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 social 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 446€/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 and increase the amount 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 March 2021, 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.

You can read an FAQ page here dedicated to the special conditions applying to your application and how it’s processed during Corona times.

The standard application

Do not use this version until after March 2021.

Ladies & gentlemen, this is Germany in 2021, and the application cannot be done online! You can fill the PDF files on your computer but that’s it.

  1. Download the PDF and fill them in with a PDF reader. You can then save it into a new file, which will contain your answers. You can either print it and sign it, or upload the file as is.
  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.
This is the confirmation letter we got when applying for my wife. It confirms our initial application and goes on to request additional forms and documents from us. As you can see, it’s a lot! Note the “” on the side, when none of it is digitized!

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.

Typical additional documentation that might be requested

You thought filling pages and pages of forms was enough? Think again, the Job Center might ask you:

  • Bank statements from the last several months.
  • Details about income of your partner, if relevant.
  • Birth certificates of your children, if relevant.
  • Social insurance certificates
  • Marriage certificate, if relevant.
  • Copy of your passports or ID cards.
  • If you are freelancer: loss/profit statement, listing of your clients, Tax ID, latest invoices, registration certificate.
  • & moaaar. It’s never ending and that’s why you need a lot of perseverance.

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

ALG2 Application guide – FAQ:

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.

Does the income or the assets of my partner matter in the application?

If you are living together at the same address, their income and assets will be taken into account, even though they don’t apply for ALG2 themselves. This means for example, that if your partner earns enough to support the whole household, you will not be eligible to ALG2.

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, 5


  • Reply S 16/01/2021 at 15:37

    Hi Bastien,
    Thanks for the information!
    Do you know if getting the arbeitslosengeld II Hartz IV gonna have any disadvantage when we are apply for German passport?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/01/2021 at 12:06

      Hey S. Do you mean German citizenship?

  • Reply david S 13/01/2021 at 14:29

    Bastien, thanks for all your efforts here. I am self employed until recently was able to keep the show on the road with jobs, but that has stopped. I took a couple months off sick for depression and will as of next week be able to go back to work. But there is no work right now.

    So as a self employed artist in the KSK, could I apply for unemployment benefits and If I can which one ? alg2 or 1 ? Ive been living here for 5 years and have always paid tax into the system and also via the ksk my state pension etc. looking forward to your response of if you need more info drop me a reply here!

    also will I be able to remain in the KSK and will the unemployment benefit still pay my health insurance etc ?

    Many thanks Champ!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 13/01/2021 at 15:45

      Hey David. Health insurance contributions or KSK membership don’t play a role into eligibility for unemployment benefits. If you have always been self-employed, then you are not eligible to ALG1. You would need to turn to ALG2. Get in touch with KSK directly to check if it impacts anything on your membership; I don’t see incompatibility.

  • Reply Yoana 13/01/2021 at 09:24

    I am a citizen and national of Germany. I finished my Master Degree studies in October, 2020, which until that time I was recognized as a student.
    After finishing the studies, I applied indeed to ALG2, as I am yet not working and looking for a job, while receiving the application form to send back to them.

    It is my first time which I am not working, so all this process is completely new for me.
    My question is with regards to my requirements in this process. If I fill out and sign the form for the ALG2 support, what does it require from my side? I need to report to them every month? I need to take and accept every job they offering me? As I am searching jobs by my own.
    I am confused, and would like to understand what are my responsibilities in this situation to them, when I accepting to receive the ALG2 support.

    Appreciate the support and help to receive more information.
    Thank you very much!

  • Reply Chris 10/01/2021 at 04:08

    hello Bastian and thanks for your blog and all the help 🙂

    I am writing concerning the ALG II Weiterbewilligungsantrag process — I am on the ALG II as a freelancer and I just got a letter concerning the Weiterbewilligungsantrag

    I wonder if you happen to have a link with an English translation of the forms EKS and WBA that are required for the Weiterbewilligungsantrag – or if you may know of any guide in English about how to fill in the forms (especially the EKS form)

    thank you again 🙂

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/01/2021 at 13:42

      Hey Chris. All I could find was this and this .

  • Reply Jack 08/01/2021 at 16:25

    Hi, thanks for this informative article. Could you please expand on what is meant by ‘foreigner’ ? I have been registered in Germany for 2 months (moved as EU citizen prior to Brexit) but haven’t yet been able to find work, and hoped to maybe receive assistance while I search. Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/01/2021 at 13:26

      Hey Jack. Well: not a German citizen. Based on the little info you give here, it seems like you would not be eligible for now. Check with your social services at home, you might be able to transfer some unemployment benefits from the UK to Germany.

  • Reply Adi 08/01/2021 at 15:37

    Hey Bastien,
    Great information to read before doing this. My question is regarding ALG 2.
    At the moment I’m with ALG 1 until the end of January. I’m thinking to start the process of ALG 2, I’m not sure if I will get it because I was able to save some money aside during the last year (which I prefer not to use and keep it for an emergency situations). I understand they ask bank statements, I will show them my saving as well. Do you think it’s a reason for a deny? Thanks for your help!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/01/2021 at 13:22

      Hey Adi. You find the answer to this question on the dedicated FAQ page. Item number 5: You do not need to use your savings in the first 6 months, if you are applying during the special corona time. Check it out for more info.

  • Reply Cora 05/01/2021 at 12:16

    Hello I am a freelancer who does not have health insurance. Can I still apply for ALG-2? Or will this cause issues?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/01/2021 at 13:40

      Hey Cora. Good question. My best guess is that it won’t block your application outright, but it will definitely slow it down since the Job Center needs details to a Krankenkasse in order to process your file. And I’m sure you know already but just to make sure: it’s illegal to not have health insurance. Here is a dedicated post about it, it might help you decide on a fitting option. Good luck with it all.

  • Reply Anne 13/12/2020 at 23:32

    Hello Jean,
    Thanks for all this info here. But I have a question about the ALG2.
    I managed to apply in March 2020 and I am on benefits since then. I managed to extended in August for more 6 months. I am self-employed and worked with music and events and and because of Covid crisis, I did not manage to find a different job for me yet.
    Can I to speak to my berater to extend the ALG2 benefits for another 6 months, or this only would apply for ALG1? I am actually training in another career , but need some time to get up on my feet again.
    Thank you for your attention.
    Best regards, Anne

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 14/12/2020 at 13:51

      Hey Anne. Yes, that would be the way to go.

      • Reply Anne 14/12/2020 at 14:02

        Ok! Thank you for your answer! Have a nice day!

    • Reply Anita 22/12/2020 at 13:27

      Hi there, I wanted to ask, how did you extend your ALG 2 for 6 more months? Do you have to provide bank statements for the months you were receiving ALG 2? How do you extend the benefits?

  • Reply Filip 09/11/2020 at 22:21

    Hey Bastien! Thanks for the post! Could you please help me in my situation? I am loosing hope 🙁
    I am unemployed since 01.08.20. EU citizen eligible for ALG2 (not ALG1). I applied for the ALG2 on the on 31.07.20.
    On 3.08.20 I got a confirmation letter with some forms to fill out, so I filled them and sent back. Then they (Jobcenter) requested more documents (ID, insurance card, contract, termination letter, bank statements) so I sent it to them. They requested the same documents two more times as apparently they didn’t get them. So I sent them again, in the end by a letter with a confirmation of receive. They finally got it.
    Now it’s 9.11.20 and they (Jobcenter) said I still need to provide the “Nachweis über die unfreiwillige Arbeitslosigkeit” from the Agentur fur Arbeit, by 20.11.20.
    In the meantime Agentur fur Arbeit sent me a letter that in order to complete my registration as unemployed (arbeitslos zu melden) they need some more information from me and since it’s a Covid time, there is no personal meetings so I need to call them at this number (030 5555 77 33 66) immediately.
    I called this number myself and spoke to a lady in English and she said she will send me the “Nachweis über die unfreiwillige Arbeitslosigkeit” by post the next day. It’s been a week and I didn’t get it. And she didn’t request any more information from me.
    Now when I called there was nobody speaking English. So I called with my German speaking friend and he was dismissed. They told him that I need to call this number (0 800 4 5555 00) and ask for English speaking person as they need to speak to me directly. We called multiple times and were dismissed to call different numbers. Finally some guy (from Agentur fur Arbeit) put my details in the system and he said that yes they have my name in the system but there is completely no information about my registration/application or anything so they don’t know what I should do :O

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/11/2020 at 11:53

      Hey Filip. What a story! Unfortunately, there is no easy solution. It’s typical of Germany, where data privacy rules prevent public institutions exchanging data to one another. I can only recommend to call again to try to clarify this non-sense. Thankfully, since you have started on your application process (ALG2), you will get support from the application date, and not from when you supply that additional document. I wish you all the best and much strength.

  • Reply Jean 08/11/2020 at 18:29

    Hey, thanks for a great article.

    I’ve got an issue with ALG2 (no joke). I’ve had A1 for 6 months, and A2 as well, because my A1 was below the subsistance minimum. Now that my ALG1 rights are arriving to an end, and it’s just hard to find a job right now, I wanted to apply for ALG2.
    The jobcenter answered that I had no right to ALG2 because I am allowed to stay in Germany as a person that comes to work, meaning, I don’t have residency. Which is true, but then, I’m from the EU (France), and I know plenty of people that are EU citizens that just moved to Berlin and ended up on ALG2 at some point. So what can I do now ?

    Thanks a bunch

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/11/2020 at 11:15

      Hey Jean. This is correct, you need to be a German resident to be eligible. Otherwise, you need to apply for benefits in your current country of residence, I assume France.

      • Reply Jean 09/11/2020 at 15:04

        Ok, it makes sense, thank you.

        Although, my current country of residence is Germany; where I have my main address, pay taxes and have worked the last year and a half. If I do try to go for Hartz-IV, and I don’t think I will, would I theoretically need to apply for a German residency as a E.U. citizen ?

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 10/11/2020 at 11:48

          Ok. I don’t understand you first comment then. You are a German resident and eligible. What’s the issue?

          • Jean 10/11/2020 at 13:47

            The issue is what the jobcenter said – according to them, I’m not eligible for Hartz-IV because I’m in Germany on the basis of being employed. But to my knowledge, as a EU citizen, who’s been living and working in Germany, angemeldet and with a Finanzamt nummer… I’m a resident, therefore, I’m entitled to Hartz-IV.

            I’m not sure if they’re just trying to dismiss my claim or if there’s an actual law that says, EU citizens living/working in Germany do not have a right to Hartz-IV. I’ve read they did not since 2016, but I also know EU people residing in Germany that have had Hartz-IV, so I’m a bit lost… Do I need to correct my jobcenter info, stating that Germany is my main country of residency, or… ? Sorry for spreading the confusion! Hope it’s clearer now. Thanks again.

          • Bastien - Settle in Berlin 11/11/2020 at 09:25

            Hey Jean. I am as confused as you on this one. EU citizens have right to ALG2. I don’t know what’s happening here. Maybe redirect them to this page?

  • 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 Rafa 24/11/2020 at 15:48

        Hi Bastien,
        Thanks for the info. My ALG1 period will also end soon. Do you recommend to apply to ALG2 in advance (and how much in advance) or rather after ALG1 is finished? Thank you!

        • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2020 at 11:25

          Hey Rafa. After. You can always prepare all forms in advance and send an application on the first day after your ALG1 rights are over. This is probably more cautious since you want to apply when you don’t have any other resources.

  • 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.

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