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. If you are a EU citizen, it is also possible to transfer some of your hard-earned rights from back home to Germany under certain conditions (more info here.)

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 jobless

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” jobless. 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.

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

154 Comments

  • Reply Karina 14/07/2018 at 13:23

    Hey BASTIEN, always so thankful for your articles.
    I was let go with a 2 weeks notice on Friday, and I registered online on arbeitsagentur the day after. When you say register at the latest 3 days after you had knowledge of the decision, you mean online, or on site?
    Another question, are you allowed to go out of Germany for some weeks (visiting family back home etc.)?
    Thanks a million.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/07/2018 at 09:26

      Hi Karina. Either online or at the agency directly. Online is easier though. You are allowed some off-time when you are on ALG1 but it’s quite limited to only a few days and you need to justify why everytime to your contact person. You are supposed to find a job after all. Good luck.

  • Reply Ed Sherrington 11/07/2018 at 11:26

    Hi, my contract is up for extension in a few weeks. Would I need to register now in case they don’t extend or only as soon as I know that they won’t. I’m a bit confused about the 3 month deal.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2018 at 11:27

      Hey Ed. As soon as you know.

  • Reply Joan 10/07/2018 at 22:39

    Hi Bastien, I didn’t see my comment. Just try it again and see if I didn’t anything wrong. Sorry about the inconvenience.

  • Reply Joan 10/07/2018 at 22:31

    Hi Bastien,

    I‘m a non EU citizen and have been working in Germany for more than two years (one year under a stipend). Since my contract finishes this year, I‘m planning to register for the unemployment.

    My question is whether there is way to register the unemployment in a different location from the address registeration place. I’m currently registered my address in Berlin. But I’ll move to my boyfriend‘s hometown Essen once my job is finished in Berlin. Since unemployment needs to register three months earlier, I’m wondering if in October I can register unemployment in Essen while my address is still registered in Berlin.

    Thank you so much.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/07/2018 at 11:37

      Good question Joan. It seems you need to first register in Berlin and let them know you will soon move to Essen. They will be able to “assign” you to your new Arbeitsagentur over there, which might occur additional administrative steps for you unfortunately. Source.

  • Reply Nehsel 06/07/2018 at 16:15

    Hi, thanks for your informative article!
    I just registered for unemployment and will receive the benefit after they process my application. I would like to know if I’m allowed to do part-time job during the time that I’m looking for the next full-time job (while being registered as unemployed)?
    Thanks in advance!
    Kind regards,
    Nahsel

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2018 at 21:52

      Hi Nehsel. You are allowed to work maximum 15h per week while receiving ALG 1. More info this way

  • Reply Mitzie 05/07/2018 at 09:21

    Hi, thanks you so much for your
    Time. I’m Canadian citizen with working permit expires August next year. But my contract terminated 3 weeks ago. I live in a small town and speak a little German. I get different answers from the office itself. My question how long I’m allowed to stay I. Germany if I don’t want to file unemployment?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/07/2018 at 21:41

      Hi Mitzie. I don’t want to give you incorrect information and it might all be a case-per-case basis decision from the Amt so i won’t give you an answer on this one. Good luck in your search.

  • Reply Alberto 29/06/2018 at 19:25

    Hi! I have a quick question, on Wednesday i received the termination letter. With notice of 3 months. I understand that i have still to register in less than 3 days, is that correct? If so, I tried to do it today online. First I registered, but they have to send a PIN by post (1) (yeah). I assume that will take a few days, is that a problem? I can do some things in the website, but none of them is “Registrieren als Bewerber”.

    (1) Sie müssen Ihr Benutzerkonto durch Eingabe der PIN in Ihren persönlichen Daten freischalten. Solange Sie Ihr Benutzerkonto nicht freigeschaltet haben, können Sie Ihre Bewerberprofile nicht veröffentlichen und keine Bewerbungen über die JOBBÖRSE an Arbeitgeber versenden.

    • Reply Alberto 29/06/2018 at 19:26

      Note that in principle I dont want the money. I just want them to cover the insurance in case i dont find a job before the termination.

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/06/2018 at 11:08

        Hey Alberto. This PIN thing is related to your user account on their platform. What they say is that you can’t use it to send applications to employers on this platform as long as you haven’t confirmed the account with the PIN.

  • Reply Marco 27/06/2018 at 13:51

    Hello,
    I am an EU citizen and was working in Germany on a fixed term contract for 14 months. I started collecting unemployment insurance, AGL1, following my employment ending but was told that I would only be entitled initially for 6 months unless I were to produce a U1 form documenting previous earnings/contributions in the member state I was previously residing in (This would entitle me to an additional 6 months of AGL1).

    Aside from the above mentioned sounding accurate my question is that I were to relocate out of Germany back to my home country both for financial motives and/or increased probability of employment opportunities (as I do not speak German) would I lose rights to continue receiving AGL1?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/06/2018 at 11:06

      Hi Marco. Yes, what they tell you is correct. You would not lose your rights to unemployment benefits if you were to move back home. You can ask to be transferred to your home system. Pretty much the other way around than the way suggested by the Amt actually. 🙂 . Good luck

      • Reply Marco 18/07/2018 at 17:55

        Hi Marco,
        Thanks very much for your feedback and this is very interesting (it might have sometime to do with the fact that communication between myself and my case worker is very limited because of the language)

        Might I bother you with another follow-up question? Should I decide to return to my home country I would imagine the registration process with them would need to be done by me and that the AMT doesn’t take care of this? Also would this mean that my home country would maintain the payments that I currently receive under the German system (monthly amount and duration) I ask because unemployment benefits by country vary so would I still be entitled to the same money and for the same amount of time? If you don’t know might you suggest someone that I can speak to on the matter?

        Many thanks for your guidance.
        M

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/07/2018 at 21:10

          Hey there. Yeah, i don’t think i can help you further. You can check what the bilateral agreement currently is between Germany and your country and it might give you a clue.

  • Reply Tom Boschma 20/06/2018 at 10:31

    Thanks for the article. Question _ Is there a MEANS TEST to pass before recieving unwmployment money in Germany. Ie i own a house but pay a mortgage on it. I was told I need to sell the house before qualifying for unemploymwnt benefit. Do I have to do this and then rent a house. Seems crazy. Can you confirm if this is correct?
    Many thanks,
    Tom

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:16

      Hi Tom. This is, in my opinion, unheard of. The only condition you need to qualify for is: have you worked in Germany and contributed to the welfare system at least 12 months in the past 2 years. It’s not related to income or your current assets.

  • Reply Maya Tueta 13/06/2018 at 14:14

    Hello –
    I am the mother of 3 minor children (16, 15, 9 years) single parent (divorced), all of us have German citizenship but do not live in the EU at the moment.
    In the country where we live not – I am self employed.
    We want to move to Germany or another European country. Are we entitled to acclimatization help? Are the children entitled to financial assistance to integrate into the school system? The older children want to continue higher education at university someday?
    And my intention is to work as soon as I can

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:04

      Hi Maya. I don’t know what you mean by acclimatization but your kids have every right to go to school and university and you will receive Elterngeld to help you financially.

  • Reply Shone 11/06/2018 at 20:10

    Hello,

    Many of you are asking about how long the period in which you can receive ALG is.
    My question is kind of opposite.
    I want to know what is the shortest period you need to work in order to be able to receive ALG?
    I will soon complete my first 3 months on the job. It is full time job and I am still on probation period.
    But unfortunatelly I belive I could get fired because of some reasons.
    So the question is, do I have any ALG rights after 3 months period??

    Thank you very much for answering my question.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 01:07

      Hi Shone. You need to work at least 1 year in the past 2 years to be entitled to ALG 1.

  • Reply Daido messina 31/05/2018 at 14:54

    Hello ,
    I dont have EUcitizenship. I completed probation time. My position is under the risk due to no task in the company. I have blue card and over 55000€ salary. I would like to know whether i can get unemployment payment in case firing up , if I complete 12 months. Should I have been stayed in germany since 5 years?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/05/2018 at 16:30

      Hi Daido. Being an EU citizen or not does not constitute a requirement for getting ALG 1. If you work long enough for that company, you are good.

  • Reply Maith 30/05/2018 at 13:46

    Hi, thank you for sharing a very useful information
    I am a PhD student and at the same time I am an employment at the university, so I can register for Arbeitslosengeld. However, I went to Arbeitsamt and they said that my visa type is not accepted because it’s specific for only one job without any condition for looking for a new job. So, I need a new type of visa. Then, I asked the Ausländerbehörde and they said that if my work contract at the university will not be extended, I can only get a student visa. The question is ‘Can I get Arbeitslosengeld with the student visa?’.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:31

      Hi Maith. I am no specialist on visa situations. sorry. The only thing i can tell you is that you need to have worked and contributed at least 12 months in the past 2 years to qualify.

  • Reply noidea 25/05/2018 at 15:34

    Hi Bastien, many thanks for the info!

    Would you mind letting us know for those who quit their job by themselves? How would be the procedure?

    Besides, during the time you are receiving the ALG 1, will they force you to on jobs that do not match your profile etc?

    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:24

      Hi there. I haven’t heard of this myself, i’d find it unlikely but i can’t say for sure. The procedure is otherwise the same if you quit your job.

  • Reply Ano Nymous 23/05/2018 at 14:31

    Hi,

    Thanks for the great article and replying to most comments in here! I have been working parttime (32 Hours) a week for the past 2 years in the same company. Would I be eligible for ALG1 after being laid off? I have heard some people mention its only for people working 40 hours a week, and doing so for a year long.

    thanks in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/05/2018 at 22:37

      Hi there. I am not sure what they are referring to. Your ALG 1 will be 60% or 67% of your income for that time period. The number of hours are not relevant at all.

  • Reply Ken 22/05/2018 at 14:01

    Hi,

    Thanks for a good guide. I am non-European, but have been employed in Germany for 4 years. Thus, now I get the unemployment money.

    Once two months, I got 2 times job coaching meeting for 4 months. But I hear that German, who get the money, also have to attend some courses for a few weeks in addition to the job coaching. I like it, but why I did not have to do that? But maybe for non-European speaking only English, there are less mandatory missions?

    Second question is that do officers suddenly summon people getting the money by letters or phone calls? They told me the next meeting will be in a few months, but I am afraid that they ask me to show up suddenly.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Ken 22/05/2018 at 14:04

      **2 times short job coaching meetings during 4 months

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 22/06/2018 at 14:33

      Hi Ken. Sorry, i don’t have all the answers. You can both letters and phone calls from the responsible people at the Arbeitsamt.

  • Reply Emma 07/05/2018 at 17:26

    Hi Bastien,
    I am also a German citizen, but grew up in Australia. I am finishing up a 2 year contract in August and then moving home to Australia in November. Do you think I would qualify for ALG for this short 3 months? Thanks for the advice.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/05/2018 at 20:38

      Hi Emma. Yes, even if you soon leave the country, you can have ALG 1. But in theory, this is to find a job again in Germany, so be cautious with your approach.

  • Reply Jan 27/04/2018 at 15:17

    Hi, I used to work in Berlin for 3 years now the same job.
    Im now returning back to my country Czech republic
    and I will be jobless there for some time. Am I entitled to get
    some Jobcenter money? Thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 30/04/2018 at 09:15

      Hi Jan. You should check if/how you can transfer your rights from Germany to Czech Republic.

  • Reply Matteo Lattuada 13/04/2018 at 16:34

    Hi Bastien,

    Is it possible to get the ALG1 when enrolled as student?

    Thank you
    Best
    Matteo

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/04/2018 at 08:54

      Hi Matteo. Yes, it possible under certain conditions, like having worked enough time as an employee in the past & actively searching for a job (min 15 hours). More info here.

  • Reply Matteo Lattuada 12/04/2018 at 18:16

    Hi Bastien,

    Thank you for the useful article.
    I have a question: my contract will end in the August after 3 years, then I’ll apply for the ALG1. My question is: there is a small amount you can earn and still be supported by the ALG1? For example, if I’ll get a student job for 16 hours per week, I can still get the ALG1 or they will assume that I am employed, so they will stop the ALG1?

    Thank you.
    Best,
    Matteo

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/04/2018 at 18:22

      Hi Matteo, as mentioned here, the maximum amount of working time per week while on ALG 1 is 14h59min.

  • Reply TUTU 08/03/2018 at 17:20

    Hello,
    I am an EU citizen and have worked in Germany for three years. The first two years of emloyment I was paid significantly more than this last 12 months.
    I am becoming unemployed and am wondering if the 60% value is purely based on the last 12 months?

    For me this would only be like 600euro…..

    Please help
    Thanks

    • Reply HolA 31/05/2018 at 17:04

      Hi TUTU,

      Did you find out about it? I also have the same question. How does the 60% based on if you have more than one jobs that pays differently.

    • Reply Jigna Nawani 20/06/2018 at 14:18

      Hi TUTU,

      Did you find out? I have the same question.

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