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 more than 12 months in their time in Germany. 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

33 Comments

  • Reply Sabine 08/12/2017 at 21:34

    Hi,

    I’m freelancer since October 2016, EU citizen, public insured, no unemployement insurance. My contract will be over in January 2018.
    What can I except! Arbeitlosengeld I / II? Or maybe something else? I’m stressing a bit now.
    Thanks!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/12/2017 at 11:30

      Hi Sabine, in your situation, you won’t be able to get ALG 1 as you need to willingly pay unemployment insurance on top of everything to get that. ALG 2 is what you can expect.

  • Reply Kira 07/12/2017 at 15:21

    Hi,

    thank you for the detailed article. I am still not clear in my case what I should get: I was employed in Switzerland for 9 years and I am now moving to Germany with the family and I have quit my job (effective Jan 2 2018). My HR contact told me i have to apply to the U1 form in Switzerland and then go to the German unemployment office. Would I then be entitled for ALG1? Or would they give me ALG2?
    thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 09/12/2017 at 11:19

      Hi Kira. Since you will transfer you well earned-rights from Switzerland, you will be getting ALG 1.

  • Reply Viktoria 04/12/2017 at 20:41

    Hi,
    I worked alreadiy 23 monrh in Berlin. My contract gonna expire on the 2nd February. I ragestered on time in the Arbeitsabentur.
    I would like to ask what happenes if I don’t sign/renew my contract (my company would renew it but I don’t want) just wait till it expires. Can I get Arbeitlosengeld?
    Thanks,in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 05/12/2017 at 20:41

      Hi Viktoria, if you don’t want to renew your contract, it means you are willingly entering an unemployment siutation. So my opinion is that you will probably have to wait hthe 3 months period until you get ALG 1.

  • Reply Paul 29/11/2017 at 00:05

    Hi,
    thanks for providing all this information! As I understand, after resigning on my own I would most likely have my Arbeitslosengeld 1 payments blocked for three months. Do you know whether the blockage time countdown will continue even if I leave Germany for some time for personal reasons in my first days of unemployment (I would register out of the system for that time as it wouldn’t be possible for me to attend meetings with the Agency)? After I come back and register back in, would the transfer blockage start from the scratch with three months or would it be reduced by the time that would have passed already?
    Thanks a lot in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/11/2017 at 09:15

      Hi Paul. I doubt this would work because if you receive benefits, it is because you need help while you search for a new job in theory. Going away during that time, even in the first months might not look good to the person in charge of your case. It could be considered holidays. Holidays are permitted while you receive benefits but not only for a few days and you need to let the agency know first. So best option might be to wait until you are back and apply for benefits then. Just an opinion though.

  • Reply Oriane Madray 22/11/2017 at 17:51

    Hello, in the case I quit my job does it mean that I ll have to wait 3 months before receiving unemployment benefits? But i ll still receive it for 6 months if i worked 1 year ? Thank you

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2017 at 18:51

      Hi Oriane. Yes.

  • Reply Dani 16/11/2017 at 22:43

    “You must register three months up to final day of actually working or last day of notice period, last day I got paid??my employment ends on 30 nov but three months notice takes me to end of gen! Can I register on 15 feb?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 18/11/2017 at 14:48

      Hi Dani, 3 months from 30 Nov takes you to February 30th.

  • Reply Martin 14/11/2017 at 17:03

    Hi, my contract ended on 26/10, I had one month notice but was promised a new job which fell through. My bad for not registering just in case. Can I still register now? I know I will lose money, is that the only issue, or am I just not qualified for it anymore? I have worked two years in Germany, thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/11/2017 at 10:38

      Hi Martin, you still qualify but you might lose some money, unless you can convince them that the job was promised but didn’t work out. Anything proving that in writing is helpful.

  • Reply keith 10/11/2017 at 13:14

    Hello, I am a British Citizen who was employed in Berlin for a large German Company for 12 months, I was then posted overseas with the same company but have kept paying my unemployment insurance since then. I have a “dormant” German contract I am now going to be made redundant the end of 2017 but my family home in is in the UK. I believe I qualify for the Unemployment benefit but do I need to be living in Germany to receive it? Any help gratefully received.

    Many thanks
    K

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 12/11/2017 at 14:55

      Hi Keith. I’d ask your company directly what they can do for you. They must be used to this situation. I wouldn’t know how to help you.

  • Reply Kalra 03/11/2017 at 08:52

    Hi
    I am german citizen. I worked in germany for more than 10 years and then resigned to work outside EU. after 4 years of working in non EU country i want to return to germany and would like to apply for arbeitlisgeld. What is the process. I have family with 2 kids.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 03/11/2017 at 10:07

      Hi Kalra, you have to first make sure you still have the rights to ALG 1 after all this time, if not you will need to apply for ALG 2 instead.

  • Reply Bart 02/11/2017 at 14:33

    Hi, and thanks for this short but complete info! I read somewhere that it is paid 6 days a week. What does it mean? I should take my previous net salary, divide by 20 to get day salary, and then I will get it times 6 days a week…? Also, no mention of maximum sum to be paid. Is there any? Thanks! Bart.

  • Reply phil 30/10/2017 at 11:44

    Hello. i have just arrived in Berlin from the UK to try and find work and start a fresh. I have been working full time in the uk for the last 7 years. i have been out of work now for 7 weeks. I am currently living with a family member here. I was wondering what sort of benefits i would be able to claim now as i had no choice but to resign from my last job. thanks for our help regarding the matter.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/10/2017 at 09:08

      Hi Phil. You currently have no rights to ALG 1 in Germany but as mentioned in the post, you might have the possibility to transfer your rights from the UK. You can still apply for ALG 2.

  • Reply Moe 19/10/2017 at 11:17

    Hi and thank you for information .
    I have a question here. I have received a letter from Arbeitsagnetur that I will receive 67% of my last salary. But I still have a problem that my apartment rent is expensive and I went to have Wohngeld from Rathaus but have calculated that my earning will be less than Standard, and asked me to go to apply from Jobcenter where they can pay only when it is above the standard they have. The Job center told me once they would apply for me they will inform the Ausländerbehörde and will withdrew the Blue Card, and this would create some problems for me to find a new job and may be my residence.

    What is the real situation ? and What should I do in this case ?
    Thank you .

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 20/10/2017 at 19:07

      Interesting case here Moe. I’m not expert in visa issues but i think you should trust the Job center’s advice on this. As a visa holder, i guess one of the requisite is that you can sustain yourself for a while. Just an opinion though.

  • Reply lakis 16/10/2017 at 18:00

    hi, what happens in case you have worked for three months in Germany and you cannot find another job?
    thanks

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 16/10/2017 at 22:11

      In that case, you can still apply for ALG 2.

  • Reply O 08/10/2017 at 08:18

    Hi, thank you for this clarification,
    I have a further question about the end of the ALG1.
    How is Is it possible to quit it without a new work contract?
    Would i than pay the Krankenkasse directly?
    Thank you,
    O

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2017 at 10:52

      Hi Orsola. Good question, i suppose it might be possible but in this case yes, you’d need to pay your Krankenkasse yourself.

  • Reply M 07/10/2017 at 22:57

    Hi. I have an issue right now. I got my notice on Friday 29th September now but I haven’t signed it yet. Also I got an offer to don’t bring my company to court cause of them firing me without a valid reason. Can I still go to the Arbeitsagentur and apply without haven’t signed my papers?
    Also I have been very sick for a whole week, I couldn’t leave h0me. Am I gonna have trouble if I make this a week later.
    The other thing is I got to know by a lawyer that if I accept the offer from my company, the Arbeitsagentur wont pay me for 3 months after being unemployed just because of accepting any deal with my company out of the regular basis.

    What should I do?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 08/10/2017 at 10:55

      Hi M, if you have been sick all week, then it should not be a problem, especially if you bring a note from the doctor. As for the rest, i don’t have enough details to give you a firm answer, best is to follow your lawyer’s advice i guess. If you were fired without a reason, then it seems weird that the company is not ready to take care of the consequences.

  • Reply Sokratis 21/09/2017 at 12:36

    Hello,

    many thanks for setting up this guide. It is very useful!

    Would you happen to know whether it’s possible to freeze the unemployment benefit and receive it at a later stage? My contract ends in April 2019 (by then I will have been in employment for 28 straight months) and I plan to go back to my home country for 9 months to do military service from May 2018 to February 2019. I would then return to Germany in March 2019 and start looking for a new job and I would like my unemployment benefits to run from that time onward as I will not have the chance to do job hunting during conscription. I discovered online that there are some ways to do that but I haven’t discovered cases similar to mine (i.e. military conscription). It is probably important to add that while on conscription there’s no payable salary.

    Many thanks in advance!

    Best,

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2017 at 10:04

      Hi Sokratis. This is something you need to discuss with the Arbeitsagentur when you do the first step. I think it is a legitimate reason to delay your benefits since you are forced to go back to your country for your service. Remember that you can also be unemployed and not apply for the unemployment benefits as well. Ask them how long you can wait with that. Good luck.

  • Reply Rishi 31/08/2017 at 14:46

    Hi,

    I have a question. If I have been given no notice, does that mean i have 3 days to register in person or 3 days to register online?
    My termination letter says I have to do it in person, but the online process seems to indicate I must go in person only on the first day of unemployment and register online within 3 days.

    Thanks a lot

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 31/08/2017 at 17:21

      Hi Rishi. In this case, i suppose you will do both steps in person at the Arbeitsagentur directly. You need to go there in person on the first day of unemployment in your case. good luck!

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