Social security and optional insurances

Living in Europe, Working in Europe | Entry conditions/visas | Germany

Insurance policies play an important role in life in Germany. In addition to social social security, which can include compulsory insurance coverage such as health insurance, further optional polices can also play an important role in everyday life.  



Social insurance in Germany covers health insurance, pension schemes, unemployment benefits, accident as well as long-term care insurance.


Social Insurance Coverage (Who has to be insured?)

Social insurance is usually mandatory for all employees in Germany. Therefore, reserachers who are employed in Germany via an employment contract take part in the complete German social insurance system. Researchers on a fellowship are generally exempt from the obligation of paying contributionsto the German social insurance system. However, this does not mean that they do not need to be insured-- it is, for example, still a legal requirement to have health insurance. 

On this page you will find information about insurance requirements for researchers depending on the basis of their stay in Germany. 



Fellowship holders are generally exempt from the obligation of paying contributions to the German social insurance system.

However, the specific regulations in German residency law require foreign nationals to demonstrate that they have adequate health insurance from a licensed health insurance provider in Germany for the length of their stay 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 and to continue to have valid health insurance for the entire duration of your stay.

The aim of health insurance is to ensure that the costs for medical treatment and medicines in case of an accident or emergency are not paid privately. Health insurance is mandatory for everyone in Germany.

As Germany has concluded social security agreements with the member states of the European Union, the EEA and other states, it may also be possible for the a fellowship holder's domestic health insurance to be recognised in Germany. Recognition is given by statutory health insurance companies in Germany.

The health insurance company in your home country can provide information about the recognition procedure. As a general rule, a European Health Insurance Card is required in these cases.

Private health insurance companies from other countries may also be recognised.

To be enrolled at a university, both statutory and privately insured individuals need confirmation proving that they are exempt from being insured compulsorily in the German statutory health insurance system. This certificate can be obtained from statutory health insurances in Germany.

For more information please see our Health insurance page.





Further Information


  • The German Liason Office for Health Insurance- International

    An overview of countries with which Germany has agreed on shared social insurance regulations in addition to their national profiles (in German). 

    Deutsche Verbindungsstelle Krankenversicherung – Ausland

  • An Overview of Social Insurance Rights in Germany

    The European Commission's overview of social insurance rights in Germany:

    Europäische Kommission​​​


With regards to insurance, it is important to differenciate between social insurance and optional private insurances. Some forms of social insurance are also available as optional insurance schemes, as these are not always compulsory. Especially health insurance, pension insurance, accident insurance and long-term care insurance are also offered as private insurance policies. 


When are optional insurance policies an option? 

As private insurance policies, these can supplement or be an alternative to compulsory social insurance plans, when:

  • the insurance is not manditory in the specific case or

  • you want to insure yourself beyond the scope covered by social insurance.

Whether or not a social insurance requirement applies must be checked on a case-by-case basis. Generally, anyone who is spending their research stay on the basis of an employment contract will be subject to compulsory social insurance requirements. In cases where a pure stipend or fellowship is being awarded, researchers are generally freed from social insurance obligations. 


Further types of insurance policies

There are a number of types of optional insurance that can help provide insurance protection in daily life while in Germany, such as:



Statutory health insurance covers necessary treatment, but this means that some costs, such as those for dental treatment, are generally not covered or not covered entirely by statutory health insurance policies. In order to cover these costs, it is possible to get supplementary insurance policies (Zusatzversicherungen). 

It is also possible to get other forms of suplementary health insurances. These can, for example, ensure you have a single room should you need to stay in hospital or provide for hospital treatment by a head physician.  

Some statutory health insurance providers work with certain supplementary health insurance providers in order to specifically supplement their services, though these supplementary policies need to be applied for with the provider separately. 



Further information regarding optional insurances 


Insurance providers are generally required to explain their policies to you thoroughly before you sign up. Especially in cases where you may apply for a policy online, it is generally recommended that you read the conditions thoroughly.

Insurance brokers may also help you to find the right policies for your specific situation.These brokers are not contractually obliged to specific insurance providers. 

The German Association of the Insured (Bund der Versicherten) provides, in addition to information about the types of optional insurance polices listed here, a free necessity check (Bedarfscheck) where you can get information on types of insurance that might make sense for you. All services are provided only in German. 

More detailed information from the German Association of the Insured can also be found on the following pages (in German): 



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

  • EU Social Security Coordination

    Explanation of the social security coordination within the Europoean Union
    European Commission