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.

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. 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:

  • 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.

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.

FAQ

Can i transfer unemployment benefits earned back home to 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.

After working in Germany, i plan to be abroad before coming back. Can i still apply for ALG 1 then?

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 2 years. Thus, you can still receive benefits if you apply less than 12 months after your departure.

Example: you stay in London 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)

Can i calculate in advance how much i will be getting?

Yes. You can get a rough idea with this small calculator provided by the Arbeitsagentur here.

I am in Germany on a Blue card or working visa, can i still get ALG1 benefits?

Yes, 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.

I have a mini-job or freelance opportunity: can i still have a small side gig and ALG1 at the same time?

Yes, this is possible but often times 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.

Who pays for my Krankenkasse while the 3 months waiting period applies?

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.

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, 4

490 Comments

  • Reply Thomas Lawrence 28/11/2019 at 09:32

    Good Morning S.I.B,

    I have a question that has confused me slightly as i have been given different answers from different sources. I have been fired from my current job and will try to claim arbeitslosengeld 1. I have made my online profile on arbeitsagentur and have received my personal pin number. I have all my documents and paper work ready along with a plan to get back into a working position as quickly as possible. I have been told by one source that i should go to the arbeitsamt, but here i read i should go to the arbeitsagentur! I am told by one source if i go directly to the arbeitsagentur then i have to pay some money each month for something. Can you help me with this situation? I am trying super hard to follow all steps and get working ASAP. Thank you for the article.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 29/11/2019 at 09:31

      Hey Thomas. Arbeitsamt is another term people use for the Arbeitsagentur. I don’t know what this other source is talking about. It’s a bit vague.

  • Reply Dimitris 18/11/2019 at 14:45

    Great work Bastien, really thank you very much for this post.

    Do you know if I still need a termination letter for the first visit to the Arbeitsagentur if I have quit my job myself? I a working in a permanent contract, I quit last month, and I haven’t got anything from my employer yet that confirms that I have terminated my contract.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 12:25

      Hey Dimitris. You can get a Arbeitsbescheinigung from your former employer.

  • Reply Sm 17/11/2019 at 19:34

    Hello,

    Thank you for the information, they were really helpful. I have a question though. I resigned from my job (i was working there for 1 year and 3 months). I applied for ALG1, but as i resigned logically i am going to receive my money after three months. At the moment i have an offer for a minijob. Could i receive a normal minijob payment during these three months or will i gain 160 euro, which is the salary of a minijob when one receives ALG1?

    Thank you!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 12:21

      Hey Sm. You can ask the Arbeitsagentur directly about this one. I’m not sure what the reply is here.

  • Reply Leo 16/11/2019 at 13:23

    Hi,
    Could you kindly please clarify this part mentioned above
    “ which resources you have at the moment “

    In the text part
    (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.)

    Does it mean resources or income or savings ?

    Many thanks in advance

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 12:03

      Hey Leo. It means income sources yes.

  • Reply Leo 16/11/2019 at 13:12

    Hi,
    Thank you for this great useful forum and comments.
    I would appreciate it, if you could advise whether leaving the company on mutual agreement would be considered as being fired and entitles me for immediate ALG1 on unemployment?

    Thank your for your kind answer

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 12:02

      Hey Leo. That is only possible if that was due to poor economic performance of the company, in German: “Betriebsbedingt”.

  • Reply Nikhil 09/11/2019 at 12:10

    Hi,
    Really great article 🙂
    My situation is :
    I am a non-EU student and have worked fulltime for about 2 months. Well, I do not need unemployment benefits. But the company where I worked has sent me Arbeitsbescheinigung. I want to know that is it mandatory to submit the Arbeitsvescheinigung at the Agentur für Arbeit or not submitting would create a problem?

    Another Situation :
    While I was working in that company I wanted to leave the company before the contract duration because my semester started. So, as stated on the contract, I gave the resignation letter 2 weeks before I was leaving. After I left the company, I got a letter from the company that I should come back to work and I have not informed in advance. Then, I received another letter saying that my contract is terminated by the company because I stopped going to work without notice. But I gave the resignation letter in advance. So, when I called them about this issue, they said that maybe the letter is lost. So what should I do next?
    Will this create a problem in my future employment?

    Thank you in advance!

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 25/11/2019 at 11:38

      Hey Nikhil. No, you don’t need to submit the Bescheinigung. I cannot give you on the second situation, which has to do with with labor law. Sorry.

  • Reply Danila 08/11/2019 at 16:48

    Hi, I have a similar question to Rohan. I would like to resign from the job in agreement with my boss. I already found new job which will start after 3 months. I have worked for the same company for 2 years, and I’m a non-EU citizen. Do I have to notify the Arbeitsamt and Ausländerbehörde as well? My current residence permit (which is provided according to the current work contract) is still valid for 1 year, but I’m worried it would be canceled as soon as I terminate my contract with the current employer.

    Thank you very much for your help.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 15:20

      Hey Danila. Hard to answer accurately on so little details. I guess you have to check if your permit is tied that employer/contract or not. You might have to renew your visa based on the new contract you will get.

  • Reply Yammy 07/11/2019 at 10:34

    Hi thanks for the explanation, I want to quit my job and do the the integration course but my wife is not working and she is not receiving any benefit from job center bcos of my pay is high. If I quit will jobcentre pay her and me?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 15:17

      Hey Yammy. I don’t know, depends on several parameters.

  • Reply Spyros 04/11/2019 at 23:43

    Hey Bastien,

    Firstly, congrats for creating this website. Since I moved here 2 years ago it has served me as an excellent source of information and advice.
    So, from the bottom of my heart thank you since it has saved my ass a number of times 🙂

    Secondly, I recently became unemployed and you can apply for the ALG I or II by the Agentur website. Their online services are really good and with some effort you can do most of the relevant applications online. You can even receive electronic copies of the documents issued by the authorities in their online platform.

    First you have to register in person, do an appointment with an employee and then you are free to use the poral and optimise it according to your nees and preferences (e.g. communications by post email, emails or both)

    Maybe its worth complementing the guide with this information? – or have a seperate page for it?

    Regards
    Spyros

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 15:13

      Hey Spyros. Thanks for the additional details. I will amend the post.

  • Reply Jose 25/10/2019 at 10:46

    Hello!
    In my case, I’m working for a German University as a researcher, and have to do some of my research abroad for 1 and a half year. I remain Steuerpfichtig during that time abroad. Does my time of contribution while living outside Germany also counts if I apply for the benefit, after my contract expires?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/10/2019 at 09:05

      Hey Jose. I would refer you to this. In doubt, you can also ask the Arbeitsagentur directly.

  • Reply Elisabet 22/10/2019 at 18:54

    Hello, thank you again for the helpful tips.

    So I’ve registered and they have called me in for an official appointment. They told me I should bring a translator or an interpreter with me. Do you know if the interpreter has to be licensed or if I could just bring a German speaking friend?

    Regards, Elisabet

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/10/2019 at 08:56

      Hey Elisabet. you can bring a friend with you.

  • Reply Elsa 18/10/2019 at 22:48

    Hi there,

    In my situation I will quit my job in order to look for other opportunities. I live in Germany already more than 5 years.
    – How can I make sure I will get ALG 1 despite the Sperrzeit?
    – Can I make the Sperrzeit less than 3 months and how?
    – I had a lot of stress in my job and in the past I did get sick because of that. I am not sick now though. Can I use that in my favour? And if I ask my doctor to write a note for me, will my current employer find out? (–> that can lead to a bad recommendation letter)
    – When I apply for other jobs while getting ALG 1, am I allowed to apply for positions outside Germany?
    – Last but not least, should I apply for ALG 1 more than 3 months before my last day of employment?

    A million thanks,
    Elsa

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 21:53

      Hey Elsa. You will get ALG1, that’s your right, with some delay, that’s the condition. You can reduce the Sperrzeit unless i suppose you can prove you were abused in your job and HAD to quit, or if you had to quit because the business was shutting down (“betriebsbedingt”). You can apply to any position you want, regardless of location.

  • Reply Parbati 17/10/2019 at 19:25

    Hi, Thank you very much for this information. In spite of this, I would like to ask a question just to be sure. Now, I am working in Germany. I am working as research associate in Goethe University since December 2017 and my contract is until october 2020. I am now planning to stay here just few years more. After ending my contract I will obviously search for the new job but I don’t think I will get the job easily because I cannot speak good German. So, In this case Can I apply for arbeitlosengeld 1?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 21:48

      Hey Parbati. Your language skills do not constitute a criteria to receive ALG1.

  • Reply Luke 16/10/2019 at 21:36

    I am about to quit my job to go travelling for 6 months after 15 years work. Do I need to let the Arbeitsamt know, I will not be looking for work in this time and would not expect any benefits.

    Upon my return I will be looking for work and therefore unemployed. Can you advise in this type if scenario?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 21:44

      HEy Luke. No, you don’t need to let them know anything but you could let them know that you are unemployed if you wanted to, (but not looking for a job). That might speed up the process later.

  • Reply Ian Macfadyen 16/10/2019 at 17:52

    Hi Bastien,
    Thank you for taking the time to maintain this informative blog, if only more people were doing the same back here in the uk.
    I will keep my question to the basic; What is the average waiting time to receive benefits from first applying?
    Assuming all information is completed correctly.
    It’s five weeks at the moment here and I am comparing approximate policy in different countries.

    Kind Regards

    Ian

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 21:42

      Hey Ian. If the person qualify to receive ALG1 right away, you receive the money on the first business following the end of the month. So for October, you’d get the money on the first business day of November. So if your application is processed middle of the month, the waiting would be 2 weeks only.

    • Reply Angélique 30/10/2019 at 10:52

      Dear Bastien, I have a similar question than Luke. How can I let them know that I am unemployed but do not look for a job yet? I already signed up on line for ALG1 but I did not present myself in person in their office yet. I hope it is not too late then.
      Thanks for your great and so useful blog!

      • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 23/11/2019 at 09:18

        Hey Angélique. Just complete step 2, as mentioned in this guide.

  • Reply Ian Macfadyen 15/10/2019 at 21:42

    Hi, great post. I am putting a seminar together for my Uni course to protest against the minimum 5 week waiting period to receive benefits. Could you make a guess as to how long from applying to receiving benefits in Germany. Thanks in advance.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 21/10/2019 at 21:37

      Hey Ian. Is the question complete here?

  • Reply Rohan 11/10/2019 at 07:46

    Hi, I have resigned from the job and got 1 month notice period. I have already found new job which will start after 3 months. So for 2 months, I will be without work. Can I get Arbeitslosengeld for those 2 months?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 15/10/2019 at 15:43

      Hey Rohan.Probaby no because you resigned. so there would be this waiting time anyway, after which you would already have found a job, thus not fulfilling requirements anymore.

  • Reply Marie 02/10/2019 at 10:21

    Hello, I am receiving ALG I and have a 3 day freelance offer that is more than 15 hours long and more than 450 Euros. It was suggested to me to leave deregister and reregister from the ALG I for those days. This sounds really strange to me, is it really possible? I was working part time before, so I won’t be getting much money and could really use the extra income without having it deducted.

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 04/10/2019 at 10:01

      Hey Marie. That’s a very specific case on which i have no answers on, sorry.

  • Reply Tal 25/09/2019 at 18:01

    hey!

    thank you very much for the info, very useful
    i have a question , i hope you could answer me here.

    i have been working more then 2 years as a ballet dancer at the oprea house in nurnberg,
    i want to break my contract,
    can i still get the unemployment money?

    as well – im from tel- aviv,
    then i want to understad if i got it right,

    if i leave the EU union, (to israel ), i wint be able to get this money ?

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 26/09/2019 at 23:15

      Hey Tal. You’d be resigning from your current position. If you were employed there then yes, you would get ALG1 after the 3 months period, because you resigned.

  • Reply Ifie 18/09/2019 at 07:05

    Hi, very informative post! Great job. My question is this.
    I have been a working student in Berlin since 2017 and my new work contract expires October 2019 only because I have exhausted my work hours for the year as an international student
    in Berlin according to
    the German law. My employer pay taxes and health insurance from my salary from my knowledge and My
    employer however
    intends to extend my
    contract starting January 2020 but haven’t done so at the moment. I have been told about this but I haven’t signed any new contract yet. So technically I will be unemployed from October 2019 to January 2020 but only if I get an extension.
    Am I entitled for the unemployment
    benefit? Do I talk to my
    employer about it since I am not fired as they said they will extend my contract
    starting January 2020 and I don’t have any termination letter to go to Job center with or work contract be okay too for now?
    Can I claim unemployment benefits for 3 months till I start work again? Since technically I won’t be seeking any jobs if I get my contract extended.
    Please help with the best steps I should take. Thanks.

  • Reply Elena 12/09/2019 at 20:49

    Hello everyone !
    I have a question, I worked for a company for a year and then they fired me with a 2 weeks notice, and they gave me a papper with which I went to Arbeitsamt and asked for unemployment money.. the lady there completed something in her computer and sent me home. After 2 weeks i receive a letter with a mandatory meeting, which happened today… I didn’t understand much since my german is pretty bad and the lady refused to speak english, but she was speaking a lot of german classes,so she gave me some pappers and sent me home. While i tried to translate the pappers home, they say that I have to go to classes 4-5-6 hours daily from Monday to Friday ,otherwise I don t get unemployed money…. is this normal? I would like to search for a new job in that time and not waste it in classes since I don’t plan to stay here longer than 2 more years…. any information about this mandatory german classes would be great ! Thank you in advance !

    • Reply Bastien - Settle in Berlin 17/09/2019 at 11:07

      Hey Elena. This is interesting. I can’t really tell what happened there with so little details, sorry.

  • Reply Melbin 05/09/2019 at 10:06

    HI,
    My situation is:
    I worked for a company about 25 months.Since the salary was not fair enough I searched for a new job informing my boss.He terminated my jobs contract saying some false statements.And i have a notice period of 3 months and he agreed to pay for these 3 months without working for the company.Can I apply for a new job now or do i need to wait for notice period to complete?.Am I still considered the employee of the company till notice period ends?.I have registered in agentur for arbeit, since i will get salary for 3 months they said i need to apply for arbietlosengeld from November onwards. Since I got terminated, will that impact my job search? I have received a good arbeitzeugnis as well.

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