There are lots of reasons to leave a job: You want to teach yourself to code, do an intensive language course or start your own company. Or maybe you were downsized.
Whatever the reason you find yourself jobless, support from the Agentur für Arbeit or Germany’s Employment Office (anyone else find it odd it is not named the UNemployment office?) can help you pay the bills, while finding your next job.
The great news for immigrants is that information about financial support through the Agentur für Arbeit is available in a variety of languages: English, French, Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Spanish, Italian.
And financial support is as wide ranging as unemployment benefits to information about receiving a start-up grant (Gründungszuschuss), to help you become self-employed.
Germany’s unemployment benefits
There are two ways to register for Arbeitslosengeld, or unemployment benefits. The first requires you to register as seeking employment and the second is registering as unemployed.
Unemployment benefits are only doled out if you are unemployed, you qualify by having worked a minimum duration of time and have registered as unemployed – in person. If you have worked in Germany for at least 12 months in the last two years, you are legally entitled to benefits (specifically category II, meaning you are capable of work and between the ages of 15 and 67 years old). You can only tap in if you’ve paid in.
The first step is applying to the Jobbörse, or job exchange platform, either online or via phone. Once you do, it is required to meet with an agent at the local Arbeitsamt or employment office. Another often overlooked requirement is registering three months before your employment ends. If that is not possible, you have to register within three days after “knowledge of the end date.”
I am unsure if they are sticklers about this rule or not, but they write that failure to do so means you are susceptible to a “period of exclusion,” where you are denied benefits for a week.
How long you receive benefits, which are usually about 60 per cent of your previous salary, is dependent upon how long you previously worked and your age. And be prepared to meet with your agent every month or so. He or she will be checking in to make sure you are applying for work and aren’t just milking the system.
If you are an EU citizen and are not eligible for Arbeitslosengeld you can also apply for Hartz IV – Germany’s welfare programme.
Getting that start-up started
If you are ready to be your own boss, the German government offers a start-up grant to help you become self-employed. You are not in anyway entitled to this money, but you can apply.
The Agentur für Arbeit will want to see you have worked in the past and are entitled to unemployment benefits, that you have the skills to start a new business, as well as proof that this is a viable idea- as assessed by “expert authorities,” like a chamber of commerce or professional associations.
If you are approved, you will receive a stipend for six months initially. After six months, if the business model is progressing and growth can be proven, you are eligible for more.
Adding another string to your bow
During your initial counselling services, an agent will discuss whether you should (or could) look for a new profession, do vocational training or further your education. If this option is approved for you, you’ll receive an education voucher.
Rumour has it almost anyone who expresses interest in (and can justify the need for) additional education will receive it, as this means the Agentur für Arbeit no longer classifies you as “unemployed,” which makes their numbers look better.