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EU citizens resident in Germany are eligible for social security and unemployment benefits - but be prepared to stuggle to get what you´re entitled to....

Down & Out in Berlin - a Personal Experience of Social Bureaucracy

The Employment Office (Arbeitsamt ) is divided into different district offices (such as Nord or Mitte) and your local one is the place to visit if you want to register as unemployed, claim unemployment benefit, get advice on finding a job, or search the job vacancies.

EU nationals are entitled to unemployment benefit in Germany if they have worked and paid social/national insurance contributions for at least 12 months prior to registering as unemployed. You also must have been employed in Germany, for at least one day, in the three years prior to your application. To proove your entitlement you have to produce a certificate E301, listing your social insurance contributions, which you obtain in Britain from the Inland Revenue NI Contributions Office in Newcastle, a process which takes at least six weeks. This certificate is also necessary if you intend to stay on in Germany and pay into the state pension fund (Bundesversicherungsanstalt für Angestellte - BfA).

Should you be on the verge of starving or being homeless, EU nationals can apply for income support/housing benefit etc. (Sozialhilfe, Wohngeld) at their local Sozialamt , provided they are registered with the police. This procedure is much more complicated than in the UK, for example, and should be avoided if at all possible, i.e. it is really for absolute emergencies only. Stacks of evidence is required, incl. sworn affidavits from family members stating that they cannot possibly support you... By the time you have brought everything along, and had all your different appointments, you will have probably starved frozen or found a job.

If you are unfortunate enough to need to apply for unemployment benefit you are best advised to get coaching on the procedures from someone who has been through the mill, as the system seems expressly designed to confuse you and make it as difficult as possible. You will only get answers to direct questions, and those tend to be "no" or "go back to the other office". You have to bring with you a lot of time, patience and friendliness. Trying to rebel against the absurdity or humungousness of bureaucracy will only cause you more problems as the people working there are clearly stressed out and have adopted a policy of attack-is-the-best-defence. Interestingly, many of these bureaucrats have names to fit their jobs, deriving from adjectives like sour, comforting, or deaf....

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