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I searched the unemployment questions and didn't find anything quite like what I'm asking, so here goes.

I am a non-EU citizen (American, if that matters), and I moved to Germany with my German partner (not married) to live and work. I have been employed on a term-limited contract since I moved here, which entitled me to a temporary residence permit. This permit was tied to my current employment and was set to end at the same time as my current contract, but I will have been paying into the unemployment insurance scheme for just shy (2 weeks) of 3 years when my contract ends. I will know in a month or so whether or not I get a 1-year extension to my work contract, so I would be able to register as seeking work three months before my contract and residence permit end.

I am assuming that I will not get an extension to my residence permit if I don't get a contract extension, so what I'm wondering is how I would be able to claim for the benefits I've paid since I've been here.

  • Would I be able to apply for a Job Seeker visa and then claim unemployment for that time?
  • If my partner and I marry before my contract and permit end, would I be able to change to a permit that would then entitle me to claim the benefits that I've paid?

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The official site lists the requirements for Arbeitslosengeld:

  • You were employed and payed into the insurance for at least 12 of the last 30 months. ✓

  • You notified the Amt well in advance (for limited contracts that expire it's 3 months I think) ✓

  • You are actively cooperating with the Amt and looking for employment. ✓

  • You are unemployed but could take up employment

Now, the last one is tricky. Technically, you don't have a work permit when your contract runs out. You could get one if you got a job. Seems like a catch-22 that you need an employment lawyer to answer.

If you were to marry a German citizen and subsequently apply for Familienzusammenführung ("family reunion"), you will be granted first a temporary residence permit for 3 years and if you don't commit any major crimes in that time, you will be granted a permanent residence permit thereafter. Residence permits by default include unrestricted working permits. Since you are a US citizen, you do not need to go back to your home country and apply from the embassy there, you can do it by just walking in the German Ausländerbehörde here. Please note that "walking in" was maybe kind of an euphemism from ten years ago, you need to make an appointment nowadays. You will need a lot of authorized, notarized, apostilled, certified translated documents to marry and German Amts are pretty strict in that regard. If you don't have those documents yet, go get them. Three months is a tight timetable for this. The US operates on the principle of "we trust you, you can marry, we will punish you later if we find out made false claims" but Germany is one of those "we don't trust you, prove everything you just said or we won't let you marry" countries. Prepare for paperwork.

That said, me not being a lawyer, you should be able to get Arbeitslosengeld when you are married and then got your permanent residence permit. You might need a lawyer to get it though, since people working at Amts are really not good at fringe edge cases like yours will be and they are not lawyers either. You being right does not automatically mean the person that gets your application agrees with you without a lawyer paid by you telling them that you are in fact correct. Again... prepare for paperwork. I think that should be our state motto. Germany - "Prepare for paperwork".

So to summarize:

Whether you are eligible for unemployment benefits depends on your work permit after your contract ends. I could see a case in your favor since getting a job would mean getting a permit, but I could also see it through the eyes of buerocracy, where if you don't have a permit to copy and file right now, you won't get benefits. This is lawyer territory.

Marrying would solve that problem, but it is complicated in Germany. At least compared to the US. And after that you still need to apply for family reunion and while that is guaranteed to be granted in your case, it will take time, too. So if you aren't very very good at interacting with the German buerocracy or have lead a very, very simple life up to now that needs very little paperwork, three months might simply not be enough time to actually do all that.

As far as the job seeker visa goes... to be honest I don't know and I could not find anything about it. I would assume it's the same fringe edge case I talked about before where technically you might be correct about the law, but I would expect the Amt to deny you at first. A job seeker visa requires you to show enough funds to support yourself, so I don't think it's meant to be used to get money from the government.

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  • Do you need to be married in Germany? In an other EU country (the Netherlands) there are several other options to be counted 'same as married' but I do not know details in work visa and unemployment benefits.
    – Willeke
    Mar 25 at 12:17
  • Marriage has nothing to do with unemployment benefits (children might though) but the work permit is coupled to the family reunion visa. While "same as married" exists, that is a law that is supposed to empower relationships that would be illegal (and therefore not certified or provable) in other countries. For example a same-sex couple from a super religious country that doesn't allow same sex marriages. They would fall under "other, same as marriage", because they could not possibly have a marriage certificate from their home country.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 25 at 12:23
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    That said, if marriage is an option for you, Germany does accept all marriages. Instead of fighting the German buerocracy for months, you could just fly to the US, take the 48h waiting period, marry there and come back and have your existing US marriage certified here. All you need is an apostille and a certified translation. You could also marry in any other EU country, I just don't know their requirements, it might be worse going through the paperwork if it's neither English nor German.
    – nvoigt
    Mar 25 at 12:27
  • Thanks, this was helpful. I suspect that you're correct on all counts, but I must admit this seems like something that could be challenged in the court. I find it strange that you could be required to pay money for an insurance that you're not capable of claiming (because of their own regulations) when the circumstance arises that you need it.
    – N Glynn
    Mar 26 at 12:49
  • Remember that you might have problems with getting a permanent residence permit or citizenship if you apply for social welfare. This is seen as a bad point for the application.
    – quantum
    Apr 3 at 9:45

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