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Longish read: The start-up bonus for Arbeitslosen
The Arbeitsamt will give you your unemployment money as a guaranteed grant (Grundungszuschuss), rather than a handout based on job applications.
Are you unemployed? Do you want an extra 300 euros each month? Then boy do we have some exciting news for you! If you’re on Arbeitslosengeld I, you may be eligible for the wondrous Gründungszuschuss—another word to know that you won’t learn at Deutschkurs. This is a generous grant from the German government for people who are thinking of going freelance. But be warned—in oh-so-Deutsch fashion, this social initiative, while brilliant, is a bloody nightmare to wrap your head around.
You'll need a bunch of documents, including a business plan, a freelance tax number, a profitability forecast, a letter from the Finanzamt, and another from an industry professional that says your plan is viable. In return, you could get 300 euros on top of your AGL monthly payment for 6 months.
Months or days?
While it’s up to the Amt to decide your fate, if you put in the leg work, it could be yours. Just make sure you still have at least 150 days of unemployment benefit left when you apply. According to one of our trusty readers, Maxmarie Wilmoth, a US expat who just went through the process: “They say 150 days, but they actually mean five months, as the Agentur für Arbeit, for 'simplicity's sake', counts each month with 30 days instead of the number of days that the month actually has.
“When I found out about the programme, I thought, wow, this is amazing. And now that I've gone through it, I still think that anyone who wants to exit Arbeitslosengeld to become a full time freelancer would be crazy not to apply for it. Just be aware that they make you jump through a lot of hoops that aren't necessarily obvious to the naked eye.”
So yes, play by the extremely complicated rules - and maybe get a German-speaking adviser—and you’ll be fine.