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Social Security Number: Applying is as simple as that

Oliver April 2020 8 min

Table of contents

Regardless of your current employment status – in Germany, each person must have a social security card in order to be able to pursue employment. This is issued by the pension insurance institution, to which your employer must also pay contributions.

But what should you do if your ID card is lost or damaged – or if you do not yet have one? This question is an easy one to answer, as the application process is usually straightforward. Here is how to proceed.

Where to find your Social Security Number

You will find your individual number on your social security card and on the pension insurance certificates. However, if you don’t know your number even when you start working, you can give your personal data to the employer.

Since they are linked to your social security number, your manager can find out the number this way. You can also contact your health insurance company to get the number.

The Social Security Card (‘identity card), established 2011

Before January 2011 there existed a different social security card, which is no longer valid. Nowadays each person receives their “membership” or pension insurance number by letter from the responsible pension insurance institution. The legalities can be found here § 18h SGB IV.

The social security card pre-2011 differed in design. In addition, one was expected to carry it with them at all times. However, in 2009 this became no longer necessary. Nevertheless, the card must always be presented to the employer when starting work.

Why do I need it?

The social security card gives your employer important information about you including

  • Your name
  • Your social security number and
  • Your ID number

It is also identified by the respective date of issue. This is all the information that serves to uniquely identify you and prove your membership in the social security system. It exists above all, to prevent the unauthorised receipt of social benefits as well as illegal employment.

Therefore, if you have a job which is subject to social security contributions, you will also need the corresponding identity card. This includes full-time and part-time jobs as well as mini-jobs and internships. Even if you are currently looking for a job, the social security number is important because it stores all the data you need for your future pension, such as your training period or years of employment.

What is the purpose of the social security card?

Who needs a Social Security Card?

As a rule, everyone who is not a civil servant receives the social security card when they first enter the job market, even if it is only a mini-job.

For civil servants, judges and professional soldiers, the scheme is slightly different. They receive pensions from their employer and are not covered by the pension insurance institution. Thus, they do not have a social security number. They are only required to apply for one if they are interested in a supplementary pension.

However, if you belong to this professional group and already have a social security number, you must inform your employer. If you do not have this number, you must apply for an allowance number.

How to obtain the Social Security Card?

As a rule, you don’t have to worry too much about the first-time purchase of the ID card, because you will receive it automatically as soon as you start a job. Your future employer will automatically inform your health insurance company about the employment.

This also applies for the social security number at the pension insurance institution, whereupon the identity card will be sent to you. Further action by the employee is not required.

I have lost my Social Security Card – What now?

Your social security card is an important document that you should handle with care and keep in a safe place. Everyone loses a card or something important occasionally. However, if your identity card goes missing, it is not lost forever.

The first step is to inform your health insurance company about the loss. Your health insurance company will contact the pension insurance company to request a replacement certificate. It is also possible that your employer will apply for a new social security card. If you have lost your identity card as well as a document with the corresponding number, a new social security number will be applied for.

You must bear in mind that it can take several weeks before the document is issued. Usually it can take four to six weeks until you receive your new identity card by post.

It is therefore important that if you lose your ID card, you get a replacement as soon as possible, as this is of enormous importance, especially when changing jobs. One positive outcome is that the second issue of the identity card is also free of charge.

Obligation to carry a Social Security Card

Until 2009, there was still an obligation to carry the card, but this has since been abolished. Nevertheless, employees of certain occupational groups are still required to carry identification. These groups must always carry a document for clear identification, which can be presented to customs if required. In addition to the social security card, the identity card, passport, passport substitute or replacement of an identity card can also be used for this purpose.

This scheme applies to the following sectors:

  • Construction industry
  • Restaurant and hotel industry
  • Passenger and freight carriers
  • Fairground industry
  • Forestry
  • Building cleaning trade
  • Companies participating in the construction and dismantling of trade fairs and exhibitions
  • Meat industry

However, the employees concerned are not always aware that they too are obliged to carry identification. To avoid this, companies must inform their employees of this obligation in writing.

What is the composition of the Social Security Number?

Each person has an individual insurance number, consisting of a combination of 12 numbers and letters, which the pension insurance company can use to identify the person in question:

  • Numbers 1-2:       Area number of the pension insurance institution
  • Numbers 3-8:       Your date of birth
  • Letter 9:                First letter of your birth name
  • Numbers 0-11:     Serial number
  • Number 12:          Check digit

The insurance number is only assigned once and does not change even if you change your name or place of residence.

What are the components of the social security number?

What should I do if I urgently need a new Social Security Card?

If you notice only at the last moment that you have lost your identity card or it is badly damaged, you should try to get a new document as soon as possible. However, as we have already mentioned, delivery can take several weeks – what now?

In this case, your first point of contact is the pension insurance or your health insurance company. They can issue you with a certificate informing your new employer that you have already applied for a new identity card. As soon as you receive the new identity card, you can hand it in to your employer.

Ideally however, you will know your social security number even without the corresponding ID and can give it to your employer. The number can be found, for example, on letters from your health insurance or pension insurance company.

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What should I do if my name changes?

If you change your name, as might be the case with marriage for example, you will also require a new social security card. This process works in the same way as if you have lost your card: Send the form to your health or pension insurance company and they will do the rest.

Just remember to return your old social security card, as you are only allowed to have one.

The correct handling of the Social Security Card: Our Checklist

No matter whether you are in an employment relationship or looking for work – a well organised accounting department is essential. You should always keep your social security card in a safe place, where it will remain undamaged and will not be lost.

We have put together some important tips to help you avoid problems with your social security card:

  • When you receive your passport, you should immediately check all important data such as the spelling of your name and date of birth
  • It is best practice to keep your passport together with other official documents in a safe place where you can easily find them
  • So that you know your social security number even if you lose your identity card, you should write it down separately
  • If you lose your social security card, you should contact your health insurance company immediately
  • Upon changing your name, obtain a new identity card as soon as possible

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