Pension refund Germany – Blog

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Contracting States, Nationalities and How YOU Become Eligible for a Refund.


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Having worked in Germany you might ask yourself if getting a pension refund is related to your nationality. It actually is in a way – though not as a no-go criteria, as many people misunderstand – depending on the mutual social security agreements your country has with Germany. What makes your nationality important in this equation is the combination of your nationality and where you reside at the moment you apply for a refund.



Germany has bilateral social security agreements with EU-member states, members of the EEA (European Economic Area), Switzerland and 22 non-European countries as follows:





European Union Member States:

Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom (which soon seems to move to the next category).


European Economic Area:

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway


Switzerland


Non-European Contracting States:

Albania, Australia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada/Quebec, Chile, China (only posting employees), India, Israel, Japan, Kosovo, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Philippines, Serbia, South Korea, Tunisia, Turkey, Uruguay, United States of America and soon: Ukraine


If you currently reside in one of the above mentioned countries you are covered by social security agreements. Find out if you are eligible or how you can become eligible for a refund in this article.


LEGAL DEFINITION OF ELIGIBILITY FOR A REFUND


The German Social Security Law defines who is eligible for a refund, and who is not. There are two main criteria and – you will be surprised – both of them have nothing to do with either your nationality or the amount of time (more or less than 5 years) you worked in Germany and paid contributions into the German statutory pension scheme.


First criteria: You cannot get a refund, if you are obliged to pay contributions into the Germany pension scheme.


This is the case, as long as you live and work inside Germany. Contributions are mandatory and will be paid automatically by your employer, after they were taken out of your paycheck.


Second criteria: You cannot get a refund, if you are given the right to voluntarily pay contributions into the German statutory pension scheme.


This is the case, as long as you reside in one of the above mentioned countries. The German Pension Office allows you to keep paying contributions adding to your pension savings, even though you are not obliged to do so (because you live and work in a different country.) For some people that is helpful, e.g. if they consider moving back to Germany after a short period abroad, and plan to retire there. They might want to keep their pension amount growing and avoid payment gaps that will reduce the total of the monthly installments that will be paid to you reaching the German age of retirement (67).


These two criteria define who is not able to apply for a refund.

Everybody (nationality and contribution time are irrelevant) who is NOT OBLIGED TO PAY CONTRIBUTIONS and NOT GIVEN THE RIGHT TO VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION is eligible for a refund.


The reason is quite simple. Pension installments are supposed to guarantee your lifestyle when you are old and serve as a common sense reward for a lifetime spent working. If you have qualified for receiving German pension installments in the future but paying into the system for 5+ years only, your retirement payments will be extremely small. So, you are given the opportunity to grow them voluntarily to an amount that allows you to live on. But once you reside in a country that is not part of the bilateral system, you cannot get any benefits from the German Pension Office and more importantly, you are no longer given the right, to pay into your pension account voluntarily. So it is just fair to pay this money back to you, in order to grow a reasonable pension somewhere else in the world.

”You CAN get a refund, if you are no longer obliged to pay contributions, nor given the right to voluntarily pay into the German pension system from abroad.”

Now we will check step by step if you are eligible for a refund based on the legal requirements and if you are not – we will show you under what circumstances you will become eligible:


EUROPEANS (Except Germans!)


1) If you are a national of a European country and reside in another European country after having worked in Germany (your home country or any other European member state/EEA/CH), your German pension contributions will be merged with the contributions you pay in the country you currently reside in. (Note: this requires your action!).


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, but

you are given the option of voluntary contributions: not eligible for a refund.



2) If you reside in a contracting state, your German Pension contributions will ”wait” for in Germany. They will not be merged with your contributions there. You will get pension installments when you reach the German retirement age (67), if you have contributed to the German Pension scheme for at least 60 months / 5 years, which qualifies you for future pension installments. If you have worked for less than 5 years, you can apply to get your contributions paid back to you (without interest) only when you reach the age of retirement.


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, but

you are given the right of voluntary contributions: not eligible for a refund.



3) If you reside in a non-contracting state (every state in the world, that is not mentioned above) and your last occupation in Germany is at least 24 months ago – which is the minimum waiting period to apply for a refund – you are eligible for a refund. It does not matter if you have worked for more or less than 60 months / 5 years. Residing in a non-contract state fulfills the criteria to get a refund.


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, AND

you are NOT given the right to voluntary contributions: YOU QUALIFY FOR A REFUND!


”Europeans CANNOT get a German pension refund as long as they reside in Europe or a contracting state. Europeans CAN get a refund, while they reside in a NON-CONTRACTING-STATE.”


CONTRACT-STATE NATIONALS (NON-EUROPEAN)


1) If you are a national of a Non-European contract state, and you reside in a European country, your German pension contributions can be merged with the contributions of that European state if you apply for that.


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, but

you are given the right of voluntary contributions: not eligible for a refund.



2) If you return to your home country or reside in any other contracting state, and you have contributed to the German system for 60 months / 5 years or more, you will have to wait until you reach the German retirement age (67) to receive German pension installments that you have qualified for.


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, but

you are given the option of voluntary contributions: not eligible for a refund.



3) If you return to your home country or reside in another Non-European contracting state, and you have worked in Germany for less than 60 months / 5 years in other words – you have not qualified to receive a German pension, you are eligible for a refund after a mandatory waiting period of 24 months after your last occupation in Germany.

(Note: This is the ”eligibility” falsely claimed by many as the only one – and everyone else would not qualify for a refund. This is completely wrong. Surprisingly, the internet is full of agencies, self proclaimed experts, expat services, blogs, forums that all copy each other and spread the same wrong information, without ever reflecting or checking the facts.

The majority is mistaken, there are many Europeans and contract-state nationals that DO qualify for a refund and it does not depend on their nationality or time spent working in Germany!)


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, AND

you are NOT given the option of voluntary contributions: YOU QUALIFY FOR A COMPLETE REFUND.



4) If you currently reside in a non-contracting state, it DOES NOT MATTER for how long you have worked in Germany before: you are eligible for a complete refund of your contributions paid. More or less than 60 months / 5 years of contributions paid is irrelevant, after waiting through the mandatory period of 24 months after your last occupation in Germany you are eligible for a refund.


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, AND

you are NOT given the option of voluntary contributions: YOU QUALIFY FOR A COMPLETE REFUND.


Contracting state nationals CAN get a refund if they a) reside outside the EU and contributed for less 5 years or b) reside in a non-contracting state (contribution time irrelevant).”

NON-CONTRACTING STATE NATIONALS


1) If you are a national of a non-contract state, and you reside in a European country, your German pension contributions can be merged with the contributions of that European state if you apply for that.


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, but

you are given the option of voluntary contributions: not eligible for a refund.


2) If you return to your home country or reside in any other contracting state or non-contracting state, you qualify for a refund of your German pension contributions after waiting for the mandatory 24 months period before you can apply for a refund.


Legal check:

You are not obliged to pay contributions into the German system anymore, AND

as a non-contracting state national you are NOT given the option of voluntary contributions in both contracting and non-contracting states: YOU QUALIFY FOR A REFUND!


”Nationals of non-contract states are eligible for a complete refund of their German pension contributions if they currently reside outside the EU/EEA/CH. (Contribution period is irrelevant).”

In any case – eligibility always requires that the mandatory 24 months waiting period has passed before applying for a refund.


As you have learned now – your nationality does not exclude you automatically from eligibility for a refund, what matters most is where you reside at the moment you apply for your refund.


Also, you understand now what 5 years contribution means (qualification for future pension payments) and that it is not necessarily related to whether or not you are eligible for a refund, here again, it only matters where you reside.


Having read this, you know more than 99 % out there, including the so called ”experts” that spread unreflected wrong information and misunderstandings.


Feel free to contact us if you have questions regarding your eligibility for a refund.




If you are looking for help to get a refund of your German pension contributions – we are happy to help you. We are a service agency with more than 12 years experience in helping expats get a complete refund.


We take care of the entire end-to-end communication in German language with the Deutsche Rentenversicherung – meanwhile you lean back and relax until the complete refund is on your bank account.


We offer free consultation and evaluation of your case.


We DO NOT charge any minimum or up-front fees.


You only pay our commission if and after you successfully got your refund.


Claim your refund today.


Last note: What we refer to, when we say ”complete refund” is the amount of money that was taken out of your paycheck automatically when you were obliged to pay contributions being employed in Germany. Your Employer paid the same amount of contributions for you, this money can not be refunded. If after not being obliged to pay contributions anymore you decided to voluntarily pay into the system you will only get back 50% of those contributions. With complete we refer to the full amount you can legally get back: 100% obligatory contributions paid by you plus, if applicable, 50% of voluntary contributions.



You want free advice?


Feel free to ask us about your personal situation.


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