While you are living in Germany, you are not only working: besides paying bills and following your career, you are also putting money aside for your retirement. For employees that happens automatically. 9,3 % of your gross income (capped at monthly EUR 7300 west, EUR 7100 east in 2023) are contributed to the German statutory pension insurance, the Deutsche Rentenversicherung.
But what happens to your contributions after you leave Germany? No need to worry, it will not just disappear! But unless you act, your contributions will stay untouched in Germany forever. Keep reading to find out how you can get a German pension refund:
STEP 1: Find out, if you are eligible for a refund depending on your nationality and residency, as described below.
STEP 2: Unless you have already reached German retirement age, you have to pass a 24 months waiting period, which starts from the month after your last contribution was made to the pension insurance. Please note: Even if you have passed 24 months waiting, you cannot apply until you live in a non-EU country, as Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71 Article 10(2) states.
STEP 3. Fill out the required application forms and get your personal information confirmed by a local authority (notary publics etc.) or a German Embassy. Even though the embassy might be far from where you live, it will help speed up the process and you will usually not be asked to send further proof. If you do not feel like dealing with German bureaucracy, feel free to contact us to help you with that.
STEP 4. Once the forms are completed, add a copy of your passport and your German deregistration confirmation (Abmeldung), as well as a payment declaration based on where your bank account is. Make sure the payment declaration has been confirmed by your bank and mail it to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. We recommend you to use traceable mail. Update: Since COVID 19, the pension office also requires you to provide a Certificate of Life and Nationality, confirmed by a local authority.
STEP 5. Be patient. Once the Deutsche Rentenversicherung has reviewed your case, which can take up to 6 months, they will send a letter containing a ”Bescheid” (decision) to the address you provided in the application form. It will list the periods of contribution and the amount refunded. Also, they will automatically transfer the amount. If your bank account is outside of Germany, the pension authority will wait for another 2 months, before they transfer your money after the decision was sent. Carefully check if the contribution period is correct! Sometimes it does not cover the full period. In that case you have to meet the deadline to appeal (between 1 and 3 months after receipt, stated on your Bescheid). Once the deadline has passed the refund decision becomes final and cannot be changed anymore!
Can you do this alone? Yes, you can. So, you might ask yourself: why do services like germanypensionrefund.com exist? Basically, to make getting your refund faster and easier, and to avoid the additional 2 months waiting if your bank account is outside of Germany. Technically, you can cook your own dinner, file your own tax, build your own house and grow your own vegetables. Or you can refer to a professional service, if you want a convenient, safe, and time-saving experience.
You can apply in any language, but the Deutsche Rentenversicherung only replies to you in German by surface letter mail. That can be inconvenient depending on your level of formal German. If you would like a professional partner on your side taking care of your entire refund, feel free to contact us.
Some advice if you are doing it on your own: The application process itself is straightforward but we recommend you to gather all correspondence documentation with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung while you are still in Germany, that will help speed up the refund process.
If you know your insurance number (Sozialversicherungsnummer) e.g. the process will be faster. Also, unless you have provided that number, you cannot get any information regarding the claim process on their (German language only) service hotline.
Typically, after reviewing your application, the pension office will send you a letter asking for more information from you or, if your claim was complete, they ask for a confirmation that you are "fully aware of the consequences" (that sounds like something bad, doesn't it?) of a refund and that you really mean to get your refund. It is funny, isn't it, how they try to keep your money? Despite having applied for a refund you will have to confirm again, that you want to proceed with what you have already asked for.
The "consequences" are that all contributions are removed from your pension account and returned to you. Afterwards your pension account will be deleted. Your file in the pension scheme system will be deactivated and if you ever happen to return to work in Germany, your contributions will start over from zero.
Unfortunately, the Deutsche Rentenversicherung will only reply to you in the German language and you will have to figure out what it means. Make sure to reply within the timeframe given, otherwise your application might end in a final denial of your refund.
Also, make sure to double check the contribution times that they will state refunding you in a letter called "Bescheid" – sometimes they only find part of your contributions in the system (e.g. if you changed employers, moved apartments etc.) and you will have to communicate and sometimes provide tax slips or similar proof in order to get your full refund.
Many expats find it difficult to deal with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung because of the distance, slow process speed, language barriers, only physical letter correspondence, and a general lack of insight in the German bureaucratic system and how to deal with authorities.
That is why we established Germanypensionrefund more than 15 years ago to help you with the entire end-to-end communication with the German authorities and to make sure that you get a full refund. Feel free to contact us for further information or to simply ask questions.
German Pension Refunds: What Are the Requirements?
Every employee in Germany automatically pays contributions into the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, every month. Many expats do not even realize that fact, because you will not see the money unless you study the numbers on your monthly paycheck.
This applies to everyone, regardless of your citizenship, visa status, contract period or voluntary private pension contributions. Once you retire and you have paid for more than 60 months total into the system, you receive a regular pension from the government based on how much you have contributed.
If you leave Germany …
a) … and you reside outside the European Union, you might qualify for a refund of your contributions according to the exceptions outlined in Article 210 in the 6th book of social law (§ 210 Sozialgesetzbuch Sechstes Buch (SGB VI) here referred to as "given the right to voluntary insurance").
b) … and you reside in a non-contracting state, you might qualify for a pension refund. Germany has signed social agreements with 20 countries that can affect your eligibility.
At the moment, there are agreements with the following countries, all other non-EU-countries are considered non-contracting states:
Albania, Australia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada / Quebec, Chile, India, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Morocco, Philippines, Serbia, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, United Kingdom, United States, and Moldova
Please note: qualifying is not enough to get a refund, you still need to apply to receive it.
I hope you got a clearer idea now on how to get your German pension refund.
Feel free to post a comment if you have any questions or directly contact us.