Unemployment Benefits Germany [2021 English Guide]

The unemployment benefits in Germany are extensive and complex and consist of unemployment benefits 1 & 2 as well as educational training. They play a big part in the social security system Germany has to offer. This guide will explain the different types of unemployment benefits, who can claim what benefits in Germany, how much money you can receive, and how to apply for unemployment benefits. 

Who Can Claim Unemployment Benefits In Germany?

Generally speaking, anyone registered in Germany with a settlement permit or residence permit that is not tied to a specific job or company can take advantage of Germany’s different unemployment benefits. Even if you do not meet the requirements for monetary unemployment benefits such as Arbeitslosengeld 1 & 2, you will have the chance to participate in funded educational training. 

Unemployment Benefits For EU Citizens In Germany

As an EU citizen, you have the right to live and work in Germany. You are entitled to claim for all types of unemployment benefits when meeting the individual requirements described below.

Transferring Unemployment Benefits From Another EU Country To Germany

If you are an EU citizen and became unemployed in your home country, you need to apply for unemployment benefits in your home country. Under certain conditions, you may be able to transfer your unemployment benefits to Germany for 3 to 6 months, should you decide to move here during this time. You can read about all the steps you need to take before and after your move on the official EU website

Unemployment Benefits For Non-EU Citizens In Germany

Whether you can claim unemployment benefits as a non-EU citizen in Germany depends on your residence status. Suppose you already reached permanent residency or have a work permit that is not tied to a certain job (e.g., you are married to a German or on a family-reunification residence permit). In that case, you may have the opportunity to benefit from Germany’s social security system, depending on whether you meet the eligibility.

The Types Of Unemployment Benefits In Germany

There are three different types of unemployment benefits in Germany. The first two are monetary, while the third option is an often overlooked opportunity for high-quality and expensive educational training.

1. Unemployment Benefit 1 (Arbeitslosengeld 1)

Unemployment benefit 1, in short, ALG 1 is the highest level of unemployment benefits, which you can only claim after contributing to Germany’s social security system as an employee. 

Requirements For Arbeitslosengeld 1

These are the specific requirements you need to fulfill to make a claim:

  • You are currently or will soon be unemployed
  • You have the right to live and work in Germany (settlement permit or residence permit that is not tied to a specific job)
  • You have registered as unemployed (arbeitslosand job-seeking (arbeitssuchend) with your local employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit)
  • You fulfill the qualifying period (Anwartschaftszeit): In the past 30 months, you have held a socially insured job for at least 12 months and thus have paid into the governmental unemployment insurance fund 
  • You are fit to work and proactively looking for a job of more than 15 hours per week

Entitlement In Special Cases

There are certain cases where you might be able to claim Arbeitslosengeld 1 if you have not held an employed job for at least 12 months in the past 30 months. Such exceptions are:

  • You have been employed multiple times with fixed-short-term contracts (not longer than 14 weeks) → you could be eligible for ALG 1 with a minimum of 6 months of socially insured employment (verkürzte Anwartschaftszeit)
  • You are self-employed and decided to voluntarily pay into the governmental unemployment insurance fund for at least 12 months
  • You have raised a child in Germany until the age of 3
  • You have received sickness benefits
  • You have joined the voluntary military service

How Much Is The Unemployment Benefit 1 In Germany?

In general, you will receive 60% of your average net monthly salary or 67% if you have children.

The exact amount of Arbeitslosengeld 1 you will receive gets calculated based on your average monthly gross salary in the last 12 months before you lost your job. The maximum income threshold in Germany’s western states is 7.100 euros, and in the former eastern states, it is 6.700 euros.

While you receive unemployment benefit 1, the unemployment agency will contribute all payments to Germany’s social security system for you, as if you were employed. So you will still be covered by public health insurance.

Unemployment Benefit Calculator Germany

For a quick yet unofficial calculation of your possible unemployment benefit 1 payment, you can use this unemployment benefit calculator for Germany

How Long Can You Claim Unemployment Benefit 1?

The maximum length you can receive unemployment benefit 1 is 12 months if you are younger than 50 years and 24 months if you are older than 58 years. The duration for which you have the right to receive Arbeitslosengeld 1 depends on the following two factors:

  • How long have you been employed and paid into the unemployment insurance fund?
  • How old are you?

This table gives you a detailed overview of the duration of Arbeitslosengeld 1 in Germany:

Contribution to the unemployment insurance fundAgeMax. duration of unemployment benefit 1
6 months (verkürzte Anwartschaftzeit)-3 months
8 months (verkürzte Anwartschaftzeit)-4 months
12 months-6 months
18 months-9 months
24 months or more-12 months
30 months or more50 - 54 years15 months
36 months or more55 - 57 years18 months
48 months or more> 58 years24 months

In case you get fired, you can start receiving unemployment benefits from day one your employment contract ends. However, if you quit your job voluntarily, you will face a 3 months blocking period (Sperrfrist) until you are entitled to receive financial support.

How To Apply For Unemployment Benefit 1 In 3 Steps

1. Register as unemployed and job seeking

To get the full amount of unemployment benefit 1, you have to register as unemployed and employment-seeking with your local Agentur für Arbeit, at least 3 months before your current employment ends. If you only find out about your redundancy less than 3 months before the end of your contract, you need to register with your employment agency within 3 days of getting the news from your employer. Should you fail to do so or be late, you will risk losing benefits starting from 1 week to 3 months.

You can register unemployed (arbeitslos) and employment-seeking (arbeitssuchend) online on the employment agency’s official website or in person with your local agency. For registering online, you will need to create an account first. We recommend using Chrome as a browser, then do a right-click and select translate the page to English if you do not feel comfortable in German.

During your registration, you will need to give the following personal information:

  1. Full name and address
  2. Last job and employment date
  3. Your social security number
  4. Whether you are on sick leave or suffer from a disability
  5. Your phone number and time of availability for a call

After you have registered, you will most likely receive a phone call from your local employment agency within the next few days. You will meet your consultant (Berater) and discuss further steps and all the requirements and obligations to have to fulfill to stay eligible.

2. Fill out the application form to claim unemployment benefits

Once you have successfully registered as job-seeking online, you can file your claim for unemployment money 1 (ALG 1) in your eServices portal of the Arbeitsagentur. The file contains several pages of detailed information regarding your employment for the past 5 years and reasons for losing your job.

You can already apply for the benefits while still in your last weeks of employment to enable a smooth transition. You will usually receive feedback from your local employment agency within two weeks, via notification in your eServices portal and by postal mail.   

3. Attend your personal appointment with the Agentur for Arbeit

For your written approval to receive unemployment benefits to become effective, you need to present yourself physically latest on the first day of your unemployment at your local employment office. During your time of receiving unemployment benefits, you will most likely need to attend further appointments to check up on your job hunt and help you regain employment.

❗️ Covid-19 Update: During the current crisis, all physical obligations can and will most likely be handled via phone calls. 

2. Unemployment Benefit 2 (Arbeitslosengeld 2)

Unemployment benefit 2 (Arbeitslosengeld 2) is often referred to as Hartz 4 and forms the German government’s basic income support if you can’t sustain your own livelihood. It should be your absolute last resort. Requirements for unemployment benefit 2 are even stricter than for unemployment benefit 1, and by far, not all Hartz 4 claims get approved.

Requirements For Arbeitslosengeld 2

These are the specific requirements you need to fulfill to make a claim:

  • You have the right to live and work in Germany (settlement permit or residence permit that is not tied to a specific job) 
  • You are fit to work for a minimum of 3 hours a day
  • You are unable to provide for you and your family’s livelihood (food, clothing, housing, and medical assistance) even with the help of others → you don’t have savings, enough income, or a relative, partner, or spouse living with you who can financially provide for you 
  • You are older than 15 years and younger than the age of retirement (currently 67 years)

Depending on your nationality and time lived in Germany already, there might be further individual requirements.

How Much Is The Unemployment Benefit 2 In Germany?

There is no one correct answer, as it depends on your individual circumstances:

  • Are you living alone?
  • Do you have children, and are you receiving Kindergeld and Elterngeld 
  • How much is your rent?
  • How much do you pay for heating?
  • How much do you earn?
  • And many more questions play a crucial role 

The general basic needs rate (Regelbedarf) is set to the following:

Personal situation and ageBenefits
Single parents and singles > 18 years€446
Couples and partnerships > 18 years€401 per person
Children < 6 years€283
Children 6 - 12 years€309
Children 13 - 17 years€373
Adults 18 - 25 years€357

To get a better idea, what you can expect from your situation, you can use this Hartz 4 calculator.

Additionally, to receiving help to secure your basic income, you can claim to reduce or get exempt from other necessary payments, such as the German broadcasting license fee (Rundfunkbeitrag) or a cheaper version for a public transportation pass for your city. 

How Long Can You Claim Unemployment Benefit 2?

Generally speaking, the approval for Hartz 4 is valid for 6 to 12 months. It gets paid at the beginning of each month. If you can still not support yourself after the year has passed, you can file for an extension (Weiterbewilligung).

How To Apply For Unemployment Benefit 2

Unemployment benefit application in Germany
Source: Arbeitsagentur translated by Google

Arbeitslosengeld 2 (ALG 2) does not get handled by the Agentur für Arbeit, but instead by the Jobcenter. Usually, you would need to present yourself at the Jobcenter to explain why you need to apply for ALG 2 and present all kinds of documents. However, during the Covid-19 crisis, the Jobcenter has enabled a fast-track online application.

As with any bureaucratic form in Germany, the application form is rather complex and only available in German. There are, however, some helpful videos partially in English, made available by the Jobcenter. Additionally to the main application form, you might need to fill in additional documents (Anlagen) linked in the main form. You do not need to submit everything at once; you can also start with the process and hand in missing documents later (Unterlagen nachreichen). 

In case this application seems too complex for you, you can use the services of Atornix, who assist in English to fill in the application and also proof-check the approval or rejection from the Jobcenter

3. 100% Funded Educational Training

Next to the monetary benefits, you may be able to receive in Germany, you will have the opportunity to receive further educational training (Bildungsgutschein) if you are registered as unemployed and job-seeking with either the Agentur für Arbeit or the Jobcenter. You have the right to apply for such training, even if you are not eligible for ALG 1 or ALG 2. However, receiving a Bildungsgutschein is a discretionary benefit, approved or rejected by your individual consultant at the Jobcenter. You do not have the legal right for such funded training.

These trainings range from German language courses to individual coachings and long-term boot camps to change careers. Most expats and even Germans are unaware of these offers, as you need to request them with your individual consultant once you are registered. To find such courses is not always that easy, as the official homepage Kursnet is not the most user-friendly.

Suppose you are interested in possibly changing your career towards the tech industry, which provides many well-paid future-proof job opportunities. In that case, we can recommend you the Compass Course, in particular, to find out which area in tech suits you best. 

The Compass Course For A Career In Tech

Start Steps Homepage
Source: StartSteps

It is an orientation course offered by Start Steps, where you will learn about coding, UX/UI design, online marketing, and data within one month. Should you want to change your career to one of the four areas, Start Steps can then recommend you an in-depth boot camp (also funded by the Jobcenter) to make your career in tech a reality. Apply for free to benefit from the chance for free education.

Wild Code School For Coding and Data Analysis

Should you already know, in which area in the tech industry you want to transition your career, a boot camp at Wild Code School will give you the necessary skills. They offer online, part-time, and full-time courses in web development, data analytics, and product management. Wild Code School has an 84% job placement rate in the tech world after completing their courses. You can start learning for free with their Online Prep Course!

Conclusion

We hope this guide gave you a good overview of what unemployment benefits exist in Germany, who can apply for them, and how the application process works.

The German social security system is comprehensive, and the various levels of unemployment benefits play a big role. But as always, nothing is given to you if you don’t ask for it and follow the sometimes complex bureaucratic processes – most of the time, they are worth it.

In case you are unemployed, we wish you the best of luck to seek employment again soon. Hopefully, our guides to finding a job in Germany will be helpful to you! 

Related Guides: Find a Job in Germany

Disclaimer: Neither myself as the author of this article, nor Simple Germany as a business, are qualified to provide immigration or social services advice under German law. Your individual situation might differ from the general guidelines provided in this article.