Social security

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

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



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 full German 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.

Fellowship holders are generally exempt from the obligation to pay contributions to the German social security system.

However, the specific regulations in German residency law 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 and to continue to have valid health insurance for the entire duration of your stay.

The aim of the health insurance is to secure that the costs for medical treatment and medicines in case of an accident or an are not to be paid privately. Health insurance is mandatory 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 domestic health insurance of a fellowship holder to be recognized in Germany. Recognition is given by statutory health insurance companies in Germany.

The health insurance company of the home country can provide information about the recognition procedure. As a rule, a European Health Insurance Card is required for this.

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

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

For more information please see the "Health insurance" section.

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 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, which will then inform the other social security providers. Once registration has been completed, you will receive your Social Insurance Number ("Sozialversicherungsnummer") from the provider handling the pension scheme. This should be provided to your host institution once you have received 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:

  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.





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