Important Insurances and Information
Social Security and Insurance / Social Security Number
Germany has a robust social security system. If your monthly income exceeds 450 euros and you are not self-employed, then your income is subject to social security and insurance payments. Most people who live in Germany and earn this kind of income have statutory health insurance (gesetzliche Krankenversicherung), long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung), pension insurance (Rentenversicherung), and unemployment insurance (Arbeitslosenversicherung).
Employees at Freie Universität Berlin with an employment contract are covered by the university as their employer. That means that the statutory contributions for the various social security insurance plans are automatically deducted from your gross salary. Generally, that comes to about 20% of an employee’s gross income.
Normally, you should automatically receive your social security card by mail from the German Pension Insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung). Usually, the card arrives during your first month of employment, once your first month’s income has been calculated and Freie Universität Berlin has reported you as an employee to the various insurance providers. If you do not receive your card within this time, be sure to contact your insurance provider.
You will want to file your social security card carefully with other important personal documents as you will need to present it on occasion throughout your professional life (usually when changing employers).
In Germany, all residents are required to have health insurance. Coverage must include medical treatment for acute medical conditions and for accidents in Germany.
Statutory Health Insurance
Unlike the other types of insurance for pensions, long-term care, accidents, and unemployment, where you do not get to choose your provider as a non-self-employed employee, with statutory health insurance it is different. You can pick your health insurance provider. Statutory health insurance coverage is basically standardized. There might be some minor differences when it comes to customer service, additional coverage, and optional costs. Health insurance costs must adhere to federal rates based on your income. The standard rate for statutory health insurance is currently 14.6%. In addition, health care providers can charge supplementary individual rates. Please check with your individual health care provider.
Family members traveling with you can also be covered by your family insurance plan at no extra cost. Your family members are eligible if they live in Germany and do not earn more than 450 euros a month.
Statutory health insurance providers must provide coverage for the insured even if they have pre-existing medical conditions. Starting from the very first day of coverage, the health insurance provider is fully responsible for costs associated with any pre-existing conditions.
If you are insured through statutory health insurance, you will receive a chip card which you need to present once per quarter when you visit a doctor.
You can find an overview of statutory health insurance here (in German).
*** Compulsory Insurance Limit:
If you earn more than a certain income level, you can choose between a statutory health insurance or a private health insurance.
Private Health Insurance
Compulsory insurance is only required up to a certain income level. If you earn more than that, your health insurance provider will let you know by sending you a notification stating that you are now insured voluntarily. At that point, you can choose whether you want to remain insured by your statutory health insurance provider or if you would prefer to switch to a private health insurance plan.
You can find an overview of private health insurance here (in German).
Long-term Care Insurance
Long-term care insurance (Pflegeversicherung) is directly linked to health insurance. When you have health insurance coverage, you are automatically covered by long-term care insurance as well as part of the statutory social insurance scheme. Currently, long-term care insurance rates are 3.05% or 3.3% of your gross income.
Pension insurance is also a part of the statutory social insurance schemes. It protects the insured person and their family if they have to reduce the amount they work or can no longer work due to old age or death. It includes medical rehabilitation care, occupational rehabilitation, pensions due to an overall reduction in earning capacity, pensions for the elderly, and survivors` pensions. Your statutory pension insurance is deducted directly from your gross income. The statutory pension insurance rate for 2020 is 18.6%.
Employer and employee usually split the cost of the pension insurance equally. The employer registers their new employee with the appropriate healthcare provider. In turn, the healthcare provider then registers the new employee with all of the other social insurance schemes.
If you are leaving Germany after the end of your employment at Freie Universität Berlin, you can reclaim money paid into the German Pension Fund under certain circumstances. Only the German Pension Insurance Office (Deutsche Rentenversicherung, DRV) can definitively tell you whether or not you are entitled to a refund of your pension insurance payments – and if so, how much you will be reimbursed.
You can find more information and advice on the DRV website.
*** Please note:
Certain professionals, such as veterinarians and architects, can be exempted from pension insurance if they are members of a pension fund for their profession. The employer, however, still contributes to the employee’s pension. If this applies to you, the German Pension Insurance Office (Deutsche Rentenversicherung, DRV) must issue an exemption notice for each of your employers. You will also need to present a membership certificate from your professional pension fund.
Unemployment insurance is withdrawn directly from your gross income and is currently at 2.4%. The employer and the employee usually split the cost of unemployment insurance equally.
You are generally eligible for German unemployment benefits if you were working in Germany before you became unemployed, have been employed subject to compulsory insurance for 360 calendar days over the last three years, and are willing to make yourself available to the employment agency. Prior periods of employment in other European Union countries or within the European Economic Area or Switzerland also count toward your eligibility.
Occupational Accident Insurance
Occupational accident insurance (Berufsunfallversicherung) is another one of the basic elements in Germany’s social security system in Germany. All employees are covered by statutory accident insurance. That means that you are insured in the case of an accident that occurs while performing your work duties or, for example, while on your way to your place of work. Please note that statutory accident insurance only provides coverage for you in work-related accidents and does not include protection for private matters not related to work. You may therefore wish to purchase private accident insurance.
Do you have questions about social security in Germany? If so, please contact us.
- Informationen on Statutory Health Insurance
- German Pension Insurance (Deutsche Rentenversicherung)
- Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit)
- Information about Social Security in Germany – Make it in Germany (in German)
- Defintion of Social Security - Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
- Overview of Social Security - Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs
- Social Security at a glance
What is my tax identification number?
When you register at the district office you are automatically assigned a German tax identification number (Steuer ID-Nummer). Your personal tax identification number will be sent to you by mail within about two weeks. The number is yours permanently and does not change, for example, if you move, if you legally change your name when you marry, or if you otherwise undergo a change in your civil status.
Do I have to pay taxes?
As a rule, if you have an employment contract, you must pay taxes. Your employer takes out your taxes from your gross monthly income, which it pays directly to the tax office. The amount of income tax you pay depends on the amount you earn, your family status, and your tax bracket.
To prevent you from being taxed in Germany and in your home country at the same time, Germany has double taxation agreements (Doppelbesteuerungsabkommen) with many countries. These agreements specify in which country you need to pay taxes.
Can I get the money back that I paid in taxes if I move away from Germany?
At the end of a calendar year, you can submit a tax return to the local tax office. You may receive a tax refund depending on certain circumstances. It might be helpful to find an accountant who can help you file your income tax return.
- Federal Ministry of Finance information on Double Taxation Agreement
- Berlin Tax Offices (in German)
- Accountants in Berlin (in German)
Civil servants employed by Freie Universität Berlin can apply for assistance in cases of illness if they meet certain conditions. Regular employees are also eligible in exceptional cases. When you are hired/appointed, you should receive information that tells you about the conditions necessary in order to qualify for this kind of assistance. If you did not receive this information or want more details, please click here (website in German).
The Berlin State Administration Office is responsible for processing requests for assistance as well as requests for expenses related to rehabilitation measures. To apply, please use the templates and forms provided by the personnel department. You can also download them directly here. Please send your request, including all the necessary documents, via the university’s official mail service (Fachpost) to
zentrale Beihilfsstelle - VB B - 10702 Berlin
Tel.: (030) 90139-6060
Approval decisions will be sent to the beneficiary’s home address if they cannot be contacted at their place of work (e.g. due to a longer leave of absence or after termination of employment). This also applies to emeritus professors. Please indicate if your decision should be mailed to a different address when you submit your request.
Child Benefits (Kindergeld)
The German Federal Employment Agency’s Family Benefits Office oversees the distribution of child benefits. For more details on who is eligible, the amount of support, and how long families can receive benefits, please visit the Federal Employment Agency website.
Expense allowance for moving costs
For newly appointed professors
Newly appointed professors who do not reside in Berlin or the surrounding area can receive approval for an expense allowance to cover costs associated with relocating. Approval is issued by your specific human resources office and is only valid for a limited time. A different administrative unit based within Division IA in Freie Universität's central administration is responsible for handling the actual reimbursement transaction for moving costs and separation allowances.
- Financial Support Overview (in German) - Berlin State Administration Office (Landesverwaltungsamt)
- Financial Support - Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit)
- Family Benefits Office - Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit)
- Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth
In Germany, you are personally liable for any damages caused by you to a third party (i.e., anyone outside your family or household). Most people take out personal liability insurance to cover themselves and their family/household, so that they are insured against claims if they accidentally cause damages to another person or their property.
Your liability insurance plan should cover all personal liability both in your private sphere as well as while at work.
There are a variety of insurance companies that offer personal liability coverage.
To help find the best one for you, you might consult product comparison websites.
People living in Germany are legally required to pay public broadcasting fees that help fund public radio and television stations. Every household is charged a flat rate for the broadcasting license fee. Adults with a registered address in Germany are required by law to file with the license fee service. Only one adult per household has to file and pay the fee. Currently, the monthly rate per household is 17.50 euros (as of February 2020).
You can either wait until the license fee service contacts you by mail (shortly after you register at the district office) or report directly to their offices at “ARD ZDF Deutschlandradio Beitragsservice.” The form you need is available here.
Please note that the fee is due starting from the first month you’re registered in Germany. It does not matter if you report to them yourself or wait for a letter from their office.
The Welcome Service team is happy to help you with the broadcasting fee paperwork. Feel free to ask us for assistance!