Applying for social benefits: the required documents and contact information

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If you have been granted a residence permit by the LEA, you are entitled to apply to the Job Centre for social benefits. If you are registered in Berlin, you are entitled to receive benefits provisionally from the Social Welfare Office until the benefits are approved by the Job Centre. The social benefits include payments for standard needs, accommodation and heating costs as well as health insurance and other necessities.

People who are fit to work, i.e. their ability to work is not impaired due to age or illness, receive their social benefits from the Job Centre provided they have already received a residence permit or a temporary residence permit. All other refugees receive their benefits from the Social Welfare Office.

Important note: Due to a change in the law, new regulations will apply from 1 June 2022. The following text describes the standard procedures according to which refugees will apply for new social benefits as of 1 June 2022. Information for refugees who applied for their benefits before June as well as further transitional rules can be found here.

Application for social benefits: Requirements

To apply for social benefits in Berlin, you must be registered in Berlin and have submitted the online application for a residence permit.

Once you have been registered in Berlin and have submitted the online application for a residence permit, you can apply for benefits for the transitional period to the Social Welfare Office under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz)

After you receive your residence permit or temporary residence permit (green folding card or white temporary residence permit) from the LEA, you will be entitled to higher benefits. Depending on your situation, it may be necessary to make further applications to the Job Centre or the Social Welfare Office.

Applying to the Social Welfare Office or Job Centre

Depending on your individual situation, various offices are responsible for your initial application for social benefits:

Application to the Social Welfare Office for benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act

You must apply for social benefits in person at the relevant social welfare office. Please bring the following documents with you so that the application process can run as smoothly as possible:
  • Completed application for benefits in accordance with refugees benefit legislation(AsylBG) including the required proof. Application in German (PDF). Application in German with Ukrainian translation (PDF). Families only need to make one application.
  • Identification document: passport or identity document
  • Proof that you can stay in Berlin. This is an allocation from the state office for refugee affairs (LAF) for Berlin (you will receive this if you have been assigned to the federal state of Berlin in the allocation process at the Arrival Centre in Tegel)
  • Two passport photos per person
  • Birth certificate of children

Contact information of the Berlin social welfare offices concerning applying for benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act

In some districts, the social welfare offices have set up special contact points or extended office hours for refugees from Ukraine. Please note that due to the high number of refugees, there may be long waiting times. Please contact your social welfare office as early as possible.

Please note: The following office hours and contact details only apply to applications for social benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. The social welfare office in the district where you currently live is responsible for you:

Information for pensioners

If you have reached the German retirement age, you can apply for your social benefits (Grundsicherung) directly at the Social Welfare Office. If you are not able to work but have not yet reached German retirement age, first register with the Job Center. There they will check which office is responsible for you.

The German retirement age is between 65 and 67 years and depends, among other things, on the year of your birth:

Year of birth Retirement age
Before 1947 65 years
1947 65 years and one month
1948 65 years and two months
1949 65 years and three months
1950 65 years and four months
1951 65 years and five months
1952 65 years and six months
1953 65 years and seven months
1954 65 years and eight months
1955 65 years and nine months
1956 65 years and ten months
1957 65 years and eleven months
1958 66 years
1959 66 years and two months
1960 66 years and four months
1961 66 years and six months
1962 66 years and eight months
1963 66 years and ten months
From 1964 67 years

In addition, there are exceptions, for example for severely disabled people. Therefore, in case of doubt, you should always have your case checked at the Job Center. In Germany, you are only entitled to a pension if you have reached retirement age and have paid contributions to the German pension fund for at least five years.

Paying your accommodation costs: Conditions and suitability of rents for flats

The Social Welfare Office can pay the costs of accommodation, heating, household energy, furnishings and housing maintenance if certain conditions are met:

  • You need a legally valid tenancy agreement or subtenancy agreement.
  • The rent costs must be reasonable and not too high. Guideline entitlements must be adhered to.
  • The living space must not be overcrowded. A certain number of square metres per person is specified.

Before signing a (sub)tenancy agreement, it is advisable to have its suitability checked by the relevant social welfare office. Use this form (PDF, German) for the check.

Below you will find a brief overview of the most important guidelines on the suitability of housing costs. You can find more detailed information here.

Suitability of rental costs

Depending on how many people move into a flat, the gross basic rent not including heating costs must not exceed certain guideline entitlements. See the table of the guideline entitlements here.

The number of persons within a household is relevant at this point. This means that you are regarded as one unit with other persons with regard to your claims under social law. Your household includes yourself, your spouse or partner and your underage children. Adult children form their own household. If several households move into a flat together, for example a mother with a minor and an adult child (2 households), the respective entitlements are added together.

If you are renting a flat in Germany for the first time, you are considered homeless. In this case, the entitlements can be exceeded by 20 percent. For single parents, pregnant women, people over 60 and in other special cases, the entitlements can be exceeded by a further 10 percent.

Adequacy of the flat size

In order for housing costs to be covered, the living quarters must comply with certain minimum sizes. If you rent an entire flat, there must be at least 9 square metres of living space for each person. For children under six years of age, a minimum living space of 6 square metres is required. The areas of other rooms such as kitchen, hallway and toilet are included in the calculation. If you rent individual rooms (subtenancy agreement), the minimum living space per person must be 6 square metres (4 square metres for children under 6), whereby other rooms are not counted in this case.

Further information