The most frequent situation we come across for the purposes of getting German pension contributions refunded is the following:
– You have worked in Germany as a regular employee for less than 60 months
– You have paid into the German pension system during this time
– You do not hold an EU citizenship
– You leave the country and stay outside the EU for more than 24 months
Under these circumstances it is highly likely that you qualify for a complete refund of your German pension contributions. Refunds are made to anywhere in the world and do not preclude you from coming back to Germany at any point in the future to visit or to work here again.
If you are planning on getting your pension contributions refunded, it makes sense to complete the application pretty much at the time when you leave the country. At this point in time it is usually easier to collect all relevant details for the application rather than years down the line.
You should however not submit your refund application before the 24 month waiting period is up as the pension office will not even look at your application and will send it straight back to you for resubmission at the right time.
So, get the application ready when you leave, have it sitting there ready to go and submit after 24 months.
The actual refund process is relatively slow. It can easily take 6 months or more after your submission before you see your money. If you still maintain a German bank account at that time it can speed up the payment to you if you use this account. The payment process alone to a foreign account can take an extra 2 months after your refund as been formally approved.
More details on the German pension system can be found at www.deutsche-rentenversicherung-bund.de.