Contributions to “Rentenversicherung”, the German pension scheme, are part of statutory social security payments, in which you are insured, if you have a working contract. The scheme protects those insured and their families if their employment capacity is endangered or reduced and when it ends due to age or death. It covers medical rehabilitation measures, professional rehabilitation, pensions due to diminished employment capacity or incapacity, old-age pensions, dependents’ pensions.
Contributions to the statutory pension scheme are deducted from salaries at source. As a rule, the employer is responsible for paying half of the contribution towards pensions, the employee the other half. You will not need to do anything about this yourself.
Under certain circumstances, your payments will accrue rights towards an eventual pension; if this is not the case, you can have your contributions refunded.
Recognition of pension rights
When examining the prerequisites for entitlement, Member States of the EU, the EEA, Switzerland or
Partners to the Agreement are obliged to recognise periods during which pension rights have been accrued in Germany. Periods during which pension rights have been accrued in countries which do not have a “Sozialversicherungsabkommen” (social security agreement) with Germany may not be added
to the German periods in order to fulfil the prerequisites for entitlement. If you have been employed in different countries in the course of your working life and have paid contributions to the respective social security systems you should make enquiries about your entitlements with the social security providers in the individual countries well in advance.
Pension contribution refunds
If you return to a country which does not have a social security agreement with Germany you may be eligible for a refund of the pension contributions you have paid in Germany. After a waiting period of two years, you may apply to the “Deutsche Rentenversicherung” (German statutory pension scheme) for a refund. Under certain circumstances, you can continue to pay voluntary contributions to this pension scheme after your research visit has come to an end in order to comply with the waiting period, for example, and thus become eligible for pension rights. Enquire whether a refund is possible and advisable in your particular case.
Occupational Pension Scheme of the Public Service (VBL)
If your employment contract classifies you as a public service employee you will be included in the statutory “Versorgungsanstalt des Bundes und der Länder” (Pension Institution of the Federal Republic and the Länder, VBL) as well. Your employer will therefore register you with VBL. VBL provides old-age pensions, pensions for those unable to work due to illness or disability as well as widows’ and orphans’ pensions which also apply to registered civil partners and half-orphans.
If you are employed at a university on a fixed-term contract you can be exempted from VBL’s statutory insurance scheme. However, your employer will have to register you for VBL’s voluntary insurance scheme. In this case, it is only the employer who pays into the scheme, at a reduced premium however. This means that you accrue pension rights without paying contributions yourself! You can only apply to the Personnel Department for exemption within the first two months of starting work. VBL will advise you on the pension rights accruing from your occupational pension scheme or, if you are covered by the statutory scheme for less than 60 months, on the possibility of having your contributions refunded.