Child Benefit

Update 31.08.2022

Am I entitled to "Kindergeld"?

Raising children is costly, from nappies, clothing, toys, school supplies, and recreational activities to (later on) vocational training or university education. In Germany, there is a form of state aid known as "Child Benefit" or "Kindergeld", paid to support families financially and help parents provide their children with a good life and a bright future.

What do I need to know?

What is Child Benefit for?

Raising children is costly, from nappies, clothing, toys, school supplies, and recreational activities to (later on) vocational training or university education. In Germany, there is a form of state aid known as "Child Benefit" or "Kindergeld", paid to support families financially and help parents provide their children with a good life and a bright future.

Am I eligible for Child Benefit?

As a parent, you can receive Child Benefit if you meet the following requirements:

  • Your child is under the age of 18. However, under certain circumstances, you can also receive Child Benefit for children older than 18. You can learn more in the section "My child is over 18 years old - can I receive Child Benefit?".
  • Your child lives with you, and you are responsible for their care. Important: The child does not have to be your biological child. You can also receive Child Benefit for adopted children, grandchildren, foster children or stepchildren.
  • Your child lives in Germany, the EU or Norway, Liechtenstein, Iceland or Switzerland. Important: Your child's nationality does not matter. 

You must also meet one of the following residence requirements:

  • You have German citizenship.
  • You are a citizen of an EU country, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland.
  • You have a residence permit that allows you to work in Germany for at least 6 months, regardless of whether you are actually working or not. The only thing that matters is that you are allowed to work in Germany.
  • You are a citizen of Algeria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Morocco, Montenegro, Serbia, Tunisia or Turkey, and employed in Germany in a job subject to social security contributions or receive Unemployment Benefit I or sick pay.

Please note: Generally speaking, people with a tolerated stay permit or "Duldung" cannot receive Child Benefit. However, people with a tolerated stay permit for employment ("Beschäftigungsduldung") can. If you have a "Beschäftigungsduldung", you can apply for Child Benefit, regardless of your country of origin. Keep in mind that this does not apply to people with a tolerated stay permit for vocational training or "Ausbildungsduldung".

You can learn more about Child Benefit in cross-border cases in the information sheet published on the Employment Agency's website (in German).

My child is over 18 years old. Can I receive Child Benefit?

In principle, you receive Child Benefit for children up to 18. However, if your child is registered as unemployed and job-seeking, you can receive Child Benefit until your child's 21st birthday. If your child is still attending school or going through vocational training, pursuing a university degree or a recognised voluntary service, you will receive Child Benefit until your child's 25th birthday.

When and where can I apply for Child Benefit?

You can apply for Child Benefit immediately after childbirth or entering Germany, given you meet the requirements mentioned above.

You can fill out the Child Benefit application online on the website of the Federal Employment Agency- or download the application form, print it out and then fill it out. On arbeitsagentur.de, you will find the application form "Antrag auf Kindegeld " and the additionally required form "Anlage Kind zum Hauptantrag Kindergeld " in many languages.

You must enter your tax identification number and your child's tax identification number in the application. If you are unsure what a tax identification number is and where you can apply for it, check the section "What is the tax identification number?" in our chapter "The German tax system". If your child was born abroad or is currently living in another EU country, you must also submit your child's birth certificate.

You then submit the completed application and any additional documents that may be required (e.g. your child's birth certificate) to the Family Benefits Office ("Familienkasse") responsible for you. You can find the proper Familienkasse on arbeitsagentur.de by entering your postal code.

Familienkasse will then check whether your documents and data are complete. If further documents or information are required, their staff will contact you via phone or send you a letter.

In principle, you should receive feedback after 6 weeks at the latest. If you have not received an answer by then, you can inquire about your application by calling the free helpline at 0800 4 555530 (in German).

Who should apply for Child Benefit?

Only one caregiver can apply for Child Benefit. So if you have a child with a partner/spouse and are taking care of the child together, you must decide who is applying for Child Benefit, you or your partner/spouse. Before deciding, read the section "How much Child Benefit will I receive?".

Please note: If parents are separated, Child Benefit will be paid to the parent with whom the child lives most of the time. If the other parent pays child maintenance, half of the Child Benefit payments will be subtracted from the amount they have to pay.

How do I receive Child Benefit?

The Child Benefit will be transferred directly to your account. If you have several children, you will receive a single transfer per month for all of them. 

When your Child Benefit is transferred to your account depends on the last digit of your Child Benefit number. On arbeitsagentur.de, you can find out exactly when your Child Benefit will be paid out.

How much Child Benefit do I receive?

In principle, you will receive at least €219 per month for each child. If you have more than two children, you will receive a larger Child Benefit payment for the third and all further children. Currently, parents receive €219 per month for their first and second children. For your third child, you receive €225. And for your fourth child and further children, the amount increases to €250 each (as of February 2022).

Important: You will not receive Child Benefit for children who do not live with you. However, you can mention the child/children who do not live with you in your application for Child Benefit as the so-called "Zählkinder". That means they will be included in calculating the amount of your Child Benefit for your following children and can increase your total amount of Child Benefit payment.

An example: You have three children, but only the two younger children live with you. The oldest child lives with the other parent. You will not receive Child Benefit for your first child. However, you can mention the first child in the Child Benefit application form for your other two children. Then, your two younger children will be counted as the second and third children, and your Child Benefit payment will accordingly increase.

I have not applied for Child Benefit yet- can I collect Child Benefit retrospectively?

You can also apply for and receive Child Benefit retrospectively. However, the deadline is six months - that means you can only receive Child Benefit retrospectively from the last six months. It is therefore essential that you submit your application in due time.

My life situation has changed. Do I have to inform the Family Benefits Office ("Familienkasse")?

Yes. You are required to inform the Familienkasse immediately of any change that may affect Child Benefit payments - for instance, in the following circumstances:

  • If you or the other parent accept a job abroad.
  • If you, the other parent or your child move abroad.
  • Your child receives benefits from another country.
  • If you separate from your partner/spouse or get divorced.
  • When your child moves out.
  • If you or the other parent accepts a job in public service.
  • If you move.
  • If your bank details change.

If you receive Child Benefit for a child over the age of 18, you must also inform the Family Benefits Office in the following cases, for example:

  • Your child has completed school, training or university.
  • Your child has found a job.
  • Your child has found a spot in a vocational training programme or university.
  • Your child changes or interrupts their course of training or studies.
  • Your child becomes pregnant and goes on maternity leave.

Please note: You are legally obliged to report any changes that could be relevant to the Family Benefits Office. Failure to do so could be considered a misdemeanour or even a criminal offence.

I received a questionnaire from the Family Benefits Office. What do I have to do now?

The Familienkasse regularly checks whether you still meet the requirements for Child Benefit. To do so, they send families a questionnaire.

In the questionnaire, they ask, for instance, whether:

  • You are still in Germany.
  • Your child still lives with you and in your house.
  • Your child is still going to school or pursuing their training.

You will also be asked for the relevant documents or confirmation letters, e.g. from your child's school.

Please note: you must reply within the deadline given by the Familienkasse; otherwise, the payments may stop. If you cannot respond within the deadline, ask the Familienkasse in due time for an extension of the deadline.

I have received an "Aufhebungsbescheid "or "Erstattungsbescheid" from the Family Benefits Office. What does that mean?

Changes in your life situation (e.g. when one of your children has completed their education) will affect the amount of Child Benefit payments you receive. In this case, you may receive a "cancellation notification" ("Aufhebungsbescheid ") or a "reimbursement notification" ("Erstattungsbescheid ").

If you have already received more Child Benefit payments than you should have, you must pay them back. The Familienkasse will ask you to repay the excess money received. You then have to pay back the extra cash via the collection service of the Federal Employment Agency ("Inkasso-Service der Bundesagentur für Arbeit").

If you have questions about your "cancellation notice" or "reimbursement notice", contact your Familienkasse directly. To find the Family Benefits Office responsible for you, visit arbeitsagentur.de and enter your postal code.

Important: Even if you object, you still have to pay the money back immediately. If the repayment request is proved not to be legitimate later, you will get the money back. If you do not agree to the repayment, you can appeal against the decision in writing or directly to your Family Benefits Office. You can learn more about submitting a complaint in the section "How can I object?" section.

I'm receiving less Child Benefit than I should- what can I do?

If you receive a smaller child benefit payment than expected, first get in touch with the Familienkasse and inquire. You can do so in writing or personally on site. To find the Family Benefits Office responsible for you, visit arbeitsagentur.de and enter your postal code.

If you disagree with their decision concerning the amount, you can object to it within one month of receiving the notification. To do so, you need to submit your objection in writing or on-site at your Familienkasse. Check the Familienkasse's notification letter to find out where you can submit your objection. You do not need to pay to file an objection. Learn more about objections in the section "How can I object?"

If your objection is denied, your next option will be to appeal the denial. A court will then examine the decision made by the Familienkasse about your Child Benefit. If you wish to appeal, you need to do so within one month of receiving the notification letter concerning the denial of your objection. Contrary to the first objection, which was free, you have to pay for the lawsuit. However, low-income families can benefit from legal aid. Make sure you seek advice beforehand - you can, for instance, seek support and counselling from a Youth Migration Service. Their employees speak many languages.

My application was rejected- what can I do?

First, get in touch with the Familienkasse and inquire. You can do so in writing or personally on site. To find the Family Benefits Office responsible for you, visit arbeitsagentur.de and enter your postal code.

If you find the rejection of your application unjust, you can object to it within one month of receiving the rejection notification. You can submit your objection in writing or on-site at your Familienkasse. Check the Familienkasse's notification letter to find out where you can submit your objection. You do not need to pay to file an objection. Learn more in the section "How can I object?"

If your objection is denied, your next option will be to appeal the denial. A court will then examine the decision made by the Familienkasse about your case. Keep in mind that you need to file an appeal within one month of receiving the notification letter concerning the rejection of your objection. Contrary to the objection, which was free, you have to pay for the lawsuit. However, low-income families can benefit from legal aid. Make sure to seek advice beforehand - you can, for instance, seek support and counselling from a Youth Migration Service. Their employees speak many languages.

How can I object to decisions made by Familienkasse?

If you believe that the Family Benefits Office made a mistake, you can appeal against their decisions and oppose their assessments. After receiving their notification letter concerning their decision, you have one month to appeal against it. The period begins three days after the date on the postmark on the envelope of the notification letter. If the third day is a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, the period begins on the next business day. You must submit the objection in writing as a letter or fax. Alternatively, you can submit your objection directly to the Familienkasse for the record.

In your objection writing, you must include your name and address, the address of the Familienkasse responsible and the file number of the decision you are appealing. Your objection letter does not have to contain a reason, but it is usually helpful to provide grounds for your objection. If you do not have time to provide proper justification within a month, you can also submit another letter containing your reasoning and explanations later. At kindergeld.org, you can find a template for an objection letter. If you need support, the staff at the Youth Migration Service can help you.

Important: To object to a decision made by the Familienkasse, you neither have to pay nor need a lawyer. 

Can I receive Child Benefit if I live abroad?

In principle, currently anyone who is not paying taxes in Germany cannot receive Child Benefit payments in Germany. If you live abroad, you are entitled to Child Benefit from the German state when you meet the following requirements:

  • You have an unrestricted obligation to pay taxes in Germany. That means that you work for a German company or organisation abroad and pay your taxes in Germany.
  • Your children live in Germany or another EU country.
  • You have German citizenship.

You can still receive Child Benefit, even if you live abroad and are not subject to unrestricted tax liability in Germany - given you meet one of the following conditions:

  • You are insured by the Federal Employment Agency.
  • You work abroad as a development worker or missionary.
  • You work in Germany as an employee or self-employed person or receive your pension from Germany, are a citizen of an EU country and live in the EU.

Please note: A person may be entitled to Child Benefit payments in more than one country. When that is the case, the state in which the parents work is responsible. Or the state in the country where the child lives. In principle, only the responsible state provides the Child Benefit. You can find more detailed information in this regard (in German) at arbeitsagentur.de.

What is the difference between "Kindergeld" and "Kinderfreibetrag"?

In Germany, anyone who has an income also has to pay taxes. However, parents are subject to tax cuts so that they can take better care of their children. Parents can earn €8,388 per year (as of 02/2022) without paying taxes - this is the so-called "Kinderfreibetrag" or Child Allowance.

Child Benefit is intended to relieve and support parents financially. As a result, you don't have to pay any taxes on your Child Benefit payments. But the big difference between "Kindergeld" and "Kinderfreibetrag" is that the first one (Child Benefit) is transferred to your account every month. The second one (Child Allowance), on the other hand, is not paid out but taken into account when your income tax is calculated - that means the Tax Office deducts the Child Allowance from your annual income and, as a result, you will have to pay less tax.

Important: You cannot have both "Kindergeld" and "Kinderfreibetrag". Parents may choose to benefit from Child Benefit ("Kindergeld ") or Child Allowance ("Kinderfreibetrag"). When you submit your tax return, the tax office will automatically check which variant is in your favour financially- that means you do not need to apply for it. If you receive more Child Benefit payments than what you can save through the Child Allowance, you will continue to receive Child Benefit. But in case you save more money if you instead get Child Allowance, the Tax Office will apply the Child Allowance.

Please note: Even if you are sure that the Child Allowance is financially more reasonable, you should still apply for Child Benefit first. The Tax Office automatically assumes that all parents receive Child Benefit and includes the amount in your tax return, regardless of whether you actually applied for it or not.

The Child Allowance is available to parents up to the 18th birthday of their children. If your child goes through vocational training or studies, you can benefit from Child Allowance until your child's 25th birthday.

What is "Kinderzuschlag"?

The "Kinderzuschlag "(KiZ) or Additional Child Benefit is provided to parents who earn enough for themselves but whose income is not enough for the entire family or barely suffices.

The Additional Child Benefit is a maximum of €209 per child per month (as of 02/2022); however, the exact amount you receive depends on your personal situation: the higher your income, the lower your Additional Child Benefit. Your child's possible income – e.g., child maintenance or orphan's pension – can also reduce your Additional Child Benefit.

In addition to the Additional Child Benefit, you can receive the so-called "Leistungen für Bildung und Teilhabe " or "educational package", which includes, for example, free lunches for your child at school or daycare, a subsidy for the purchase of school supplies, etc. You can also be exempted from the daycare fees as a recipient of Additional Child Benefit.

To receive the Additional Child Benefit, you must meet the following conditions:

  • Your child is unmarried and under 25 years old
  • You collect Child Benefit for the child
  • Your income is not less than €900 gross per month for couples and €600 gross per month for single parents.

You can use the KiZ-Lotsen to check whether you can receive Additional Child Benefits.

You must apply in writing to the Family Benefits Office responsible for you. You can fill out the application online at arbeitsagentur.de.

The Additional Child Benefit is paid together with the Child Benefit. You can learn more in the section "How do I receive Child Benefit?".

Important

The Youth Migration Service can help you with all questions and issues relating to daycare, school, vocational training and financial aid from the state. You can find Youth Migration Service offices in all major German cities. Their service is free, and their employees speak many languages. Furthermore, the Youth Migration Service is non-governmental- they do not work for the authorities and do not pass on any information. You can find one of their offices in your area at jugendmigrationsdienste.de.

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