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.

Who can get a pension payments refund?

There are 4 conditions for getting a German pension refund1:

  1. You are not forced to contribute 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 contribute voluntarily 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 a citizen of the EU, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro or Serbia, you can't get a pension refund1. If you live in Israel, you can't get a pension refund1.
  3. AND your last contribution to the German pension system was at least 24 months ago
    For example, if you stopped making pension payments over 2 years ago.
  4. AND you contributed to the German pension system for less than 60 months
    For example, if you worked in Germany for less than 5 years. If you were a freelancer, you probably didn't make pension payments1, so it doesn't count.

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. If you turn 67 years old, and you still 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 pension. If you turn 67 years old, and you still can't get a German pension, you can ask for a refund.
    • If you are a UK citizen...
      It depends on when you started working in Germany.
      • If you worked in Germany before Brexit (January 1, 2021)
        You can't get a refund for your pension contributions1, 2. When you turn 67 years old, you will receive a German pension. Your pension contributions after Brexit also count toward your German pension1.
      • If you only worked in Germany after Brexit
        You can get a refund for your pension contributions1. You must wait 2 years after moving out of the European Union.
    • ❎ 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. If you are over 67 years old, and you still 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 currently live in Israel...
        You can't get a pension refund1. If you move outside of Israel, you can get a pension refund.
      • 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 mandatory pension payment before you ask for a refund1, 2. Your work as a freelancer probably doesn't count, because most freelancers don't make pension payments.

    It's a bit complicated. If you still have questions, you can ask FundsBack. This is a free service.

    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. On average, people get 5000€ to 8000€ back1.

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

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

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

    If you want to know the exact amount, ask the Deutsche Rentenversicherung here (in German). 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, 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 2 years 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 still in Germany.
    2. Find your tax ID and your social insurance number
      You will 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, 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.

      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
      Ruhrstr. 2
      10709 Berlin
      Germany
    7. Wait for the Deutsche Rentenversicherung
      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 have to 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. FundsBack, Germany Pension Refund 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.

    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.

    • 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 me review and improve this guide. They have many positive reviews1, 2.
    • 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 me review and improve this guide. They have many positive reviews1.
    • 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.

    Where can I get 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 FundsBack, Germany Pension Refund, 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.