How To Register For Unemployment Benefits in Germany

Navigating Unemployment Benefits (Arbeitslosengeld) in Germany

Unemployment can touch our lives in unexpected ways. It’s okay to feel uncertain, especially if you are an expat navigating the bureaucratic landscape of Germany. We’re here to help guide you through Germany’s social support system in the most approachable way.

Please remember: there is no shame in being unemployed. From our experience assisting over 1,000 individuals, we’ve observed that many associate unemployment with a sense of shame and a reluctance to rely on tax money. Often, what underlies these concerns is a genuine desire to contribute to society, rather than take from it.

However, unemployment benefits are designed to aid you in finding the right career path and to contribute to society sustainably. By temporarily accessing benefits such as Arbeitslosengeld or our complimentary job coaching, you’re being equipped to become an even more valuable contributor to the tax system in the future.

While we cannot offer legal or tax advice, we compiled this guide to advise you on the available benefits based on our experience and publicly available information. Let’s get into the details.

Which Unemployment Benefits (Arbeitslosengeld) Are Available in Germany?

Let’s break down what’s available for you and how to request the benefits you are eligible for. There are two types of unemployment benefits available in Germany, each with its own structure, requirements, and administering authority:

  • Arbeitslosengeld I (ALG 1) Claimable after 12 months of employment in Germany, it’s approximately 60% of your net salary. Consult the Arbeitsagentur for this benefit.
  • Arbeitslosengeld II (ALG 2/Bürgergeld) Also known as “Bürgergeld” (previously Hartz 4), this can be claimed once ALG 1 expires or if you’ve never worked in Germany. Consult the Jobcenter for this benefit.

Importantly, with both of these benefits, you can receive additional support, including our free coaching.

Essentials for Unemployment Benefits I (Arbeitslosengeld 1) in Germany

If you’ve contributed to the German workforce and the social security system, you might be eligible to receive financial support as well as programs like coaching and further education. The benefits are influenced by your contributions, the time you’ve spent working, and your current status in Germany.


  • Registering your unemployment status with the local Arbeitsagentur office.
  • Within the past 30 months, you’ve contributed to unemployment insurance for a total of at least 12 months. (These contributions don’t need to be consecutive.)
  • Holding citizenship from the EU, Switzerland, the European Economic Area, OR having the right permit to work in Germany.

The amount you receive is based on the earnings you’ve had recently. Your benefit is derived from your average net pay over the 12 months prior to unemployment. This figure is then divided by 365 to produce the “assessment benefit” (Bemessungsentgelt), from which 20% is subtracted for taxes and social security. Your “benefit payment” (Leistungsentgelt) is derived from the aforementioned calculations; you’ll receive either 60% of this amount or 67% if you have children.

How to Register for Unemployment Benefits I (Arbeitslosengeld 1) in Germany:

If you qualify for benefits, you must contact the Arbeitsagentur to register. There are three stages in the process of securing your unemployment benefits in Germany:

  1. Initiate the Registration as Job-seeking: If you’re aware of upcoming employment termination, like a non-renewal of a fixed-term contract or receipt of notice, begin by registering as a jobseeker. This step facilitates early support from the local Arbeitsagentur. Note: Coaching is accessible during this phase. 
  2. Register as Unemployed: If employment ends without a subsequent job lined up, register as unemployed no later than the day of job termination. This step is essential, even if you’ve already registered as a jobseeker.
  3. Request Benefits: You’re eligible for unemployment benefits if you meet the above criteria and have registered as unemployed, either online or in-person at the Arbeitsagentur.

Wherever you are in the process, contact the Arbeitsagentur to register for the next step. Three options to reach out are:

  • Online: Visit the designated website and click on “Vorgang starten” at the top right.
  • In Person: Drop by your local Arbeitsagentur for guidance.
  • Over the Phone: Call 0800 4 555500 for registration assistance.

How to Receive Bürgergeld (Arbeitslosengeld 2) in Germany:

If ALG1 is not an option or if you haven’t worked in Germany, you might qualify for what’s called the citizens’ allowance: “Bürgergeld” (formerly known as Hartz 4).

These are the key criterias:

  • Age 15 to retirement age.
  • Ability to work at least three hours daily.
  • Inability to cover household living expenses through work or aid.
  • EU, EEA, Swiss citizen, or hold a work-permitting residence in Germany.

Can You Receive Unemployment Benefits If You Are On a Visa?

If you lose your job while on a work visa, you may still qualify for unemployment benefits. However, the decision lies with the respective authorities.

It’s important to inform the immigration office about your job status. Based on your circumstances, the foreigners’ office might offer a 3 to 6 month extension on your stay, giving you an opportunity to find a new job and apply for a permit.

Note that the foreigners’ office and Arbeitsagentur/Jobcenter are separate agencies. If you are at risk of losing your job while on a work visa, ensure you follow the steps mentioned above and register as job-seeking or unemployed when necessary.



How To Receive Additional Benefits: Coaching and Further Education

As a recipient of unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld 1 & 2) in Germany, you qualify for additional support. The German government has established specific programs to facilitate those looking to enhance their skills or pivot in their career trajectory. 

The key programs include:


  • Activation and Job Placement Voucher (AVGS): A designated voucher system that can be redeemed for a variety of programs. Notably, this can be utilized for founder or career coaching with Fired Up 
  • Application Training: Focused sessions that guide you through effective job application strategies: this type of CV- and application focused training can be covered through an AVGS. At Fired Up, we have several coaches who specialize in this. 
  • Education Voucher (Bildungsgutschein): An offering to support further education relevant to job market needs.


Curious to learn more about career or founders coaching? Or do you need advice with your individual situation? Book an intro call with us.


About Fired Up


Fired Up is an HR platform that supports people on their unique career journeys and helps them navigate the administrative landscape in Germany.

We offer job and founder coaching, specializing in people with a background in tech and creative industries. Our services provide holistic support, which includes off-boarding, navigating the paperwork, consultation on the eligible benefits, as well as best-in-class coaching for the next step in people’s career. 

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