Social security

Social security is usually mandatory and covers health insurance, pension schemes, unemployment benefit, accident and nursing care insurance.

Pursuant to § 30, subparagraph 1, of Book I of the German Social Code ("Sozialgesetzbuch"), the German social code applies to all persons residing or with their habitual residence in Germany.

Research stay based on a fellowship:

Fellowship holders are generally exempt from the obligation to pay contributions.

The specific regulations in German residency law however require foreign nationals to demonstrate that they have purchased health insurance from a licensed health insurance provider in Germany in order to successfully apply for a residence permit. You will therefore generally be obliged to take out private health insurance before entering Germany unless you meet the exceptional circumstances for eligibility to purchase voluntary statutory health insurance as per § 9 SGB V. For more information please see the "Health insurance" section.

Research stay based on an employment contract:

If you conduct your research stay in Germany on the basis of an employment contract, you are subject to fixed statutory social security contributions. The employer and the employee each pay approximately half of the contributions which amount to a total of approximately 40% of your gross salary. The employee is also responsible for paying 0.9% of his or her gross salary in additional health insurance contributions (in the context of the general rate which has been fixed at 14.6 %). Employees without children must pay an additional contribution of 0.25% of their gross salary toward nursing care insurance in excess of the general rate of 2.35%. The employer is solely responsible for contributions to accident insurance.

As soon as you take up your post, your host institution will take the steps necessary to register you for insurance. You will be registered with the Health Insurance Company ("Krankenkasse") of your choice which will then inform the other social security providers. Once registration has been completed you will receive your Insurance Number ("Versicherungsnummer") from the provider handling the pension scheme and a booklet proving that you are insured (“Versicherungsnachweisheft”) which you have to hand in to the host institution. The employer is responsible for paying the contributions and will deduct the sum at source.

Transfer of Claims:

For citizens from Member States of the EU, EEA States and Switzerland, Regulation (EC) 883/04 and the supplementary Regulation (EC) 987/2009 apply. For members of third countries, Regulation (EC) 1231/2010 forms the basis. Regulation (EC) 883/2004 and Regulation (EC) 987/2009 apply accordingly to nationals of third countries not already covered by the aforementioned regulations solely on the ground of their nationality as well as for the members of their family and their survivors, provided they are legally resident in the territory of a member state and are in a situation which is not confined in all respects within a single member state. Among others, these regulations cover the entitlement and transferability of social benefits within the European Union. In particular, Regulation (EC) 883/2004 regulates which countries are entitled to contributions.

Section 11 contains two basic rules:

1. You are insured in the country where you exercise your professional activity.
This basic principle changes if the employed person is deployed to another EEA member state within the scope of ongoing employment for a maximum of 2 years (section 12).

2. You are subject to the legislation of only one Member State at a time.

Social Security comprises the following elements:

Questions and answers on social security


Further Information:

German Liaison Office for Health Insurance Abroad
Overview of countries with which international arrangements/agreements on social security exist as well as country profiles of these countries.
Deutsche Verbindungsstelle Krankenversicherung – Ausland

Guide on social security rights
Guide of the European Commission on social security rights in Germany
European Commission