Social Security

Leaving Europe | Departure conditions/formalities | Germany

Social security covers health insurance, pension schemes, unemployment benefit, accident and long-term care insurance.



Social insurance is usually mandatory for all employees in Germany. People having an employment contract in Germany take part in the full social security system.
Researchers on a fellowship are generally exempt from the obligation to pay contributionsto the German social security system. However, they normally have to be insured in a health insurance scheme.
Please refer to the sections below for detailed explanations.

In Germany, fellows do not receive a salary in the sense of § 14 of Book IV of the German Social Code, hence no social security contributions are payable.

If you are going to work abroad in the context of a fellowship programme you should first find out whether you are exempt from statutory social security ("Sozialversicherungspflicht") - which may be the case in Germany under certain circumstances. The fellow status does not include any insurance coverage. However, sufficient health insurance coverage is required by law, which means that fellows must take out (statutory or private) insurance for themselves.

If you are going to work abroad on the basis of an employment contract you are not exempt from statutory social security. In general, if your stay abroad is within the scope of a secondment abroad and you remain in an employment relationship in Germany, you continue to be subject to German laws. If you begin a new employment relationship abroad, the social security regulations of the host country normally apply.

Should you have an employment relationship in Germany and abroad, it is necessary to clarify the focus of activity when checking in which country you have to be insured with (indications are: integration into the corporate organisation, the requirement to observe instructions as well as the payment of your salary).

Problems may arise in the event of temporary stays abroad due to these aspects (e.g. in the form of gaps in payments into a pension scheme). To avoid this, the German legislator has passed § 4 SGB IV that provides for extension of the German Social Code to secondments abroad.

European legislation has an equivalent effect and takes precedence over the German laws during secndment within the European Union. With regard to countries outside of the EU, it must be established in each instance whether a bilateral agreement exists with the country of destination, in which case, the regulations of this agreement will then apply.

A tripartite validation structure, which is rather difficult for laypersons to understand, consequently exists to determine the applicable social laws in the event of employment within a different social law system.

In a first step, it must be verified whether the legislation of the European Union (and specifically Regulations (EC) 883/04 and 987/09) applies. In this case, the applicable national social insurance legislation can be determined. If this is not the case, it must be determined in the next step whether an applicable bilateral agreement exists from which the applicability of the social legislation of an agreement country can be determined.

If no applicable agreement exists, the regulations on transmission of the German Social Code set out in § 4 SGB IV will apply.

For citizens of the Member States of the EU, citizens of 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 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.. 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 in which you exercise your professional activity.
  2. You are subject to the legislation of only one Member State at a time.

The relevant basic principles apply if and insofar as a there is a bilateral Social Security Agreement ("Sozialversicherungsabkommen") between Germany and a non-European country. You need to check whether a Social Security Agreement exists between Germany and your target country and which branches of insurance are covered by them.
The German Liaison Office for Health Insurance Abroad can provide further information.





Further information

  • Secondments abroad
    Information for employees who are temporarily sent abroad within the framework of their German employment. Country-specific forms and instructions as well as information on responsible contact persons.
    Deutsche Verbindungsstelle Krankenversicherung - Ausland (in German)
  • EURAXESS - The European Services Network
    EURAXESS Services is a network of over 500 centres located more than 40 European countries. As a researcher, these centres assist you and your family to plan and organise your stay in a foreign country.
    European Commission
  • EURAXESS Worldwide
    Networking tool for European researchers, scientists and scholars abroad. EURAXESS Worldwide exists in ASEAN, Latin America & the Caribbean, China, India, Korea, Japan, Australia & New Zealand and North America. It keeps European researchers in these regions fully informed of EU research policies, career opportunities in Europe and opportunities for collaboration with Europe. In addition to e-mail alerts, an e-newsletter and the web forum, networking events are organised on a regular basis.
    EURAXESS Worldwide
  • EU Social Security Coordination
    Explanation of the social security coordination within the Europoean Union
    European Commission