Being Unemployed in Germany

We will help you here on what rights you have when just now have lost your job. Sad as it may be, get active and combat the red tape. It is not much but in order not to loose any benefits, act now.


 Gee! I never believed I would be laid off. How do I collect my unemployment support?

That is not nice to hear. Having the misfortune to become unemployed in Germany, you have to apply at the local Arbeitsagentur (labor agency) in person and as soon as you know your job will end. Your early registration is important to maintain full entitlements. Reckon to face a battle to arrange all what you are entitled to. As a foreigner, do not expect much help and especially not in a language other than German. Incase you do not have everything with you the first time, then you will receive an application form with a date stamped on it. That date will count as your date of application if you afterwards submit a completed application without undue delay.

My city has several labor agencies. Which one is right?

The office in your vicinity will usually have jurisdiction. Before waiting “endless hours” in the waiting room or aisle, try asking at the information desk near the entrance. They will not only tell if you are at the competent office but also which area in the building to go to.

How does unemployment influence my residency status?

This is a vital question! Generally, if your income is welfare, then you can forfeit your status. Being “arbeitslos” is no crime anymore. Let me first differentiate between “arbeitslos”, “arbeitssuchend” – for this presentation. Arbeitslos is a person who is unemployed and receiving unemployment support (Arbeitslosengeld I or II) from his or her labor agency. "Arbeitssuchend" implicates being unemployed but not receiving payments from the labor agency. Being unemployed, does not immediately touch your status but it can happen that the foreigner’s may impose conditions. Such a condition can be that you have a certain time to find a job. As long as you are on Arbeitslosengeld I you are on the safe side because this is not considered as welfare but instead an insurance for which you paid premiums. Receiving Arbeitslosengeld II will typically bring problems.

How much do I get?

This is a difficult calculation which depends on your marital status, number of children, your and / or your spouse’s wage. Supposing you are living together with your boy / girl friend (as the law would say it: “in an economic community” and your friend is employed, in this case your friend’s salary will also be considered as if your friend were a spouse.

My boss and I mutually agreed to a neat severance payment. So, I left the company and applied for unemployment benefits – only to learn that I will receive them only after a blocking period. Isn’t this unfair?

Not really. Or, would you expect to collect the life insurance money after killing your wife? The blocking period has been invented in order to prevent you from actively participating in the dissolution of an employment relationship.

My unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld I) have ended. But, what am I to live from? I do not have any money. Do I now get Arbeitslosengeld II?

That might be. You will be eligible for unemployment money II if you are older than 16 but not older than 65 and can work for at least three hours a week. As an alien, you will hardly be able to participate on these benefits. Only when you are married to a German or EU-citizen, will be possible for to receive such benefits. Otherwise your residence will be terminated.

My employer went bankrupt – now what? What am I to live on in the mean time?

You will receive “bankruptcy benefits (Insolvenzgeld)” from the labor agency for the last three months before bankruptcy. However, if you were paid in full, you will not receive any benefits. Partial payments from your employer will be partially crediting your bankruptcy money. You will be receiving your net salary for this time. N.B. only upon application will you receive bankruptcy money!

What happens when these three months are over?

It will depend on if you continue working for the same company or for another company. If you get a new job, then you will only have to worry about any salaries which have not been paid. If you do not work for the same company and have no other job to go to then you will receive unemployment money. N.B. only upon application!.

Will I recoup any of my salary or not?

First, you will have to differentiate between wages before and after the beginning of the bankruptcy proceedings. Those open wages before the proceedings will not be privileged (§38 InsO). If you continue working, your wage will be paid out before the normal debtors (= unprivileged debtors). N.B. get specific consultation from an attorney. This is a very complicated matter. You should be able to pay him with legal aid if you do not have legal insurance for labor law.

Additional information