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The German social security system is a statutory insurance system that includes provisions for health, retirement, unemployment, accident, and long-term care insurance. All persons who have their domicile or habitual residence in Germany can participate in it. The social security obligation may not apply if you are staying in Germany on a scholarship or are paying for your stay yourself.

If you have an employment contract, you are obliged to participate in all social insurance schemes. Please refer to the Euraxess information portal to find out what this means for your stay in particular.


Overview of Types of Insurance

Health Insurance

A health insurance policy protects you from having to pay the high costs of medical treatment and medication out of pocket if you have an accident or get sick. It is mandatory in Germany and usually you will have to prove that you have it when you apply for a visa.

A travel health insurance is usually sufficient for entry into Germany, but for your stay here you must get health insurance that is recognized in Germany. If you come from an EU country, you should clarify whether you can continue to use your existing insurance from your home country during your stay in Germany. If this is not the case or if you come from a country outside the EU, you should work on getting health insurance early on. Most German health insurance companies allow you to already apply from abroad.

In Germany, there are both private and statutory health insurance companies. Whether you have to take out private or statutory insurance usually depends on whether you are employed in Germany or finance your stay otherwise, for example through a scholarship, your home university, or your own funds. Use the Euraxess information portal to find out more about Health insurance. There you will also find lists of statutory and private health insurance companies with the corresponding contact details.

Important information regarding private health insurance

If you acquire private health insurance, please keep in mind the following:

  • Most insurance policies must be taken out within a period of seven days of having entered into Germany. Insurance cover does not begin until the insurance contract has been concluded and the first premium has been paid. You must get the insurance company's confirmation of admission before you can claim benefits.
  • Premiums are set on a graduated scale according to age. Premiums are almost always considerably higher for women than for men.
  • By reading the insurance conditions you can better compare companies' services and premiums. They will likely differ considerably!
  • Some insurance benefits may be excluded! This generally refers to tooth replacement, glasses, psychotherapy, pregnancy and birth. In a worst case scenario, you may be faced with very high costs!
  • Some insurance companies have waiting periods for certain treatments.
  • Treatment for pre-existing conditions is usually excluded.
  • Here you will find an overview on the topic of private health insurance for international PhDs and researchers with scholarships or self-funding.

Some insurance companies have information available in English and possibly other languages as well.

DAAD insurance package

The Insurance Office of the German Academic Exchange Service, DAAD for short, offers a combined health, accident, and personal liability insurance package for international DAAD scholarship recipients as well as international students with scholarships from national and international partner organizations - among others DFG, endowments, German-French University. Detailed information about the conditions and costs as well as lists of partner institutions and application forms are available on the DAAD website.

Accident Insurance

If you are enrolled as a doctoral student or employed as a research assistant, you are insured against accidents during your studies or during your employment at the institute. Accidents that happen during leisure time, however, are not covered by RWTH accident insurance. If you have an accident, you must immediately report it to RWTH.

Scholarship holders who are insured under the DAAD group contract must report any claims immediately to the DAAD Insurance Office.

If you are neither enrolled in nor employed by RWTH Aachen University, you should definitely look into getting accident insurance. There are combined insurance packages that include accident insurance in addition to health and liability insurance.

Retirement Scheme

In Germany, the pension system consists of three parts: state, company and supplementary private pensions. General information on the German pension system can be found on the website of Euraxess.

The statutory health insurance company you have chosen applies for your social security number and then informs the pension scheme, long-term care, and unemployment insurance bodies. The contributions are deducted directly from your gross salary. Scholarship holders are normally exempt from social security, with the exception of health insurance. However, it is possible to take out voluntary pension insurance for the duration of the scholarship.

Liability Insurance

It is not a statutory part of the social security system, but having liability insurance is highly recommended nevertheless. If another person or their property is damaged by your actions, this insurance will compensate them. If you are not covered by liability insurance and accidentally happen to cause damage to persons or their property, you may be stuck with lifelong payment obligations.

No liability insurance covers all risks. Some types of liability insurance are required by law: For example, all those who drive their car or motorcycle on public roads must have motor vehicle liability insurance, or Kfz-Haftpflichtversicherung.

Long-Term Care Insurance

In Germany, long-term care insurance is part of social security payments and serves to cover the risk of needing long-term care. All residents with statutory health insurance are automatically also covered by social long-term care insurance. A separate application for social long-term care insurance is, therefore, not required. Those with private health insurance, however, must take out private long-term care insurance.

Social long-term care insurance benefits are financed by contributions that are largely shared between the employee and the employer. When and which benefits those in need of long-term care receive from the insurance in the event of a need for long-term care depends on the duration of the need for care, the degree of care, and the type of care.

You can also use the EURAXESS information portal to find out more about long-term care insurance.

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance is part of the German social security system, protecting insured individuals against the risk of loss of income due to unemployment. If you are employed in Germany and pay social insurance contributions, you are automatically registered for unemployment insurance. Contributions are deducted directly from your salary; you pay half of the contribution, while your employer pays the other half.

Unemployment insurance finances unemployment benefits, which are paid to insured individuals in the event of unemployment. Your entitlement, amount, and duration of the unemployment benefits usually depend on whether and how long you were insured under the unemployment insurance scheme. As a rule, you are entitled to unemployment benefits if you were insured for at least 12 months in the previous 30 months and are registered as unemployed at the Employment Agency.

Use the EURAXESS information portal to find out more about unemployment insurance.