Having a job in Germany will result in you paying various forms of social security contributions. These are automatically deducted from your monthly payslip.

If you’re self-employed, then social security in Germany works somewhat differently – see below.

In case you ever need to claim any type of welfare, including claiming your pension when you retire, then you’ll need to know your social security ID.

In German, you might hear this referred to as the Versicherungsnummer (insurance number), or Sozialversicherungsnummer (social insurance number). But don’t be confused –  these two terms refer to the same thing.

Obtaining this can be one of the more confusing tasks on your administrative to-do list in the case that your employer doesn’t automatically enrol you. 

This is because the exact steps required vary based on your circumstances, healthcare choices, and type of employment.

We’ll explain what the German social security ID is, explain how to get it, and share some advice for if you’re struggling to get hold of yours.



Your German Social Security ID, and where to find it 


German social security ID

What is the German social security ID? 

The Versicherungsnummer is a document provided by the German pensions office, which shows that you’re a member of the German social security system.

It proves that you contribute to statutory insurances like health insurance, or pension insurance.

Your Versicherungsnummer includes a number used to identify you within the system. This number is issued only once per lifetime, so if you’ve lived or worked in Germany before, your social security number will be the same.

You’ll need this number for tasks such as claiming any state benefits, starting a new job, or claiming a pension when you retire from work.


How do I get my social security ID? 

This is where things can differ, depending on your circumstances.

Let’s look at the different paths to obtaining your social security ID, starting with the easiest, and thankfully most common option.

Get your Versicherungsnummer via your employer 

In the vast majority of cases, once you start a job in Germany, your employer will enrol you in the social security system. This is necessary for them to begin working out various tax-related deductions from your payslip.

Once your employer has done this, your Versicherungsnummer will be issued to you automatically. It should then arrive by post some time in the next month or so.

If six weeks goes by and you’ve still not received this letter in the post, check back with your employer to make sure there are no issues holding things up.


What if my employer wants me to apply for a social security ID myself? 

Fortunately, this is relatively uncommon. But sometimes an employer will want to know your Versicherungsnummer before you begin work.

This may seem like a frustratingly impossible chicken-and-egg situation, but don’t worry. There are plenty of ways to solve this problem, which we’ll explore below.


Get your Versicherungsnummer via health insurance 

If you need your social security ID and have not been enrolled by your employer, then applying for health insurance could be the fastest route for you.

Much like starting a job, signing up for statutory health insurance in Germany also enters you into the social security system.

So once you’ve applied for health insurance, you can contact your provider by phone and ask them to send your social security to your address (this will need to be the address you registered with when completing your Anmeldung).

Be advised that not all health insurance providers will be willing to do this, and that not all providers have English-speaking customer service. We cover more English-language friendly health insurers here.

What about private health insurance? 

This method won’t work with private health insurance providers.

If you need your Versicherungsnummer but you can’t get it via your employer, and you’ve never had statutory health insurance in Germany, then the process is a little more long-winded.

You’ll need to make an appointment at your local pension office, or Rentenversicherung. You can book this via an English-language hotline, with the number 0800 1000 480 70. Calls are free from German landlines.

Take your passport (including any residence permit documentation if you’re a non-EU citizen) to the pension office for your appointment. Then, having checked over your documents, they should be able to give you your social security ID there and then.


Finding your social security ID on official documents 

Your Versicherungsnummer is displayed on various pieces of official documentation.

It can be found on your payslips, and also on your annual statement of pension payments (Jahresmeldung). If you have these and you’re struggling to find which number is your social security ID, you could ask for assistance from your HR department at work.

Obviously, if you’ve just arrived in Germany neither of these will be an option.


Can I get a German social security ID if I’m self employed?

Self employed people can choose whether or not to make social security contributions.

As such, they have no obligation to enrol in the social security system at all, if they don’t want to.

The same is true for healthcare: Self-employment means you have a choice between whether you opt for public or private health insurance.

So, if you’re self employed, with private insurance and you’re not paying pension contributions, then you’re not entitled to social security, for the simple reason that you’re not contributing into the system.


What if you lose your German social security ID? 

In the unfortunate event that you lose your Versicherungsnummer, it’s usually possible to obtain a new one relatively easily.

If you have statutory health insurance, you can contact your healthcare provider for a replacement. They will then contact the pension office, who will send a replacement ID to you in the post (this takes roughly six weeks).

If you don’t have statutory health insurance, you will need to contact the pension office directly.


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