Office for the Equal Treatment of EU Workers

Unemployment

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. 

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.

1. 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, which was limited to no more than 14 weeks from the outset, 6 months of gainful 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.

2. 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 unemployment benefit II according to the second Social Security Statue Book (SGB II), the so-called “Hartz IV”.

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: For EU citizens, special regulations apply to access to these social benefits.
You can receive benefits under the second Social Security Statue Book (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 are involuntarily unemployed. If you have worked for less than 1 year, the benefits are limited to 6 months.

Single parents entitled to benefits currently receive 446 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 Unemployment benefit II / Social allowance - Basic income support for Jobseekers Social Security Statute Book 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.

FAQ Unemployment

  • If you want to transfer your unemployment benefits to another country, you must submit an application to the employment service of the country where you are receiving unemployment benefit.
  • You normally need to have been registered as unemployed for 4 weeks before you can transfer your benefits to another country.
  • You will then receive a U2 form from the institution with which you are registered as being unemployed; this allows you to go to another country and carry on receiving your unemployment benefit there.
  • Within 7 days after leaving the country, you must use the U2 form to register as unemployed with the employment service of the country where you are looking for work.
  • After leaving the country, you can continue to receive your unemployment benefit for 3 months. This period can be extended to a maximum of 6 months.
  • If you do not find a job, you must return to the country from which you are receiving unemployment benefit before the end of this period. If you only return once this period has already ended, there is a risk that in some EU Member States you could lose all entitlement to unemployment benefits (this is not the case in Germany).

Please note: It is very important that you comply with these conditions. Otherwise you could lose your entitlement to benefits. Many unemployed persons lose their entitlement to benefits because they are unaware of the conditions set out above. They leave the country where they were last employed without registering with the employment service there, they are too late in registering with the employment service in the country where they are looking for work, or they only return to the country from which they have received unemployment benefits after the end of the benefit transfer period. It is therefore essential that you contact the employment service of the country from which you are receiving unemployment benefit to find out more about your rights and responsibilities.

If you have become unemployed or if you have learned that you will soon be losing your job or vocational training place, you are required to register as a jobseeker with your local Employment Agency (Agentur für Arbeit).

Please note: You must register in person as a jobseeker with the local Employment Agency no later than 3 months before your employment ends. If you learn that your employment will be ending less than 3 months beforehand, you must register with the local Employment Agency in person within 3 days. However, in order to meet this deadline, you can also register as a jobseeker by telephone (free hotline: +49 (0)800 4 5555 000) or online. You can then go to the Employment Agency in person at a later date. If you do not register within the time limit, you risk being subject to a waiting period, during which you will not receive any benefits under Book III of the Social Code (unemployment benefit I).

Once you have registered as a jobseeker, your local Employment Agency can immediately offer you assistance in looking for a new job or vocational training place. If necessary, and if you are looking for work in another country, the Employment Agency will refer you to specialised advisers from the international personnel service at the European Employment Services (EURES) and/or put you in touch with the International Placement Services (Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung).

People who become unemployed after last working in Germany are not left to fend for themselves, but instead receive support from the state in certain circumstances. Not only do you receive financial assistance; you can also use the services offered by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) as you look for a job. The Employment Agencies and job centres have a wide range of support mechanisms at their disposal (such as vocational training and continuing training), which are enshrined in Books II and III of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch).

Besides assistance in looking for a job or vocational training place, you and your family members can also receive advice and support from the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) in the following areas:

  • careers advice,
  • vocational training,
  • continuing vocational training, including for people in employment,
  • vocational integration of people with disabilities.

You can also receive financial support during the many steps on the way to finding a new job, for example

  • funding for continuing training,
  • travel expenses in connection with interviews or financial assistance for application documents,
  • job application coaching,
  • language skills development.

Further information on the individual services available can be found on the Federal Employment Agency’s website.