In Germany there are two types of financial support for unemployed persons: Unemployment Benefit (Arbeitslosengeld) and citizen's benefit (Bürgergeld). Arbeitslosengeld is an insurance benefit for which employees and their employers have paid in. Whether and for how long you receive Arbeitslosengeld therefore depends on how long you were compulsorily or voluntarily insured before unemployment.
Bürgergeld, on the other hand, is a state payment for needy job seekers and is therefore also called basic support for job seekers.
Find out how to register as looking for work in good time or as unemployed in due time so that you can apply for unemployment benefit. You can obtain more information on our site Registering as looking for work and applying for unemployment benefit.
The “Office for Equal Treatment of EU Workers” provides information about regulations for EU citizens on its website Unemployment.
The information on this website is available in the following languages, as well as German:
The European Commission also provides information in all EU languages on its website on Unemployment.
Taking into account insurance periods from another EU country, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland
If certain conditions are met, periods of insurance from other EU countries, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland can also be taken into account for a claim to Arbeitslosengeld. As long as you lawfully live in an EU country, there are possibilities for the certification of your Social insurance claims – standard forms irrespective of your EU citizenship.
Looking for work in another EU country, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Brexit countries
Normally, you must be staying in the country that pays your unemployment benefits. Under certain conditions, however, you can travel to seek work in another EU country, Iceland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Switzerland and continue to receive unemployment benefits to which you are entitled in the country in which you have lost your job. On the website “Your Europe” you can find out what applies with Brexit and about the Transfer of unemployment benefits. The information on this website is available in all EU languages, e.g. in German and English.
Financial support through Bürgergeld (also: Basic income für jobseekers)
You can receive Bürgergeld if you are capable of work and eligible for benefit and meet at least the following requirements:
- You are at least 15 years old and you have not reached the retirement age for your pension;
- You live in Germany and have your main place of residence here;
- You can work for at least 3 hours a day;
- You or members of your joint household – which means persons with whom you live in the same habitation and who bear responsibility for each other – are in need of assistance;
- You are not excluded from benefits. Special rules apply to foreign citizens, e.g. you must be allowed to take up employment.
Being in need of assistance means that the income of your joint household lies below the poverty line and you cannot make a living or not sufficiently from your own resources. This also includes the assistance of relatives, bodies, institutions and authorities. In Germany, these so-called carriers include, for example, the Federal Employment Agency, the statutory health insurance schemes, the German Pension Insurance Association and the professional associations.
Being capable of work means that the person in need of assistance is in a position to be gainfully employed in the foreseeable future on the general labour market for at least three hours per day. Sickness and disability can prevent this.
Only people in need of assistance receive Bürgergeld. You must therefore first use your own resources, before you receive financial assistance. If you have an income or possess assets that exceed certain allowances, you must first secure your living with this. Among other things, you can also Apply for Bürgergeld online (in German only).
If you are staying in Germany exclusively for the purposes of looking for work and have not worked here for long enough before this, you will not receive benefits according to SGB II (basic security benefit) and SGB XII (social aid) until after a 5-year lawful stay in Germany.
If you have no claim to social aid, but need assistance, you can receive, up to your departure or for a maximum of one month within 2 years, benefits according to SGB XII for nutrition, personal hygiene and health, and for accommodation and board (transition benefits). In certain cases of hardship (for example inability to travel), these benefits can in individual cases be approved beyond the first month.