If life in Germany is mostly filled with exciting experiences, applying to unemployment benefits is probably not one of those.
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 520€/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 calculation can be broken down in 4 steps:
- Assessment of the daily gross salary, otherwise know as “Bemessungsentgelts“. This is dividing your yearly gross salary by the 365 calendar days (and not working days).
- Assessment of your daily net salary, otherwise known as “täglicher Leistungssatz“. This taking your gross salary and taking away taxes & contributions.
- A child bonus is applied onto the net salary, if applicable. This is adding another 7 points as mentioned above (67% instead of 60%).
- Your daily net amount will be multiplied by 30 to obtain the monthly sum.
Daily gross salary= Yearly gross salary/365 Daily net salary= Daily gross salary - (taxes & contributions) Daily net benefits with kids= Daily net salary * 0,67 Daily net benefits without kids= Daily net salary * 0,60 Monthly benefits= Daily net benefits x 30
Tips to increase your benefits
It is possible to increase the amount of benefits you receive by making use of the right tax class combination. This is available to single parents & people in a civil partnership/marriage.
Since your benefits are calculated based on your net salary; increasing your net salary with another tax class will mechanically increase the amount of benefits you get too! More info on the guide about tax classes in Germany here.
This is arguably hard to pull-off, especially if your new situation comes suddenly.
The difference between ALG1 & ALG2
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.
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: Your contract ends with a notice period of at least 3 months.
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 or you resign. You must register as soon as possible, up to 3 months prior the last day of employment.
Situation 2: Your contract ends with a notice period of less than 3 months.
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 received knowledge of that new situation.
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
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:
- Meldebescheinigung (Registration certificate)
- Visa (If applicable)
- Your Krankenkasse card
- Termination letter from your employer (and contract)
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.
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.
Typical edge situations
Unemployment benefits on a blue card or visa
You can benefits 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.
Unemployment benefits & renewing a 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
Unemployment benefits with a mini-job of freelance gig
It is possible to accumulate both ALG1 and paid opportunities, but it is 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.
Unemployment benefits as a freelancer
Surprisingly enough, it is possible to get unemployment benefits in Germany as a freelancer. Those are the restrictions: only if:
- 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.
- 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 Impulse.de in German.
FAQ – unemployment benefits 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.
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 Bacerlona 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)
Yes. You can get a rough idea with this small calculator provided by the Arbeitsagentur here. The calculation is based on your daily gross salary, applies taxes & a child bonus if applicable.
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.
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.