NOTE: The provisions of German law that govern the payment of voluntary contributions are
very complex. For this reason, the U.S. Social Security Administration cannot give advice about paying voluntary contributions. As explained below, you must contact the German authorities to get more information.
U.S.-German Social Security Agreement
In 1979, the United States and Germany concluded a Social Security Agreement that
helps improve benefit protection for people who have earned Social Security credits
in both countries. Recently, the two governments concluded a supplementary agreement
that makes several changes in the original 1979 agreement. The most important change
gives certain Jews from Eastern Europe who now resides in the United States new benefit
rights under Germany's Foreign Pensions Law (“Fremdrentengesetz”).
German Foreign Pensions Law
The Foreign Pensions Law (FPL) was enacted in 1960 to help people of German ancestry
who had lived in various areas outside Germany (primarily in Eastern Europe), and
who were forced to flee their homelands due to adverse political conditions. Under
the FPL, Germany will count the social security credits these ethnic Germans earned
in their former homelands in determining eligibility for German Social Security benefits.
To qualify for FPL credits, the persons concerned must generally prove that they had
acknowledged themselves to be ethnic Germans before leaving their former homelands.
However, many Jews from Eastern Europe who were ethnically German and who lived in
areas that came under the influence of the German Nazi regime during the 1930's and
1940's did not acknowledge themselves as German. An amendment to the FPL that became
effective July 1, 1990, makes it possible for these Jews from Eastern Europe to also
receive FPL credits even though they did not acknowledge that they were German.
Until now, many U.S. residents have been unable to take advantage of the 1990 amendments
to the FPL. This is because German law generally prevents a person who is outside
of Germany from receiving a benefit based on FPL credits unless the person actually
contributed to the German Social Security system at some point. Even if a person has
made some German contributions, the number of FPL credits that can be counted may
be limited to the number of contributions that were actually paid. Since many U.S.
residents who qualify for FPL credits based on the 1990 amendment have never contributed
to the German system, they couldn't receive a benefit based on the FPL credits. Others
who have contributed, did so for only a short time and receive a small benefit because
not all of their FPL credits could be counted.
How the new agreement helps U.S. residents
Under the new supplementary agreement, which became effective May 1, 1996, U.S. residents
who qualify for FPL credits based on the 1990 amendment can make voluntary contributions
to the German system. Paying voluntary contributions makes it possible for them to
receive German benefits based on their FPL credits. Frequently, these benefits can
be paid as far back as July 1, 1990.
The number of months for which voluntary contributions can be paid is limited and
the contributions must be paid in the amount of 84.48 Deutsche Marks for each calendar
month of contributions. There will be no actual cost for most people, however, since the contributions can be deducted from back benefits. In almost all
cases, the back benefits will exceed the required contributions.
If you do not qualify for FPL credits, or if you already receive a benefit based on
all your FPL credits, the supplementary agreement does not affect your German pension
Who is eligible
To be eligible to make the voluntary contributions, you must be a U.S. or German citizen
(or a refugee or stateless person) and must have become a U.S. resident before July
1, 1990. In addition, you must be Jewish and of ethnic German origin as determined
by the German authorities. (Claimants are generally required to show that they spoke
German.) You must also have reached age 16 before the date Nazi influence first reached
your former homeland. This date is determined under German law and varies depending
on the area. As a general rule, however, anyone born after September 1, 1925, will
not be eligible to make voluntary contributions.
How to apply to make voluntary contributions
If you want to apply to make voluntary contributions, or just want more information,
you must contact the German authorities directly for assistance. You may do this by
calling or writing the nearest German consulate, or you may write to one of the following
If you were last employed as a salaried employee in your former homeland:
If you were last employed as a manual worker in your former homeland:
Freie und Hansestadt- Hamburg
Postfach 60 15 60
If you believe you can qualify immediately for German benefits by making voluntary
contributions, you may file an application for German benefits at your nearest U.S.
Social Security office. The Social Security Administration will forward your application
to the proper German agency for you. When they receive your application, the German
authorities will send you the additional information and forms you will need to apply
for the right to make voluntary contributions.
Time limit for filing
Applications to make voluntary contributions must be filed by April 30, 1998, to be
Please remember that the Social Security Administration cannot provide you with any
additional information about voluntary contributions. Official information must be
obtained from the German authorities.