Office for the Equal Treatment of EU Workers

Unemployment

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

Please note: If you live and work in different countries (as is the case for cross-border workers, for example), special provisions apply.

Your entitlement to unemployment benefits is subject to the same conditions as nationals of the country where you last worked. Periods of employment and insurance in other countries are taken into account when your application is processed.

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).

1. Unemployment benefit (Arbeitslosengeld)

If you last worked in Germany, you are entitled to unemployment benefit in certain circumstances. One requirement is that you must have previously worked within a certain timeframe. In general, you need to have worked for at least 12 months during the past 2 years. If you were primarily employed for short periods, on fixed-term contracts limited to no more than 10 weeks from the outset, 6 months of employment is sufficient in certain circumstances.

Tip: Periods of employment in other EU countries can also be taken into account. You can provide evidence of them using the U1 form. Information on this can be found in the leaflet on unemployment benefit and employment abroad (Arbeitslosengeld und Auslandsbeschäftigung).

It remains the case that if you are facing imminent unemployment, you have an obligation to register as a jobseeker with the 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).

Further information on unemployment benefit can be found in the leaflet for unemployed persons (German) published by the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) and here.

You can transfer your entitlement to unemployment benefit to another EU country for 3 to 6 months in order to look for work there during that period. This means that you can transfer your unemployment benefit from another EU country to Germany in order to look for work here. And conversely, you can also transfer your German unemployment benefit to another EU country. Further information on this can be found in the leaflet on unemployment benefit and employment abroad (Arbeitslosengeld und Auslandsbeschäftigung) published by the Federal Employment Agency.

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

2. Basic income support

Basic income support gives you the minimum in financial resources you need to live on.
People who are able to work, who are seeking employment, and who are either not entitled to unemployment benefit, have too low an entitlement, or whose income is too low receive unemployment benefit II (Arbeitslosengeld II) under Book II of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch II); unemployment benefit II is also known as “Hartz IV”.
People who are unable to work due to illness or because they have reached the retirement age, for example, receive support under Book XII of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch XII).

Please note: Special rules apply for EU citizens when it comes to access to these social benefits. You can receive benefits under Book II of the Social Code if you work in Germany but do not earn enough to meet your essential needs, or if you 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.

An adult with no dependent family members or children currently receives up to 424 euros per month. Reasonable costs for accommodation and heating are also paid in addition to this. Your income is offset against this.

If you are living in Germany solely for the purpose of seeking work and have not previously worked here for long enough to qualify for benefits under Books II and XII of the Social Code, you only receive these benefits after you have been lawfully resident in Germany for 5 years.

If you decide to return to your country of origin, you can receive benefits under Book XII of the Social Code for food, personal hygiene and health, as well as for board and lodging, for a maximum of 1 month; this is known as the transitional allowance (Überbrückungsgeld). These benefits can be granted for longer than 1 month in certain special cases of hardship (e.g. inability to travel), on a case-by-case basis.

Detailed information can be found in the leaflet on unemployment benefit II/social allowance – basic income support for jobseekers under Book II of the Social Code (Arbeitslosengeld II/Sozialgeld – Grundsicherung für Arbeitsuchende SGB II) published by the Federal Employment Agency. You can also consult the questions and answers published by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs.

Tip: If you are entitled to social benefits in Germany, so are 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.