Foreign students and workers in Germany excluded from Hartz IV benefits – Supreme Court

Foreigners who are in Germany to look for work or study are excluded from Hartz IV social-security benefits, the Federal Constitutional Court (Bundesverfassungsgericht) has ruled in two cases.

In the two verdicts published on Thursday (6 February), the Bundesverfassungsgericht, Germany’s highest court on constitutional matters, dismissed the ruling of the lower Social Court (Sozialgericht), which considers the legal exclusion of foreign job seekers and students from welfare benefits as unconstitutional.

The Federal Constitutional Court judges, sitting in Karlsruhe, reprimanded the Social Court, based in Mainz, for not adequately justifying its ruling.

According to the Social Code (Sozialgesetzbuch), foreigners who come to Germany to look for work are excluded from Hartz IV assistance – a flat cash benefit intended to secure basic subsistence of the recipient. The same applies to foreign citizens who are undergoing training that is eligible for funding under the Federal Training Assistance Act (Bundesausbildungsfördergesetz or Bafög).

The first case concerned an Uzbek family that was affected by both exclusion rules: the man had first studied medicine in Germany and thereafter only got minor jobs with a monthly income of around 200 euros in a sleep laboratory. The labour office (Job Center) rejected the family’s application for Hartz IV benefits, making reference to the Social Code for its decision.

In the second case, an Iranian with a settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) initially received Hartz IV. However, when she started an unpaid training as a medical-technical radiology assistant, she was neither given a vocational training grant nor Hartz IV benefits. Because her training is fundamentally eligible for Bafög assistance, she is not entitled to Hartz IV benefits. The 30-year-old woman also did not receive Bafög assistance because of her age. The Social Court considered this to be unconstitutional.

The Social Court also found in its 227-page decision in the case of the Uzbek family that everyone who lives in Germany must be granted a decent subsistence assistance.

The Federal Constitutional Court rejected the lower court’s decision as insufficiently justified and therefore inadmissible.

Femi Awoniyi

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