Become a member of German Social Security

Can you get Social Benefits in Germany?

Are you interested in getting social benefits in Germany? The German social security system is responsible for social benefits.

This article will explain to you the basics of German social security – everything you need to know for everyday life in Germany. How to get unemployment benefits, accident insurance and German pension.

Who can get social benefits in Germany?

Everyone who is employed in Germany and earns more than 450 Euros a month is part of German social security. If you are part of the German social security system, you have unemployment insurance, health insurance, pension insurance and so on. The same applies to students and family members.

Whether you can claim it, however, depends on how long you have been part of the German social security system!

How do I get a German social security membership?

You will also find out about the social security number and how to get one before your first day of work – just read on…

Happy reading!

What is ‘Sozialversicherung’?

‘Sozialversicherung’, or social security, consists of different social security funds. If you are an employee in Germany and pay into the social security funds, then you will usually be a member of the following five statutory social security funds:

  • The statutory health insurance fund
  • The statutory long-term care insurance fund
  • The statutory pension insurance fund
  • Statutory accident insurance
  • The statutory unemployment insurance fund

Scroll down for more information about the funds.

What is a ‘Sozialversicherungsnummer’?

‘Sozialversicherungsnummer’, or social security number, is a unique number given to members of the German social security fund.

In Germany, every employee receives a social security card with a social security number on it.

Keep your social security card safe! You will need the number on a number of occasions!

When do I need my social security number in Germany?

  1. if you want to obtain information about the amount of your public pension in Germany
  2. if you want to claim other social security funds
  3. on the first day of work.

Who is part of German social security?

…and who can claim social benefits in Germany?

Everyone who is employed in Germany and earns more than 450 Euros per month is automatically part of the social security system in Germany.

As such, you may benefit from the various social funds listed further below (health insurance, unemployment benefits etc).

How and to what extent you can benefit from the funds also depends on how much time you have paid into the German social security funds.

For example, you can claim unemployment benefits if you are unemployed and paid contributions into the German social security for at least 12 months in the last two years.

Note that you must register as early as possible at the Arbeitsamt (employment agency) to be able to claim benefits.

To find out whether you’re eligible to claim unemployment benefits in Germany, read the latest updates on the English version of the Arbeitsagentur (Federal Employment Agency).

If you’re a freelancer, then you’re not automatically part of the social security. Instead freelancers and self-employed people have private health insurance, a private pension scheme etc.

It is however possible to also pay into the public pension fund as a freelancer. In some cases, it is even obligatory to do so. For example, if you work as a freelance translator or teacher.

Want to learn more about this? Check out the wiki section ‘freelancer’ for more information on this.

How to get my social security number in Germany?

Everyone who works in Germany has to apply for a social security card. On this social security, there will be a unique number. You will keep this unique number all your life long.

If you have lived in Germany previously, you already have a social security number.

You have lost or forgotten your German social security number?

You can just fill in the social security application form on our website. Then you will get a letter with your social security number on it. Alternatively, drop into an office of the German pension insurance. Bring your passport. They can give it to you.

I never had social security number. How to get it?

Same thing. Just fill out our form. Or make an appointment at the German pension insurance.

Taking German Pension to your Home Country

So you’ve worked in Germany for a couple of years and you’ve paid into the German pension scheme.

You wonder whether it’s possible to take pensions benefits back home to you?

Under certain circumstances, this is indeed possible.

If your home country is part of the EU, the European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland, you will not lose the social security entitlements you earned while working in Germany, such as those from the statutory pension insurance fund.
When you reach the age of retirement, you can be paid a pension from any EU or EEA country in which you have worked, in accordance with the particular country’s provisions.
In principle, if you worked in two countries, for example, you will receive pension payments from two countries. Further details are available on the German state pension fund (English).

5 German Social Security Funds

#1 Public Pension Scheme

Pension insurance is also part of social security in Germany. The pensions insurance in Germany makes sure that you get paid pension once you retire.

The amount of pension in Germany depends on how much you have paid into the German pension insurance scheme over your life time. You’re also eligible to your married/civil partner’s pension, if they decease before you.

Self-employed people and civil servants are exempt from statutory pension insurance. They usually have private pension schemes in Germany.

Expats who have worked even just a few years in Germany may be eligible to claim their pension benefits after they have returned to their home country, if they are EU-citizens.

If you’re from outside the EU, you may be able to wave the pension insurance fee, which you have to pay otherwise.

For this, get in touch with the English-speaking staff of the German pension insurance (

Most Germans also have a private pension plan to make sure they won’t have financial worries once old age arrives.

Expats are also eligible to get into private schemes, and continue pay them, even if they go abroad again.

#2 Health Insurance

One of the most relevant parts of the German social security system is the health insurance.

If you’re employed in Germany, then you are normally part of the public health insurance system.

Health Insurance is the biggest area of social security in Germany.

You haven’t got health insurance yet?

Everyone who lives in Germany is obliged to be insured; either publicly or privately. The German public health insurance covers most medical expenses.

#3 German Unemployment Benefits

If you get unemployed in Germany,  you’re covered by the unemployment insurance.

Normally you receive the so-called Arbeitslosengeld, unemployment benefits.

There are certain conditions attached to receiving these unemployment benefits, however.

They usually are only paid to those that have at least paid full social security payments for a certain amount of time. If not eligible for this, you may be able to apply for the social benefit Hartz 4.

#4 German Accident Insurance

For accidents that happen during work or occupational training, the accident insurance will cover fees, such as injuries, medical rehabilitation, injury compensation, and more, if applicable.

The institution behind this insurance is the employers liability insurance associations.

So for example, if you have an accident on the way to work, then this is not a ‘normal’, ‘private’ accident.

If you have an accident at work, or on your way to work, then the following applies:
1. Your employer must take responsibility for the accident.
2. Your employer must pay contributions for your time away.
3. Your employer also covers the medical expenses related to the accident.

-> This applies to foreigners, too, if they’re part of the social security in Germany.

#5 German Long-term Care Insurance

Anyone, if young or old, can get into the situation of needing nursing care. This also applies to foreigners, immigrants and expats who live and work in Germany.

An accident, for example, may prevent you from taking up employment again. In this situation, care and nursing assistance needs to be covered for you.

Note: All publicly insured people can only claim benefits once they have been insured themselves or as a family dependent for at least five years.

As such, long-term care insurance is also part of social security in Germany.

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