It is compulsory to have health insurance in Germany. Before you can apply for a German visa, you must provide evidence of sufficient health insurance coverage by a health insurance provider which complies with German law.
4 Types of Health Insurances Available in Germany
It is important to note that in Germany there are different types of health insurance available. The law requires persons of a certain type of employment and income to be compulsory insured while others may have the freedom to choose.
Public Health Insurance
Public health insurance in Germany is the most common in Germany and applies to the majority of the population. About 90% of persons in Germany have public health insurance. The compulsory insurance limit of €64,350 per year or €5,362.50 per month for 2021, generally means that anyone earning less than this must choose public health insurance.
Private Health Insurance
Private health insurance in Germany is only available to certain persons such as self-employed and freelancers, students or employees who earn more than the income threshold of €64,350 per year (2021). Opposed to public health insurance, private health insurance is based on your age and health, amongst others. This means a young healthy person pays considerably less compared to someone with public health insurance. Not everyone can be covered by private health insurance as pre-existing health conditions or similar may lead to insurance companies not willing to cover you at all.
Expat Health Insurance
An expat health insurance in Germany is temporary health insurance. It is mainly used to get a residence permit as it is cheaper. However, once you arrive in Germany, anyone with expat health insurance should change to public or private health insurance depending on what you qualify for. If you fail to do so, it may be difficult to get either insurance at a later stage and thus not able to renew your residence permit.
Although expat health insurance is cheaper than public or private, it also has less coverage. For example, you may need to pay a deductible for a doctor checkup. But keep in mind deductibles may also be applicable for private health insurances.
Expat health insurances also expire after 5 years. This means it is important not to wait too long or risk expiry during medical treatment. This may turn out to be very costly.
Compared to travel insurance, expat health insurance is more costly but it also carries better coverage. Some other main differences between the two are expiry, long term care coverage and the types of visas you are able to get with the different types of insurances. For example, travel health insurance is valid for short term visas such as a tourist visa. An Expat health insurance is valid for German jobseeker VISA, The Blue Card, or other work and long term related VISA’s.
Travel insurance is only valid for a few months and used only for short stays in Germany. The coverage is fundamentally different as travel health insurance covers repatriation and not local long terms treatments. It is also not accepted for residence permits.
Which Type of Health Insurance is Needed For a German VISA?
Each different type of VISA in Germany has different requirements. It is mainly based on the length of stay but the German embassies and consulates can provide you with the requirements for your particular case.
German Tourist VISA
If you intent to visit the country short term and apply for a tourist VISA, you can choose travel health insurance. It is important that the travel health insurance is valid for the entire duration of your stay / VISA.
Germany Residence Permits
If you intend to live and work in the country and therefore apply for a EU Blue Card, student VISA, jobseeker VISA or any other work or study-related VISA, you must choose either expat health hindrance, private health insurance, or public health insurance. Travel health insurance will not be accepted for these kinds of VISA applications.
If it is the first time you apply for your VISA you have 2 main options:
- You can get expat health insurance in order to apply for the VISA, and once you arrive in Germany you can switch to either public health insurance or private health insurance (depending which one you qualify for).
- You can also choose public or private health insurance immediately when applying for your VISA. You will then get a document (Mitgliedsbescheinigung) that confirms you are insured as soon as you arrive in Germany.
If you have existing German health insurance and need to renew it, it is rarely accepted to renew expat health insurance. Therefore you need to choose public or private health insurance. It is important to understand the difference and criteria between the two.
The Duration and Time-limit of Switching From Expat Health Insurance
An Expat health insurance is only valid for maximum 5 years. After this, one must switch to private or public health insurance as expat health insurance renewals are rarely accepted.
However, it is advised to switch to either private or public health insurance as soon as possible. If you get long term sick while having expat health insurance, your pre-existing health condition may disqualify you from private or public health insurance. Although every German is eligible for basic cover regardless of preexisting health conditions, it will probably be expensive and limited coverage insurance. So it is advisable to get private or public health insurance as soon as possible in order to ensure you are healthy while applying for health insurance. This is particularly important for those who must choose private health insurance.
Understand Which Insurance to Choose When Renewing an Expat Health Insurance
The German health insurance system can be daunting to understand. Specifically the difference and requirements between public health insurance and private health insurance. Now that you know which health insurance expats can choose, you then must understand if you can choose public or private health insurance. Read our other related guides to understand which VISA types are available and everything about German health insurance: