Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion

A-Z on social security coordination (FAQs) - U

Unemployment benefits

Legal basis: article 61-65 Regulation 883/2004

In most Member States, unemployment benefits are only awarded if you have completed the requisite qualifying period. In some countries, these periods have to be periods of (self-)employment, while in others, periods of insurance are required. By virtue of the general principle of aggregation of periods (see the relevant keyword), periods of insurance or (self-)employment completed in other Member States can be taken into account for the acquisition, retention, recovery or duration of the right to benefits in a given Member State, as though they were completed in that State. However, when it comes to unemployment benefits, the regulation deviates from the general aggregation rule in that it makes a distinction according to the nature of the periods required by the legislation of the State where benefits are claimed. Moreover, except in the case of wholly unemployed frontier workers who resided outside the competent State, the application of the aggregation rule is subject to an additional condition.

If the entitlement in the State where you claim benefits is linked to the completion of periods of insurance, that State has to take account of all periods of insurance or (self-)employment which you completed as a (self-)employed person under the legislation of any other State. However, in respect of the aggregation of periods of employment or self-employment completed in other States, a further condition applies: periods of (self-)employment completed under the legislation of another Member State shall be aggregated only if these periods would have been considered as insurance periods had they been completed under the legislation of the State where you request benefits. This condition does not apply if the periods completed under the legislation of another State are defined or recognised as periods of insurance under that legislation; in that case, the State where you request benefits must always take these periods into account, even if these periods would not have counted as periods of insurance under the legislation of the latter State.

Furthermore, the aggregation rule in case of unemployment benefits only applies if, immediately before you became unemployed, you completed a period of insurance, of employment or of self-employment, depending on the relevant legislation, in accordance with the legislation of the State where you claim benefits. In practice, this implies that you can only claim unemployment benefits according to the legislation of the State where you became unemployed. In general, one day of work in the State where you request benefits suffices. In several Member States, national legislation provides for an exception to the condition that you should have completed periods under their legislation in order to be able to rely on the aggregation rule. Such exceptions should also be able to be relied upon by other Member State nationals.
Please note that this additional condition does not apply when you are a wholly unemployed person who, during his/her last employment, resided in another State than the competent State (see questions 69.9 and 69.10).
The institution of the State where you claim benefits (i.e. the competent institution) will contact the institutions of the States to whose legislation you have been subject in the past in order to determine all the periods completed under their legislation. You may also submit to the competent institution a document (portable document U1) issued by the institution of the State to whose legislation you were subject in respect of your last activity as an employed or self-employed person specifying the periods completed under that legislation.
Contrary to other social security benefits, unemployment benefits are, in principle, not exportable. The right to unemployment benefits is subject to the condition that you remain available for the labour market of the State which pays the benefit. In other words, you have to reside in that country. However, the rule of non-exportability of unemployment benefits is not absolute. The regulation provides for a conditional exportability, which is limited in time.

There are three sets of conditions.

Firstly, a number of general conditions have to be satisfied: you must be a wholly unemployed person (as opposed to a partially or intermittently unemployed person) and you must satisfy the conditions for entitlement to unemployment benefits of the legislation of the State where you are receiving unemployment benefits. Note that the letter of the regulation does not require you to actually receive benefits prior to your departure but you must have been available to the employment services of this Member State. However, if you are not in receipt of benefits, this may cause problems as it will be more difficult to establish which benefits you can export;

Secondly, before your departure, you must register as a person seeking work and have remained available to the employment services of the competent State for at least four weeks after becoming unemployed. This term of four weeks need not be an uninterrupted one. The competent services or institutions may, however, authorise your departure before such time has expired.

Finally, you must complete some conditions upon arrival at your destination. In particular, you must register as a person seeking work with the employment services of the State you have gone to, you must be subject to the control procedure organised there and you must adhere to the conditions laid down under the legislation of that State. If you register within seven days after you ceased to be available to the employment services of the competent State, you will be granted unemployment benefit as of the date of your departure. However, if you do not register within this period, you will only be entitled to benefits from the date you registered, and for the remaining part of the three-month period. This seven-day period may be extended by the competent services or institutions in exceptional cases.

If you satisfy the abovementioned conditions, you are entitled to export your unemployment benefit from the State where you became unemployed for a maximum period of three months starting from the day you ceased to be available to the employment services of that State. If your entitlement under the legislation of the State granting the unemployment benefit is shorter, this period ends earlier. The competent services or institution may extend the period of up to a maximum of six months. The unemployment benefit is paid directly by the competent institution.

If you return to the State you left before the end of this three-month period (or, where applicable six-month period), you will continue to be entitled to unemployment benefit in accordance with the legislation of that State. However, if you return after this three- or six-month period, you will lose all entitlement to unemployment benefits under the legislation of the State which you left, unless the provisions of that legislation are more favourable or unless the services or institutions of the competent State grant you an extension of this period in exceptional cases. The loss of entitlement to benefits is not restricted to the time between the expiry of the three- or six-month period and the moment when you make yourself available again to the employment services of the competent State. If you wish to re-qualify for unemployment benefits, you will have to satisfy all the conditions for entitlement laid down by the legislation of that State again. As already said, the competent State may grant an extension of the three- or six-month period in exceptional cases. Indeed, there may be circumstances (such as hospitalisation) which prevent your return to the competent State within the required time. In deciding whether to extend the three- or six-month period, the authorities concerned enjoy wide discretion. They are free to take into consideration all factors which they consider relevant and which may relate both to your individual situation and to the exercise of effective control. In exercising this discretionary power, however, they must take account of the proportionality principle and consider in each individual case the extent to which the period has been exceeded, the reason for the delay in returning and the seriousness of the legal consequences arising from such delay. Note than an extension of the period is permissible even when the request is made after that period has expired.
You must inform the institution paying your unemployment benefit (i.e. the competent institution) prior to your departure and request a document certifying that you retain entitlement to benefits during your job search in the State you will travel to. The competent institution will inform you of your obligations and will hand you the relevant certificate (portable document U2). This certificate contains relevant information such as the period granted in order to register as a person seeking work in the State of destination, the maximum period during which you may export your benefit and a list of circumstances likely to affect entitlement to benefits.

Upon your arrival, you must register as a person seeking work with the employment services of the Member State to which you have travelled to seek work (see the answer to question 69.3) and submit the portable document U2. If you fail to deliver this portable document, the institution in the Member State to which you have gone will contact the competent institution in order to obtain the necessary information. Furthermore, the former institution will immediately send a document to the competent institution containing the date on which you registered with the employment services and your new address.

The employment services in the Member State to which you have gone to seek work have a duty to inform you of your obligations.

The institution in the Member State to which you have gone will carry out or arrange for checks to be carried out, as if you were an unemployed person obtaining benefits under its own legislation.

If, in the period during which you export your unemployment benefit, any circumstance likely to affect the entitlement to benefits arises (e.g. you found a job), the institution in the Member State to which you have travelled shall send you and the competent institution immediately a document containing the relevant information (portable document U3). At the request of the latter institution, the institution in the Member State to which you have gone shall provide relevant information on a monthly basis concerning the follow-up of your situation, in particular whether you are still registered with the employment services and are complying with the organised checking procedures.
Under the former regulation, the right to export unemployment benefit could be exercised only once between two periods of employment. An unemployed person who made use of this possibility could only submit a new claim to export his/her unemployment benefits if s/he had resumed work for a while. The current regulation is more flexible, in that it allows you to rely on this possibility several times, as long as you respect the overall maximum period of three months (or six months, if extended by the competent institution). Furthermore, this is without prejudice to more favourable provisions in the legislation of the competent State.
Let us assume, for the sake of example, that you are unemployed in Member State A, that this State has extended the period of export to six months, and that you went to Member State B for two months to seek work, exporting your unemployment benefit. After two months, you return to Member State A, retaining your entitlement to unemployment benefit. Five months later, you export your unemployment benefit to State C. The maximum duration of this export is four months, save more favourable provisions in State A’s legislation.
Yes you are, provided you have the right to medical care under the legislation of the State you left to seek work. You are entitled to care which becomes medically necessary during your stay in the territory of the State where you seek employment, taking into account the nature of the benefits and the expected length of stay. The care is provided according to the legislation of the country to which you went to seek work. It is paid for by the institution of the State where you became unemployed.

Before leaving the latter State, you should apply to the institution of that State for a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). For more information on your entitlement to medical care, see question 41.1 under the keyword medical care.
There is indeed an important exception to this rule. It is generally believed that too strict an application of the general rule, under which a person is subject to the legislation of the country where s/he works, may have undesirable results. That is why in some cases, unemployment benefits are provided by the State of residence instead of by the State of last (self-)employment, even though no contributions were paid to that State.

To answer the question as to whom this exception applies, a distinction has to be made between frontier workers (see question 69.9) and other migrant workers (see question 69.10). Frontier workers are workers who pursue their occupation in the territory of a Member State and live in the territory of another Member State to which they return at least once a week (see the keyword frontier worker). Other migrant workers include, inter alia, seasonal workers, certain mariners, international transport workers and workers other than workers employed in international transport who normally pursue their activity in two or more Member States. At the same time, a distinction has to be made between the different forms of unemployment, i.e. wholly unemployed on the one hand, and partially or intermittently unemployed on the other. For employed persons, determination of the nature of unemployment depends on whether or not any contractual employment link exists or is maintained between the worker and the employer, and not on the duration of any temporary suspension of the worker’s activity. An employed person can be said to be wholly unemployed when his/her employment relationship has been broken or has expired. An employed person whose employment relationship still exists but is suspended can be regarded as partially or intermittently unemployed.

The exception, according to which unemployment benefits are provided by the State of residence, applies to certain categories of wholly unemployed persons who, during their last (self-)employment, were residing in a Member State other than the competent State. In the overall majority of cases, these persons are wholly unemployed frontier workers. These persons have to reside outside the competent State to be regarded as frontier workers. In other words, the habitual centre of their interests (see the keyword residence) must be situated outside the State to whose legislation they were subject during their last activity as an employed or a self-employed person. In the majority of cases, as a result of the lex loci laboris rule, the competent State is the country in which they worked before becoming unemployed (this is, however, not necessarily the case; posted workers, for instance, remain subject to the legislation of the sending State). The unemployed persons to whom this exception applies must have resided outside the competent State during their last (self-)employment. This implies that if a person worked and lived in one Member State, became unemployed and then moved to another State, the exception does not apply.

The reason for granting this exception is to guarantee unemployment benefits to migrant workers under the most favourable conditions for seeking new employment. It is widely believed that the possibility of receiving unemployment benefits in the country of residence is justified for workers with close ties, in particular of a personal and vocational nature, with the country where they have settled and habitually reside.

Generally speaking, the provisions for wholly unemployed frontier workers and other wholly unemployed migrant workers differ in that the latter have a right to choose whether they put themselves at the disposal (and receive unemployment cash benefits) of the employment services in the competent State or in the State of residence. Wholly unemployed frontier workers must make themselves available to the employment services in the State of residence and receive unemployment cash benefits there, but they may opt, as a supplementary step, to make themselves available to the employment services in the State of last (self-)employment.
The answer to this question differs according to the nature of the unemployment. If you are partially or intermittently unemployed, you will receive benefits in accordance with the legislation of the competent State (normally the country of last employment or self-employment), at the expense of the competent institution. This is logical, as the professional relation with the employer or the business ties continue to exist and you have the best chance of finding work in the former country of (self-)employment.

If you are a wholly unemployed frontier worker, you are entitled to unemployment benefits in accordance with the legislation of the Member State of residence, as if you had been subject to that legislation while lastly (self-)employed. You must make yourself available to the employment services of that country. You must also register as a person seeking work with these services and you will be subject to the control procedure and the conditions applicable in the State of residence. The benefits are paid by the institution of the place of residence, but that institution will be reimbursed by the institution of the competent State for the benefits it has provided during the first three months (or during the first five months, if you worked at least 12 months during the last 24 months in the State of last employment or self-employment), up to the amount of unemployment benefit that would be payable under the legislation of the competent State. Entitlement to benefit, and the amount of benefit you receive, is assessed entirely according to the legislation of the country of residence. It is important to note that in this regard, the condition for the application of the aggregation rule, i.e. completion of a period under the legislation of the State performing the aggregation (see question 69.1), does not apply. Nevertheless there must be sufficient periods in other Member States to satisfy the conditions under the legislation of the State of residence.
In addition, as a supplementary step, you may make yourself available to the employment services in the State of last (self-)employment, by registering also with these services as a person seeking work, and hence, complying also with the obligations applicable in the State of last (self-)employment. If you choose to do so, you must inform the institution and the employment services of the Member State where you reside. Even though you must comply with the obligations and /or job-seeking activities in both States, the obligations and activities in the State of residence have priority. Please note that, if you decide to make yourself available - as a supplementary step - to the employment services in the State of last (self-)employment, you continue to receive benefits from the institution of the State of residence only, and you will be subject to the legislation of that State.
The answer varies according to the nature of unemployment. If you are partially, intermittently or wholly unemployed, you will receive benefits from the competent State, provided you remain available to your employer or to the employment services of that State.

If you are a wholly unemployed non-frontier worker, as well as being able to make yourself available to the employment services in the competent State of last (self-)employment and claim benefits from that State’s institution, provided at its expense, you can also choose to receive unemployment benefits in the State of residence, by making yourself available to the employment services in that State. In that case, the benefits are paid by the institution of the place of residence, but that institution will be reimbursed by the institution of the competent State for the benefits it has provided during the first three months (or during the first five months, if you worked at least 12 months during the last 24 months in the State of last employment or self-employment), up to the amount of unemployment benefit that would be payable under the legislation of the competent State. Entitlement to benefit, and the amount of benefit you receive, is assessed entirely according to the legislation of the country of residence. It should be noted that the condition for the application of the aggregation rule, i.e. completion of a period of insurance under the legislation of the State performing the aggregation (see question 69.1), does not apply here. Nevertheless there must be sufficient periods in other Member States to satisfy the conditions under the legislation of the State of residence.

Your choice is not final. The fact that, as a wholly unemployed non-frontier worker, you first received unemployment benefit in the competent State, does not preclude you from being able to change your decision by making yourself available to the unemployment services of the country where you reside with the objective of receiving benefits there. In that case, you continue to receive benefits from the competent State during the first three months (or, where applicable, six months) provided you comply with the conditions for exporting unemployment benefit (see the answer to questions 69.3 and 69.4).

As a wholly unemployed person receiving unemployment benefit from, and at the expense of, the institution of the State where you reside (see the answer to the previous questions), entitlement and the amount of benefit are determined and assessed in accordance with the legislation of that State. If that legislation provides for the calculation of benefits on the basis of the amount of previous salary or professional income, the institution of the State of residence will consider the salary or professional income you received in the Member State to whose legislation you were subject during your last activity as an employed or self-employed person (although in relation to self-employed persons not all situations depending on the different national legislations of the Member States involved are sufficiently clarified).
As a wholly unemployed person receiving unemployment benefits under the legislation of the Member State of residence, you are subject to the legislation of that State, including as regards other social security benefits such as medical care, sickness cash benefits, family benefits (see question 29.3) and pensions. You are therefore treated in the same way as other unemployed persons in the State where you reside.
This is not altered by the fact that, as a wholly unemployed frontier worker, you decided to make yourself available, as a supplementary step, to the employment services in the State of last (self-)employment.
Yes, you are, if you were covered against the risk of unemployment in the State of your last activity. In other words, if you have completed periods of insurance or periods recognised for the purpose of granting unemployment benefits there.

As a wholly unemployed self-employed frontier worker, you are entitled to unemployment benefits of the Member State of last self-employment in accordance with the legislation of that Member State, if no unemployment benefits system covering self-employed exists in the Member State of residence. The latter Member State has submitted notification that there is no possibility for any category of self-employed persons to be covered by an unemployment benefits system of that Member State.

You have to register with and make yourself available to the employment services in the Member State in which you pursued your last self-employed activity and adhere to the conditions laid down under the legislation of that Member State. As a supplementary step, you may make yourself available to the employment services of the Member State of residence.

If you do not wish to become or remain available to the employment services of the Member State of last activity after having been registered there and you wish to seek work in your Member State of residence only, you have to comply with the special provisions for the export of unemployment benefits (see question 69.3), except for the requirement of availability of at least four weeks after becoming unemployed. The competent institution may in such cases extend the normally foreseen three month export period up to the end of the period of entitlement to benefits.

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