Who gets Citizen's Income and what do you need to know to apply for it?


Citizen's income provides you and your family with a livelihood - even when things aren't going so well. So that neither the question marks in your head nor the paperwork stop you from getting it, we explain everything you need to know about the topic. Including, of course, the answer to the important question: Who is entitled to Citizen's Income?

The most important information about your civil benefit claim in a nutshell:

A brief summary of everything important from the article.

  • Citizens' allowance is a government benefit that you receive when you don't earn enough money yourself for yourself and your family.
  • In order to receive citizenship benefits, you must meet a number of requirements.
  • Exactly how much citizenship allowance you receive depends on you and your family.
  • You do not automatically receive citizen benefit, but must apply for it.
  • The contact person for your citizenship allowance is the job center in your city or municipality.

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Important terms: What you need to know to understand this article better

Do you know that too? You read a letter or a text from an authority and all you understand is this:

Do you feel the same way? When reading government texts, we often only understand train station...

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In a way, offices and authorities have their very own German. With lots of their own terms that no one else understands. We also have to use some of them in our article so that we can explain the most important information about citizen benefits to you. So that you still understand everything, we'll explain the most important terms to you in advance. Then you can scroll up and read up again at any time.

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Community of needs

Citizens' allowance is made for both individuals and families. However, no family is the same — and no family is like yours.

To ensure that the special features of all families are fairly taken into account when it comes to citizenship benefits, the job center always looks at the community of needs. A pretty formal word for something lively like your family, isn't it?

In your community of needs, there are all the people with whom you live in some way, for whom you take responsibility and who may also take responsibility for you.

The community of needs includes, for example:

  • spouses (if they are not permanently separated)
  • Registered partners of all genders (if they are not permanently separated)
  • Marriage-like communities (i.e. partners who live together but are not married)
  • Children under 15 years of age living in the household
  • Children between 15 and 25 years of age living in the household who are not yet married and who are also able to work but do not yet have enough income for their own livelihoods

The community of needs has a major impact on citizen benefits. It has an influence on whether and how much money you receive.

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social benefit

There are various social benefits in Germany. As a rule, this is financial support that you receive in various cases and under various conditions.

But you don't just get them, you have to apply for them. When applying, your responsible job center will check your entitlement to this social benefit. It can always happen that your application is rejected.

Well-known social benefits include these:

  • Citizens' allowance
  • Parental allowance
  • child support
  • housing benefit
  • social assistance
  • BAföG

Assets that you have saved for your retirement provision are usually not taken into account.

Income includes, for example:

  • Wages and salaries
  • Income from self-employment
  • If you own real estate that you rent out or leased: Rental or lease income
  • upkeep
  • social benefits
  • Interest income (for example from Sparbaum)
  • severance payments (for example from your former employer)

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What is citizen benefit and who receives it?

Sometimes everything in life just goes wrong — even financially. Citizens' allowance is available for exactly such phases of life. It is a social benefit for both individuals and families. It ensures that you have enough money for your home, something to eat and the most important needs, even in bad times.

The idea behind the Bürgergeld is to help you get back on your feet quickly: You should find a suitable job as quickly as possible with which you can provide for yourself and your family. And not just for the transition, but preferably in the long term.

However, you will not only receive citizenship benefits if you don't have a job right now. You also get it if you go to work but your salary is simply not enough to live on.

By the way: You've probably heard of unemployment benefit II, better known as Hartz IV. This social benefit no longer exists — Hartz IV replaced the citizen benefit as of January 1, 2023. Citizens' allowance is not just a new name, but has also brought a number of improvements.

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Who receives citizen benefit?

Citizens' allowance is intended for people who need financial help to live right now. However, there are still a few requirements that you must meet in order to receive citizenship benefits.

The most important are these four that you all must fulfill:

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Prerequisite 1: You are between 15 and 67 years old

To apply for citizenship benefits, you must be at least 15 years old. In addition, you must not yet have reached the legal retirement age of 67 years.

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Prerequisite 2: You live in Germany and can also work here

You will only receive citizenship benefits if you have your permanent residence in Germany and are also staying here. In theory, you must be ready at any time to start a new job near your place of residence or to make an appointment with the authorities.

Of course, that doesn't mean that you can't also drive away for a few days to visit your family, for example. However, if you are away for a longer period of time or are staying abroad, you do not meet this requirement — and are therefore not entitled to citizenship benefits.

If you have just arrived in Germany from another country, you need a work permit to apply for citizenship benefits.

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Prerequisite 3: You are able to work at least 3 hours a day

To receive citizenship benefits, you must be able to work. You would be considered fit for work if you could work at least 3 hours a day.

This is, among other things, a health issue: If you are physically and mentally able to do so, then you are considered fit for work. If you have an illness or disability and can therefore only work less than 3 hours a day or not at all, you are unable to work.

Even if you are still studying or training, you are not considered fit for work. You would be physically and mentally able to work 3 hours a day — but you simply have no time for it.

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Prerequisite 4: You are considered to be in need of help

Admittedly, “in need of help” is a strange word. In fact, it doesn't stand for a single requirement, but for a summary of several small ones that you all must fulfill:

  • Your income and wealth are not enough to pay the most necessary living expenses.
  • You receive no or not enough maintenance or support from other people.
  • You don't get any or not enough other social benefits. However, there is one or the other special regulation here.

As you can see, there are lots of details that you need to consider. Things get a bit complicated, especially when it comes to other social benefits. That is why we would like to explain this point to you in more detail:

You will only receive the citizen benefit if all other social benefits are still insufficient to finance your living expenses.

You must therefore first apply for all other social benefits that are possible for you. Only then does the citizen benefit come into question. The child allowance and housing benefit are exceptions. If you can cover all costs for three months in a row with child allowance and housing benefit, it has priority over citizen benefit. Otherwise, you can apply for citizenship benefits directly.

By the way: Your wealth also determines whether you are considered in need of help. Finally, you can also use your savings to make a living. But here too, there are some special features that you need to consider. You can find out what this is in the section “How income and wealth affect your civil benefit claim.”

Quite a lot of details, isn't it? But don't worry: You don't have to rummage through it alone. When you apply for your citizenship allowance, the staff of the job center will advise you so that you can't do anything wrong.

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Special feature: You live in a community of needs

If you are not considered fit for work, you may still be entitled to citizenship benefits.

If your partner in your community of needs is entitled to citizenship benefits, you may still be able to apply for citizenship benefits. It is best to get individual advice on this.

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Special feature: You have a disability but can work

If you have an illness or a disability and are therefore unable to work, you are unable to work. As a result, you are not entitled to citizenship benefits.

However, if you have a disability that still allows you to work at least 3 hours a day, you are considered fit for work. In this case, you are entitled to citizen benefit — and you even receive up to 35% more citizen benefit so that you can optimally prepare yourself for your work.

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Are pensioners entitled to citizen benefits?

If you already receive a pension, you are no longer considered fit for work. This means that as a pensioner, you are not entitled to citizen benefits.

However, if your pension is not enough to cover your living expenses, you are still not alone. Because then you have the right to basic legal security.

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Are students eligible for citizenship benefits?

If you are studying or are still in training, you only have a small monthly income. It's completely normal. Often they are not even enough to make a living from them. However, you are still not entitled to citizenship benefits. After all, you're not employable — even if you were to get a great job offer, you wouldn't be able to accept it.

Students therefore have other options for financing their living expenses. If you are still studying or in training, you are generally still entitled to support from your parents. If that is not enough, you can apply for BAföG. That is why students without BAföG entitlement also apply when it comes to citizenship benefits: The application is very likely to be rejected.

Of course, there are also exceptions. As a result, some students also receive citizenship benefits. The best way to find out whether your case is such an exception is through a personal consultation with the job center in your place of residence.

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Education is clearly the focus of citizenship benefits - provided that you are available on the job market. This does not apply to students. That is why there is no citizen benefit for students without BAföG entitlement.

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Are people with foreign citizenship entitled to citizenship benefits?

You don't need German citizenship to receive citizenship benefits. Even if you have just come to Germany, you can apply for citizenship benefits. However, there is then one more requirement in addition to the four requirements: You need permission to live and work in Germany.

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Attention: You can also lose your entitlement to citizenship benefits

If you meet all requirements, you can apply for citizenship benefits. But beware: Just because you get it once doesn't mean it'll stay that way. Because as soon as your requirements change, you can lose your claim.

The prerequisite for citizenship benefits is always that you could accept a new job at any time. If this is no longer possible, you also lose your right to it. This is the case, for example, if you go abroad for a while, if you are in hospital for a long time or go to the prison system. And, of course, when you've found a new job.

By the way: Even if you suddenly have more wealth, you can lose your right to citizenship benefits as a result. For example, because you inherited or won something.

It is important that you always deal honestly with your requirements. If something changes, you shouldn't even try to hide it. That would be fraud — and honestly: you won't get away with it in the long run anyway.

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The amount of citizen benefit: this is how much money do you get

In principle, the citizen benefit is paid out in a lump sum at so-called standard rates. This means that everyone basically receives the same amount. But since every person and every family has individual requirements, the sum that you are ultimately entitled to is still made up individually. In doing so, the Office takes into account the following factors:

  1. Your community of needs
  2. Your income
  3. Your fortune
  4. Your apartment
  5. Special challenges that you are currently facing

In practice, this means:

You are entitled to a lump sum for yourself and for the people in your community of needs in accordance with the standard rate. There are also the costs for your apartment. Your income and wealth are deducted if they exceed certain allowances. You'll find out what that means in a moment.

The standard rates per person are currently (2023) the following monthly amounts. Since lawmakers expect an increase in standard rates of 6% to 8% for 2024, you can also find the estimated standard rates for 2024:

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Wer kann wie viel Bürgergeld bekommen? Die Regelsätze für 2023 und 2024 (bei einer Steigerung von 8 %) siehst du hier
Who can receive how much citizen benefit? The standard rates for 2023 and 2024 (with an increase of 8%) can be found here.

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Housing costs: This is covered

In addition to the standard rate, you get money for the costs of your apartment — regardless of whether you live in a rented apartment, your own house or a condominium.

All costs associated with the apartment are covered. In the case of a rented apartment, this includes rent; in the case of property tax, residential building insurance, maintenance or mortgages, for example. You will also receive citizen benefits for usual ancillary costs such as street cleaning, garbage collection, etc., as well as for heating costs. In short, for everything you need to live.

However, there is of course a requirement for this: Your housing costs must be reasonable. This means that you are not living beyond your means — your apartment is reasonably large and you heat sparingly.

But what exactly is appropriate now?

As far as the size is concerned, there are precise requirements: If you live alone, your rental apartment may be 45 square meters in size. For every additional person and child in your community of needs, 15 square meters are added.

If you have property, you are entitled to a little more:

In a single-family house:

  • 140 square meters for 1 to 4 people
  • 160 square meters for 5 people
  • 180 square meters for 6 people
  • 20 square meters for each additional person

In the condominium:

  • 80 square meters for 1 to 2 people
  • 100 square meters for 3 people
  • 130 square meters for 4 people
  • 150 square meters for 5 people
  • 170 square meters for 6 people
  • 20 square meters for each additional person

Whether rental and ancillary costs are reasonable is decided by the average. After all, the costs vary in every area. But don't worry: you don't have to find out for yourself. Your responsible job center will check your housing costs and inform you whether they are reasonable.

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What happens if housing costs are too high?

In the worst case, the competent authority may ask you to move. This is always the case when your housing costs are simply too high compared to the average. Then it would be unfair to other people to cover your housing costs in full. If you want to cover your housing costs, you'll have to move to a cheaper apartment.

But don't worry: It doesn't just happen. Citizens' allowance gives you one year. This is the so-called waiting year. In this first year, your housing costs are simply covered without an examination. So you have time to find a new job that allows you to comfortably afford your home again.

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Is everything different with you? Then you are entitled to more citizen benefits!

No family is the same — which is why every family also receives individual citizenship benefits. If you are currently facing special challenges and need more money than usual, you will also get more money.

That is for example possible in these cases:

  • You are expecting a child and are already at least 13 weeks pregnant.
  • You are a single parent of a minor child.
  • Children with disabilities live in your community of needs.
  • One or more of your children need a special diet for medical reasons.
  • You have to move and you need money for the renovation or moving helpers.
  • Your child's school class is going on a school trip — your child should go with you, of course!

As you can see, the Bürgergeld always supports you individually, depending on your life situation. It is therefore important to provide all information truthfully in the application. Denn Only if the job center knows your situation can it really help you. In practice, however, you always have a personal contact person who will advise and help you.

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Special situations such as pregnancy usually also result in high costs. But don't worry, you're not alone: You can apply for a citizen benefit subsidy.

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Professional education bonus

The idea behind Bürgergeld is to find a really good job for you. That's why it's not about simply getting you any job as quickly as possible. But one where you can work long hours.

In return, the Bürgergeld allows you to continue your education or even complete an apprenticeship or retraining.

Since 01.07.2023, the second stage of civil benefit has come into force for this purpose. For you, this means:

Personal advice is really about you. Your contact person will determine your personal skills and create an individual cooperation plan for you. It includes educational measures that will prepare you step by step for your perfect job. This plan is updated every 6 months so you can really get ahead.

If you implement the agreed measures from the cooperation plan and train yourself professionally, you will receive even more money. You then have a monthly Continuing education allowance of 150€ And a Citizen benefit bonus of 75€ to.

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This is how income and wealth affect your civil benefit claim

You probably already know it: If you have income or assets, it will be counted against your civil benefit claim. That means you get less money. After all, you can use your income and wealth to make a living.

However, you have a decent buffer when it comes to citizenship benefits — both in terms of time and money. In the first year after your citizen benefit application, you may have up to 40,000€ in assets, all other people in your community of need up to 15,000€. After the first year, each of you can have 15,000€ in assets. If you or someone from your community of needs has more wealth, you must first use it up for your living expenses before you receive citizenship benefits.

You also have a buffer when it comes to income. This means that you can easily earn extra money — and still receive citizen benefits.

The allowance for this is €100 per month. So you can earn up to €100 a month and still receive the same amount of citizen benefit. If you earn more, you get less citizen benefits.

How much less depends on your income. The more you earn, the less citizen benefit you get. Calculating how much citizen benefit and how much income is a bit tricky. Because there are different income levels that build on each other — in each of them, you have an allowance that is not deducted from your citizen benefit.

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Wenn du ein Einkommen hast, wird davon etwas von deinem Bürgergeld abgezogen. Die Berechnung ist allerdings ein bisschen knifflig.
If you have an income, some of it will be deducted from your citizen benefit. The calculation is a bit tricky though.

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The citizen benefit calculator: It's that easy to calculate your civil benefit claim

You are probably now curious how much citizen benefit you are entitled to. Don't worry, you don't have to start calculating yourself. That would also be far too complicated with all the special features, allowances and conditions. Instead of pulling out the pencil, you can simply use a free citizen benefit calculator.

There are various providers who provide you with such a computer free of charge on the Internet, for example this.

Important: The result of free citizen benefit calculators is only ever an initial assessment. It is best to get advice from your personal contact at your responsible job center to find out the exact amount.

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How to file your application for citizen benefit

The application for citizen benefit should be as simple as possible — at least that is the legislature's plan. Of course, such government matters are always somewhat complicated. Therefore, take enough time to process the application and don't try to do it while brushing your teeth.

In principle, you can submit your application for citizen benefit informally. This means that you can do it online, in person at your job center, by telephone or in writing. But the easiest way is to use the employment agency's online process. There, your application will be forwarded directly to your responsible job center and you won't be able to forget anything.

Click here for the application

Important: The employment agency process requires that you only get a consultation appointment with your job center at the very end of your application process. If you have any questions or are stuck, you can of course contact your job center beforehand. The contact details of your job center can usually be found on their website.

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From when do you get citizen benefits?

You will receive citizenship benefits if you meet all requirements and your application has been approved. Your application is valid from the first of the month in which you submitted the application.

Important: It can take a while until your application has been processed and you receive your citizenship allowance paid out. By law, the job center has up to 6 months to process your application. Therefore, make sure to apply for your citizen benefit early on.

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Check your civil benefit claim: This is what you can do if your application is rejected

After you have submitted the application, the job center will check your details. It may happen that they reject your request because you do not meet all requirements.

If your application is rejected, you have one month to file an appeal. The best way to do this is in writing by post by sending your objection as a registered letter to the job center. In the dispute, you refer to the notice you received and explain where the errors were in the review of your application. For example, you may have forgotten important information.

Important: Your objection should include all important information about yourself so that the job center can also assign it to your application. If you are not sure how to write the objection, it is best to ask the job center again in person.

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Our motto when it comes to citizen benefits: Ask questions. Of course, this also applies if you have to file an objection against a notice. Just ask the job center staff again for help.

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You have these obligations if you receive citizen benefit

If you receive citizenship benefits, this also entails a few obligations for you, of course.

The most important duty is: You must be ready to take up a suitable job at any time. Appropriate means that you are physically and mentally able to do the work and that there is no other important reason not to do so. If there is really a good reason why you can't accept the job, you absolutely need to tell your contact person that.

Another important duty is that you keeps your promises and actually shows up on agreed dates.

The bottom line is that it is simply important that you work closely with your job center. The employees there want to help you get your life back on track — with a good job and enough money to live on. Of course, this is only possible if you also talk to them and get involved with their help.

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This is what you can expect if you violate your duties

If you do not comply with the agreements, it will have consequences for you. In concrete terms, this means:

  • The first time you get 10% less citizen benefit for a month
  • The second time, you will receive 20% less citizen benefit for two months
  • The third time, you will receive 30% less citizen benefit for three months

However, this only applies to your standard rate and possible allowances, not the money you receive for your apartment and ancillary costs. Because as a reminder, the authorities want to help you. They don't want to annoy you. And certainly not that you're losing your home.

Classic violations of civil benefits include, for example, these:

  • You have an appointment at the job center, but you're not going there.
  • You get a great job offer, but you don't accept it — without giving an important reason why.
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For your children: Get citizen's allowance and manage your pocket money wisely

Admittedly, big leaps are not possible while receiving citizen benefits. But your kids can learn a lot from this — if you bring them on board early on.

What costs how much? How much can I buy with my pocket money? And how much money do you actually spend in a month? Your children learn all this and more with the Blingcard. You send pocket money conveniently via app, distribute tasks and encourage your child to save money. And together, you always have an overview of how much money your child is spending or saving.

This is how you get your kids ready for a money-wise future!

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