ALG2 benefits application guide

Life can take a funny turn sometimes and when it’s not playing fair, we all might need some extra support. This is especially true for us foreigners, who often don’t have a local support system to rely on. My guide on ALG1 unemployment benefits has proven to be immensely popular.

It was therefore only a question of time until i covered another tool in the set of unemployment benefits Germany can offer. Here it goes.

alg2 hartz4 application guide

A little word of intro

ALG2 is still often sometimes called Hartz 4 because it finds it foundation in the so called Hartz Konzept, which defined modern day standards of unemployment benefits back in 2002. Unlike for ALG1, your main office won’t be the Arbeitsagentur, but the Job Center of your Bezirk.

You can find where that is by googling “Job Center name of your city/Bezirk“.

Who can apply?

The basic following conditions needs to be met to qualify.

  • You are fit for work (for at least 3 hours a day) – erwerbsfähig 
  • You are in need of assistance. This means that you current income or savings cannot secure a basic livelihood and guarantee proper access to food, clothing, housing and medical care. It also means no relative or life partner in your household can financially assist you – hilfebedürftig
  • You are over 15 years old and have not yet reached retirement age.
  • You have the right to work in Germany.

However as a foreigner, you also need to fulfill at least either one of the following scenario:

  • you have been a registered resident in Germany for at least 5 years.
  • you were previously eligible and received ALG1, and your benefits ran out.
  • you worked a job in Germany for 3 of the last 6 months, but now are jobless and not entitled to ALG1.

Attention: freelancers, ALG1 recipients, & low income employees

Working as a freelancer, mini-jobber or low-income employee, it is also possible to apply for ALG2 benefits if your current income is not enough to meet your basic needs. It would then serve as a complement to reach the minimum threshold. Same if your ALG1 benefits is not enough to support you.

How much can I expect?

There is no simple answer to this at it depends on your situation. To start, let’s take an example for a single person with no kids and no income:

  • A lump sum of 432€/month to cover your livelihood (Lebensunterhalt).
  • Your health insurance costs are covered.
  • Your current rent is paid for.
  • You can benefit from a discount on public Transportation passes (ex: BVG Abo for Berlin).
  • You can be exempted from the TV/Radio tax.

Other situations may impact too:

  • If you have other adults in the same household with no income.
  • If you support of your own kid(s) under 15, depending on the age group.
  • If you or your partner is pregnant.
  • and more and more, all detailed in this wonderful PDF.

If you want a more precise estimate which takes into account all those parameters for your situation, you can use this simple online calculator.

How long does it last?

As a rule if your application is successful, you will have benefits for 12 months (or 6 months for freelancers). At the end of this period, if you still haven’t been able to improve your situation, you can consult with your Berater/in to extend this period beyond that, preferably at least one month before expiration date.

How to apply for ALG2

The typical steps:

As usual in Germany, the actual application is not simple. But applying for ALG2 is just another level. There is a lot of resistance from the job center and it will often look like they are trying to kill any goodwill you have. Just keep at it. It will look like this:

  1. Fill in the main application form (Hauptantrag). It contains your basic information and details about current situation.
  2. Send this form in right away without any of the other ones (Anlage). This is important because it will mark the beginning of your application process. It will make your eligible from this day on, should you be successful.
  3. Wait for the Job Center to send you a confirmation that they have received your request. It will come together with a list of documents and forms to provide to support your case.
  4. Fill in the forms requested in the letter, send in the documents to prove your current situation is dire. Naturally a copy of your Meldebescheinigung, passport, rental contract will be needed as well.
  5. The Job Center might request even more stuff, multiple times.
  6. Play some more ping pong with them.
  7. Get a confirmation or a rejection letter.

The simplified application (Corona times)

Due to the massive influx of people risking to fall below the poverty line, the German authorities have setup a so called “simplified application” process, which requires less information that can be done all digitally. It’s a bit faster and more straight forward. The Job Center will also have less scrutiny on your income and how much proof they request. Until end of September 2020, that’s the one to use.

  1. Go to this page and start filling in your details.
  2. Fill in the main form directly in the PDF file online, and save it or print it. No signature is required.
  3. Go back to this page and upload the main form in the section 3.1 of the page. Send and confirm.
  4. Receive a confirmation that your request has been taken into account, together with the list of required additional forms (Anlage) and documents (Nachweise).
  5. Go to this page and find the required additional forms.
  6. Go to this page to upload the additional documents. In section 4.1 add the completed forms, in section 4.2 add whatever proof they need. Send and confirm.

The standard application

Do not use this version until after September 2020.

Ladies & gentlemen, this is Germany in 2020, and the application cannot be done online! You can fill the PDFs in online but that’s it.

  1. Fill in the main form directly in the PDF file online, and save it or print it. Don’t forget to sign it.
  2. Receive a confirmation that your request has been taken into account, together with the list of required additional forms (Anlage) and documents (Nachweise).
  3. Go to this page and find the required additional forms (Anlage). Which forms depend on your situation and sometimes on the job center you depend from.
  4. Gather all the other documents that were requested. That usually ranges from the Meldebescheinigung to a copy of your bank account statements from the past few weeks or months.
  5. Send it all in or better yet, hand it in yourself.

Typical additional forms that might be requested by the Job Center

  • Einkommen EK : this details your current sources of income. Self-employed people should instead use Einkommen Selbstständiger EKS.
  • Sozialversicherung SV: this details your health insurance costs.
  • Kosten der Unterkunft KDU : this details costs related to your rent. Please be aware that you need to be able to prove that your registered there, with your name on the contract.
  • Vermögen VM: this is disclosing any assets you might possess as well. You know, all those yachts parked in St-Tropez…
  • Kinder KI: about your children under 15 living in your household.

A few tips

  1. Keep a copy of everything you send in. Digital or otherwise.
  2. Do not send anything in original.
  3. Keep all communications between you and the job center in written form.
  4. Stay at it. It gets hard.
  5. Get sure to hand over all documents yourself and make sure to get a receipt for those.
It may feel like that sometimes


What income/asset is taken into account when calculating the amount of support money?

The rule is fairly simple: you must first make us of your own money/savings before resorting to support money. Any and all sources of income/assets are taken into account, those include for example:

  • Rental income
  • Any sort of other public support: ALG1, Kindergeld, grants, BAFöG, Stiftungen, Krankengeld, Elterngeld.
  • Interest on stocks or other investments.
  • Inheritances, property sale
  • Life insurances.
  • Jewelry or antiques.

However a complex calculation is made to remove any due taxes or obligations on those sources of income, and an allowance/exemption for some of it too. This calculation takes different thresholds for different income types into account, and it is almost unique to each case. Talk to your Berater/in for more info.

I want to travel to visit family/friends or simply take some time off, is it possible?

The job center allows up to 21 days away from your city while receiving ALG2 benefits. However, your trip must be approved before hand with your Berater/in. You need to make an appointment and personally go to your Job Center for that. Please be aware that weekends and holidays do count.

If you are travelling for business or to try to get a job, this of course another story, but it still needs to be discussed.

I work as a freelancer and struggle to make ends meet. Can i still apply for ALG2?

Yes, you can still be eligible for ALG2. What you currently earn will be taken into account to calculate your benefits but other things like health insurance costs or rent can still be paid for.

I am not satisfied with the outcome of my case, what should i do now?

In case your were rejected, don’t worry. It should not be interpreted as a definitive failure. The best thing in this case is to simply ask more details about why it was not accepted. Then, you can probably approach a help office to help you put together a so called Widerspruch, an objection, in order to reverse the decision.

The same applies if your case was accepted but the benefits you received are below what you were expecting.

Try googling “hartz 4 widerspruch hilfe name of your city” or even “hartz 4 widerspruch hilfe name of your city Englisch” to find help in your area. You can also check this website out.

I hope this post helped you to get an overview of the process. Feel free to ask your questions in the comments.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4


  • Reply Jean 05/10/2020 at 15:44

    Thank you so much for this information. It’s so helpful! I was wondering if I may ask a question. I’m currently on ALG – 1. The 12 month period ends soon. Will I automatically switch to ALG – 2, or do I need to specifically apply for it? Is it like starting from the beginning again? Many thanks! Take care, Jean

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 06/10/2020 at 10:18

      Hey Jean. That’s a good question. No, the two benefits are not related and you would need to do a new application.

  • Reply maki miyauchi 24/08/2020 at 18:33

    Hello, thank you for the information!
    My question is, does Jobcenter pays the health insurance directly to the insurance company or pay me and I have to pay the bill?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/08/2020 at 10:30

      Hey Maki. Yes, the Job center pays directly for you.

      • Reply Abhijeet Pendyala 07/09/2020 at 16:40

        Hello Bastien,

        I am from India, and did my masters in Germany. After that I worked for 9 months in a company on EU blue card and lost my job due to Covid. Then I applied for ALG-1 (not eligible) but got accepted for ALG-2 for 6 months (also visa extension to look for jobs)..and I am grateful to Germany for it.
        My question is, although I am looking for jobs rigorously, it has been a tough journey, and my visa/ALG-2 expires in October. I understand, my best option is to secure a job before that, however, if that is not the case, will my visa and ALG-2 be extended for another 6 months?

        Thanks in advance,
        And your website is awesome!

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/09/2020 at 14:09

          Hey Abhijeet. Glad you liked the website. I unfortunately can’t give your precise advice because it depends on your profile and other parameters which can’t be examined within a comments’ section. Visa issues are really a case by case thing. I can only share my opinion: The timing of it all may still play in your favor as the economy is still not recovering from COVID. So one could argue this is why it takes more time to find a job and thus be granted another extension. But i of course can’t say for sure. It might be worth asking this official hotline about this. Good luck with it all.

    Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.