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In this period of crisis many have been suddenly fired without having knowledge of the necessary information to ask for help to the German state.

Here all the information you need:
The Unemployment Benefit in Germany (Arbeitslosengeld I) has not to be confused with the “Basic Allowance” ( Arbeitslosengeld II). The first has to be requested at the Agentur für die Arbeit and the second at the Jobcenter. More details about the basic allowance in this article:

To apply for the Unemployment Benefit in Germany (Arbeitslosengeld I) you must have been regularly employed for a certain amount of time (regular employment does not include for example the so-called MiniJob or the freelance work). This because the benefit will be paid through a work insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung) which has been monthly detracted from your salary along with the social and health benefits and the pension contributions. This insurance requires an amount of time to be fully activated.


Here the requisites to receive the Unemployment Benefit

  • You have been regularly employed for at least 12 months within 30 months. Good to know: the 12 months have not to be in a row, as long as they were exercised in a period of 30 months: this means that they could pertain to different jobs.
  • You have to apply for unemployment at the Agentur für Arbeit of your neighbourhood.
  • You have to be unemployed but have the capacity to work (Erwerbsfähigkeit), which means you are not sick or disabled and therefore you are apt to work at least 15 hours per day.
  • You have to show that you are actively looking for a job and to this end you are willing to cooperate with the Agentur für Arbeit.


Before applying for the actual unemployment you have to register as Arbeitssuchend (jobseeker).

Mind: it is not deemed necessary to be unemployed to register as jobseeker.

The registration is possible also online following this link: You have nonetheless to confirm the registration in person with the Employment Agency.

The Agentur für die Arbeit considers the registration as jobseeker a legal obligation to be done at the latest three months before finishing an employment relationship. This is not always possible. The minimum notice of termination amounts legally to one month, when not otherwise stated in the work agreement. If it is less, the employer can be reported. If then there are less than three months between notice and the actual end of the employment relationship, the registration must be made at least within three days after knowledge of the end date. We suggest registering even if you are not sure you are going to be fired. If the termination does not happen, you can always give communication without incurring in legal consequences.

Good to know: the time frame also applies if your current employment is under a time constraint. Should this be the case, you should inform the Arbeitsagentur a full 3 months prior to the end of the contract.

Once registered as Arbeitssuchend you have to register your unemployment status (Arbeitslosigkeit). This must be done by communicating it to the Agentur at the latest on the first day of the unemployment and has to be confirmed at the latest three day after your the first day of unemployment, going in person to the Employment Agency responsible for your place of residence.

Important: if you do not respect this very narrow temporal window you risk a period of suspension (see below).

The first communication can be done also online following this link but remember, it is deemed necessary to go in person and bring with you your ID or passport, your registration of domicile (Anmeldung), your health insurance card and your banking details.

Exception: during the period of closure due to the Corona crisis is also possible to call. Here the contacts:

Very important: in order to activate the benefit you have to give as soon as possible to the Agentur the Arbeitsbescheinigungen of all the jobs you exercised in the last 3 years. The Arbeitbescheinigung is an official certificate of employment filled and signed by your employe: he is required by law to give it to you or to send it directly to the Employment Agency. This is a source of many problems, especially if you have lost contact of your former employers or if you did not left on good terms.

A suggestion thus to all those who are changing a job, even if they do not need the benefit because they already found another employment: ask always your employer to give you the certificate, which could be useful in the future.

Mind: without the certificate the benefit cannot be calculated and therefore will not be activated or, if so, only partially.


How much
The benefit will be calculated in this way: a monthly average of the income of the last 12 months will be taken in consideration to deduce the daily gross. A 20% deduction for social benefits to calculate the daily net. The allowance amounts to the 60% of the daily net, which rises to 67% for unemployed who have children still living in the household. Here you can calculate by yourself:

Plus: your health insurance and pension contributions will be covered as well.


How long
The benefit allowance length depends on two factors:

  • For how long you have paid the work insurance (there will be made a calculation over the last 5 years).
  • How old are you: up to 50 years of age you are entitled to a maximum of 12 months of unemployment benefits, if you have worked for at least 2 years. If you have worked for 1 year you will be entitled to 6 months of benefit.

If you are older than 50 there will be made a calculation in stages up to a maximum of 24 months of allowance (for people of 58 year of age or older). In this last case, it is anyway required to have paid for the insurance for at least 48 months.


Suspension of payment for particular reasons.
Under specific circumstances the Agentur für die Arbeit decides for a Sperrzeit, i.e. a suspension of the payment of the allowance up to a maximum of 12 weeks (3 months).

The suspension is inflicted if the unemployed:

  • does not register in time as Arbeitssuchend (see above)
  • does not apply in time for the unemployment benefit (see above)
  • has not been fired (Kündigung) but he has resigned by his own will (Eigenkündigung)
  • has been fired due to improper behaviour at the workplace
  • has signed a voluntary termination agreement (Aufhebungsvertrag) and has received a severance pay (Abfindung). Be careful about this: the employer may try to have you this signed telling you it is a normal termination, which is not the case!
  • Does not actively look for a new occupation or does not adopt measures meant for him/her to find it (Maßnahmen zur Aktivierung und beruflichen Eingliederung), including also professional trainings or language courses, which are generally covered by the agency, if deemed useful to exit the unemployment condition.

Important to know: if you can motivate your resignation or the other conditions with documentary proof, the agency can decide not to apply the suspension (for example in case of severe certified illness or if you had to move elsewhere in order to follow your partner)


Good to know: Working abroad and right to the unemployment allowance
If you have worked in one of the EU countries as well as in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein you are entitled to receive the benefit in Germany but only if, upon your moving or coming back here, you have exercised a regular job, even for a short period of time. For example, if you have worked for 2 years in Ireland or Norway and then just 3 months in Germany, you can apply for the unemployment and the period of time spent abroad will be included in the calculation.