Every employee in Germany gets social security contributions (around 22,8%) automatically deducted from their payslip. The German pension insurance makes up the most significant chunk of all contributions with 9,3% of your monthly salary. Some expats, who leave Germany can ask for a German pension refund (Beitragserstattung) to get their contributions back.
This guide will highlight, who is eligible for a German pension refund, and explain how to ask for the refund successfully.
What Exactly Is A German Pension Refund?
A German pension refund refers to you filing a claim with the German pension office (Deutsche Rentenversicherung) to get your pension insurance contributions back, which you paid while working in Germany.
You can only claim the 50% of the pension contributions back that were substrated from your payslip. You can’t claim the other 50% that your employer paid.
Can You Get Your Pension Money Back If You Leave Germany?
It depends. Whether you can claim your pension money back when leaving Germany depends on your nationality and where you are living after you leave Germany. We will look in detail into who can and who can’t submit a pension refund below.
What Are The Requirements To Ask For Your Pension Contributions?
These are the requirements to be eligible for a German pension refund:
- You live outside the EU, EEA, Switzerland, and UK.
- You have not contributed to the German pension fund in the last 24 months.
- You are not permitted to contribute to the German pension fund voluntarily.
- You have reached the German retirement age but don’t qualify for pension benefits. To qualify, you need to have contributed at least for 5 years. The German retirement age in 2022 is currently 65 years and 11 months. It will increase to 67 years by 2031.
Requirement 3 is the most intransparent, as it depends on your nationality and where you are currently living, whether you are allowed to make voluntary contributions or not. Let’s look at the different nationality brackets below.
Who Can Get A German Pension Refund?
There are four groups to distinguish.
1. German Citizens
As a German citizen, you can always voluntarily contribute to the German pension fund until you reach retirement age. This applies even when you are self-employed or live and work abroad. Whether you only became a German citizen in recent years or hold dual citizenship from your home country does not matter.
You can’t claim a pension refund unless you fulfill requirement 4.
2. European Citizens (EU, EEA, CH, UK)
As a citizen of any EU country, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, or the UK (if you have worked in Germany before Brexit), you get treated just like a German citizen by EU law. This means that you are always allowed to voluntarily contribute to the German pension fund, even if you no longer live and work in Germany or the EU.
You are not eligible for a German pension refund unless you fulfill requirement 4.
❗️Exception: As a dual citizen from a non-European country, you might be able to claim a refund. The experts of Germany Pension Refund have successfully claimed such cases in the past. If this applies to you, be sure to contact the team of Germany Pension Refund to check your case.
3. Citizens of Contracting Countries
A contracting country refers to a country outside of the EU and EEA area that has signed a social security agreement with Germany.
Contracting countries are: Albania, Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, India, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, North Macedonia, Serbia, South Korea, The Philippines, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, USA.
However, to make things more complicated, every country has an individual agreement with different rules. Generally speaking, the agreements determine whether you are allowed to contribute to the German pension system voluntarily after leaving Germany.
The regulations often not only depend on your citizenship but also whether you currently live and work in your home country or a country with different rules.
Some agreements also limit the time you have worked in Germany to less than five years (60 months) to qualify for a refund.
As you can tell, there is no straightforward answer as it is a highly complex topic. If you are from any of the listed countries, be sure to seek advice from specialists, such as the team of Germany Pension Refund.
You have a high chance to claim a pension refund.
4. Citizens of Non-Contracting Countries
If you are a national of any other country not listed above, you don’t have the right to keep contributing voluntarily. Therefore you fulfill requirement 3. If you can also meet requirements 1 & 2, you are able to claim your German pension contributions back.
You can claim your German pension refund. Claim your refund now!
Can You Get a Pension Refund After 5 Years of Contributing?
Yes, you can. It depends as always on your nationality and the country of your current residence. Despite general belief, there is no general rule that you can only get pension refunds if you have contributed less than 60 months. This, in fact, only applies to a few contracting countries, e.g., Australia, Canada, India, the US, and others.
It is a case-by-case decision, and you increase your chances of getting your money back when using a professional service such as Germany Pension Refund.
Brexit: German Pension Refund For UK Nationals
If you are a UK citizen, whether or not you can claim your German pension contributions back depends on when you started working in Germany.
If you had worked or started working before Brexit came into effect (January 1st, 2021) you will be treated as an EU citizen regarding your social security contributions. As a result, you will not be able to claim any refund (also not for the time you work in Germany after Brexit).
After Brexit, the UK gets considered a contracting country. That means if you only started working in Germany after the transition period of Brexit ended (January 1st, 2021), you will be able to claim your pension refund in the future if you fulfill the following requirements:
- You have not contributed to the German pension fund in the last 24 months.
- You live outside the EU, EEA, and Switzerland.
- You have worked and contributed in Germany for less than 60 months.
How Much Pension Refund Can You Get From Germany?
You can claim the contributions you made while you worked in Germany. Those were 9,3% of your monthly gross salary since 2018. Between 1994 and 2017 the percentage ranged between 9,35% and 10,15%. Depending on how long you worked in Germany and how much you earned, that can easily add up to several thousand euros.
❗️ Note: There is an assessment threshold (Beitragsbemessungsgrenze) that caps the maximum income as the basis for the contribution calculation. The cap varies between Eastern (81.000 euros in 2022) and Western (84.600 euros in 2022) German states. This means if you earned more, you contributed a maximum of 9,3% of the threshold and not of your actual salary. Hence, you can also only get back what you contributed.
You can use an online German pension refund calculator to estimate your possible refund. Please be aware that those results are just estimates as each case is individual.
If you would like to know the exact amount, you can request a printout of your German insurance record (Versicherungsverlauf) directly from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. This makes the most sense while you are still living in Germany, as they will send you the overview via postal mail to your German address.
How Do You Claim Your German Pension Refund?
You have two possible ways to claim your pension refund:
1. Claim Your German Pension Refund Yourself
Like with any bureaucratic topic in Germany, you can attempt to handle it yourself. You will need to fill in this form (V0901), which is a 15-page form in German and English.
Once more than 24 months after your last contribution to the German pension office has passed, you can send your completed form plus necessary documents via postal mail to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung in the German region you lived last.
So far, it sounds relatively simple and straightforward; however, usually, the German pension office will send a letter back to you with some follow-up questions or a request for further documents. This communication will be slow and in German.
On top of that, should a letter get lost in the international mail, you will get stuck, as there won’t be a follow-up by the German pension office.
If you have any questions through the process, you can contact the German pension office directly via phone or email. Just be aware that they will communicate in German with you.
You will receive the final letter (Bescheid) stating the contribution period and refund amount if your claim is approved. Double-check that it is complete, and if not, contact them immediately.
You will receive the refund via bank wire. However, if you have entered a bank outside of Germany on the claim form, your refund will take two months longer and will come with some hefty bank fees.
2. Consult Experts To Claim Your German Pension Refund For You
To save time, avoid stress and overcome bureaucratic hurdles, you can also consult experts who have specialized in claiming German pension refunds.
They will not only speed up the process, but they will also achieve a pension refund in unlikely cases since their lawyers are experienced and knowledgeable of certain loopholes.
Another advantage is a faster payout, as the refund can be paid to the German bank account of the specialist company, who will then forward the money to you via a low-fee international money transfer provider, such as Wise.
There are several expert pension refund companies in Germany; however, Germany Pension Refund has helped us the most when researching and writing this guide and is our trusted partner.
They offer a free evaluation and eligibility check of your case and only proceed with cases they are confident in succeeding. You will only be charged a commission once your claim has been approved and you have received your refund.
Which Documents Do You Need For Your German Pension Refund Claim?
These are the documents you should prepare to hand in your German pension refund claim:
- Form V0901
- Your social security number
- A copy of your Abmeldung
- A verified copy of your passport and proof of current residence from a local German authority or embassy
- A certificate of life and nationality (Example)
- A copy of your German insurance record (Versicherungsverlauf) to prove how big your refund should be (optional)
It is easiest for you to start collecting these documents while you are still in Germany.
How Long Does It Take To Get Your Pension Money?
Once you submit your complete claim (remember: you can do so earliest 24 months after you have stopped working in Germany), the processing time can take up to six months. The actual payment of the pension refund can take another two months if you do it yourself with a bank account outside of Germany.
The team of Germany Pension Refund has managed to reduce the processing time to an average of eight weeks for their customers.
Who Cannot Get A German Pension Refund?
European nationals, regardless of where they are residing, and Non-Europeans who currently live in Europe are not eligible to get a German pension refund.
German Pension Payments For Expats
Just because you can’t get a refund, you have not lost your pension contributions completely.
If you are a resident in the EU/EEA/CH, you can request to transfer the contributions you made in Germany to your local pension system before you retire, so you will receive one full pension from the country you reside in. You can find more information on the official EU website.
If you live outside the EU/EEA/CH and have not been able to claim a pension refund, you will be able to:
- claim your refund once you reach pension age and fulfill requirement 4
- receive your monthly pension payments from the German government
The German pension system is highly complex and protected by laws and agreements. However, as an expat leaving Germany, you should definitely look into whether you qualify to get your hard-earned pension contributions back. Otherwise, you might be leaving several thousand euros on the table.
To avoid any hassle, increase your chances, and leave the German bureaucratic jungle behind you, it is best if you consult the experts of Germany Pension Refund.