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The first question, I guess, would be how many years payments minimum must one make in order to receive a German payment in retirement.

I have a friend who worked as self employed for 6 or 7 years in Germany, and paid nothing into the public pension system.

They later had one year working there and paying in to the public system, left and are now back again for another year, which is likely to be the last time that they work in Germany.

Is it possible, as it is in other EU countries, to make voluntary contributions for those "missing years". Perhaps if brought up to some minimal duration, such as 10 years, a pension could be obtained.

However, some of that work was 20 years ago, so maybe it would not be possible.

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The minimum duration for collecting a pension is five years.

It is possible to pay voluntary contributions. However, during the period for which you want to pay, you need to

  • be living in Germany, or
  • be a German citizen, or
  • be living in some other member state of the EEA or in Switzerland after having contributed at least once before, or
  • be a citizen of a EU member state after having contributed at least once before.

It can only be done for the current year or, until March, for the preceding year. Contributing voluntarily in parallel to mandatory contributions is not allowed.

From your description, it seems contributing during those six or seven years would have been possible, but it cannot be done retroactively now. (However, if they raised a child during that time in Germany, that might count as contribution time.) Depending on their citizenship and residence, it may be possible to make payments for those months of 2017 before they started work, and for the future after they leave their current job.

If they do not reach the minimum of five years, they might be entitled to a refund of a part of their mandatory contributions. It’s also possible they can get a (small) pension after all if they have contributed to a similar system in another EEA member state (or several) or in countries that Germany has special agreements with (such as Canada, the US, Tunisia, …). These matters easily get very complicated, though.

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