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Social security

Clarification of access to social benefits for non-German EU citizens

The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs clarifies entitlements in Books II and XII of the Social Code

Today, the Federal Cabinet adopted a bill regulating the entitlements of foreign nationals with regard to basic income support for jobseekers under Book Two of the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch) and social assistance under Book Twelve of the Social Code. The bill provides legal clarity on entitlement and non-entitlement to benefits under Books II and XII of the Social Code, especially for EU citizens in Germany.

Federal Labour Minister Andrea Nahles:

With this bill, we are restoring legal certainty. It is clear that people who live here, work and pay contributions have a legitimate entitlement to benefits from our social systems. However, in the case of those who have never worked here and who are dependent on financial support from the state in the form of basic income support, the principle applies that they must apply for such benefits in their home countries. With this clarification, we are boosting confidence in the European ideal and one of its greatest achievements: the free movement of workers. And we are protecting our municipalities from financial overstretch, as they have to shoulder the cost of social assistance benefits.

Following decisions by the European Court of Justice, the Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) and several Higher Social Courts (Landessozialgerichte), it had become necessary to make the legal provisions more concrete. The Federal Social Court’s judgments had paved the way for economically inactive citizens of other EU Member States to access social assistance benefits after six months of residence in Germany.

In future, those who are not employed or self-employed in Germany, and who are not entitled to benefits under Book II of the Social Code on the basis of previous work, will not be entitled to long-term benefits under Books II or XII of the Social Code within the first five years. However, those affected can receive temporary benefits for the period until they leave the country – for a maximum of one month.

EU citizens will in future be entitled to benefits under the relevant system after five years of residence in Germany. Employable claimants will then receive benefits to ensure an adequate subsistence level under Book II of the Social Code. The principle that with rights come responsibilities will then apply. An exception exists for people who have lost the right to free movement. Periods of time in which people are not lawfully resident in Germany because they are required to leave the country do not count towards the five-year period.

Social benefits for EU citizens