Social security number in Germany - is there one?

There are several reasons taxes are significantly higher in Germany than in the UK, US or Australia, but the country’s extensive social security system is probably the biggest factor. It provides far greater protection for citizens, but with size comes greater complexity. Here are a few pointers to help you find your way.

What is a social security number?

The social security number is given to every employee in Germany. It proves that you are at least statutory insured in Germany. So you are part of the social security system in Germany. You need the social security number for starting a new job, get some (health) benefits, or to receive pension. The social security number is a unique 12-digit identifier, which you get on the day you were born or when you register for health insurance for the first time. This number will never change. 

How do I get a social security number in Germany?

When you start a new job, your employer will register you for your Sozialversicherungsausweis as part of the registration process for payroll tax. This is a document with a unique ID that is similar to the social security number in the US. It proves that you pay into statutory social security schemes, such as health insurance. Remember, whether you choose public or private health insurance, this cover is mandatory in Germany.

If you pay into a German pension, you will receive another document called a Rentenversicherungsausweis, which has a different unique ID.

By the way: We know taxes and contributions are complicated at the best of times, and even more so in a foreign country. If you need guidance, check out our simple guide to German taxes!

How do I get my social security number if...?

What does social security in Germany cover and why do I need one?

The clue is in the name. Sozialversicherung translates literally as ‘social insurance’. Employees pay various contributions from their salary to create a comprehensive safety net of state benefits, including:

The German social security system is set down in the Sozialgesetzbuch, also known as the Social Code or SGB for short. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) has produced a comprehensive English-language guide to the German social security system, which you can download here.

Social security number and Insurance number - are they the same in Germany?

In Germany you should have a social insurance number (Sozialversicherungsnummer) and a pension insurance number (Rentenversicherungsnummer). The social security number is in Germany sometimes also be called "Versicherungsnummer" but you have to be careful because this can also imply a number other than the social security number.

What about my US social security arrangements?

Beneficiaries of the US Social Security Administration should direct all queries regarding US social security entitlements and payments to the SSA Federal Benefits Unit at the US Consulate General in Frankfurt. 


To get your social security number you need to contact Deutsche Rentenversicherung. They also provide English support.

If you are eligible for private health insurance and you are in Germany on a visa or a limited permit, we can offer you the Expat Tariff up to five years.

ottonova is fully regulated by the BaFin and therefore fulfilling the requirements (§ 257 7Abs. 2a Satz 1 SGB V and the § 61 Abs. 5 SGB XI) for you to be able to apply for a visa with your ottonova insurance, which also includes our Expat tariff of course.

The process to get your finalized contract typically takes from an hour to 14 days. It depends on the individual case. You first have to submit an application for a tariff (including answers regarding your health status). After we checked your application you will receive your final contract.

If you have questions, feel free to book a non-binding consultation. Our sales team is happy to assist you during that process.

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