A complete guide to getting your German pension back
Image of a man preparing to send in his pension refund

A complete guide to getting your German pension back

Get ready because you probably haven’t seen bureaucracy this dense before. It’ll be difficult, but if you follow all of the rules, you could potentially get several thousand euros back from your German pension, so it’s worth taking some time to figure it out. We’ve also tried to answer any questions you might have along the way!

Factors that go into claiming a pension refund in Germany 

  1. Citizenship;
  2. How long you worked in Germany;
  3. How much your gross salary was;
  4. And, where you are currently living.
While writing this article, we worked with Georg, the CEO of Refund German Pension Insurance, a company that helps expats get their pension refund back.

He provided us with a fictional example to show how much someone could get back:

Shahid is a software engineer from Egypt who came to Berlin in April 2016. He stayed for a little over four years until the end of August 2020 (53 months in total). He earned an average gross monthly salary of 4.5k for this time before moving to Saudi Arabia. After filing for a pension refund, he can expect to receive about €22,200.

Shahid will have to wait until September 2022 to file for this refund since there is a mandatory 24-month waiting period.

Interested in knowing more about your pension refund? Contact Pension Refund Germany to find out:

  1. If you are eligible
  2. How much refund you can expect
  3. File the documents in their Online Platform, no paper needed.

How do I file to claim my German pension?

You can use the online process of Pension Refund Germany or do the work yourself.

1. Download and begin to fill out the V0900 form

First, you’ll need to fill out one of the following forms: V0901 (English / German), V0902 (French / German), or the original V0900 (only German). There are a few differences between the documents as we did, and while V0901 and V0902 should be acceptable for filing, we recommend using them to fill in the information for V0900 

You can find these located on the Deutsche Rentenversicherung Website.

2. Section 5 – Insurance history

You might have been fine until this section, but then it asks you for all insurance documents. There was also probably a moment of panicked searching through that one binder of German documents you gathered throughout your stay.

You’ll need to request these documents: 

  • Versicherungsverlauf (insurance history) which you can request through the Deutsche Rentenversicherung (German Pension Insurance). 
  • A second Versicherungsverlauf (insurance history) with all insurances you had in Germany.
  • You should also attach your Lohnsteuerbescheinigungen (income tax certificates) for each financial year you worked in Germany.
    • You can request these from your employer(s).

If you’re insured under private or public health insurance at Feather, then you can request these documents by emailing us. We will provide you with proof of insurance along with proof of payment for the entirety of the time you were insured through us.

Important: if you answer “yes” to the question about gaps in insurance in section 5, you’ll need to fill out the additional form V0105 to include all timeframes where these gaps take place. This document does not come in languages other than German.

3. Creating a De-mail account

Most people filing for pension reimbursement no longer have a German address. Just the requirement that filing is done a minimum of 24 months after proof that you’ve left the country almost guarantees that you’d no longer have a mailing address. 

Thankfully, there is a way around this. You can make a de-mail account with Web.de who partner with the German pension insurance. With this email, you can receive secure communication without needing a mailbox.

Please note: The registration requires a European address which would disqualify you from receiving the pension, so it’s a good idea to make this email before leaving Germany and save the credentials for when it’s time to apply. 

4. Creating an online pension insurance account

A few of the documents you’ll need require a formal request from the German pension insurance. If you look closely, you’ll see that they don’t allow for a country or alternative address outside of Germany for this information. 

To be able to request documents from them online, we suggest you make an account before leaving Germany to have the documents be sent to your De-mail account.

For more information, see their article on their online services.

So, is it really that hard?

Yes, it 100% is a difficult process which is why we’ve contacted Pension Refund Germany, a company dedicated to simplifying and digitizing the pension reimbursement process. If you’re struggling with the pension reimbursement process or just haven’t prepared the documents in advance to start the reimbursement process, it might be worth it to contact them and see how much you could get back with their help. Alternatively, if you still need more information to try it yourself, our friends from All About Berlin also have a pension refund guide with additional information on documents and more.

For more helpful articles on insurance and life in Germany, see our blog! Otherwise, if you have any questions, feel free to drop a comment below, and we’ll do our best to answer your questions!

German pension refund companies

If you haven’t already read our guide on getting your pension insurance back, then you should check it out first because it outlines everything you need to know. In this article, we’ll be expanding on this topic to include German pension refund companies and what to watch out for when hiring them.

Hidden processing fees

Unless you read our first article, you probably didn’t know that some people won’t qualify to get their pension back. It really comes down to how long you worked in Germany, where you’re from, how long you’ve been gone, and how much you earned. 

Pension refund companies can check this relatively easily, but it means that they wouldn’t be able to charge processing fees for the obvious cases that a pension refund isn’t available. That’s why they’ll go through the process of applying for the pension refund even when they know it won’t go through to charge you a processing fee. 

If you go into the fee tab of most pension refund companies, you’ll see a small fee listed at the top of their website that’s about €100, but if you scroll down, there is a “minimum fee” (about €900) and a “maximum fee” (about €2500) which is all for processing and excludes the 10% fee taken directly from your pension refund. 

You will be charged these fees regardless of if you’re eligible for your pension refund or not. If a website does not list its fees, it might be best not to use that company.

All pension refund companies function on the basis of lump sum fees after you get your refund back. The fee should be about 10% and 15% for the most expensive companies. These fees should be listed on the website. 

Our partners at Refund German Pension Insurance only charge a fee of 10%, and they won’t charge additional hidden fees for legal costs either. Most of the time, the documents just need to be sent to an address and filed in German, so the process isn’t as complicated as it seems if you’re in Germany. Problems arise because you have to prove you’ve lived outside of Germany for at least two years to apply for the refund and then need to hand in more documents that are sent to your German address. 

The legal fees are almost never needed for this reason, so you should consider it a red flag if the company you’re working with can’t justify the use of a lawyer. We have seen problems with people’s documents getting stuck in limbo for an unacceptable amount of time, and a lawyer has needed to send a letter threatening legal action, but this is rarely the case.

Additional information:

I am filing for someone else. What do I need to do?

If you are filing for someone else, you’ll need to prove that you are legally allowed to do so. They accept proof through a power of attorney or a court mandate.

I am filing for someone else who is deceased. What do I need to know?

If the person you are filing for is deceased, you’ll need to attach a death certificate. Please note that this needs to be the original document. Notarized documents outside of Germany are not officially recognized.

Some certificates are also not recognized or must go through a “research process” by the German government to verify their validity.

What are the timeframes?

We recommend starting the process for your pension refund application before you leave Germany. This will give you time to set up online accounts to enable a digital application process. You can see examples of this in steps 3 and 4 above.

Otherwise, the timeframes are as follows:
1. You have to work less than 60 months or 5 years in Germany to apply.
2. You have to have proof that you are leaving Germany (Abmeldung or deregistration)
3. After 24 months of moving to a Non-European country, you can submit the application

Why can’t I claim my pension if I stay longer than 5 years?

Pension reimbursement is only for people who cannot claim a pension when they reach the age of retirement and live outside of the European Union.

German pension insurance has a minimum of 5 years of contributions to be able to benefit from their retirement plan. This means anyone who contributes to German pension insurance for more than 5 years should be eligible to receive benefits.

What do I need?

You’ll need to go to the website of the German Pension Insurance (Deutsche
Rentenversicherung) to download the forms:
– V0900 [Everyone needs to file this]
– V0910 [Additional information to V0900]
– V0901 [Englsih / German cheat sheet for V0900]
– V0902 [French / German cheat sheet for V0900]
– German power of attorney [when filing for someone else]
– V0105 [For employment gaps]
– V0100 [Additional space for V0105]
– V0110 [Form to explain why employment gaps happened]
– Additional forms need to be downloaded depending on the reasons for employment gaps

Along with these forms from the website of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, you’ll need:
– Visa and valid form of identification
– Proof that you have lived outside of Germany for at least 24 months
– Annual tax certificates from your employer(s) [Lohnsteuerbescheinigung(en)]
– A complete history of your insurance coverage while working in Germany
– A complete history of pension insurance from the German Pension Institution (Deutsche Rentenversicherung)
– Scanned health insurance card(s)