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South Africans in Germany

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Homepage of the Deutsche Rentenversicherung

Information about the German state pension scheme can be found on their homepage for foreign languages. The German site has a lot more information. To make use of their online services, your Residence card must be activated for online use.

How to apply for a Social Security number?

Your Social Security number is used as identification for health insurance (public), pension, long-term care, and unemployment insurance. 
You can get this number in different ways, depending on your situation.

  • Public Health Insurance – You receive your number automatically when you first sign-up for public health insurance in Germany. If you are on private health insurance, you need to request it manually at your local Rentenversicherung office.
  • Employer – your employer might offer to apply for a social security number for you through their payroll system
  • The German Pension Office – You can personally contact the Deutsche Rentenversicherung, either online or by visiting their offices 
  • Your Insurance Broker – As your broker for assistance

You can detailed information on the GRV Website(in German)

Your social security card (Sozialversicherungsausweis) is a very important document which you must keep safe. You will also need it when applying for social benefits e.g unemployment benefits

Statutory Pension / die gesetzliche Rentenversicherung (GRV)

The state scheme is financed by a payroll tax known as “social security contributions”.
Premiums are deducted by the employer, who normally pays half of the contribution.
Those currently paying into the system are funding the current pensioners.
Self-employed are allowed to contribute to the GRV.
If you have worked and paid contributions in Germany for more than 60 months, you will receive a German pension after reaching the official German pensionable age.
In addition to the periods of contributory employment, many other periods are considered, including:

  • Child-rearing (until three years of age)
  • Child raising period (up until 10 years of age)
  • Schooling and university after the age of 17
  • Training periods
  • Times of illness and unemployment (Please register with the Arbeitsagentur if you are unemployed or looking for work as these will count towards the qualifying periods. Consider doing this as soon as you arrive and Germany and do not have employment yet, for example spouses)
  • Times caring for relatives

 “You should clarify your account at an early stage in order to fill in any gaps such as times spent at school, college or university. Periods of occupational training, pregnancy (incl. Mutterschutz), when you were registered unfit for work or unemployed are also registered. After clarifying your account you will have a gap-free “curriculum vitae” in the German compulsory pension insurance system. The earlier you clarify your account, the more “precise” the results of your pension information will be and this forms the basis for your personal pension plan.”

If you worked in Germany for less than 60 months, you are entitled to a refund of your own contributions.
The company contributions are forfeited.
Early retirement is possible if you are willing to forgo a percentage of your GRV.

Company pension / betriebliche Altersvorsorge

This is a voluntary pension scheme in addition to the GRV. The company you work for might have a pension scheme and if so, usually pay a part of your contributions.
There are five different schemes available. These are direct grants, support funds, direct insurance, pension companies and pension funds.
Contributions are tax-free up to a certain amount.

Private Pension / private Altersvorsorge

These schemes are entirely private and funded by the individual.
The Riester pension scheme was introduced in 2002 and can be used to top up your GRV contributions. Only those contributing to the GRV are eligible for the Riester pension scheme.
The Rürup Pension plan was introduced in 2005 and is for those not contributing towards the GRV.
There are many private pension providers. A financial advisor can assist in choosing the best one for you.


Social security card der sozialversicherungsausweis
Pension scheme die Rentenversicherung / die Altersvorsorge
Statutory pension scheme die gesetzliche Rentenversicherung
Private pension scheme die private Rentenversicherung
Pensioner der Rentner / die Rentnerin
Direct Grant die Direktzusage
Support Fund die Unterstützungskasse
Pension Company die Pensionskasse
Direct Insurance die Direktversicherung

Witwe(r) Rente/Pension for your dependents

The Deutsche Renteversicerung pays out a pension to your spouse and children in the event of your death and if certain conditions are met. For more information visit their website. This article is in English. It is important to note that they distinguish between Kleine and Große Rente.

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