Disaster strikes – you moved all the way to Germany to take on a fabulous job, it blows up in your face, your boss hands you your notice. Losing your job in a foreign country can be daunting, but like everything in Germany, there is a process to follow. Keep calm, follow the process, and it’ll all work out OK.
Registering with the Agentur für Arbeit during COVID19
Updated 7.4.2020: Step one is usually a personal visit to the relevant government agency – the Agentur für Arbeit. But Corona times are special times. The Agentur für Arbeit is not currently receiving visitors.
Am I eligible?
If you’ve been working in Germany for at least 12 months out of the last 2 years and paying unemployment insurance as part of your salary, you will probably be entitled to unemployment benefits. However, it can depend on the conditions on your work permit and is complicated. It’s best to apply, outline your situation and see whether they can help you or not.
Step one: registering as “arbeitssuchend” (job-seeking)
You can register as “arbeitssuchend” online or do it by phone by calling 0800 4 5555 00. Although they will warn you about long waiting times on the phone, in my experience this week so far, registering as job-seeking online takes about 30 minutes, including waiting time. You are welcome to use Life Admin credit to make this call in conference – we’ve reduced the price to 35 EUR per hour during the Corona pandemic.
You can notify them up to 3 months in advance if you know the date you will become unemployed, or at the latest, on the first day of your unemployment to avoid any gaps in payment. If there are fewer than 3 months between the date you are given your notice and the date you will become unemployed, you should visit the office within 3 days of receiving your dismissal letter or handing in your notice. If you delay this, it might lead to a delay in receiving benefits.
Step 2: Fill out your application for ALGI benefits online
Once you’ve registered as “job seeking”, they will send you an access code by post to fill out the application online. The final step in this process is a personal visit to the office, but no-one knows exactly when this will take place. Once you’ve filled out the online application, sit tight and wait for instructions on the personal visit. It’s possible that you might not get paid until you can go to the office in person to verify your ID, but your application will be backdated to the first day of your unemployment if you follow the rules. It is also possible that they will pay you provisionally to avoid financial hardship and finalize the process later.
If you purchase Life Admin to complete this process, it usually takes around an hour from start to finish and works like this: we’d spend the first half an hour registering you as “arbeitssuchend” (job-seeking), either by phone or online. Once that is complete, you wait for your Agentur für Arbeit access code to arrive by post and you contact your employer to get them to complete their side of the paperwork. Once you have heard back from your employer and you have the access code, use your remaining Life Admin credit to go through the ALGI application online. If you want, you can also book a translator to go with you for the third and final step, the in-person ID verification visit.
Step 3: visiting the office in person
Side note: when you finally do get to the office in person (this will be the last step to complete your application and can only happen when the office is open for visitors again), don’t just assume it’s the one closest to your house. Each office caters for different types of clients in different districts. If you’re an academic, you might get sent to a different office. Plus, there are “job agencies” and “job centers” – the Job Center caters for those receiving a different type of unemployment benefit. Look closely on the invitation you receive for the exact address. You should bring your passport, your address registration certificate and any correspondence from your employer that confirms your pending unemployment, such as the notice of termination or a short-term contract.
We offer special rates for clients facing unemployment for visits to the Agentur für Arbeit. You can book online and the reduced rate will already apply.
I’m a freelancer
If you’re a freelancer or self-employed and are facing a loss of income, you may also be entitled to benefits if you’ve been making voluntary contributions to unemployment insurance. The rules for freelancers or the self-employed are more complicated. The contributions are around 70 EUR a month, or half of that for the first year if you received a Gründungszuschuss. If you don’t know wehether you’ve been making these contributions or not, you probably haven’t been. Instead, you can apply for ALGII. If you’re a freelancer, you might consider making an appointment with the Agentur für Arbeit to find out how you can protect yourself against future periods of unemployment.
When do the payments begin?
You get paid benefits from the date you become unemployed, but only if you notify the Agentur as soon as you can. If it takes you a while to register after you stop working, they might not backdate your payments. Even if it takes the Agentur für Arbeit a long time to process your application, you will eventually be paid beginning from the date you first became employed if you followed the process correctly.
A note about legal issues:
If you’re unsure where you stand on legal issues with your work contract, work permit, notice period or entitlement to benefits, get some legal advice from a lawyer who specialises in employment law. Things can get particularly tricky if your employer asks you to sign a settlement contract (an “Aufhebungsvertrag”) in which you both mutually agree to terminate your employment contract.