Social Security

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In order to be able to fully concentrate on your research project while in Bonn, it is crucial to obtain information on required insurances well before your arrival in Germany.

Most important is health insurance, which is compulsory in Germany. Your health insurance has to be accepted by German authorities and needs to be valid from the very first day of your arrival and through your entire stay. It is necessary to present proof of sufficient health insurance when you apply for a visa.

As different conditions apply for employees, fellows and public servants, we have compiled the most important information for these groups.

Information for Employees (with a work contract)

Germany has a reliable system of social security. As an employee of the University of Bonn, you are subject to statutory social insurance contributions. As a result, you are well provided for in cases of illness, work accidents, unemployment or simply your retirement.

The German social insurance is divided into five branches: 

Health Insurance

As an employee of the University of Bonn you are generally required to register with a statutory health insurance provider of your choice. As soon as you start your new job, your host institute will take care of your registration. Please inform your host institute if you prefer a specific statutory health insurance provider.Otherwise, you will automatically be registered with a provider chosen by the university. Your health insurance provder will subsequently forward your registration information to all other social insurance providers. Once the registration process is completed, you will receive your social security number from the pension scheme provider.

If your gross salary is above the income threshold for compulsory insurance of 56.250 EUR/year (2016), you are not required to register with a statutory health insurance provider and you are free to either register with a statutory health insurance provider or to take out private health insurance.

There is a fixed contribution rate for all statutory health insurance providers at 14.6 % (2016), which is equally shared by the employee and the employer. The employee's share as well as possible additional contributions are directly deducted from your monthly salary. If certain requirements are met, it is possible to insure your spouse and children with family insurance.

The benefits of statutory health insurance are largely standardized. However, there are differences in customer service, additional benefits and optional premiums.

Convenient: As compared to private health insurance, statutory health insurance providers pay the costs to the doctor or hospital directly.

Choosing a Statutory Health Insurance Provider

In Germany, there are more than 100 providers of statutory health insurance. From experience, we recommend choosing a provider that has a branch office in Bonn. This way, you can take advantage of their in-person consultations.

The following providers are known to us and have a branch office in Bonn:

Pension Scheme

Contributions to “Rentenversicherung”, the German pension scheme, are part of the statutory social security payments. It protects those insured and their families if their employment capacity is endangered or reduced and when it ends due to age or death.

It covers medical rehabilitation measures, professional rehabilitation, pensions due to diminished employment capacity, old-age pensions and dependents’ pensions.

Contributions to the statutory pension scheme are deducted directly from an employee's salary. You do not have to worry about paying them yourself. As a rule, the employer is responsible for paying half of the contribution towards pensions, the employee the other half.The employer registers his employee with the respective health insurance provider who then automatically forwards the registration to all the other social security providers.

Recognition of Pension Rights

When examining the prerequisites for entitlement, Member States of the EU or Partners to the Agreement have to recognize periods during which pension rights have been accrued in Germany. Periods during which pension rights have been accrued in countries which do not have a “Sozialversicherungsabkommen” (social security agreement) with Germany may not be added to the German periods in order to fulfil the prerequisites for entitlement.

We strongly recommend that you check if and how these regulations are valid in your home country. If you have been employed in different countries in the course of your working life and have paid contributions to the respective social security systems you should make enquiries about your entitlements with the social security providers in the individual countries well in advance. On principle, it is not foreseen that a single pension, comprising all the periods covered, should be paid by any one country. There are, however, a few exceptions aimed at avoiding mini-pensions.

Your pension scheme contributions will remain valid in every country in which you have been covered and have paid contributions until you have reached pensionable age according to the laws of the respective country. All social security providers award pensions on the basis of their own national legislation. This could mean that you might receive various different pensions.

Pension Contributions Refund

If you return to a country which does not have a social security agreement with Germany you can apply for a refund of the pension contributions you have paid in Germany. After a waiting period of two years, you may apply to the “Deutsche Rentenversicherung” (German statutory pension insurance scheme) for a refund. Visit their website for more information on which contributions can be refunded.

Advice on German Pension Scheme

We recommend contacting the “Deutsche Rentenversicherung” for advice on the pension rights that you have accrued in Germany and potential refunds of said contributions at the very latest before you leave Germany.

The Welcome Centre is pleased to arrange an appointment for you with an adviser from the German statutory pension scheme.


Deutsche Rentenversicherung
Service Center
Rabinstr. 6
531113 Bonn

Phone: +49 (0)228 2808-01
E-mail: service-zentrum.bonn[at]drv-rheinland.de

Occupational Pensions

As an employee of the University of Bonn you will generally be included in the statutory “Versorgungsanstalt des Bundes und der Länder” (Pension Institution of the Federal Republic and the Länder, VBL). VBL provides occupational pensions. The contributions to be paid by employees under the statutory scheme are fixed at a certain percentage. If you are employed at the university on a short-term academic contract you can be exempted from the VBL’s statutory insurance scheme. However, your employer would then have to register you for the VBL’s voluntary insurance scheme. In this case, it is only the employer who pays into the scheme, at a reduced premium. You can apply for exemption at the HR department within two months of starting work.

The VBL will inform you on your occupational pension rights and, if you are insured in the statutory scheme for less than 60 months, on how to claim a refund of your contributions.


Versorgungsanstalt des Bundes und der Länder (VBL)
Hans-Thoma-Str. 19
76133 Karlsruhe

Phone: +49 (0)721 93 98 93 5
E-mail: kundenservice[at]vbl.de

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment Insurance, called “Arbeitslosenversicherung” in German, is part of statutory social insurance. It provides insurance cover for jobless people to ensure that they have a secure income while they are searching for work.

If you worked in Germany before becoming unemployed, were employed subject to statutory social insurance regulations on 360 days in the preceding three years, and are available for recruitment you will normally be entitled to German unemployment benefits. Periods of employment in other EU Member States/EEA States and Switzerland cannot be taken into account.

Unemployment Insurance is deducted directly from employee's salaries. You do not have to worry about paying them yourself. As a rule, the employer is responsible for paying half of the contribution towards unemployment insurance, the employee the other half. The employer registers his employee with the respective health insurance provider who then automatically forwards the registration to all the other social security providers.

To what extent benefits accrued in Germany will be recognized by unemployment insurance providers in other countries must be ascertained in the respective country. If you are returning to a country which does nothave a social security agreement with Germany it will not be possible to receive German unemployment benefits there.

The unemployment insurance provider in Germany is the “Bundesagentur für Arbeit” (German Federal Employment Agency), represented by its local employment agencies.


Agentur für Arbeit Bonn
Villemombler Str. 101
53123 Bonn

Phone: +49 (0)800 4 5555 00
E-mail: Contact Form

Occupational Accident Insurance

Another pillar of statutory social insurance is “Berufsunfallversicherung” (insurance against accidents at work). Every employed person is protected by statutory accident insurance. It covers accidents that happen at the workplace or on the way to and from the workplace. It also covers occupational illness. It does not cover private accidents.

If you do not have accident insurance and have an accident, the costs of treatment will be paid by the health insurance provider. However, after serious accidents the differences begin to emerge. Particularly if expensive rehabilitation measures are required, health insurance providers often refuse to cover the costs for these measures at all, or are only prepared to take on a percentage of the costs.

In contrast to the health insurance providers, the “Berufsgenossenschaften”, (professional or trade associations) which are the providers of statutory accident insurance, usually pay for the treatment and rehabilitation measures, provided that they are medically necessary. In cases of invalidity or death, accident insurance pays an invalidity pension or dependent’s pension.

Employees are entitled to statutory insurance provided by the relevant professional association; contributions are paid by the employer in full.


Unfallkasse Nordrhein-Westfalen
Sankt-Franziskus-Str. 146
40470 Düsseldorf

Phone: +49 (0)211 9024 0
E-mail: info[at]unfallkasse-nrw.de

Nursing Care Insurance

Another element of statutory social security is “Pflegeversicherung” (nursing care insurance). It is directly linked to health insurance coverage and you are automatically enrolled when you sign up for health insurance.

Nursing care insurance is designed for people who are in need of care and dependent on the assistance of others. It provides for domestic and in-patient care.

Contributions to nursing care insurance are deducted directly from an employee’s gross salary. As a rule, the employer pays half of the contributions, the employee the other half. Childless employees pay an additional surcharge of 0.25% of their gross salary.

The employer registers his employee with the respective health insurance provider who then automatically forwards the registration to all the other social security providers.

Information for Fellows (without a work contract)

If your research stay in Bonn is based on a fellowship or financed privately, you are not subject to statutory social insurance. Nevertheless, you are required to have sufficient health insurance coverage that is valid from the very first day of your arrival and is also valid for your entire stay in Germany.

Health Insurance

If your stay in Germany is privately funded or funded by a fellowship, you have no alternative but to take out private health insurance. 

As compared to statutory health insurance providers, contribution rates to providers of private insurance are not dependent on your income level. Relevant factors are your age, job, medical condition and the desired benefits. The more benefits you are seeking, the higher the contribution rates will be.

Doctors and hospitals issue bills to private patients directly. You are required to settle the bills and claim a refund from your health insurance provider. Each family member needs his or her own insurance policy. 

Providers of Private Health Insurance

If you intend to take out private health insurance, you can choose from more than 40 providers.

You can find a list of all providers here: 


Some providers offer specific policies to international researchers and fellows, who only spend a limited period of time in Germany. You can usually obtain these policies online from your home or residence country. Most of the policies presented here also include accident and liability insurance. We are aware of the following providers:

EU Citizens

If you are not employed in Germany and are still paying health insurance contributions in your home country, your insurance will often be recognized in Germany.

For rather short research stays, please ask your health insurance provider in your home country for a "European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)". However, this will only cover emergencies.

For additional coverage, please ask your health insurance provider in your home country for a European S1 form. This form is to be presented at a German statutory health insurance provider of your choice. You are then entitled to all in-kind benefits that are granted according to German regulations, as if you were insured here in Germany.

Accruing costs will be reimbursed by your health insurance provider at home to the selected statutory health insurance provider in Germany. 

For further information, please consult the Welcome Center.


Pension Scheme

As you are not employed at the University of Bonn, you are generally not liable for statutory social insurance payments. In order to avoid gaps in your pension contributions during the fellowship period you can pay voluntary contributions to the “Deutsche Rentenversicherung” (statutory pension scheme).

Occupational Accident Insurance

Fellows enrolled at the University of Bonn are covered by statutory accident insurance. If, however, you are neither enrolled at the university nor have an employment contract, you may not be insured by the university and may have to arrange insurance coverage yourself.

It is, therefore, advisable to find out well in advance whether statutory accident insurance applies to you. If not, we advise you to take out private insurance. Many providers offer combined health, accident and liability insurance.

Information for Public Servants

It is, therefore, advisable to find out well in advance whether statutory accident insurance applies to you. If not, we advise you to take out private insurance. Many providers offer combined health, accident and liability insurance.

Specific Conditions for Public Servants

Public servants are employees who are appointed under the laws governing the employment of public servants in Germany, such as professors. Due to this special employment relationship, particular regulations often apply to this group.

One of the most important differences is that public servants are exempt from statutory social insurance. Instead of the statutory health and nursing care insurance, part of the costs of healthcare, nursing care and births are covered by the so-called “Beihilfe”, which is a type of allowance. Since it is partial payment, it does not cover the costs completely. Consequently, public servants are obliged to take out additional private health and nursing care insurance. Children and marital partners who are not subject to statutory insurance can benefit from “Beihilfe” as well.

If, however, a public servant prefers not to be insured privately or is unable to do so for any reason, such as existing health issues, he or she can join the statutory insurance scheme on a voluntary basis. This entails waiving the right to “Beihilfe”.

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