In Germany, all employees pay into the public pension system (gesetzliche Rentenversicherung). If you leave Germany, you can sometimes get a refund for your pension payments. This refund is often worth thousands of euros. In this guide, we show you how to calculate your pension refund, and how to get your money back.

This guide was written with original research, and verified by FundsBack and Germany Pension Refund.

Who can get a pension payments refund?

There are 4 conditions for getting a German pension refund1:

  1. You are not forced to make contributions to the German pension system
    For example, you are self-employed, or you don't live in the European Union anymore. Only employees in Germany are forced to make pension contributions.
  2. AND you can't make voluntary contributions to the German pension system
    If you can make voluntary contributions to the German pension system, you can't get a refund. For example, if you are from the EU, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro or Serbia, you can't get a pension refund1. If you reside in Israel, you can't get a pension refund1.
  3. AND your last compulsory contribution to the German pension system was at least 24 months ago
    For example, if you stopped working in Germany over 2 years ago.
  4. AND you contributed to the German pension system for less than 60 months
    For example, if you were an employee in Germany for less than 5 years. This does not include your time as a freelancer, unless you made voluntary pension payments. By default, freelancers do not make pension payments1.

In other words...

    • If you are a European Union citizen...
      You can't get a refund for your German pension payments for now1, because you can still contribute to your German public pension. When you turn 67 years old, if you can't get a German pension, you can ask for a refund.
    • If you currently live in the European Union, the European Economic Area or Switzerland...
      You can't get a refund for your German pension payments1, 2, 3, §10.2, because you can still make voluntary contributions to your German public pension. When you turn 67 years old, if you can't get a German pension, you can ask for a refund.
    • If you are a citizen of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro or Serbia...
      You can't get a refund for your German pension payments1. You can still make voluntary contributions to your German public pension, so you can't get a refund. When you turn 67 years old, if you can't get a German pension, you can ask for a refund.
    • If you currently live outside the European Union...
      In some cases, you can get a refund for your German pension payments.
      • If you worked in the European Union for more than 5 years...
        You can't get a refund for your German pension payments. When you are 67 years old, you will receive a German pension1, 2.
      • If you worked in the European Union for less than 5 years...
        You can get a refund for your German pension payments, because you can't receive a German pension. You can't receive a German pension because you made less than 60 months of pension payments1, 2, 3, so you can get a refund. You must wait 24 months after your last compulsory pension payment before asking for a refund1, 2.

    How much money will I get back?

    Your refund is equal to your total pension contribution1. That's around 9.3% of your brutto income.

    You will not get a refund for your employer's contributions1, 2. If you already received pension payments, the refund will be smaller1. You can't receive a refund for contributions made before June 30 19901, 2.

    You will only get 50% of your contributions as a freelancer back1. By default, freelancers do not contribute to the German public pension.

    This pension refund calculator shows you how much money you will get back.

    If you want to know the exact amount, you can ask the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. Germany Pension Refund and FundsBack can also check the amount for you. It's free, and 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, you do not need to pay anything. 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. It's a simple process, but you must be patient, and you must speak German.

    The Deutsche Rentenversicherung communicates by post, in German. The refunds are managed by different employees in different locations, and there is a lot of confusion. Each employee asks for different things. If there is a problem, they are not very proactive. 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. There is a 24 month waiting period (Wartefrist) before you can apply for a refund. You must wait 2 years after your last mandatory pension payment1, 2. Your last payment 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.
    2. Find your Steueridentifikationsnummer. This guide shows you how to find it. You will need it to fill the forms.
    3. Download this form package, and fill the correct forms. If you need help to fill the forms, you can book an appointment with the DRV.
      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 German or Turkish, you must fill form V0900 (in German) or form V0901 (in English) or form V0902 (in French)1, 2. The instructions are in document V0910 (in German).
    4. Download and fill the correct payment information (Zahlungserklärung) form. If you use a bank in another country, your refund will take 2 months longer.
      1. If the bank account is in Germany, fill form A1313. Transfers to German bank accounts are much faster.
      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.
    5. Collect the other required 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.
      3. If you are applying for someone else, include a power of attorney letter (Vollmacht).
    6. Send the form and all required documents to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung1.
      Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund
      Ruhrstr. 2
      10709 Berlin
      Germany
    7. The Deutsche Rentenversicherung will review your case. If they need extra information, they will contact you1. They will answer in German, by post. You will probably have to mail a few more forms1. You might need to go to the German embassy or consulate to prove that you live in that country. Each employee wants something different.

    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.
    • 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. FundsBack and Germany Pension Refund 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.

    A few 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.

    • 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 helped us review and improve this guide.
    • 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 helped us review and improve this guide.
    • Germany Mantra
      Unknown fees. This company is based in India1. They offer relocation services for Indians since at least 20111. They did not answer our email.
    • 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 we contacted him about this guide, he refused to help us, 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 with them.

    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 and sometimes complicated process1, 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.

    Where can I get help?

    If you have questions, you can write to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung. 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 with them.

    You can ask FundsBack, Germany Pension Refund, 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.

    Most tax advisors do not have experience with German pension refunds. German Embassies and Consulates will not help you with German pension refunds.