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If, as an EU citizen, you last worked in Germany subject to compulsory insurance and lose your job, you may be entitled to unemployment benefit. The unemployment benefit is intended to provide social security for employees who lose their job. 

1. General

The following applies: If you become unemployed, you must contact the employment service of the country where you last worked.

Please note: If you work in a country other than the one in which you live (e.g. cross-border workers), special provisions apply.

The same conditions apply to your entitlement to unemployment benefits as to citizens of the country where you last worked. Employment and insurance periods that you have completed in other countries will be taken into account when processing your application.

Those who last worked in Germany and become unemployed are not left to their own devices, but rather receive support from the State under certain conditions. You do not only receive financial help. You also have the option of using the services of the Federal Employment Agency to search for a job. The employment agencies and job centres have a large number of funding instruments at their disposal (e.g. training and further education), which are established in the Social Security Codes II and III.

2. Unemployment benefit

If you last worked in Germany, you are entitled to unemployment benefit under certain conditions. A prerequisite is that you have previously worked for a certain period of time. As a rule, you must have worked in the last 30 months at least 12 months subject to Social security contributions. If you were mainly in short-term employment that was limited to no more than 14 weeks from the outset, 6 months of employment may be sufficient.

Tip: Employment times in other EU countries can also be taken into account. These can be verified using the PD U1 form. Information on this can be found in the leaflet for unemployment benefit and foreign employment from the Federal Employment Agency.

If you have become unemployed or if you have found out that you will soon lose your job or apprenticeship position, you are obligated to report to the responsible Employment Agency as a jobseeker.

Attention: You must report personally to the responsible Employment agency at least 3 months before the end of your employment. If you learn of the termination of your employment less than 3 months in advance, you must report personally to the responsible Employment agency within 3 days. In order to meet this deadline, you can also contact us by phone (free service number: 0800 4 5555 000) or register online as a jobseeker. The personal appointment can take place at a later time. If you miss the deadline, you face a blocking period during which you will not receive any benefits according to Social Security Statute Book III (Unemployment benefit I).

Further information on unemployment benefit can be found in the leaflet for unemployed people from the Federal Employment Agency.

You can take your entitlement to unemployment benefit with you to another EU country for 3 to 6 months in order to look for work there during that time. This means that you can take your unemployment benefit with you from another EU country to Germany to look for work. And vice versa, you can take your German unemployment benefit with you to another EU country. You can find more information on this in the leaflet for unemployment benefit and foreign employment from the Federal Employment Agency.

Please note: If you want to take your unemployment benefits with you to another country, you must first contact your employment service and meet certain conditions. Otherwise you could lose your entitlement to benefits.

3. Basic income support

The basic income support gives you the minimum financial means you need for a living.

Employable persons who are looking for work and have no or insufficient entitlement to unemployment benefit or an income that is too low, receive citizens’ benefit according to the Second Social Code (SGB II).

People who, for example, due to illness or retirement age are unable to work and therefore cannot work, receive support under the twelfth Social Security Statue Book (SGB XII).

Please note: Special regulations apply to EU citizens when accessing these social benefits:

You can receive benefits under the Second Social Code (SGB II) if you

  • work in Germany but do not earn enough to cover your living expenses or
  • have worked in Germany for more than 1 year and have become unemployed involuntarily. If you have worked for less than 1 year, the benefits are limited to 6 months.

Single parents entitled to benefits currently receive 563 Euro per month. Reasonable costs for accommodation and heating are also covered. Your income will be taken into account.

If you stay in Germany exclusively for the purpose of looking for a job and have not previously worked here long enough, you will only receive benefits under SGB II (basic income support) and SGB XII (social assistance) after a legal residence of 5 years in Germany.

If you are not entitled to social assistance, but are in need of assistance, you can receive benefits according to SGB XII for nutrition, personal hygiene and health as well as for accommodation and meals until you leave the country or for a maximum of 1 month within two years (bridging benefits). In particular cases of hardship (e.g. inability to travel), these benefits can be granted for longer than 1 month in individual cases.

Please note: You do not need to be willing to leave the country to receive bridging benefits! Such a will to leave does not have to be documented.

You can find detailed information in the leaflet Citizens’ benefit/Social allowance – Basic income support for job seekers SGB II from the Federal Employment Agency. You can also use the Questions and answers catalogue of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Tip: If you are entitled to social benefits in Germany, this also applies to your family members living in Germany.