If you make little or no wages, you are entitled to unemployment benefits under certain conditions. There are two different types of unemployment benefits: Unemployment benefit I (ALG 1) and unemployment benefit II (ALG 2). You will only receive Unemployment Benefit I if you have had a job entailing compulsory social insurance contributions in Germany for at least 12 months in the past 24 months, i.e. you have contributed to unemployment insurance. You can apply for Unemployment Benefit I directly at the Employment Agency responsible for you. In the event of dismissal, the employee in charge will provide you with the necessary information. To learn more, check out our chapter "Termination of the Employment Contract".
To benefit from unemployment benefit II, on the other hand, you do not need to have contributed to unemployment insurance for 12 months. Unemployment benefit II (also called "Hartz 4" or "ALG 2") is basic substance income provided by the Jobcenter. This basic income includes money for personal livelihood, i.e. for food, clothing, hygiene items, etc. Under the Unemployment Benefit II scheme, a single adult currently receives € 446 per month. Depending on their ages, you will receive between € 283 and € 373 per month for each child. Moreover, the rental costs -i.e., the net rent, additional charges and heating costs- are also taken over by the Job Centre.
To benefit from unemployment benefit II, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must be at least 15 years old.
- You must not be retired yet. You can find out more in our chapter "Retiring in Germany".
- Your primary place of residence must be in Germany.
- You must be ready to work, i.e. you should be, generally speaking, capable of working.
- You must have little to no income.
- You must be either a person entitled to asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection or have German citizenship or have citizenship of an EU country and had worked in Germany before.
Please note: Asylum seekers and people with a Tolerated Stay Permit ("Duldung") can benefit from asylum seekers benefits - they are not entitled to Unemployment Benefit II.
To apply for Unemployment Benefit II, first, you need to call the Jobcentre and register yourself as unemployed or apply for an additional benefit ("Aufstockung"). Informing the Jobcenter per phone is crucial since you will receive benefits retrospectively from the time you register by telephone. You can find the Jobcentre responsible for you at www.arbeitsagentur.de. The rest you need to do online: On the website of the Jobcentre responsible for you, find and click on "Zum ersten Mal Arbeitslosengeld II (2)". Then click on "Antrag auf Arbeitslosengeld II (2)" to register. There you will find the "Application for unemployment benefit II (2)"- this is the MAIN APPLICATION FORM you need to fill out.
To clarify your income, you also have to fill in the "Anlage zur Einkommensbescheinigung," i.e., the appendix to the certificate of income, which you can find under "Arbeitslosengeld 2 - Anlagen zum Einkommen und Vermögen". If you are unemployed and have no income, you can enter "zero euro" as income. When you are employed, your employer has to fill out the "Income Certificate Form" ("Formular zur Einkommensbescheinigung ").
If you are self-employed, fill out the form "Anlage zum Einkommen Selbständiger". You do NOT have to fill the "Anlage zum Vermögen" as of now. You need to send the filled out (main) application form and the certificate of income, to the Jobcentre per email. You can find the email address on the website of the Jobcenter responsible for you.
The Jobcentre will then process your application and let you know if you will receive Unemployment Benefit II. In some cases, applicants may be asked to fill out additional forms. The Jobcenter will let you know if that is the case.
The specified application forms are often not easy to understand. At kub-berlin.org, you will find the essential application forms translated into various languages- use these forms to understand the German forms better. Please note, however, that you have to fill out and send the original German version to the Jobcenter.
Please note: Currently, the Jobcentre will not inquire about the size of your apartment or whether your rent is too high. They do not ask about the applicants' assets either. This extraordinary measure applies until 31.12.2021.