Resolution on social welfare benefits for citizens of other EU states

A man walks past an Employment Agency in Hamburg.

In future citizens of other EU states will not be eligible to claim benefits under unemployment benefit II for five years

Photo: picture alliance / dpa/ Axel Heimken

The new regulation makes it clear that foreigners from other EU member states who have no right of residence under the provisions of the EU Freedom of Movement Act, will not be eligible to receive basic income support (unemployment benefit II known in German as Arbeitslosengeld II) or social assistance (Sozialhilfe). The same applies to all those who have lost their right of residence.

Currently, anybody entering Germany purely to look for work has no entitlement to benefits under the German unemployment benefit II scheme (Arbeitslosengeld II). Non-German citizens only acquire entitlements to benefits in the relevant benefit system after five years of residence.

"People living here, working here, and paying contributions into the pertinent systems have a legitimate entitlement to receive benefits from the social welfare system," stressed Andrea Nahles, Federal Labour Minister. "But, for people who have never worked here, who are dependent on state financial support in the form of basic income support, the principle is that they must apply for that basic social assistance in their home countries."

Emergency assistance for four weeks only

The new regulations provide for transitional assistance which citizens of EU states who have no entitlement to social welfare benefits can apply for on a one-off basis. The assistance is intended to cover immediate needs (food, accommodation, hygiene and medical care) for a maximum of four weeks. After this period, the individuals are to be eligible to take out a loan to cover the costs of returning to their home country.

Beneficiaries who are fit to work will, after five years, be eligible for basic benefits for job-seekers (in line with Book II of the German Social Code, SGB II), to ensure their basic livelihood and to integrate them into the labour market. The principle is that support will be provided, but the individuals will be expected to do their bit.

Non-German citizens with no entitlement to social assistance will receive one-off reduced transitional benefits for up to one month, to prevent them facing total destitution. They may also take out a loan to cover the costs of returning to their home country.

New regulations necessary

The European Court of Justice has confirmed that excluding EU citizens from entitlement to basic benefits for job-seekers is compatible with European law. The Federal Social Court (Bundessozialgericht) ruled the same way, but decided that after six months residence in Germany there is an entitlement to assistance to ensure a livelihood.

Andrea Nahles reaffirmed that the new regulation strengthens confidence in the European vision and one of its greatest achievements, freedom of movement of workers.

Entry and residence for citizens of EU states

No terms or preconditions are attached to the citizens of EU states entering or residing in any other members state for a period of up to three months. The EU member state citizen must only be in possession of valid identification documents.

Citizens of other EU member states have the right to reside in another state for longer than three months provided one of the following apply:

- They are employed or working in a self-employed capacity in the host member state, or are looking for employment (for a certain period)
- They are entitled to permanent residency (following a legal residence of five years)
- EU citizens who are not gainfully employed, students and trainees must have adequate funds to cover their own living costs and must have health insurance
- Family members of these EU citizens are also entitled to residence irrespective of their nationality.

The underlying philosophy then is that EU citizens wishing to stay in another EU member state for more than three months must generally be able to assure their own livelihood and that of their families.

Working in the European Union

In addition, EU citizens have the right to undertake economic activities in every other member state on an equal footing with citizens of that state, i.e. as employees or self-employed individuals, and to buy or sell services.

Since 1 July 2015, citizens of Croatia too have been able to enjoy the unrestricted freedom of movement of workers. This means that no member states are currently subject to any restrictions on access to the job market.