When you work in Germany, you give 9.3% of your income to the public pension system (gesetzliche Rentenversicherung). If you leave Germany, you can get that money back. You can get thousands of euros back.

In this guide, I show you if you can get a pension refund, and how to apply for it.

Who can get a pension payments refund?

It depends on your citizenship and the country you live in.

There are 3 conditions for getting a German pension refund:

  1. You are not forced to contribute to the German pension system
  2. and you can't contribute voluntarily to the German pension system
  3. and your last German pension payment was more than 24 months ago

EU and EEA citizens

If you are a citizen of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you can't get a pension refund1, 2, 3, §10.2. You can always contribute to your German pension, so you can't get a refund.

In most cases, you can get a German pension when you are 67 years old. If you are at least 67 years old, and you can't get a German pension, you can get a pension refund1.

Contracting countries

Some countries have a pension agreement with Germany. If you are a citizen of these countries, you can sometimes get a German pension refund. If you can't get a refund, you can get a German pension when you are 67 years old.

The contracting countries are Albania, Australia, Canada, the Philippines, the United States

You can get a pension refund if:

  • you made less than 60 monthly pension payments in Germany
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

Albanian citizens

You can get a pension refund. Albania has a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

American citizens

You can get a pension refund. The United States have a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Australian citizens

You can get a pension refund. Australia has a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Bosnian and Herzegovinian citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1

  • you do not live in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro or Serbia1
  • and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

Brazilian citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1

  • you live in Brazil
  • and you made less than 60 monthly pension payments in Germany
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you do not live in Brazil
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

British citizens

We are not sure yet. Brexit was less than 2 years ago, so nobody applied for a refund yet. You can possibly get a refund if:1

  • you only worked in Germany after Brexit (January 1, 2021)
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

If you worked in Germany before Brexit, you can't get a pension refund1, 2, not even for your pension payments after Brexit. When you are 67 years old, you will get a German pension.

Canadian citizens

You can get a pension refund. Canada has a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Filipino citizens

You can get a pension refund. The Philippines have a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Indian citizens

You can get a pension refund. India has a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Israeli citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1

  • you do not live in Israel
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

Japanese citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1, 2

  • you live in Japan
  • and you made less than 60 monthly pension payments in Germany
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if1:

  • you do not live in Japan
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

Korean citizens

You can get a pension refund. Korea has a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Kosovar citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1

  • you do not live Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro or Serbia1
  • and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

Macedonian citizens

You can get a pension refund. Macedonia has a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Moldovan citizens

You can get a pension refund. Moldova has a pension agreement with Germany. See the rules for contracting countries.

Montenegrin citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1

  • you do not live Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro or Serbia1
  • and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

Serbian citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1

  • you do not live in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro or Serbia1
  • and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you live outside the European Union

You can also get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
  • and you are at least 67 years old
  • and you live anywhere in the world

Turkish citizens

You can get a pension refund if:1

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments1
  • or you live in Turkey since at least 24 months

    If you live in Turkey for 2 years, you can get a pension refund, even if you made more than 60 monthly German pension payments1.

    Uruguayan citizens

    You can get a pension refund if:1

    • you live in Uruguay
    • and you made less than 60 monthly pension payments in Germany
    • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
    • and you live outside the European Union

    You can also get a pension refund if:1

    • you do not live in Uruguay
    • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
    • and you live outside the European Union

    You can also get a pension refund if:1

    • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments
    • and you are at least 67 years old
    • and you live anywhere in the world

    Citizens of other countries

    You can get a pension refund if:1

    • Your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago and you live outside the European Union
    • or you are at least 67 years old and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments1

    How much money will I get back?

    You will get a refund for all your pension payments1. That's around 9.3% of your brutto income. That means you usually get a few thousand euros back1.

    You will not get a refund for your employer's contributions1, 2. If you already benefits from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, the refund will be smaller1. You can't receive a refund for contributions made in East Germany before June 30 19901, 2.

    If you are a freelancer, you will only get 50% of your pension payments back1. By default, freelancers do not make public pension payments. If you did not make public pension payments, you will not get any money back.

    If you want to know the exact amount, ask the Deutsche Rentenversicherung for a Versicherungsverlauf here (in German). Germany Pension Refund and FundsBack can also check the amount for you, for free. Either way, it only takes a few days.

    How do I ask for a pension refund?

    The pension refund is not automatic. You must apply for it. You can do it yourself, or you can ask someone to do it for you.

    Do it yourself

    If you apply yourself, it costs nothing. You need to fill a few different forms, and send them to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. They will write back to you, and ask for more documents. After a few months, you will get a refund.

    This can be really easy, or really hard1, 2. The Deutsche Rentenversicherung contacts you by post, in German. The refunds are managed by different employees in different offices, and there is a lot of confusion. Each employee asks for different things. If there is a problem, they just wait until you contact them again. For example, if a letter is lost in the mail (they don't use registered mail), nothing happens until you contact them again.

    If you want to do it yourself, here are the steps1:

    1. Wait 24 months after your last pension payment
      After your last mandatory pension payment, you must wait 24 months to apply for a refund1, 2. Your last payment usually is one month after your last day of work. For example, if your last day of work was on March 5, 2018, your last payment was in April 2018. You can apply for a refund in May 2020. While you wait, you can still prepare the documents. It's easier if you prepare the documents while you are in Germany.
    2. Find your tax ID and your social insurance number
      You need those numbers to fill the forms. Use this guide to find your tax ID, and this guide to find your social insurance number.
    3. Download this form package, and fill the correct form
      If you need help to fill the forms, you can book an appointment with the DRV. You can also call them, but they only speak German.
      1. If you are Turkish, you must fill form form A5800. This form is in Turkish and German. The instructions are in document A5801 (in German).
      2. If you are not Turkish, you must fill the standard form1, 2. The instructions are in document V0910 (in German).
        1. Form V0900 (German)
        2. or form V0901 (English)
        3. or form V0902 (French)
    4. Download and fill the payment information form (Zahlungserklärung)
      If you use a bank in another country, your refund will take 2 months longer.
      1. If the bank account is in Germany:
        1. If it's your bank account, fill form A1310. Transfers to German bank accounts are much faster.
        2. If it's not your bank account, fill form A1313.
      2. If the bank account is in Canada or the United States, fill form A1312.
      3. If the bank account is in Italy, fill form A1311.
      4. If the bank account is in any other country, fill form A1310.

      The payment information form asks for a PANR, a BXNR and a ZANR. You don't have those numbers1. Leave those fields empty.

    5. Collect the other documents1
      1. A copy of your passport
        The information in your passport must be the same as in the application forms.
      2. A copy of your Meldebescheinigung zur Sozialversicherung
        You can use an older one. It doesn't have to be the latest one.
      3. If you are applying for someone else, add a power of attorney letter (Vollmacht).
    6. Send everything to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung
      Send all the required forms and documents1. Don't send the documents before the end of the 2 year waiting period. If you send your documents too early, they will send them back to you.
      Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund
      10704 Berlin

      (there is no street number, because the Deutsche Rentenversicherung has its own post code)
    7. Wait for an answer
      The Deutsche Rentenversicherung will review your case. If they need more information, they will contact you1. They will contact you by post, in German. You might need to mail more documents later1. You might need to go to the German embassy or consulate to prove that you live in that country. Each employee wants something different. You must be patient.

    Get help from someone

    You can let someone take care of everything. There are good reasons to get help:

    • You don't need to speak German
      You can write to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung in English, but they will answer in German. They will often request more documents, and more information. If you don't speak German, it can be confusing.
    • You don't need a fixed address
      The Deutsche Rentenversicherung will contact you by post. If you don't have a fixed address, or if the post is not reliable, this can be a problem.
    • Your case is processed faster
      The Deutsche Rentenversicherung communicates by post1. If you live far from Germany, this can delay your refund by a few weeks. They do not use registered mail, so if a letter gets lost, you will wait much longer.
    • You get your money faster
      If you want to receive your refund in a non-German bank account, you must wait an extra 2 months. Germany Pension Refund, FundsBack and TaxBack can receive the money in a German bank account, and transfer it directly to you. This saves you two months of waiting. They also offer more payment options than the Deutsche Rentenversicherung.
    • You pay lower transaction fees
      Germany Pension Refund and FundsBack offer more payment options than the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. They can use services like Wise to transfer the money with lower transaction fees.

    These businesses can help you request a refund. They will fill the forms and request the refund for you. They can also check how much money you will get back.

    • Germany Pension Refund
      Fees are 10% of your refund. They speak English and German. This company helps with pension refunds since 2007, and it has multiple employees. They have reviewed this guide many times. They have many positive reviews1.
    • FundsBack
      Fees are 10% of your refund. They speak English and German. This company helps with pension refunds since 2017, and it has multiple employees. They have reviewed this guide many times. They have many positive reviews1, 2.
    • Amtio
      Fees are 12.5% of your refund. This company helps people with German bureaucracy. They speak English and German. They helped me review and improve this guide.
    • TaxBack
      Fees are 19.8% of your refund1, or minimum 60€. They speak English. They offer all sorts of international tax services. They are not specialised in German pension refunds.
    • Germany Mantra
      Unknown fees. This company is based in India1. They offer relocation services for Indians since at least 20111. They did not answer my emails.
    • Refund German Pension Insurance
      Fees are 50€ + 15% of your refund. This company helps with pension refunds since 2018. It is run by a single person. He speaks English and Spanish. When I contacted him about this guide, he refused to help me, and eventually stopped replying.

    The Deutsche Rentenversicherung can also help you fill the forms. Their email is meinefrage@drv-bund.de. You can also write in English, but they will reply in German. You can also book an appointment and visit them in person.

    How long does it take to get a refund?

    You must wait at least 24 months after your last pension payment1. After 24 months, you can ask for a refund. After you submit the form, it takes 1 to 6 months to get a refund1, 2, 3, 4. It's a long process, and it's sometimes complicated1, 2. You can start the process a few months before you are eligible for a refund. This gives you more time to prepare the documents you need.

    Need help?

    If you have questions, write to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. Their email is meinefrage@drv-bund.de. You can write in English, but they will reply in German. You can also book an appointment with them, or call them. I called them many times, and they always helped, but they only speak German.

    You can ask Germany Pension Refund, FundsBack, Amtio, Taxback, Refund German Pension Insurance or Germany Mantra to request a refund for you. They will take care of everything, but they charge a fee for their service.

    Tax advisors rarely have experience with German pension refunds. German embassies and consulates will not help you with German pension refunds.