In Germany there is a well-established social security system. It is based on the principles of obligatory insurance and solidarity. This means that all insured persons make payments into the system on a regular basis, irrespective of whether, when or to what extent they make use of the services. The revenue is redistributed on the basis of solidarity. With a few exceptions, the vast majority of the general public is obliged to pay in.
As a professor, visiting scientist, scientific employee or doctoral candidate, you are generally obliged to have social security cover, if you
- have a contract of employment in Germany and
- stay in Germany for longer than six months.
Exceptions are possible within the framework of social security and double taxation agreements.
Germany has come to agreement with certain countries concerning social security. These apply particularly if you work in Germany but continue to be employed by your employer abroad. An overview of the agreement is available on the website of the “Deutsche Verbindungsstelle Krankensicherung - Ausland” (German Liaison Office Health Insurance – Abroad).
When first taking up employment in Germany that is subject to social security contributions, the employer registers you with a "Einzugsstelle für die Sozialversicherungsbeiträge" (collection authority for social security contributions). The “Deutsche Rentenversicherung” (German Pension Insurance) will then assign you a “Sozialversicherungsnummer” (social security number), which you will usually receive by post, together with your “Sozialversicherungsausweis” (national insurance card), within a period of two to four weeks after your registration.
- You need to advise your employer of the social security number and you will need it for all applications or notifications via-à-vis "Rentenversicherung "(Pension Insurance).
- The social security number is valid for life.
- If you lose your national insurance card, you can request a replacement from German Pension Insurance.
The following five compulsory insurance schemes form the pillars of the German Social Security System:
- Health insurance
- Unemployment insurance
- Accident insurance
- Care insurance and
- Pension insurance
You will automatically be a member of the unemployment, accident, care, and pension insurance schemes. There are no alternative providers. The insurance contributions, also referred to as “Sozialabgaben” (social security contributions), are deducted directly from your wages and the employer pays them into the system (see Work and taxes).
With health insurance you have the opportunity of choosing from a range of different providers. The insurance must cover the costs of medical treatment in the case of acute illness and in the event of an accident in Germany.
In Germany there are two different types of health insurance providers:
Private health insurance
Private health insurance can be taken out as a supplement to, or in place of, statutory health insurance. On the website of the Verband der Privaten Krankenversicherung e.V. (Association of Private Health Insurance Companies), you will find an overview of private health insurance companies (that are members of this association). In comparison with statutory health insurance ...
- private health insurance companies offer a wide spectrum of services.
- the contributions do not depend on your income.
- pre-existing conditions are not normally covered.
- services (such as doctor’s visits) need to be paid by yourself initially. Reimbursement of the costs takes place at a later date.
- cover is dependent on certain conditions, and is not available to everyone.
Statutory health insurance
Around 90% of the population are insured through statutory health insurance. You will find an overview of all statutory health insurance providers on the website of the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Schemes (GKV-Spitzenverband).
- The provisions of statutory health insurance funds are largely the same. There are differences in the ranges of customer services and supplementary provisions.
- The general contribution rate is the same for all statutory health insurance funds, but they can charge additional fees for different additional contributions.
- The treatment costs for pre-existing conditions are covered.
- Within the framework of family insurance, accompanying family members are also insured at no extra cost - provided that they live in Germany and their income does not exceed 450 Euros per month.
Notes and tips
- Changing: When choosing a health insurance scheme, you should bear in mind that changing from a private health insurance scheme to a statutory health insurance scheme is not very easy.
- Insurance obligation: Taking out health insurance is obligatory in Germany. The Migration Office will require appropriate evidence, for example, when issuing a residence permit. Find out whether the health insurance policy in your home country’s policy also applies to Germany, or you need to take out insurance for your stay in Germany.
- When entering Germany, and for the first few days/weeks in the country, you can take out travel insurance, and then gather more information in situ to be able to take out health insurance.
Evidence of health insurance: Holders of European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) can have a health insurance certificate issued by any of the German statutory health insurance funds free of charge upon presenting the card.
- Grant: If you are coming to Rostock with a grant, or if you intend to fund your stay yourself, you will generally need to take out private health insurance. In exceptional cases, it may be possible to become a voluntary member of a statutory health insurance scheme, in accordance with § 9 SGB V (German Social Security Code). Please ask your grant provider about this. As the grant holder, you can also ask your provider about possible cooperation with private health insurance companies.
On the website of EURAXESS Germany you will find an overview of substitutive private comprehensive health insurance companies for grant holders.
In addition to statutory compulsory insurance, there are other popular insurance policies in Germany. A selection:
- “ Hausratversicherung” (Household contents insurance)
Household contents insurance protects your personal items (furniture, valuables, electronic equipment, etc.) from burglary, fire and weather damage. The insurance covers repair or replacement, and associated costs in such cases, if you cannot enter your apartment temporarily, for example. Bicycles normally need to be insured separately, or are subject to an extra fee.
- “Unfallversicherung” (Accident insurance)
At your place of work, and on your way to work, you are covered for accidents by your employer. You can also take out private accident insurance on a voluntary basis.
- “Haftpflichtversicherung” (Liability insurance)
Liability insurance covers damage that you cause inadvertently to the property of others, such as furniture, clothing or electronic equipment. There are different types of liability insurance. Motor vehicle liability (“Kfz-Haftpflichtversicherung”) insurance is required by law.
We highly recommend taking out liability insurance and would be pleased to advise you accordingly.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions about insurance.