How to get a German pension refund

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 your pension payments 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?

Short answer: use the pension refund calculator.

This calculator tells you if you can get a pension refund, and how much you can get back.

Long answer: It depends on your citizenship, and the country you live in. The rules are different for every country.

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 pension payment in the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia or Turkey was more than 24 months ago1

EU, EEA and Switzerland citizens

If you are a citizen of the European Union, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland, you can always contribute to your German pension, so you can’t get a refund.40

There is an exception.2 You can get a refund if:

  • you are at least 67 years old
  • and you don’t qualify for a German pension

Contracting countries

These countries have a pension agreement with Germany:

  • Albania
  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • India
  • Korea
  • North Macedonia
  • Moldova
  • Philippines
  • United States
  • Uruguay

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.

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 do not live in the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia or Turkey

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

You can also get a pension refund if:2

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

Bosnian and Herzegovinian citizens

You can get a pension refund if:3

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

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

You can also get a pension refund if:2

  • 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

You can get a pension refund if:

  • You did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you do not live in the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia or Turkey

If you worked in Germany before Brexit, you can’t get a pension refund,4 not even for your pension payments after Brexit. When you are 67 years old, you will get a German pension.

Israeli citizens

You can get a pension refund if:5

  • you do not live in Israel
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you do not live in the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia or Turkey

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

You can also get a pension refund if:2

  • 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’t get a refund while you live in Japan.6

You can get a pension refund if:

  • you live in Japan
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments

You can get a pension refund if:7

  • you do not live in Japan
  • and your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago
  • and you do not live in the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia or Turkey

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

You can also get a pension refund if:2

  • 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:3

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

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

You can also get a pension refund if:2

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

Montenegrin citizens

You can get a pension refund if:3

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

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

You can also get a pension refund if:2

  • 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:3

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

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

You can also get a pension refund if:2

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

Tunisian citizens

You can get a pension refund if:8

  • Your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago and you do not live in the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia or Turkey
  • or you are at least 67 years old and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments2

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

If you live in Tunisia, you must use a Tunisian bank account for your refund.9

Turkish citizens

You can get a pension refund if:10

  • you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments11 or you live in Turkey since at least 24 months12
  • and you don’t pay social security contributions in Turkey13

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

If you are a Turkish citizen, and you work in Turkey, you can’t get a pension refund,13 because you pay social security contributions in Turkey. If you are not a Turkish citizen, but you live and work in Turkey, you can still get a pension refund.9

Citizens of other countries

You can get a pension refund if:8

  • Your last pension payment was more than 24 months ago and you do not live in the European Union, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro or Serbia
  • or you are at least 67 years old and you made less than 60 monthly German pension payments2

If you live in the United Kingdom, there is one more condition:

  • and you did not work in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)

How much money will I get back?

You will get a refund for all your pension payments.37 That’s around 9.3% of your gross income. That means you usually get a few thousand euros back.14 Use the pension refund calculator to get an exact answer.

You will not get a refund for your employer’s contributions.15 If you already benefits from the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, the refund will be smaller.38 You can’t receive a refund for contributions made in East Germany before June 30 1990.16

If you are a freelancer, you will only get 50% of your pension payments back (9.3% of your income).17 By default, freelancers do not make public pension payments. If you did not make public pension payments, you will not get any money back.

This calculator tells you if you can get a pension refund, and how much you can get 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. I have done it myself, and it was very easy.

How to ask for a pension refund

The pension refund is not automatic. You must apply for it. You can do it yourself, or 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 hard.18 The refunds are managed by different employees in different offices, and there is a lot of confusion. The forms are simple, but 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. The Deutsche Rentenversicherung contacts you by post, in German. This can add long delays.

If you want to do it yourself, here are the steps:19

  1. Wait 24 months after your last pension payment
    After your last mandatory pension payment, you must wait 24 months to apply for a refund.20 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 E5816 (previously A5800). This form is in Turkish and German. The instructions are in document E5817 (previously A5801) (in German).
    2. If you are not Turkish, you must fill the standard form.21 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. The payment information form asks for a PANR, a BXNR and a ZANR. You don’t have those numbers.22 Leave those fields empty.
    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.
  5. Collect the other documents39
    • A certified copy of your passport
      The German embassy or consulate can make a certified copy of your passport. The information in your passport must be the same as in the application forms.
    • A copy of your Meldebescheinigung zur Sozialversicherung
      You can use an older one. It doesn’t have to be the latest one.
    • Deregistration certificate (Abmeldebescheinigung)
      This proves that you do not live in Germany anymore. They do not always ask for this document.
    • Proof that you live in your current country23
      This can be a certificate from the tax office, a registration certificate, or anything that proves that you live in that country. In some cases, you must go to a German embassy to verify your identity. The Deutsche Versicherung will tell you what they need after you apply. It’s different for everyone.
    • Power of attorney (Vollmacht)
      If you apply for someone else, or someone else applies for you, include a Vollmacht.
  6. Send everything to the Deutsche Rentenversicherung
    Send all the required forms and documents to Deutsche Rentenversicherung Bund 10704 Berlin.24 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.
  7. Wait for an answer
    The Deutsche Rentenversicherung will review your case. If they need more documents, they will contact you.25 They will contact you by post, in German. You might need to mail more documents later.26 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.
  8. Get your refund
    The Deutsche Rentenversicherung will send you a letter to confirm that you want your refund.27 After you confirm, you might wait another 6 weeks before you get your refund.

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 post.28 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.

  • Pension Refund Germany 
    Their fee is 10% of your refund (maximum fee 2,800€).31 They automated the process, so you can do everything online. They pay you in the currency you prefer. They work with a lawyer.
  • FundsBack 
    Their fee is 9.9% of your refund (minimum fee 899€, maximum 2,899€), or 9.405% if you use the link above.29 They specialise in pension refunds since 2017. Their lawyer helped me a lot, and he verified this guide many times. Every case goes through their lawyer.
  • Germany Pension Refund 
    Their fee is 9.75% of your refund (no minimum or maximum fee).30 They specialise in pension refunds since 2007. They helped me a lot, and they verified this guide many times. Every case goes through their lawyers.
  • TaxBack
    Their fee is 19.8% of your refund,32 or minimum 60€. I do not recommend them. They don’t specialise in pension refunds, and their fee is too high.
  • Germany Mantra
    Unknown fees. This company is based in India.33 They offer relocation services for Indians since at least 2011.34 They don’t answer my emails.

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 answer 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 payment.17 After 24 months, you can ask for a refund. After you submit the form, it takes 1 to 6 months to get a refund.35 It’s a long process, and it’s sometimes complicated.18 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.

How is the money refunded?

The Deutsche Rentenversicherung will transfer the money to your bank account. They can send the money to any bank account, not just German bank accounts.36 Transfers to German bank accounts are much faster.

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.

Germany Pension Refund, FundsBack, Pension Refund Germany, Taxback or Germany Mantra can 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 do not help you with German pension refunds.

Sources and footnotes
  1. Screenshot 

  2. rentenfuchs.info 

  3. rentenfuchs.info 

  4. Georg from Pension Refund Germany (April 2023), Deutsche Rentenversicherung (March 2023), linkedin.com, pension-refund.com 

  5. rentenfuchs.info 

  6. Screenshot 

  7. germanypensionrefund.com 

  8. rentenfuchs.info 

  9. Screenshot 

  10. rentenfuchs.info 

  11. germanypensionrefund.com 

  12. rentenfuchs.info 

  13. Screenshot 

  14. taxback.com 

  15. Wikipedia, deutsche-rentenversicherung.de 

  16. deutsche-rentenversicherung.de, rentenfuchs.info 

  17. rentenfuchs.info 

  18. toytowngermany.com, toytowngermany.com 

  19. toytowngermany.com 

  20. gesetze-im-internet.de, sozialversicherung-kompetent.de 

  21. germany.info, toytowngermany.com 

  22. Screenshot 

  23. Screenshot 

  24. toytowngermany.com 

  25. toytowngermany.com 

  26. toytowngermany.com 

  27. Screenshot 

  28. deutsche-rentenversicherung.de 

  29. fundsback.org 

  30. de.germanypensionrefund.com 

  31. pension-refund.com 

  32. taxback.com 

  33. ssr.germanymantra.com 

  34. web.archive.org 

  35. toytowngermany.com, Settle in Berlin, toytowngermany.com, toytowngermany.com 

  36. Screenshot 

  37. §210 SGB VI 

  38. Wikipedia 

  39. toytowngermany.com 

  40. toytowngermany.com, toytowngermany.com, rentenfuchs.info, Regulation (EEC) No 1408/71, §10 para. 2