FAQ – Financing Your Studies (BAföG, Housing Allowance, “Bürgerhartz” & Co.)

(last updated: March 2024)

1. Important tips for dealing with public authorities
a) Formalities regarding applications (written form)
b) How can I challenge the decision of an authority (e.g. BAföG Office, Jobcenter)?

2. BAföG
a) Before submitting your first application
b) Requirements
c) Parents’ income 
d) Application for updating parents’ income (form 7)
e) Own income
f) Own assets 
g) Parent-independent BAföG
h) BAföG advance payment (if parents do not pay)
i) Proof of performance (form 5) and postponing providing proof of performance
j) BAföG extension (funding beyond the maximum funding period)
k) Change of degree program
l) Repayment

3. Part-time studies/leave of absence
a) Part-time studies
b) Leave of absence

4. “Bürgerhartz” (unemployment benefit)
a) Requirements
b) How much am I entitled to?
c) Apply now! (Important)
d) Tips

5. Housing allowance

6. Rent/Accommodation

7. Labor Law/Jobs/Working student status
a) Rights as (student) employees
b) Self-employment during studies
c) Working student status / 20-hour rule

8. Studierendenwerk (Student Union) Grants

9. Loans
a) Loans from KfW
b) BAföG graduation support for students who have exceeded the maximum funding period
c) “Bürgerhartz” (unemployment benefit) loans for full-time students

10. Scholarships

11. Health insurance
a) Family insurance (up to 25 years old)
b) Student health insurance (up to 30 years old)
c) Insurance for persons aged 30 or over
d) Further information

12. Studying as a parent
a) BAföG
b) Stiftung Hilfe für die Familie
c) Maternity protection period and maternity benefit
d) Child benefit
e) Supplementary child allowance
f) Parental allowance
g) Child support and advance payments
h) Bürgerhartz: additional allowances for pregnant women and single parents!
i) Housing allowance
j) Other offers

13. Funding for international students
a) Working as an international student
b) Scholarships for international students
c) Grants, emergency funds and loans
d) Other

1. Important tips for dealing with public authorities

a) Formalities regarding applications (written form)

The written form should always be observed to ensure your applications meet legal requirements. A written application should be mailed or faxed and include your name, grant number/association number (Fördernummer/Bedarfsgemeinscht-Nummer) if applicable, address, date and signature. We recommend that you always communicate with offices in writing! Emails are not legally binding in many cases! Staff at public offices might tell you many things over the phone, but in the end, you cannot rely on this information.

Some authorities offer an online portal that you can use for applications, some of which are also valid without a signature (e.g. BAföG, housing allowance). However, for all applications submitted without an application form (i.e. if, in order to meet the deadline, you don’t have time to fill out the entire application or for applications for which there is no specific application form, appeals, etc.) we recommend submitting them in writing.

b) How can I challenge the decision of an authority (e.g. BAföG Office, Jobcenter)?


If you do not agree with the decision of an authority and think that they may have made a mistake, e.g. paying you too little money, you can appeal the decision. 

Important: There is a period for appeals which you must observe, otherwise the appeal is invalid! Usually this is one month, but a different deadline may be set. The deadline is stated at the very end of the decision under the heading “Rechtsbehelfsbelehrung” (information regarding appeals). If this information is not included, the appeal period extends to one year.

An appeal can be lodged without any formal requirements: you simply write a letter to the relevant office stating that you wish to appeal the decision dated [date of letter]. You can submit your justification for appealing at a later date if your appeal has to be filed at short notice or if you would like to obtain further information in a consultation!

Important: Make sure to include your contact details (and funding number (Föderungsnummer) for BAföG, BG number for Jobcenter) and signature and send your appeal by mail or fax (not by email!).

When the deadline for appealing a decision has passed: request for review according to Section 44 SGB X

If you have missed the appeal deadline, the decision becomes legally binding. However, there is still the possibility to file a request to review the decision if you discover errors later.  There is no deadline for this, but you will only receive money for the past four years at most, in case of “Bürgerhartz” (unemployment benefit) only for about the past 12 months.

Also in this case, you can write a letter that includes your contact information and – importantly – precisely identifies the decision that is to be reviewed (date and heading of the decision). You should also include what you think the error was. As with appeals, we recommend signing and mailing or faxing (preferably with confirmation of receipt) to the responsible office. 

2. BAföG

BAföG (Bundesausbildungsrderungsgesetz – Federal Training Assistance Act) is the primary funding option for students. BAföG is usually applied for every year for a funding period, often starting with the winter semester. 

Important BAföG terms

The funding period (Bewilligunszeitraum – BWZ) is the period you apply for, usually 12 months (one year). However, this may also be shorter and in very rare cases longer. It is relevant, among other things, for your income allowance, because this is determined by the number of months in the BWZ.

Degree semesters vs. university semesters
Degree semesters are the semesters in your current degree program. University semesters are the total number of semesters you have studied in your life. Both can be relevant for BAföG.

Maximum duration of funding and standard period of study
The maximum duration of funding is the maximum period you can receive BAföG. At the outset, it usually corresponds to the standard period of study. However, it can be extended in the course of your studies (funding beyond the maximum funding period). The standard period of study (usually 6 semesters for bachelor’s programs, 4 semesters for master’s programs) is the time that has been defined as the ideal duration of study in your program. However, this usually does not correspond to reality and cannot be observed. Thus, the two are related, yet different.

a) Before the first application

How to apply for BAföG?
Even if you are not sure whether you are eligible for BAföG, you should definitely apply. You may get some funding even if you didn’t think you would. If you would like a clearer picture of what to expect, we recommend the BAföG calculator at Studis-Online.

When do I get BAföG?
BAföG is only paid from the month in which you submit the application! It is paid retroactively to the date of application, even if processing takes a while. The BAföG office recommends submitting your application two months in advance. If you do run out of time, it is especially important to apply within the month in which your studies begin or the previous BAföG period ends. You can apply by letter or fill out Form 1 as far as you can, sign it and send it off. You can then submit everything else later and your BAföG will not be lost. 

Applying by letter
Your letter must include your name, address, date, funding number (if you already have one), date of birth, funding period, university, degree program, and signature. In the letter you should make it clear that you want to apply for BAföG e.g. “Hiermit beantrage ich BAföG”. Or, as already mentioned, fill out Form 1 as far as you can. You can then submit the complete application within one month.

Applying for BAföG after studying without BAföG
In the case of a change of degree program, it is not relevant whether you previously received BAföG funding, but whether the previous degree program was generally eligible for funding. Therefore, it is not worth waiting and you should apply for BAföG sooner rather than later. All semesters in which you did not apply for BAföG but could have are lost.

Receiving BAföG as a master’s student
When starting a master’s degree program, a new maximum funding period and a new period of study begin. This means that even if you did not receive BAföG during your bachelor’s degree program, you may be eligible to receive BAföG during your master’s degree program. You are NOT allowed to switch master’s programs, only in very rare exceptional cases (so-called unavoidable reason), which hardly ever occur.

b) Conditions

1. Nationality 
Anybody with a German passport is theoretically entitled to BAföG. 
Even without a German passport you are entitled to BAföG under certain conditions.

BAföG for EU+EEA (Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) citizens 
If you have one of the above passports, you must fulfill at least one of the following conditions in addition to the regular requirements in order to receive BAföG:

1. You have lived in Germany legally for at least 5 years
2. At least one parent or your life partner works and lives in Germany legally
3. Before starting your studies, you worked in a job which is related to your studies (this leaves some room for maneuver) for 6 months
4. You have been working in a job with at least 12 hours/week for 10 weeks (you have to continue this or another job while receiving BAföG!)

BAföG for non-EU citizens

BAföG for recognized refugees 
As a recognized refugee, you are entitled to BAföG if you meet the regular requirements, have permanent residence in Germany and meet one of the following conditions:

1. You hold a residence permit and have lived in Germany legally for at least 15 months without interruption, or you are the partner or child of one such person (this also includes temporary residence permits)

BAföG for other foreigners 
As a foreigner, you are entitled to BAföG if you meet the regular requirements, have permanent residence in Germany and fulfill one of the following conditions:

1. You hold a residence permit and live in Germany legally without interruption or you are the partner or child of one such person
2. You worked legally in Germany for at least 5 years prior to starting your studies (this includes being registered as seeking employment) 
3.One parent has worked and lived in Germany legally for at least 3 years in the last 6 years (this includes a maximum of 6 months registered as seeking employment). Section 8 (2) and (3) BAföG

2. Age
As of winter semester 2022/23, you are entitled to BAföG if you start your studies before the age of 45. However, there are also legally recognized reasons for exceeding this age limit (e.g. if you spent longer periods raising children, if you obtained your university entrance qualification later in life and then went on to study, etc.). If this applies to you we recommend you come to us for advice.

c) Parents’ income 

As of winter semester 2022/23, exempted amounts of attributable parental income have increased. The exempted amount depends on whether your parents are married and other factors. Exceeding the exempted amount can result in you receiving less or even no BAföG. The reason for this is that your parents are obligated to support you financially (usually until you complete your first job training/degree) if they have enough income. BAföG is intended to make up the rest. The exempted amounts for parents’ income refer to the net income calculated by the BAföG office.

Overview of exempted amounts (2023):
– Case 1 : your parents are together: The exempt amount is 2,415 euros of the approx. net income

– Case 2 : your parents are separated: The exempted amount is 1,605 euros of the approximate net income per parent

– Case 3 : One or both parents have a new partner: The exempted amount is 1,605 euros plus an additional amount of 805 euros. This is all deducted from the approximate net income. 

For any other dependent children attending school and are not eligible for BAföG, there is an additional allowance of 730 euros per child.

You can read about how your siblings can affect your BAföG in other cases here.

The exempted amounts are based on an elaborate calculation process. Therefore, we recommend using the BAföG calculator to get accurate numbers.

There are also exempted amounts for special hardship. If you think that you are not receiving enough BAföG, feel free to come to us for advice. Make sure you don’t miss out on anything! 

d) Application for updating parents’ income (form 7)

When applying for BAföG, your parents’ income from 2 years ago is taken into account. If your parents’ income is lower the year you apply, you can apply to update the information (Form 7). This allows the income from the current year to be taken into account. However, you do NOT have to do this if your parents’ income is now higher. 

e) Own income 

From winter semester 2022/23, the exempted amount of your own income is higher. The exempted amount of your gross income is now about 520 euros on average per month (but it is calculated based on the funding period, i.e. you can earn more in one month and less in another). This amounts to 6,240 euros for a 12-month funding period. 

PS.: There is no allowance for mandatory internships or otherwise monetary compensation from internships. This means that everything you earn will be 100% deducted from your Bafög payment. You are only allowed to keep the 21.6% flat-rate social contribution (Sozialpauschale) and the standard deduction of approximately (Werbungskostenpauschale) €100 per month (€1230 in 12 months). However, you can also claim higher deductions than the €1230 in 12 months and thus reduce the amount of your income that is considered for BAföG. For example, you can claim expenses such as a work laptop, travel expenses (car or public transport), etc., as deductions. If these expenses exceed €1230 in 12 months, you can claim them and keep more of your money. Feel free to come to the consultation for more information. This is also an option for repayment requests for past semesters. You can find more information here (in German).

The amount consists of a basic tax-free allowance (330 euros), a flat-rate deduction of so-called income-related expenses (1,230 euros you can also claim higher deductions) and a social security lump sum (21.6%), if you are employed as a dependent. 

There are also allowances for:
– your own children (730 euros/month) – spouse/life partner (850 euros/month). In addition, the following are exempt:
– volunteer work 840 euros/exercise leader flat rate 3,000 euros (without deductions) (in 12 months) – a maximum of 300 euros per month for most scholarships

Please note: If you are self-employed, your gross income is calculated slightly differently. Read here to find out how.

f) Own assets 

For BAföG, the definition of assets is broad. If you’re not sure about this, you should definitely come to us for advice. 

As of winter semester 2022/23, the exempted amounts for your own assets is:
– up to the age of 30, a maximum of15,000 euros

– from 30, a maximum of 45,000 euros

If your assets exceed these limits, the excess amount is divided by the months of the funding period and deducted from your BAföG payment each month.

g) Parent-independent BAföG

Your parents’ income is not taken into account for these payments.
As an easy rule of thumb, you can be funded independent of your parents if you no longer have a claim to support from them.

The general requirements for parent-independent BAföG are:
– 5 years of employment with minimum income (or other recognized periods) before the start of your studies – A completed three-year vocational training followed by at least 3 years of employment. It is important that the total time is 6 years. The training period can also be shorter and the period of employment longer). A bachelor’s degree also counts as vocational training! 
– You started studying at 30.
– You are an orphan.

h) BAföG advance payment (if parents do not pay)

If your parents or one of your parents does not pay you child support even though obliged to do so, or if you have no contact with them, there is the possibility to apply for advance payment (form 8). 

The BAföG office will then pay your parents’ contribution and claim the money back from them. You have to prove to the BAföG office that you have informed your parents of their obligation to pay child support (e.g. email, letter) and that they are still not making payments and then fill out form 8.

i) Proof of performance (form 5) and postponing providing proof of performance

At the end of the 4th semester, you are required to submit proof of performance to the BAföG. You must prove that you are studying within the standard period of study (i.e. that you have acquired approximately 120 credit points by the start of your 5th degree semester). You can either use Form 5 or submit your grade summary. However, we recommend that you always use form 5!

If you have achieved 120 credit points, you can simply go to the BAföG officer for your study program (you can usually find them via the University website) and request them to confirm this on form 5. You will then continue to receive BAföG. 

If you have less than 120 credit points (as is the case for most students after four semesters) then you should definitely come to us for advice (even if the BAföG officer is willing to issue a positive proof of performance). If you have less than 120 points, it is unlikely that you will finish within the standard period of study and a positive proof of performance at this stage could be detrimental to you!

If you have less than 120 credit points, come to us for advice! In fact, most students have legally recognized reasons for postponing submitting their proof of performance! These include illness, therapy, failing an exam for the first time, raising children or involvement in university politics, etc. Some reasons can only be used once, others every semester.  (You can find more about valid reasons here). You need to submit an informal written request to delay submitting your proof of performance. We will gladly help you with this. It’s easy to make mistakes, so we strongly recommend coming to us for advice! You can delay submitting your proof of performance for one or two semesters and then study for a longer period.

j) Extending BAföG (funding beyond the maximum funding period)

If at the end of your standard period of study (or more precisely, if you realize that you will not be able to complete your degree within the maximum funding period), you have the option to extend your BAföG. Most students do NOT graduate within the standard period of study because the requirements are unrealistic.  Again, it is important that you also come to us for advice so that we can discuss your renewal application with you. It is easy to use the wrong wording, which can then lead to your application being rejected. 

The reasons for an extension are the same as for postponing submitting proof of performance, i.e. illness, therapy, failing an exam for the first time, raising children or involvement in university politics, etc. Some reasons can only be used once, others every semester. For every reason per semester, you can theoretically get an extra semester. In practice, however, this is based on the achieved credit points or deficit in credit points. All reasons must apply to the semesters following completion of the required credit points. You can find further information about reasons for extensions hereYou need to submit a written request (no form required) to postpone submitting your proof of performance. Please come to us for advice before doing so!

k) Change of degree program

Changing your degree program is a very important issue when receiving BAföG and errors can easily lead to you losing your BAföG entitlement permanently. So, we STRONGLY advise you to come to us for advice before switching degree program so we can discuss this with you!

There are a few things to consider when changing your degree program. Firstly, this is generally ONLY possible for bachelor’s programs, and only within the first 3 degree semesters. If you are in your 4th degree semester, you will lose your BAföG entitlement (COVID semesters or semesters taken as leave of absence are the only exceptions here, but ask us for advice on this).

In master’s programs, a change is unfortunately generally not possible; if you do change, you will lose your BAföG entitlement. Come to us for advice before doing so!

If you change within the first 2 degree semesters, there is no problem at all. You usually only have to inform the BAföG office about your new university and your new degree program in your new application. But if you wish to change for your third degree semester, the BAföG office will ask you to provide a reason (within the first two semesters, the BAföG office assumes that you have a good reason). It has been our experience that errors in wording can lead to the BAföG office not approving your change of program and discontinuing your funding. Please be sure to speak to us first! If you have already contacted BAföG and your application has been rejected, please also come to our advising session (it may still be possible to do something). 

If your change of degree program is accepted, you will again receive BAföG funding for your new bachelor’s degree from start to finish. In BAföG-speak, this is called a “harmless change”.

In principle, you must have an “important reason,” but this is nearly always the case and it is only a question of formulating this according to the law and not making the mistake of providing reasons that are not listed in the legislation. In addition, a change must always occur “immediately,” so if you write in your justification that you wanted to change as early as the 1st semester, but were not sure, and then only changed in the 3rd degree semester, this will often not be considered as “immediate” and your application will be denied. A justification should not exceed one page, half a page is generally sufficient! You can read about valid reasons for changing programs here and then try writing something yourself. However, it is very important that you seek advice. Come to us for advice before submitting your justification!

Further changes of program
You may also change your degree program a second time. However, some restrictions apply. Here too the rule applies that you can only change within the first 3 semesters (of the second degree program). A justification is ALWAYS required when changing for a second time. Please come to us for advice about this. In addition, a second change is no longer “harmless,” which means you will lose the semesters you studied in your second program and they will be deducted from your maximum funding period for the third program. The remaining semesters will then be funded as an interest-free loan. This also applies to any further changes. You can find further information here. https://www.bafoeg-rechner.de/FAQ/fachwechsel.php#zweiter

Change of focus
In addition to a change of program, there is also a change of focus. This is basically has no impact on further BAföG funding, but must also be justified. Mistakes are often made here too and we strongly recommend you come to us for advice! A change of focus refers to a situation where you do not lose any semesters. For example, if you are studying a two-subject bachelor’s degree and only change your second subject, you can still finish your degree within the standard period of study. Or you may change from a teacher training degree program to one without a teaching option, but with the same subjects. Theoretically, a change of focus is also possible in master’s programs. However, there is always the risk that it will be considered a change of program (meaning you lose your funding. So it’s really important to get advice beforehand!

Dropping out
It may be that you had basically given up on studying after dropping out but then decided to study again much later. In some cases, this distinction is also relevant for continued funding or the type of funding. Come to us for advice if you are not sure!

As always, you are required to submit your justifications in writing (no form required).

l) Repayment

4.5 years after the end of the maximum period of funding or the last BAföG payment you received during your bachelor’s program, you will receive a letter from the Federal Office of Administration (Bundesverwaltungsamt) asking you to repay the first installment of your BAföG loan within 6 months. Installments are at least 390 euros quarterly! So 130 euros per month.

You are obliged to always inform the Federal Administration Office/BAföG office of your address when you move. If the BAföG office notices that you are not living at your old address, they will make an inquiry with the Registration Office (Einwohnermeldeamt). You have to bear the costs for this.
What you have to pay back is a maximum of approx. 10,000 euros for BAföG payments during your studies (i.e. a maximum of 10,000 euros for bachelor’s and master’s together). This does not apply to BAföG graduation support (Studienabschlusshilfe), as this is a full loan and does not fall within the 10,000-euro limit.

If you want to pay back everything in one go, there is a discount of a certain percentage that increases the more you pay. For example, if you pay the 10,000 euros in one go, you only have to pay 7,900 euros (21% discount). It is important that you start repayments at the latest when your first installment is due.

You have the possibility to be exempted if you earn less than 1,605 euros net per month. In addition, there are several allowances. Exemption must be applied for each year. You are permitted to suspend payments for 3 months retroactively. 

3. Part-time study/leave of absence semester

For various reasons, it can sometimes make sense to apply for a semester off or to study part-time e.g. illness, raising children, financial problems, … 

However, a change in student status from full-time to part-time or taking leave has several implications:

1.You are not entitled to BAföG during this time.

2. However, you are eligible for Bürgerhartz (unemployment benefir) during part-time and leave of absence semesters (normally students are excluded from this). You will then be available for work (20 hours per week if studying part time, or full time if taking a leave of absence). Even if you have a part-time job, you can also receive Bürgerhartz (see “Bürgerhartz”)

3. Your social security status changes. You do not qualify for student health insurance during this time because it is assumed that your primary activity is no longer studying. If you already have a job, you will be subject to normal social security contributions (except for mini-jobs!), i.e. you will pay contributions to unemployment, pension and health insurance through your job. 50% is paid by your employer, the other half is paid by you. You can find more information about this here and under the item “Labor law/Jobs”. Therefore, it is important to talk to your employer before changing and to consider exactly what is best for you!

The deadline for changing to part-time studies and to a semester of leave of absence at TU Berlin begins with the re-registration deadline and ends on 15.11. for winter semesters and 15.05. for summer semesters. You can submit your application via tuPORT. For other universities deadlines may vary, so check with your respective university in good time!

a) Part-time study

Part-time study can be applied for in tuPORT and is always valid for an even number of semesters, so at least 2 semesters (valid until you apply for full-time study again). No supporting documents are required. Officially, you’re allowed 15 credits per semester part-time. You still have to pay the semester fees in full (for now). However, you can be exempted from the Semesterticket if studying part time (TU/UdK).

b) Leave of absence semester

Reasons for a leave of absence that you must provide evidence for include: studying abroad, completing an internship, illness, the birth of a child, illness or care for a child or a person requiring care, childcare. During your semester of leave you can be exempted from paying for the Semesterticket. But you should still re-register on time! Ask the Semesterticket Office for advice on this.

4. “Bürgerhartz” (unemployment benefit)

If you do not receive BAföG (for whatever reason), an alternative for funding your studies is “Bürgerhartz” (unemployment benefit). We would say that in most cases it only makes sense if you are excluded from BAföG, but of course there are exceptions (e.g. if you receive very little BAföG). “Bürgerhartz” is a way to finance your studies without having to take out a loan and thus get into debt.

If the Jobcenter tells you that they are not responsible for you because you do not qualify for this form of unemployment benefit as a student, there is an administrative regulation (something similar to a law) that you can refer to. Point 5.5.2 refers to unemployment benefit entitlement for part-time students or students taking a leave of absence semester. Point this out to the Jobcenter!

a) Requirements

– You have to apply for a part-time study/leave of absence semester within the deadlines (usually 15 May or 15 November at TU Berlin) (for more information on both options, refer to the respective points here)

– Usually the Job Center also wants a “BAföG-Negativbescheid” (rejection of application), which you can get from Studierendenwerk. All information is available here.

– In addition, your citizenship is also relevant

– For people with certain residence titles, applying for social benefits can jeopardize their stay, so be sure to seek advice beforehand!

– You have to apply at the Jobcenter. You can find out here which Jobcenter is responsible for you

b) How much money are you entitled to?

– As a single person, you will receive 563 euros per month – the costs of accommodation (= cold rent + heating costs, if applicable, hot water flat rate) will be covered. However, there are limits to the amount of rent that is covered

– Your health insurance is paid

– If necessary, supplementary payment / “special allowances” for pregnancy, costly diets, disability, etc.

– You can also work on the side but are allowed to keep only a part of your salary. (100€ Allowance, 101€ to 520€ and from that 20% remains uncharged and 521€ to 1000€ and from that 30% remains uncharged).

– From 01. June 2023 Students at university or school under 25 years of age will receive an allowance that allows them to earn up to 520€.

– For volunteer work/exercise leaders’ lump sum there are further exempted amounts

c) Apply directly (important)!

– As with BAföG and housing benefit, the month of application is the month of payment for “Bürgerhartz” (unemployment benefit). Specifically: If you apply for unemployment benefit in October, for example, you will receive the money as of October (even if documents are submitted later), but sometimes retroactively, depending on the processing time. If you do not apply until November, the money for October is lost!

Submit an application without a form as soon as possible, even if you cannot fill out everything at this stage or don’t have all the documents required

– Make sure this application is in writing, i.e. with signature + mail / fax or deliver in person

– The part-time study / leave of absence semester is approved retroactively for the entire semester, so even if you receive approval later, you should submit the “Bürgerhartz” application in the first month of the semester (April or October)!

– If you live with your parents or with partners, the calculation is much more complicated (flat shares are no problem)

d) Tips

– Where possible, we recommend students work in addition to receiving “Bürgerhartz” as part-time students. This is why: If you study part-time, you study 50%, so about 20 hours per week, and are available to work for a maximum of 20 hours per week. If you then have a (+-) 10-hour a week job, you are available for the labor market for only a maximum of 10 additional hours/week and do not need to apply for a job with more hours.

– Jobcenters are often more relaxed if you study & work part-time

– As always, if you have any questions, come to us for advice! If you have problems with the Jobcenter, we recommend BASTA!, an initiative of unemployed persons in Berlin, which offers advising in various districts.

5. Housing allowance

Housing allowance and BAföG are mutually exclusive! Only those who are not “basically entitled” to BAföG can apply for housing allowance. This may be the case if, for example, you are no longer entitled to BAföG due to the maximum funding period, your age, previous training/education, etc. However, if you are basically entitled to, but do not receive BAföG, e.g. because your parents’ income is too high, you cannot receive housing allowance either.

If you do not qualify for BAföG, housing allowance can be used as a subsidy, but it is not a “normal” social benefit. Therefore, it is important that you have a minimum income of your own. Income here includes salary payments, BAföG as a bank loan, support from friends and family (this can also be provided in kind, so if your family has been hoarding too much toilet paper, they can give it to you). The minimum income is calculated approximately like this:

Basic needs (cash and non-cash benefits)* + your warm rent + health insurance

*Basic needs are roughly calculated according to the “Bürgerhartz” standard rate – this is 563 euros per month for a single person from 2023.

For the minimum income, you must be able to provide at least 80% yourself. However, this is a discretionary limit set by the authorities and they can also require 100%. Keep this in mind. In contrast to BAföG, your parents’ income is not checked for housing subsidies!

The amount is complicated to calculate and depends on the number of household members. Household members are people from a community of responsibility or inclusion. Household members are not the number of persons living in an apartment, but only family members, partners, children, etc. If you live in a shared flat, your flatmates are not considered members of the household, therefore you do not have to declare their income etc.!

EU/EEA citizens are also entitled to housing benefits under the EU Freedom of Movement Act.

The processing of housing subsidy applications unfortunately often takes around/over 3 months in Berlin!

If you do not have all the documents, simply submit a request and forward the remaining documents as soon as possible. Housing allowance (like all social benefits) is paid retroactively from the month of application. If you submit the (incomplete but signed) application to the housing subsidy office by 30.04., you will still get money for the whole of April!

You can find all application documents and the responsible citizens office/housing office here

Any questions? https://www.studis-online.de/StudInfo/Studienfinanzierung/wohngeld.php

Housing allowance calculator: https://www.wohngeld.org/wohngeldrechner/

6. Rent/Accommodation

Find out about your rights as a tenant! We repeatedly encounter unlawful demands from landlords. Compare your contract with current law. Pay attention to your notice period. If landlords do not resolve or repair certain defects in your apartment, you may be entitled to a rent reduction.

In case of problems, we recommend you to visit specialized, free landlord-tenant consultations . We can usually provide an initial assessment, but they are the experts. 

In addition, we encourage you to join a tenants’ association. This will provide you with legal protection to help you with any rent-related issues.
Examples include the Berliner Mietergemeinschaft & the Berliner Mieterverein.

What to do if you are given notice on your apartment?
If you are given notice, there are a few things to consider. Notice has to be given in writing. The notice of termination must also include the reasons. Furthermore, it must comply with the statutory or contractual notice periods. For furnished apartments, this is usually three months to the end of the month, while for unfurnished apartments it is only one month. If you think your notice was unlawful, seek advice (see above)!

Mold? Heating broken? Rent reduction!
In the event of serious defects, you are entitled to a rent reduction. Reasons include, for example, construction noise, mold, leaking windows and doors, broken heating or plumbing systems. It is important that you report the defects immediately, because you are only entitled to a rent reduction if the landlord does not remedy the defect within a reasonable period of time. 

Rent increase
Many rent increases can be challenged! You usually have a few weeks to agree to the rent increase. Compare your rent increase with the Berlin rent index. Contact a lawyer!

7. Labor Law/Jobs/Working student status

a) Rights as (student) employees

Whether you are a mini-jobber, working student or self-employed, claim your labor rights! We recommend that you join a trade union. With such communities of interest, you can exert more pressure in the event of a dispute. In addition, unions also offer many continuing education and advising opportunities.

We can always give you an initial assessment of labor law problems. We can also help you with documents. If we don’t know what to do, our colleagues from the TU advising service Students@Work will be able to help you.

As an employee, you normally have the right to paid vacation (even as a mini-jobber!) The amount of paid leave depends on the duration of employment. For example, after one year of employment, you are entitled to 24 working days of paid vacation.

You also have the right to breaks as specified in the Working Hours Act. If you work more than six hours a day, you are entitled to take a break of at least 30 minutes. 

b) Self-employment during studies

As a self-employed person, you have the freedom to determine your own working hours or which contracts you accept, but you do not benefit from continued payment of wages in the event of illness, the Working Hours Act, unemployment insurance or parental leave.

An important concept in this context is Scheinselbstständigkeit (fictitious self-employment). This refers to people who work as self-employed, but in reality are in a relationship of dependency with a company and therefore do not have true freedom. This allows companies to profit from your labor without having to fulfill their social security obligations. This is illegal and can lead to the employer being sanctioned. Furthermore, it is possible that you have to pay social security contributions as a “fictitious self-employed” person, which can be high.

c) Working student status/ 20-hour rule

Perhaps you have heard of working student status or the 20-hour rule? We will try to give you a brief overview. For more detailed info you can check here .

Above all, it means that as a full-time student you are (can be) employed differently from “normal employees” in terms of social law. The requirement is that you work a maximum of 20 hours a week. You still have full workers’ rights! Your social security status is then not employee, but student. If this applies to you, you do not have to pay certain social security contributions and thus often have more net pay left over. However, you are not entitled to Arbeitslosengeld I (full unemployment benefit) and the employer does not have to pay certain social security contributions for you and does not have to pay 50% of your health insurance. So, it’s not always worth having this status, sometimes it’s worth working 21 or more hours. By the way, working student status is independent of the employment contract and does not have to be noted there.

In order to remain in the student statutory health insurance scheme, you must also not exceed these 20 hours. For more information, see 11 b) Student health insurance (up to 30 years). 

8. Studierendenwerk grants

Studierendenwerk offers one-time payments under certain circumstances. Currently, the most relevant are emergency funds and assistance to start and finish studies. 

Emergency Fund
In cases of immediate (and, according to Studierendenwerk, “no fault”) financial need, it may be worthwhile applying for an emergency fund. This is a one-time payment equivalent to BAföG (approx. 900 euros), which does not have to be repaid. When applying, you have to explain your situation to Social Counselling at Studierendenwerk. You can make an appointment here .

1000 euro grant at the start or at the end of your studies
You can apply for a scholarship during your first semester or towards the end of your studies. The grant is for 1000 euros and does not have to be repaid. It is also one of the few supports that international students can take advantage of. Please note the deadlines for applying!

For summer semesters:15 March to April 15 and for winter semesters: 15 September to 15 October

You can find more information here. (The website can only be accessed during or just before the application deadlines)

9. Credits/Loans

a) Loans from KfW

A loan is often the last option to cover one’s living expenses. The KfW (a leading promotional bank) loan offers better conditions than other loans, e.g. lower interest rates and more flexible repayment terms. International students are also eligible to apply for a KfW loan.

Please check the website for requirements and conditions.

Advice on loans from Studierendenwerk can be found here

b) BAföG graduation support for students who have exceeded the maximum funding period

This is an interest-free loan, which you can apply for when you think you will be able to complete your degree within the next 12 months and you are not yet 4 semesters over your standard period of study (remember to take the Corona semester into account!). The amount is based on BAföG (income for you, your parents and your partner, if applicable, as well as your assets). The loan can be applied for at the end of each bachelor’s and master’s degree. 

However, there are often reasons for exceeding the regular maximum funding period. Come to us for advice!

c) “Bürgerhartz” (unemployment benefit) loans as a full-time student

Under special conditions, you are also entitled to benefits from the Jobcenter as a full-time student, but only as a loan. The law assumes that you should be able to support yourself. You can apply for a loan from the Jobcenter if you can show “special hardship.” This includes, for example, a recognized disability, raising children or caring for a relative. The closer you are to graduation, the more likely you are to be considered to have a particular hardship. The amount of the loan is composed of the standard rate (563 euros) + rent + insurance contributions.

Further information is available here.

10. Scholarships

It is often worth taking a closer look at the various scholarship programs available. 

After all, scholarships are often easier to obtain than many people think. There are many different types of scholarship that can be very specific to certain degree programs and needs. In addition to scholarships for outstanding achievements, there are, for example, scholarships for students from working-class families or that focus on social commitment.

Scholarship search engine: https://www.mystipendium.de/

While a (full) scholarship and BAföG are often mutually exclusive, some scholarship programs offer a “book allowance.” This funding has the advantage that it can even be obtained in addition to BAföG (e.g. Erasmus Plus, Deutschlandstipendium).

Many (full) scholarships are based on BAföG principles and are linked, for example, to first training and other factors. Check before applying to see if you meet the requirements.

If you are doing a semester abroad, be sure to find out what scholarships you can apply for. You can often apply for a scholarship when applying for a semester abroad at the University; for others you have to apply externally. Check beforehand what these scholarships pay and whether it is worth applying externally. Important to mention here is the DAAD (German Academic Exchange Service). Scholarships up to 300 euros are also possible in addition to Auslandsbafög (for studying abroad). Also, these scholarships are often less tied to the number of semesters you have completed and are easier to get.

Studierendenwerk offers scholarship advising.

There is also a writing consultation to help you with motivation letters for scholarships.

11. Health insurance

It is important to remember that in Germany you are obliged to have health insurance. This also applies to you as a student.

Legal/private: There are two major different health insurance schemes: statutory and private. You can choose between these two models. Here, we will mainly focus on statutory insurance. We are also politically opposed to any privatization and profit within the health care system.

a) Family insurance (up to 25 years)

If you are under 25, you can get insurance through your family and will not have to pay for your health insurance. While insured through your family, however, you may only earn about 570 euros per month (tax-free allowance + income-related expenses lump sum)!

b) Student health insurance (up to 30 years)

As a (full-time) student, you have the option of taking out statutory student insurance up to the age of 30. In most cases you pay significantly less as a student. The amount for students is currently about 83 euros + additional contribution + nursing care insurance. Depending on the additional contribution and your age, you will end up paying about 120 euros per month (as of December 2022).

Important: You can only remain insured as a student if you are under 30 (there are rare exceptions), if you work less than 20 hours per week (there are exceptions, see Working student status), and if you are a full-time student.

c) Prolongation of Student Insurance

Under specific circumstances, it is possible to prolong you student insurance eligibility past your 30. year of life. In our experience, the insurance companies tend to be very obstinate in their decision-making that’s why it’s very important to provide proof of your reasons very meticulously. The most important reason are as follows:

  1. When you achieved you university requirements on the second educational path or you took part in a language course before studying that would have been mandatory for access to your higher education institution.
  2. When your suffer/ed under an illness or disability that impeded or drastically impaired your ability to study. Similarly valid is care for members of family with a verifiable “level of care” or in German, “Pflegegrad”.
  3. Pregnancy and/or child care are also reasons for a prolongation.
  4. Additionally, statutory (voluntary) service and participation in university committees are also valid prolongation reasons.

d) Insurance for persons aged 30 or older

If you are too old to qualify or student health insurance, you are obliged to take out another form of insurance but may choose between statutory and private and where you are insured).

The minimum contribution for statutory insurance is about 154 euros (as of December 2022) + additional contribution + nursing care insurance of about 35 euros. Or 14.6% of your income for health insurance + approx. 4% nursing care insurance, of which the employer must pay 50% each (except for mini-jobs and jobs with working student status).

In rare cases, you may pay more for student health insurance than for non-student health insurance (due to the fact that the employer pays half).

e) Further information

Note on BAföG + health insurance: If you receive BAföG, the BAföG office will pay your insurance contribution. If your insurance status is about to change or has just changed, be sure to inform the BAföG office so that you can get any extra money you are entitled to! Both domestic health insurance and health insurance abroad are covered by Auslandsbafög!

Information for international students is available here and in English here.

More information on health insurance is available at Studis-Online.

12. Studying as a parent

Studying with a child and during pregnancy can present some challenges. We support you in dealing with authorities, with BAföG and with additional needs applications at the Jobcenter and help put you in touch with the right contacts at TU Berlin

For student funding:

a) BAföG

If you are entitled to BAföG, there is a flat-rate child supplement of 160 euros for each child under 14 in your household. Furthermore, in addition to your income allowance of 520 euros (e.g. from a mini-job), there is an allowance for each child of 730 euros per month (plus 805 euros for your spouse and partner). If you have to study longer due to pregnancy or raising children, you can also receive BAföG for longer. So you don’t have to stress too much if you don’t manage to complete everything in the standard period of study. The best thing to do is to ask us for advice!

b) Stiftung Hilfe für die Familie

For families and pregnant women in financial need, a grant of up to 1000 euros can be applied for from Stiftung Hilfe für die Familie . You can apply for this in addition to other benefits such as BAföG and Bürgerhartz. You can apply via the Social Counseling Centre of Studierendenwerk Berlin. It is best to bring your pregnancy record (“Mutterpass”) as well as proof of income and assets: https://www.stw.berlin/beratung/sozialberatung/

c) Maternity protection period and maternity benefit

The statutory maternity period (Elternschaftsfrist) means that your employer may not employ you for six weeks before and eight weeks after the birth of your child (Maternity Protection Act). If you are employed AND self-insured during pregnancy, you will continue to receive your full salary during this time. This is shared between your employer and your health insurance company. All you have to do is inform your employer and health insurance company in time and hand in a certificate (from your gynecologist). The money will be applied for from your health insurance.

d) Child benefit

Child benefit is generally available, regardless of income

  • for all children up to the age of 18,
  • for children in education until they reach the age of 25,    
  • for unemployed children up to the age of 21. 

Amount of child benefit: 250 euros per child (from 2023)
Child benefit can be obtained from the relevant family benefits office (Familienkasse) including up to 6 months retroactively.

Achtung: For Bürgergeld, child benefit is counted in full as income, which disadvantages poorer families! However, child benefit has no effect on your BAföG, regardless of whether it is your children’s child benefit, your own child benefit or that of your siblings.

e) Supplementary child allowance

For each child for whom you receive child benefit, you can also apply for supplementary child allowance (up to 250 euros per month per child from 2023). However, a minimum income applies: Parental couples must earn at least 900 euros per month, single parents at least 600 euros. This includes gross income from employment. BAföG, scholarships, alimony, housing allowance, etc. Bürgerhartz and child benefit cannot be received at the same time. Families can also apply for this benefit who, with child benefit and housing allowance, remain at most 100 euros below SGB II entitlement. This means that if your income is too low, you must first apply for housing allowance before you can receive supplementary child allowance.

The maximum limit is where your complete income + housing allowance and child supplement exceed the Bürgerhartz amount. 45% of your child’s income to be taken into account is counted when calculating child supplement.

Where to apply?
Supplementary child allowance must be applied for at the relevant family benefits office and is paid out together with child benefit. 

If you are unsure whether you are entitled to the supplementary child allowance, you can contact the KiZ-Lotsen. If you are entitled, you can apply online and also claim benefits from the education and participation package, such as

  • school supplies package,
  • travel tickets for children, lunch at daycare centers and schools, and
  • free tutoring
  • subsidized sports, music or art activities.

f) Parental allowance

What is it?
Parental allowance is a wage replacement benefit granted by the state during the first 12 or 14 months after the birth of your child and is dependent on your income prior to the birth of your child.
Basic parental allowance: if one parent receives parental allowance – up to 12 months
Parental allowance plus: if 2 parents receive parental allowance (each parent at least 2 months, can also be taken at the same time, e.g. both for 7 months) or you are a single parent, parental allowance is paid for 14 months

How much is parental allowance?
Parental allowance is 65% to 100% of your average net income for the last twelve months prior to the birth of your child, but not less than 300 euros and not more than 1800 euros.
You are also entitled to parental allowance if you had no job or were marginally employed before the birth of your child (300 euros). You may continue to study while receiving parental allowanceWhile you are on parental leave, you can work part-time up to 30 hours/week and may not be given notice of termination of employment. If you receive BAföG, there is an extra payment for parental allowance of 300 euros, the same as the minimum parental allowance.

Digital application for parental allowance: https://www.elterngeld-digital.de/ams/Elterngeld

Parental allowance calculator: https://familienportal.de/familienportal/rechner-antraege/elterngeldrechner

Find a parental allowance office: https://familienportal.de/dynamic/action/familienportal/125008/suche

g) Child support and advance payments

Every child is entitled to support payments from their parents. If you are a single parent and another parent does not pay child support, you can apply for advance payments at the youth welfare office (Jungendamt) .

The standard rate for children aged up to and including 5 years is 187 euros per month and for children aged 6 to 11 252 euros. Children between the ages of 12 and 17 receive 338 euros per month. (Updated: January 2023)

h) Bürgerhartz: Additional allowances for pregnant persons and single parents!

Even if you are not eligible for Bürgerhartz while studying full time, you may be eligible for an additional allowance for pregnant persons after the 12th week of pregnancy. 85.34 euros per month for medicine and food (Section 21 (2) SGB II) apply. 

In addition, you can apply for one-time benefits for maternity clothing, initial baby equipment, stroller, crib and high chair (Section 24 (3) SGB II) from the sixth week of pregnancy.

There are also additional allowances for single parents with one child under 7 or or two or more children under 16 (180,72€ euros), additional needs for single parents with minor children – per child (60.24 euors), or for costly food. 

You are considered a single parent if you live with a minor who is (almost) exclusively cared for and raised by you. If parents share child rearing but do not live in the same household (e.g. each taking a child every other week), both are considered single parents, i.e. the additional allowance is shared.

You can also apply for support from the Jobcenter for the initial furnishing of your home when you start a family and for school trips for your children.

Submit a normal ALG II (unemployment benefit) application; it is best to add that you are only applying for additional needs. Submit your application to the responsible job center.

If you are generally entitled to Bürgerhartz (e.g. because you are studying part-time), there is a supplement to your standard rate of 563 euros (451 euros if you living with your partner):

  • 420 euors – for children aged 14 to 17 
  • 348 euros – for children aged 6 to 13 
  • 318 euros – for children aged up to 5

i) Housing allowance

Even if you yourself receive BAföG and are therefore basically excluded from housing benefit (or “Bürgerhartz”), your child may be entitled to housing benefit! (see Housing Allowance above)

j) Other support services:

13. Financing for international students

It is usually doubly difficult for international students to obtain financial aid. In addition, you have the Ausländerbehörde breathing down your necks. We want to show you some options. Unfortunately, it makes a big difference which residence title you have in Germany. We refer here primarily to students who hold a residence permit for the purpose of studying under Section 16b of the Residence Act

For people with a passport from the EU, EEA (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) and Switzerland or with another so-called “secure” residence title (e.g. recognized refugees), more favorable regulations apply (see e.g. BAföG and Housing allowance).

At the DGB-Jugend website there is also an overview of the financing of international students in Germany (only in German): https://jugend.dgb.de/studium/dein-geld/studienfinanzierung/++co++b27ad7e6-c13d-11e6-8064-525400d8729f

a) Working as an international student

Students with a visa for study purposes may not work more than a total of 120 full days or 240 half days within a calendar year. For this purpose, each working day with more than four working hours is considered a full day and each working day with up to four working hours is considered a half day. For anything above that, or if you want to work independently, you must apply for a permit at the Foreigners’ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde). This also applies to voluntary internships.

Exceptions to the rule are, for example, student jobs at universities or in science, mandatory internships or if you are writing your bachelor’s or master’s thesis in a company and work there – then you are allowed to work more without permission. Further information can be found on the website of the German Trade Union Federation (Deutscher Gewerkschaftsbund).

b) Scholarships for international students

There are some scholarships that explicitly support international students, e.g.:

It is important to apply for scholarships at the beginning of your studies!

b) Grants, emergency funds and loans for international students

Emergency funds and help to start/finish studies from Studierendenwerk Berlin are also available for international students.

Student loans – here’s an overview.

c) Further information

General info and advice centers:

If you have any (legal) questions concerning residence, studies, housing, etc., please contact AStA’s Counseling for International Students .

Autonomous international department within AStA:  https://asta.tu-berlin.de/internationales-referat/

Here you can find important information about your stay in Germany and what to do upon arrival: https://handbookgermany.de/de

Kontakt- und Beratungsstelle für Flüchtlinge und Migrant*innen – a contact point and advice center for refugees and migrants :https://www.kub-berlin.org/de/ (Counseling for students in exceptional circumstances)

Handbook on Residence and Social Law for International Students (2020):https://www.studentenwerke.de/sites/default/files/_aufenthalts_und_sozialrecht_bf.pdf