We arrived, clueless, in Berlin in May 2016, with a 6-month-old baby and a 2-year-old boy in tow. We learned the hard way how to tackle the dreaded German bureaucracy; waited in a lot of queues, pulled a lot of hair and enlisted the help of any passing German to try to figure out where to be, what to say and which form to fill in. Thus, it was several months before we actually figured out that we could be eligible for some money from the government for our two sons. The good news was that the process was simple (fill in a form, send it off) plus we could backdate the payment, so we got a nice lump sum of 3000€. A holiday was booked. Hurrah for German bureaucracy! (For once.)
Kindergeld is something every parent living in Germany should know about. It's money, for you, for free, for every child you have, regardless of your income or marital status. Here's the lowdown:
What is Kindergeld?
Kindergeld is a monthly children's allowance / benefit (amount detailed below) paid directly to one (tax-paying) parent until the child turns 18. For those with children in higher education or an apprenticeship after the age of 18, the payment will be made until they turn 25, as long as their income does not exceed €7,680 annually. Kindergeld will also be paid until the age of 21 if the child is unemployed and, if the child is unable to work due to a disability, the allowance will be paid for an unlimited time. The allowance also extends to adopted or foster children, as well as your spouse’s children and / or grandchildren if they live in your home. If the child moves out of home after the age of 18 and is still eligible to receive Kindergeld, the money will be paid directly to them.
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How much is the Kindergeld?
The designated parent will receive 250€ per child per month.
Who is eligible for Kindergeld in Germany?
Basically, all German children living in Germany are eligible for this allowance. And, happily for expats, non-German children living in Germany (even if they’re not born here) are also eligible, as long as they have a valid residency permit. There are even some cases in which children who do not live in Germany are entitled to Kindergeld, for example if one or both of their parents live and work in Germany and the country in which the child lives does not have a similar benefit (or does have a similar benefit but at a lower value, in which case the allowance will be worked out based on the difference between the two amounts).
When and how do I apply for it?
Simply fill in the application form (link below) and send it by post to the Familienkasse (Family Benefit Office) of the city you live in. It’s best to fill in as much of the form as you can before the baby is born, just leaving space for the baby’s name if you haven’t already decided, plus their birth date and their tax ID (which you will automatically receive in the post). The Familienkasse will then process your application and send you a written confirmation of whether you are eligible or not (it’s unlikely that you won’t be eligible unless you don’t pay tax or you already receive a children’s allowance elsewhere). Be warned: this confirmation can take up to a month or so to be processed, so don’t panic as the allowance will be back-dated to the baby’s birth. If you are applying for Kindergeld for the second (or third or fourth...) time, you don't have to go through the whole process again. Instead, you can fill in a form called ''Veränderungsmitteilung'' (form KG45) which you can find here.
How and when will the money be paid?
The allowance will be transferred directly into the account of the designated parent (details of which you will have filled in on the original form). Not everyone receives their Kindergeld on the same date however. This depends on your unique Kindergeld number, which you will receive once your application has been processed. For example, if your Kindergeld number ends with a 0, the money will be paid at the beginning of the month, if it ends with a 9, it will be paid at the end of the month.
What if I only find out about this some time after my baby is born?
Then you’re in luck, because Kindergeld can be back-dated up to six months after the birth of your baby (whoop!). Just fill in the forms in the usual way and the Familienkasse will be in touch.
You can find the forms here. Some of the forms can also be found in English under “in anderen Sprachen”. You will need the following documentation along with a hard copy of the form:
A certified translation of your child's birth certificate
A copy of your passports
Proof of residency permit
Proof of residency registration (Haushaltsbescheinigung) if your child wasn’t born in Germany. This form can be filled in by your local Bürgeramt.
What is the address for the Familienkasse in Berlin?
Familienkasse Berlin – Brandenburg 14465 Potsdam
Just enter your postal code at the Bundesargentur für Arbeit to find the closest Familenkasse.
More Important Information for Young Families
Up to the age of 7 years old, children are not liable for any damages they might cause others. Once they turn 7, it's advisable to get family liability insurance. This protects you in case your little one bumps into your neighbour's car while learning to ride a bike for the first time. In any case, family liability insurance is usually not that much more expensive than a single liability policy but it covers your entire family. Read more about family liability here.
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