Social security and optional insurances
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.
If you conduct your research stay in Germany on the basis of an employment contract, you are subject to fixed statutory social insurance contributions. The employer and the employee each pay approximately half of the contributions; these amount in total to approximately 40% of your gross salary. The employer is solely responsible for contributions to accident insurance.
As soon as you take up your post, your host institution will normally take the necessary steps to register you for insurance. If you have not signed up to a health insurance company ("Krankenkasse") of your choice already, your employer will inform the health insurance company of your choice. This company, in turn, will then inform the other social security providers. Once registration has been completed, you will receive your Social Insurance Number ("Sozialversicherungsnummer"). This should be provided to your host institution once you receive it. The employer is responsible for paying the contributions and will deduct the necessary amounts automatically from your wages.
For citizens from Member States of the EU, EEA States and Switzerland, Regulation (EC) 883/04 and the supplementary Regulation (EC) 987/2009 apply. This means that the principles of social coordination are fully applicable.
For members of third countries, Regulation (EC) 1231/2010 provides the legal basis. Regulation (EC) 883/2004 and Regulation (EC) 987/2009 apply accordingly to third country nationals not already covered by the aforementioned regulations solely on the ground of their nationality as well as 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. These regulations cover the entitlement and transferability of social benefits within the European Union among other things. In particular, Regulation (EC) 883/2004 regulates which countries are entitled to contributions.
Section 11 contains two basic rules:
- 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).
- You are subject to the legislation of only one Member State at a time.
ELEMENTS OF THE GERMAN SOCIAL SECURITY SYSTEM:
- 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).
- An Overview of Social Insurance Rights in Germany
The European Commission's overview of social insurance rights in Germany:
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:
In Germany, you are liable for damage that you cause to another person or to another person's property. Third-party liability insurance (Haftplfichtversicherung) is there to cover the costs of such damage when the damage was caused by accident and often also in cases where damage was caused through negligence. Some policies may also cover damage caused by children or pets.
Policies can often be extended in order to cover certain damages, for example to your own home or in cases where you are doing someone a favour (for example damage caused while helping friends move) .
Contents insurance (Hausratversicherung) can protect you against theft as well as damage to your property in certain situations, for example due to flooding. Property such as bicycles may also be protected through contents insurance.
Employees generally have accident insurance (Unfallversicherung) coverage during working hours. Through this coverage, they are insured against work accidents. However, it is important to note that this coverage generally does not cover accidents unrelated to work.
Private accident insurance supplements other insuance policies that already protect you in order to help cover costs arising from an accident that are not covered by these other policies, such as construction works necessary to make your home accessible in cases of mobility problems following an accident or for costs for prosthetics.
Legal protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherung) provides protection against costs for legal advice or, in the worse case, for legal defence. Many policies also offer an initial telephone consultation as part of their services.
As is the case with other policies, there are different levels of coverage possible. These usually depend on the area of law in which you want to be protected- policies can generally be extended to include labour law or residency law, for example.
Depending on your personal situation, survivors' insurance (Hinterbliebenenabsicherung) protection might also be a consideration. With this type of insurance, you are helping to financially secure others in the case of your own unexpected death.
There are a varietyof policies that may come into question depending on your needs. For this reason it is important to think about your own situation and to inform yourself thoroughly about what support survivors may need.
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.
If you are registering a vehicle in Germany, you will need to show proof of vehicle insurance (Kfz-Versicherung).
As is the case with other types of insurance, vehicle insurance policies differ in the amount that they cover and what exactly is covered, for example whether other people driving a car are insured or not.
Furthermore, it is important to note that there is a difference between vehicle insurance alone, which covers damage to property or people, part-comprehensive coverage or complete comprehensive coverage, which also cover damage to your own vehicle.
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):
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
- EU Social Security Coordination
Explanation of the social security coordination within the Europoean Union