

    Kindest regards

  • Reply Sofia 15/11/2020 at 19:22

    Hi Bastien, how are you?
    First of all, thanks for this amazing post and information provided!
    I have a question regarding ALG1 and freelance activities. My full-time work contract is not being renewed at the end of this year.
    I’m already doing some gigs as a freelancer but really not enough to survive. I’d like to apply for ALG1 but continue to do my freelance activities in order to grow my business/networking/income and eventually stop ALG1.
    I understand that is not possible to earn more than 165 a month. I’m planning on making extra 400 euros more or less a month. I heard it’s possible to “pause” ALG1 while doing some freelancing gigs, but how does it work exactly? Can I pause ALG1 for one week every month in order to get that extra income? is there a limit for this?

    Another related question, if I find another job soon enough and I can avoid applying for ALG1, can I still apply for it if, let’s say after 3 months, I become unemployed again? Does it have an expiration date for claiming it?

    Thanks so much for your time! I hope I’m clear enough.
    Stay safe

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/11/2020 at 11:14

      Hey Sofia. I don’t have exact answers for you. Only pointers. You can do pauses but if you do so often, your counselor will probably start to ask questions and doubt if you even qualify for ALG1, as one is criteria is availability. The best is to clear that with them directly. If you start a new job and it doesn’t work out, you can still apply for ALG1 yes.

  • Reply Iris 12/11/2020 at 13:06

    Hey Bastien,
    I have a 2,5 year contract in Kassel (where I’m registered as a citizen) ending in the beginning of February 2021 with a mutual termination agreement between me and my employer. Around the same time or slightly afterwards I’m planning to move to Berlin. Would it make more sense to register at the local job center in Kassel and then transfer it to Berlin (and if so what would it practically mean?) or try to register directly in Berlin? Unfortunately my German is not that good I have to admit – I work as a dance performer in international groups and language hasn’t been an issue so far, but now it has been super difficult to get any kind of assistance from the public offices – . Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/11/2020 at 13:42

      Hey Iris. I’d say to register in Kassel since you want to let the Arbeitsagentur know asap that you out of a job and looking for one. That is to make sure you get support as quick as possible. If you already know when you are moving, let your counsellor know about it before-hand so they can assign you to a new Arbeitsagentur in Berlin in time. There is no pause in benefits during that process. It doesn’t sound so hard. Source in German here.

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