When you lose your job, you visit the Job Center, right? Seems logical. Except that when you get there, you’ll often get told to visit the job agency instead (Agentur für Arbeit). And when you get THERE, they tell you to visit the job agency on the other side of town! What the bloody hell is going on here?
When to visit the employment agency (Agentur für Arbeit)
If you’ve been working in Germany under an employment contract with a German employer, the first stop for you is generally going to be the Agentur für Arbeit. The Agentur für Arbeit is Germany’s federal employment agency. If you’ve been employed in Germany, you’ve most likely been contributing to “Arbeitslosenversicherung” with a small amount from your paycheck. Arbeitslosenversicherung is a type of insurance against unemployment. Since you’ve been paying insurance, you have to find out whether you have a claim to unemployment benefits. This claim is called “Arbeitslosengeld I“, “ALG 1” or “ALGI” for short.
Even if you haven’t yet been employed for at least 12 months out of the last 24, you should still contact the Agentur für Arbeit as step one. This is because Option B (the JobCenter or welfare office) will need to know whether you have a claim to ALG I before they can approve your claim to ALG II (but more on that later).
Government grants from the job agency to go freelance
If you have lost your job and you intend to go freelance, I highly recommend that you register with the Agentur für Arbeit and apply for benefits, even if you only end up being unemployed for a very short period of time. That’s because you can get a government grant from the Agentur für Arbeit to start your business. It’s called the Gründungszuschuss – more on that here.
Transferring claims to unemployment benefits within EU countries
There’s another reason why you might visit the Agentur für Arbeit – you’ve just moved to Germany from another European country in which you have a claim to unemployment benefits. In that case, you can move within EU countries and have your benefits transferred. There are all sorts of complex bilateral agreements that make this possible.
The form you bring with you from the EU country you just moved to Germany from is called PD U1. If you have a claim in Germany and you want to move to another EU country, you’ll get a form from the German office called a PD U2.
You can do (mostly) everything online
The COVID outbreak has forced the Agentur für Arbeit to process everything remotely. You can’t just rock up without an appointment anymore, at least not for the foreseeable future. That’s a good thing though, because it was very easy to rock up to the wrong office before – the office responsible for your case is not always the closest to your home. So now, you register online, get an access code, make a quick call to the call centre to identify yourself and like magic, an application form appears in your online customer portal. Book Life Admin at a reduced rate if you’d like a hand with the process.
When to visit the JobCenter
If you know you don’t have a claim to Arbeitslosengeld 1 but you are staying legally in Germany and you find yourself no longer able to cover your basic living costs, it’s time to talk to the Job Center. It’s also known as the social welfare office, and issues a social benefit called Arbeitslosengeld II, also known as Hartz 4, Hartz IV or ALGII. If you’re self-employed, the JobCenter might offer you a payment to cover your basic living expenses, called Grundsicherung. They might also cover your rent, utilities and health insurance.
What about foreigners?
If you are a non-EU foreigner, your residence permit might determine whether you’re eligible for Arbeitslosengeld II or not. You can find out more about that by reading this article.
Want help with the paperwork? You can book Life Admin for a reduced price if you’re using it to apply for ALGI or ALGII.