Important information on entry and residence for people fleeing Ukraine
The Russian invasion of Ukraine forces many people to flee Ukraine. Here you will find information on the situation at the borders and on entering/staying in Germany for Ukrainian citizens and people of other nationalities who have lived in Ukraine. Ukrainians already in Germany can also find reliable and up-to-date information here.
We are striving to provide answers to all questions. As soon as we have news, we will inform you immediately here and on Facebook.
All the information is also available in German, Ukrainian and Russian language.
Looking for counselling by phone? Then call the Particip.ai hotline. The staff speak Ukrainian, Russian and English and will provide you with all the essential information free of charge. You can reach the hotline Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on 0800 5052400. The call is free.
The Jobcenter can provide you support if you live in Germany and do not have enough money to care for yourself and your family. Under certain conditions, the Jobcenter helps people who have never worked in Germany, those who have been unemployed for more than a year and individuals who earn little despite working. If you are in one of these groups, you can seek financial support for yourself and your family from the Jobcenter. Such support is called „Citizen’s Allowance“ or„Bürgergeld”. It is the successor of the "Arbeitslosengeld II", which was also known as "Hartz IV". The Jobcenter staff will also help you look for a job. Jobcenter can also take over the costs for German courses or further training programmes if it can help you find a job.
What do I need to know?
Citizen’s Allowance (“Bürgergeld”) is a basic substance income ("Grundsicherung") provided by the Jobcenter. In the past, it was known as "Arbeitslosengeld II" (Unemployment Benefit II) or "Hartz IV". It is paid to make sure you can maintain your livelihood and that of your family, i.e. pay for food, clothing, hygiene items, electricity, bus and train tickets, etc. Single adults can receive €502 per month, married couples €451 per person and children €318 to €420, depending on their age (as of 2023). For recipients of the “Bürgergeld”, the Jobcenter also covers rent and heating costs. However, heating costs are only covered up to a certain level. You can learn more in "Does my flat need to have a specific size and rent?".
You can receive "Bürgergeld" if you don't have enough money to take care of yourself and your family and:
- have never worked in Germany,
- have been unemployed for more than a year or
- earn little despite working.
Please note: The income of the family members who live with you also plays a role here. You can read more about it in the section "Does my family's income or assets also count? What is a 'Bedarfsgemeinschaft'?".
To receive "Bürgergeld", you must also meet the following requirements:
- You have your habitual residence in Germany, i.e., you must live in Germany.
- You are recognized as a person entitled to asylum, refugee status, or subsidiary protection or have German citizenship. If you are a citizen of another EU country, you must have already worked in Germany.
- You are over 15 and not yet of retirement age. You can learn whether you are already of retirement age in our chapter "Retiring in Germany".
- You are employable; that is, you are generally able to work at least 3 hours a day.
Please note: From June 1, 2022, the Jobcenter is also responsible for people who have a residence permit according to §24 or a corresponding “Fiktionsbescheinigung” + registration in the Central Register of Foreign Nationals (“Ausländerzentralregister”).
Important: Registration in the Central Register of Foreign Nationals is carried out by the Immigration Office. The registration happens automatically when you apply for a residence permit, but there are currently delays in the procedure. Unfortunately, you have no influence on whether you are already registered in the Central Register of Foreign Nationals or not.
Please note: If you only have a so-called " Anlaufbescheinigung" or proof of arrival, you cannot register with the Jobcenter yet – that means the Social Welfare Office is responsible for you. You can learn more in the “State Aid” section.
Important: Jobcenter is not responsible for the following people:
- Asylum seekers and people with a tolerated stay permit ("Duldung"). They receive asylum seekers' benefits, paid out by the Social Welfare Office, so they cannot receive “Bürgergeld”.
- Students. You can learn about your financial options as a student in our chapter "Student Finance".
- People who are too old or ill to work. The Social Welfare Office is responsible for these people.
- Individuals who came to Germany with a visa as skilled workers or alike. They cannot receive “Bürgergeld”.
- People who worked in Germany for more than 12 months and made unemployment insurance contributions before becoming unemployed. They receive financial support (i.e. Unemployment Benefits I or "Arbeitslosengeld I") from the Employment Agency.
You are eligible for “Bürgergeld” if you have no job or work but do not earn enough. Not just your personal income or assets- the income or assets of certain family members who live with you also count here. That is what Jobcenter calls the income or assets of your "Bedarfsgemeinschaft" or "shared household".
The German state assumes that all members of a "Bedarfsgemeinschaft" or "shared household" take care of each other. That is, they share their money and provide for one another when a member is short on cash.
The "Bedarfsgemeinschaft" or "shared household" includes:
- Spouses or registered civil partners who live together in Germany
- Children under the age of 25, but only if they live with you, are not married, and do not earn (at all or enough) to take care of themselves
- Partners, but only if you have been living together for more than a year, or have a child together and live together, or both have access to the other's account or take care of children or other relatives together.
Important: Roommates in a flat-sharing community ("Wohngemeinschaft " or WG) or shared accommodation do not count as "Bedarfsgemeinschaft". The same applies to spouses or civil partners who still live in Ukraine.
“Bürgergeld” is only paid if you cannot cover your living expenses with your own means. In addition to income, these means also include assets. Assets include savings, among other things. In contrast to the predecessor "Unemployment Benefit II", you do not have to use up savings first when you receive “Bürgergeld”. If you have savings, you may keep them.
Important: This rule only applies to a certain amount of savings and is only applicable in the first year you receive “Bürgergeld”. Single people are not allowed to have more than €40,000 in saving when they receive “Bürgergeld”. Each subsequent family member in your community of need may not have more than €15,000 when you receive “Bürgergeld”.
Recipients of “Bürgergeld” can also have additional income. The first €100 is not taken into account when calculating the financial support. Higher incomes, however, affect the amount of your “Bürgergeld”.
Students and trainees are seen as exceptions: If you are in training or attending school, you can earn up to €520 per month on top without your “Bürgergeld” being affected.
Assets also include residential property. There is no problem if you own a house or a flat. That means you do not have to move and can apply for “Bürgergeld”. After you receive “Bürgergeld” for one year, the following rule applies:
- up to 130 square meters of owner-occupied living space in an owner-occupied flat and
- 140 square meters of owner-occupied living space in a house
will not count as “property” when calculating your “Bürgergeld”.
If more than four people live in the flat or house, the area that is not counted toward the “Bürgergeld” increases by 20 square meters for each additional person.
If the living space is larger than that, it does not mean that you have to move to receive “Bürgergeld”. But it could be taken into account when calculating your “Bürgergeld”. However, there are exceptions to this general rule.
You can get the following financial support from the Jobcenter:
- Educational Package or "Leistungen zu Bildung und Teilhabe"
- Housing costs, such as rent or heating costs
- Costs of having your foreign degrees translated and certified.
- Extra financial help if you find yourself in a particular life situation, for example, pregnancy or a severe illness.
- Money for furniture. For your first flat, the Jobcenter can provide you with financial support or vouchers for furniture.
- "Einstiegsgeld", that is, the financial support you receive when you start work after a period of unemployment or in case you become self-employed. You can learn more in our chapters "Starting up a registered business" and "Starting up as self-employed".
The Jobcenter also contributes to health insurance and long-term care insurance on your behalf.
Yes. If you do not earn much through your work, you can be entitled to “Bürgergeld” despite having a job. However, you will then receive less “Bürgergeld”. Your salary will be deducted from your “Bürgergeld”. So the more you earn, the lower your “Bürgergeld”. Important: There is an allowable deduction ("Freibeitrag") of €100. That means you can make €100 without your “Bürgergeld” being reduced.
Please note: Your income from employment in Ukraine is only taken into account (when calculating your “Bürgergeld”) if you can actually access and use the money. The income of your spouse in Ukraine must not be taken into account when calculating your “Bürgergeld” - even if you have access to their income.
Yes, if your income is not enough for you and your family to survive on, you can get some money from the Jobcenter. This is called the „Ergänzungsbetrag“ or “supplementary sum”. Please note: Students and trainees cannot receive the „Ergänzungsbetrag“. Students can apply for BAföG. Trainees in school-based vocational training can also receive BAföG. You can learn more about it in our “School-based vocational training” chapter.
The exact amount of your „Ergänzungsbetrag“ depends on how much money you and your family have at your disposal each month and the amount of money you and your family need for your expenses.
You can apply for the „Ergänzungsbetrag“ at your Jobcenter. Check out the section “Which Jobcenter is responsible for me?” to find a Jobcenter nearby. To apply, fill out the main application for "Bürgergeld". Do so as soon as possible because you will receive the money retrospectively from the day you submit your application. You can find out how to fill out the application and which other forms you need to submit in the section “Where and how do I apply for 'Bürgergeld'?”.
You can learn more about various state aids in our chapter “State Aid for Cost of Living Crisis”.
You can find the Jobcenter responsible for you at jobcenter-ge.de. To do so, click on your state and then on the name of your city. If your city is not on the list, you can search the Employment Agency's website by entering the name of your place of residence or your postal code.
You can apply for “Bürgergeld” at the responsible Jobcenter.
Please Note: If you previously received "Arbeitslosengeld II", which is also known as "Hartz IV", you do not have to do anything. The citizen's income replaces the unemployment benefit II automatically. That means you do not have to file a new application and stay with the same case officer at the Jobcenter. The measures, such as further education, will continue as before. The applications, notices and letters from the Jobcenter will be adapted step by step. It is possible that the terms "Arbeitslosengeld II" (unemployment benefit II) will still appear in them at first. Do not let this unsettle you: The notices, letters and forms are nevertheless valid and old terms on the form and letters will be changed to “Bürgergeld”as soon as possible.
If you have not received any money from the Jobcenter before January 01, 2023, you must apply for the “Bürgergeld”. To do so, you need to fill out an application. That is called "Hauptantrag" or "main application". You count as a "Bedarfsgemeinschaft" or "shared household" if you live with your family. You can learn who counts as a member of a "shared household" in the section "Does my family's income or assets also count?" What is a 'Bedarfsgemeinschaft'?". For each "shared household", you need to fill out one application. One of you will be considered the main applicant and must meet all the requirements mentioned in the section "Can I receive 'Bürgergeld'?”.
You can find the application form at arbeitsagentur.de at the bottom right under "Download"- download, print, fill it out and submit it to the Jobcenter responsible. You can also collect the application in paper from the Jobcenter responsible, fill it out, and submit it. You can also fill out the application online. To do so, you must click on the red box „Bürgergeld beantragen” on the website of the Employment Agency. There, you can look for the Jobcenter responsible for you and will then be forwarded to the online application.
In addition to the main application, there are various "Anlagen", "Nebenanträge" or attachments that you must fill out as required. Furthermore, you must submit evidence to support the information you provide in the application and the appendices, for instance, your rental agreement.
The total amount you will receive from the Jobcenter depends on your individual needs and situation. In addition to the basic payment, you can apply for additional support. And to determine the exact due amount, the Jobcenter needs you to fill out various other forms. Here are the major ones:
- Income Certification Form („Formular zur Einkommensbescheinigung“). Here, you must provide information about your income. If you have a job but earn little, your employer will need to fill out the Income declaration attachment.
- Attachment for self-employment income ("Anlage zum Einkommen Selbständiger" or EKS): If you are self-employed but do not earn enough, you can also seek help from the Jobcenter. In addition to the main application, you must also fill out the "Attachment for self-employment income". Here you need to estimate what you are likely to earn over the next few months. You will receive financial support from the Jobcenter based on this estimation. You then have to prove every month how much you have actually earned. Depending on your actual income, you either have to pay some money back to the Jobcenter or receive an additional payment from the Jobcenter.
- Attachment for children in the shared household (Anlage zu Kindern in der Bedarfsgemeinschaft or KI): If you have children (under 15 years old) who live with you, you must fill out the "Attachment for children in the shared household" so that you also receive money for the children.
- Attachment for other individuals in the shared household (Anlage zu weiteren Personen in der Bedarfsgemeinschaft or WEP "): If other family members are living with you, you must fill out the "Attachment for other individuals (for example, minors above 15 years old) in the shared household".
- Attachment for assessment of the costs of accommodation and Heating Expenses (Anlage zu Kosten der Unterkunft und Heizung or KDU): This attachment is essential to get your rent and heating bills covered.
- Attachment for the self-declaration / determining of the assets and financial situation of the “Bedarfsgemeinschaft”: Here, the jobcenter checks whether you have any funds or assets such as cash, savings, securities, etc., which you can use to pay your living expenses.
- Attachment for special needs (Anlage für besondere Bedarfe or BB): In this application, you can report any special needs that last for a longer period due to a particular situation, for instance, an illness for which you regularly need certain hygiene items or a specific food.
- Application for basic equipment (Antrag auf Erstausstattung): You must speak to your Jobcenter in advance to submit such an application. You can download the form for “Erstausstattung” here. "Erstausstattung" is a one-time financial aid you can apply for, if:
- You are moving into your first flat in Germany and need money for furniture and household items.
- You are having a child and need money for a pram, cot, etc.
- You have had an accident or are ill and need special aids.
You can pick up all these forms in person from your Jobcenter or find them online on the employment agency's website. You will also find help in German, English, Russian, Ukrainian and Arabic to fill out the form.
You can also find help in filling out the form (in Russian) at erlangen-hoechstadt.de. On nordherz.info, you will find the translation of the main application and all important attachments into Russian. On jobcenter-ge.de, you will find instructions for completing all applications in Ukrainian. Visit arbeitsagentur.de for further helpful information and explanations in Ukrainian.
You can also find help filling out these various forms by checking the section "Where can I seek help and support?" on this page.
Please note: The applications are usually approved for six months, after which you must apply for further approval ("Weiterbewilligungsantrag" or WBA). You can find the application for further approval on arbeitsagentur.de.
For your first application to the Jobcenter, you need the following documents:
- A valid passport or ID of you and family member who live with you
- Your residence permit, including the supplementary green sheet if you have one. And the residence permits of all family members who live with you
- Your police registration ("polizeiliche Anmeldung")
You must also present the following documents:
- Filled out application documents
- If available: the latest decision notification from the Social Welfare Office
- Your rental agreement and, if available, your most recent operating and heating bill
- If already available: your tax ID and your health insurance card
- Details of your German bank account. You need it so that the Jobcenter can transfer "Bürgergeld" to your account.
- If already available: The Bank statements of the last three months from your German bank account.
- If you are married: your marriage certificate
Important: Always carry a document by which you can identify yourself during your appointments at the Jobcenter. Also, as soon as you are issued a customer number or shared household number ("Bedarfsgemeinschaftsnummer ") from the Jobcenter, keep in mind to have that with you during appointments.
The Jobcenter transfers the money directly to your German bank account. As soon as your application is approved, at the end of each month, you will receive the funds for the following one -so the money for June will be transferred to your account at the end of May.
If you do not yet have a bank account in Germany, you can also receive the money using a so-called "Barcode". But this is only possible if you need the money very urgently. You must present the "Barcode" together with a valid passport at a Postbank to receive the money. The amount of such a payout is limited to €990.
You must submit all applications, attachments, and documents to the Jobcenter as quickly as possible to have your application processed in due time.
If you do not yet have a German bank account: It is crucial that you open a bank account in Germany. You are free to choose the bank you prefer - make sure to choose a bank which allows you to withdraw money without fees. And compare account management fees of different banks before picking one as such fees could vary considerably from bank to bank. If you do not speak German or English well enough, it is advisable to have an interpreter accompany you when opening the account. Keep in mind that you should not sign anything you don't understand.
If you would like to seek advice, you can contact the Consumer Advice Centre (Verbraucherzentralen). Their staff can provide you with advice concerning banking free of charge. You can find a branch of Consumer Advice Centre (Verbraucherzentrale) in your area at verbraucherzentrale.de. Please note: The employees speak German and sometimes, some other languages.
To open an account, you need a valid passport or passport substitute.
First, you need to obtain written confirmation from your Jobcenter, which shows you can look for a flat. The Jobcenter can also advise you how high the rent may be and what other requirements the flat must meet. The acceptable amount of rental costs varies from city to city and depends on various factors such as the type of heating and the size of the building. In addition, the flat must have a specific size at least, but on the other hand, not exceed a certain size. Many Jobcenters also reject temporary rental offers and rental offers with gradually rising rent ("Staffelmiete"). It is, therefore, essential that you inquire about the requirements before starting your search.
As soon as you have approval from a landlord, ask them to issue you a rental offer. All the data required by the Jobcenter and the landlord's telephone number must be included in the rental offer. Many Jobcenters have specific rental offer forms that you can give your landlord to fill out and sign. You must submit the filled-out rental offer to your Jobcenter as soon as possible so that they can evaluate the rental offer and assure you and your landlord in writing that they will cover the costs. Only with such written confirmation can you go back to the landlord and sign the rental agreement.
Please note: If you don't have enough money, the Jobcenter can also pay the deposit for your flat. You will receive a so-called "loan" from the Jobcenter for the deposit and have to pay the Jobcenter back in instalments. For more details, it is best to ask your Jobcenter.
With the introduction of the “Bürgergeld”, the costs of housing are covered in full for the first year. You do not have to move to a smaller flat in order to receive “Bürgergeld”. Heating costs are generally only recognised within a reasonable limit.
In addition to the rent, the Jobcenter will also pay the operating and heating costs for your flat.
Until December 31, 2023, it is possible to receive “Bürgergeld” for one month if you have to cover high supplementary costs for heating or high expenses for the fuel.
Attention: Electricity costs are not part of the costs of accommodation. They are included in the standard needs.
After your application has been approved, an employee in the Jobcenter will be in charge of your case. This person is known as "Arbeitsvermittler" or case officer, and their job is to support you. The Jobcenter can help you in various ways:
- Taking over the costs for German courses: If you do not speak German well and have not yet attended an integration course or job-related German course, the Jobcenter can assume the costs of such courses. You can learn more in our chapters "Integration courses" and "German for work".
- Providing career advice: You can discuss the kinds of training you have with your case officer and see which jobs might suit you. You can also seek advice from them if you want to change your profession or do not yet know which job suits you. Under certain conditions, you can also go through training for another profession. That's called retraining or "Umschulung" and lasts between 2-3 years, depending on the job.
- Support with the application: The case officer will support you apply for jobs. For instance, you can create your CV or write a cover letter with their help.
- Support for self-employment: Your case officer will support you if you want to become self-employed by providing you with advice or payment of "Einstiegsgeld" - a financial aid you receive when you start work after a period of unemployment or in case you become self-employed. You can learn more in our chapters "Starting up a registered business" and "Starting up as self-employed".
After you have examined, with the help of your case officer, what types of support you need, a so-called "integration agreement" ("Eingliederungsvereinbarung") will be created. This will be gradually transformed into a so-called "cooperation plan" from July 2023. You can find out exactly what that is and includes in the section "What are my rights and obligations vis-a-vis the Jobcenter?".
The Jobcenter can support you if you want to go through training or re-training. Since the introduction of the “Bürgergeld”, the new Jobcenter’s motto is "Training is more important than a temporary job". Until now, the goal was to get you into employment as quickly as possible. Even if the job didn't require any special qualifications. This was called "placement priority", which has now been abolished.
That's why, starting July 1, 2023, Jobcenters can make more offers to make sure you have better qualifications:
- If you want to, you can catch up on your vocational qualification to accomplish it. You can also start going through vocational training (for example, three years) and get funding for it.
- You can get support while you gain basic skills (e.g., reading skills, maths or knowledge of IT technology).
- If you participate in training courses that prepare you to obtain a vocational qualification, you can receive a monthly training allowance of €150.
- If you are willing to participate in programmes that particularly support you in finding your way back into a professional field in the long term, you can also receive a “Bürgergeld” bonus of €75 per month.
- In addition, there are opportunities to receive even more intensive coaching. Coaching is a new service offered by the Jobcenter: It can even take place at your home. This way, you can continue to pursue your training or job.
The support scheme "Participation in the labour market" (“Teilhabe am Arbeitsmarkt”) is also permanently available by the Jobcenter. This offer is especially helpful for people who have had difficulty finding a job in the labour market. Such publicly funded programmes are designed to make it easier for you to find employment that is subject to social insurance contributions.
Important: If you receive a “Bürgergeld”, you are entitled to further training. These further training offers must be applied for additionally and are not automatically included. In order for the Jobcenter to pay for your further training, you must meet certain requirements. The Jobcenter can clarify these requirements with you in a counselling interview.
Apart from that, you are entitled to catch up on a vocational qualification, a secondary school-leaving certificate or a similar school-leaving certificate.
Note: If you are participating in a further training programme but have not completed it by July 1, 2023, you can still receive money for the remaining time. This is then called a further training allowance (“Weiterbildungsgeld and equals €150 per month.
As a rule, the employees of the Jobcenter unfortunately only speak German. Sometimes they also speak English or other languages, but unfortunately, there is no guarantee. If you don't speak German very well yet, it's best to have an interpreter accompany you. If you don't know anyone privately, ask for help at a counseling centre or support initiative in your area. If you are not sure where you can get help, register on our multilingual community platform, "Together in Germany". We will then try to find local counseling centres where you can seek support.
In some Jobcenters, there is a free interpreter telephone service available: an interpreter will be on the phone during your conversation at the Jobcenter and translates for you. It is best to ask your Jobcenter directly about your options.
What rights and obligations do I have vis-a-vis the Jobcenter?
As soon as you apply for "Bürgergeld", you have certain obligations towards the Jobcenter - these obligations are called "Mitwirkungspflicht" or "obligation to cooperate".
The obligation to cooperate includes, for instance:
- You must remain accessible to the Jobcenter via letter at your address between Monday and Saturday. Important: You may be absent for up to 3 weeks per year. However, you must notify the Jobcenter beforehand.
- You have to inform the Jobcenter staff about major changes in your life. You can learn what you have to report in the section "What kind of life changes do I have to report to the Jobcenter?".
- If you are ill, you must inform the Jobcenter. If you are sick for more than 3 days, you need to submit a doctor's certificate to the Jobcenter.
- You must provide accurate information in applications and forms.
- You must apply for jobs that your case officer finds you.
- You must participate in further training programs that your case officer recommended and you have agreed to. You can also suggest further training programs or courses yourself.
- If the Jobcenter requires a medical examination, you must be examined by a so-called official doctor ("Amtsarzt"). Seek advice if you oppose such an examination. Check the section "Where can I seek advice and support?" to find out where you can get help.
Your “Bürgergeld” may be reduced in the event of a breach of duty and failure to report. You can read more about them in the "What happens if I violate the rules and obligations?" section.
In addition to the obligation to cooperate, there is also the so-called "Meldepflicht" or "obligation to report". You can learn more in the section "The Jobcenter keeps sending me appointment notifications. Do I have to attend?".
The "Eingliederungsvereinbarung" is a contract between you and the Jobcenter. In this contract, you and the Jobcenter staff agree on how you can find work, and the Jobcenter can support you, for instance, through language courses or further training programmes. After signing this contract, both sides must abide by it. If you do not agree with any point of the contract, speak to your case officer or seek external advice before signing it.
The previous model will be replaced step by step, starting on July 1, 2023, by the so-called cooperation plan. In this plan, you and your Jobcenter will define the concrete steps on the way to a new job. The cooperation plan will gradually replace the integration agreement by the end of 2023.
If you have problems with your case officer at the Jobcenter in the process, a mediation process can be arranged locally. This applies to the creation and implementation of the cooperation plan.
You must inform the Jobcenter about major changes in your life. You must also notify the Jobcenter about any significant developments in the lives of those in your "shared household". You can learn more about "shared household" ("Bedarfsgemeinschaft") in the section "Does my family's income or assets also count? What is a 'Bedarfsgemeinschaft'?".
You must inform the Jobcenter immediately, if:
- You or a member of your "shared household" want to move/move out of the shared household.
- Your address, phone number, or e-mail address changes.
- You have to pay more housing costs. For instance, when your rent has gone up, or heating costs have increased.
- Your bank details change.
- You switch to another health insurance company.
- You are pregnant, or your partner is going to have a baby.
- You separate or get a divorce.
- You get married or start a civil partnership.
- You or a member of your "shared household" start a new job, vocational training program, or begin to study.
- You or a member of your "shared household" apply for a pension.
- You or a "shared household" member gain additional money (once) or have more monthly funds available. For instance, if you have inherited assets or money, receive additional benefits from the state, or have an increase in your salary.
- You earn enough money as a self-employed individual and no longer need support from the Jobcenter.
You can report these developments to the Jobcenter using the "Veränderungsmitteilung" form. The form is only available in German. You may also have to fill out so-called "Anlagen" or attachments -these are forms on which you provide additional information about your situation. You must also provide evidence that backs your statements up. For instance, a membership certificate issued by your new health insurance company or a notification letter from your property manager about a rent increase. Please note: You do not have to send the original documents to the Jobcenter - a copy is sufficient.
You have to fill out the form(s) and send them to your Jobcenter per post. You can also hand in the forms in person directly. Some Jobcenters also allow you to report developments in your life online in German. However, you need a user account to do so - ask your Jobcenter whether you can have an online user account.
You can get help filling out the form. Check the section "Where can I seek help and support?" to learn where you can find help.
Persons who receive "Bürgergeld" must discuss with their Jobcenter in advance when they plan to move. Only if the Jobcenter agrees that your move is necessary can you receive money from the Jobcenter for the move and the possibly higher costs of the new flat. You can still move even if the Jobcenter disagrees. However, you will not receive any financial help for the move or possibly increased rent.
The Jobcenter usually approves your move if:
- you have a solid reason for your move and
- your new flat is large enough but not too pricey.
A solid reason for moving could, for instance, be that your old flat has become too small because you have had a child or that your landlord is evicting you.
Please note: When you move, often another Jobcenter will become responsible for you. Talk to the staff at your current Jobcenter to ensure the transition goes smoothly.
Important: Recognised refugees and people with subsidiary protection often have to adhere to the so-called "Wohnsitzregelung" or residence ordinance. That means you can only move if you meet specific requirements. You can learn more in our chapter "Residence permits for refugees".
The Jobcenter is designed to help you look for a job and must process your application for "Bürgergeld". These tasks include regular appointments for which you must appear in person - this is called "Meldepflicht" or "obligation to report".
The Jobcenter can invite you to the following appointments, for example:
- Appointments for careers advice
- Appointments for job placement
- Appointments at which your case officer discusses various support offers with you.
- Appointments to clarify open questions in your application for "Bürgergeld".
- Appointments for a medical examination.
You will usually receive an invitation to the appointments in a letter. The Jobcenter can also call you and tell you about the appointment over the phone. Sometimes, you get informed about your next appointment directly when visiting the Jobcenter. Important: If you cannot attend an appointment, let the Jobcenter know immediately and arrange a new appointment. If you don't come to your appointment without prior notification, the Jobcenter can reduce your "BürgergeId".
The Jobcenter will reimburse you for travel expenses for your appointments. Ask your Jobcenter whether you have to fill out an application for such reimbursement.
In principle, you have to remain accessible for your Jobcenter at your residence, but you may be absent for up to three weeks per year. The Jobcenter does not call this holiday but "Ortsabwesenheit" or "absence from home".
Important: You must inform the Jobcenter and seek their approval beforehand if you plan to travel, preferably 14 to 7 days before your departure. If you have a user account for Jobcenter's online service, you can apply for your period of absence online at arbeitsagentur.de. You can also write an e-mail to the Jobcenter - you will find the e-mail address on the letters and other documents sent to you by the Jobcenter. Make sure to include your customer number or shared-household number in the e-mail. You should receive an answer from the Jobcenter within 2 days. Otherwise, contact them again and make inquiries.
Please note: You must justify your absence. A sound reason can be, e.g., visiting family members.
Important: During your approved absence, you will continue to receive financial help from the Jobcenter. But if you are away from your place of residence for more than 21 days, you will no longer receive financial aid from the 22nd day. If you cannot return to your place of residence in time, make sure you inform the employees at your Jobcenter urgently.
If you do not fulfil certain obligations vis-a-vis the Jobcenter, the Jobcenter may penalise you. This penalty is called "Sanktion". As a rule, the penalty is that you receive less "Bürgergeld" - so your benefits will be cut.
This can happen when you refuse or ignore offered employment, or fail to comply with reporting requirements. You have certain obligations and must report certain changes to the Jobcenter in a timely manner. You can read more about these obligations in the section "What changes do I have to report to the Jobcenter?"
When you apply for “Bürgergeld”, you write a cooperation plan together with your caseworker from the Jobcenter. In it, you agree to take certain steps. You can read more about it in the section "What is an 'Eingliederungsvereinbarung' (Integration Agreement) / 'Kooperationsplan' (Cooperation Plan)?". During the first six months, a so-called trust period applies during which your “Bürgergeld” will not be reduced, even if you do not comply with certain obligations. Your “Bürgergeld” can only be reduced during the first six months if you have twice failed to report important information to the Jobcenter. This is known as failure to report. If this happens, the so-called “Regelbedarf ” can be reduced by 10 per cent for one month.
After the “trust period”, there may be reductions if you do not report changes (failure to report) or if you do not fulfil the obligations agreed in the cooperation plan (breach of duty):
- For a failure to report, 10 percent of the “Regelbedarf ” may be reduced for one month.
- For the first breach of duty, the “Regelbedarf ”is reduced by 10 percent for one month.
- For a second breach of duty, the standard requirement is reduced by 20 percent for two months.
- For the third breach of duty, the money is reduced by 30 percent for three months.
In total, the money may only be reduced by a maximum of 30 percent of the “Regelbedarf ”. But: smaller reductions can add up and decrease your “Bürgergeld” considerably.
Reductions from the “Bürgergeld” should not be too drastic. It is examined for each case whether a reduction is appropriate. Special cases are considered to avoid creating very difficult situations. Therefore: Costs for rent and heating may not be reduced. In the case of young people, they should not expect severe reductions. Instead, they receive an offer of counselling. The focus is on them getting a longer employment contract. If they have a greater chance of getting a longer employment contract via education or training, this will be the option to be followed.
Important: If you disagree with a penalty, you can appeal against it. You can learn how to object in the section "I do not agree with the decision of the Jobcenter. What can I do?".
If you disagree with a decision made by the Jobcenter, you can appeal against it. When you object to a decision, the Jobcenter will be obliged to review the decision in question. The staff may then come to a different conclusion.
You must submit your objection in writing. You can do so in person or by post. When submitting an objection to the Jobcenter in person, make sure to have the Jobcenter confirm that you have submitted the objection. With such written confirmation, you will be able to prove later that the Jobcenter received your objection on a specific date. If you are sending your objection by post, send it as a registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt. You will then automatically receive a receipt when the Jobcenter receives your letter. Keep this receipt safe.
You do not need to fill out a specific form to object to a decision. It suffices to write a letter explaining why you disagree with the decision. Make sure to include your customer number or shared-household number and the file number of the decision notification. If you need help writing the letter, contact a counselling centre. You can find local counselling centres in the section "Where can I seek advice and help?".
Important: Your deadline for objecting to a decision is stated at the end of each notification letter you receive from the Jobcenter in the so-called "Rechtsbelehrung" or "Legal information" section. Usually, the legal information notes that you have one month to appeal. If the letter does not include a legal information section, you have 12 months to appeal the decision.
The Jobcenter then has three months to react to your objection. If you do not receive an answer after three months, you can file a complaint at the social court ("Sozialgericht"). This lawsuit is called the "Untätigkeitsklage" ("action failure"), and you don't need a lawyer to submit it, but it is a good idea to seek advice in advance. See the "Where can I seek help and support?" section to find cost-free support. You can find the competent social court on the federal and state justice portal.
Unfortunately, you can only search in German. You can use the box "Suche des zuständigen Gerichts / Staatsanwaltschaft" to search for the relevant court: select "Sozialsachen" ("Social Matters") from the drop-down menu and enter your postal code and the name of your place of residence. You will then receive the name and address of your competent social court.
You can also file a lawsuit at the competent social court if the Jobcenter contacts you (within three months) to reject your objection. You don't need a lawyer to do so, but it is a good idea to seek counselling in advance. Check the "Where can I seek help and support?" section for counselling and support. Please note: You must file the lawsuit within one month after you have received the response from the Jobcenter. Otherwise, you have to accept the decision.
Jobcenter may demand money back from you if you have received too much money or got "Bürgergeld" despite having your income. You can repay Jobcenter in instalments, meaning you can pay a certain percentage of the total amount every month.
Paybacks of up to €50 for the entire "Bedarfsgemeinschaft" (community of need are waived. This limit is called the „Bagatellgrenze“ ("minimum limit"). Paybacks of €50 and more however must take place in full. You will continue to be obliged to notify your Jobcenter completely and immediately of any changes in your circumstances. The application of the Bagatellgrenze ("the minimum limit") will be evaluated by the Jobcenter and taken into account accordingly.
If you oppose the Jobcenter's demand for repayment, you can officially object to it. You can learn more in the section "I do not agree with the decision of the Jobcenter. What can I do?". It is best to seek advice in advance - you can find counselling centres in the section "Where can I seek help and support?".
If staff subject you to discriminatory and racist treatment, do not feel obliged to tolerate it under any circumstances. Discrimination and racist abuse are against German law, and you can file a criminal complaint with the police. You can find a template for reporting discrimination and racism at antdikriminierungsstelle.de (in German). You can also seek help filling the complaint, for instance, from counselling centres in your area. Check the "Where can I seek help and support?" section for more information.
Important: A criminal complaint against employees of administration offices does not affect the financial support you receive from the state or your right of residence in Germany. The employees in question will be removed from your case and cannot retaliate. Furthermore, the Jobcenter generally cannot influence your residence status.
You can also submit a disciplinary complaint to your Jobcenter so that the Jobcenter review the case and penalise the employee. Such a penalty, for instance, could be a lay-off. You can find a template for a disciplinary complaint in German at hartz4.org. You can hand the complaint in personally to your Jobcenter, but make sure you have the receipt of the complaint confirmed in writing by the Jobcenter. You can also send the complaint by post. Then it is best to do so by registered mail with a return receipt so that you will automatically receive a confirmation when the Jobcenter has received your complaint. Make sure to keep this receipt safe.
Please note: there is no deadline for submitting such a complaint. However, you should submit it as soon as possible after the incident to increase your chance of success.
On faire-integration.de, you will find counselors in your area who are well versed in labor law and can advise you about your rights vis-a-vis the Jobcenter. To find the right counseling center, click on the white dot closest to where you live on the map. You will then receive the address and name of the advisor. The staff speaks different languages, and their service is free of charge.
You can also ask a Migration Advice Centre or a Youth Migration Service in your area for support. The Youth Migration Service specializes in providing support to people under the age of 27. The staff of Migration Advice Centre and Youth Migration Service speak different languages. They can also help you fill out the applications and forms. Their service is free of charge.
If you face discrimination due to your origin, nationality, sexual orientation, gender, or age, you can contact the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency. Their staff can be reached on Mondays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and Wednesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. under 030-18555 1855 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. They speak German, English, and Arabic and the service is free.
If you cannot find a counseling center in your area, you can also reach out to us on our community platform, "Together in Germany". We can provide you with the information you need in many languages and connect you to counseling centers in your area free of charge.