If you are fit for work and your income or assets are not sufficient to cover your living expenses, you can apply for basic security benefits for jobseekers. In Germany, this is also called Hartz IV. The prerequisite is that you are not receiving the help you need from relatives or from providers of other social benefits. Basic security benefits are essentially meant to just tide you over. The Jobcenter usually assumes that you are available for work. You must therefore be prepared to look for a job, to have the Jobcenter find you a job, or to take part in further training or retraining. Pregnant people are subject to slightly less strict rules than other jobseekers.

The Jobcenter will advise you on your application for basic benefits. Your application must be made in writing or online. The same applies to subsequent applications to the Jobcenter. In order for the Jobcenter to be able to make a decision on your application, you must submit documents that show the Jobcenter staff the personal and financial circumstances of all the people living in the same household as you. This includes your ID card, proof of income and assets, and rental agreement, but also, for example, a pregnancy certificate or your maternity record (Mutterpass). The best thing to do is to call your local Jobcenter and ask what documents you need to bring with you. It takes several weeks to process an application. Then you'll get a written decision. It tells you what benefits you're entitled to. If your application is approved, you will receive money from the first day of the month in which you submitted your application. If you do not agree with the Jobcenter's decision, you can lodge an appeal or take legal action. However, this is only possible within certain time limits.

Once you have submitted your application, the first thing the Jobcenter will do is check which people live with you in a so-called ‘community of need’. Even if you share a household with your partner and you are not married, this counts as a ‘community of need’. The Jobcenter will also clarify whether other agencies, such as health insurance, might have to pay benefits to cover your living expenses. If the Jobcenter is responsible, your monthly needs will be calculated. This is made up of the ‘standard needs’, i.e. the necessary costs of living, as well as the costs for accommodation and heating. In addition, the Jobcenter will take over payments for your statutory health insurance and long-term care insurance.

During pregnancy, you have increased expenses because you have to buy things that you only need then. Because these needs exceed the standard needs, you are considered to require ‘additional needs’ amounting to 17 percent of the standard needs calculated for you from the beginning of the 13th week of pregnancy. To get this, you have to prove your pregnancy to the Jobcenter with a certificate from your doctor or midwife.

If you live with one or more underage children and you are the only one caring for and raising them, you are entitled to ‘additional needs’ for single parents. Depending on how many of your children are minors, it will be between 36 percent and 60 percent of your standard rate. You are entitled to it as long as you receive benefits from the Jobcenter and your children are not yet of age.

The Jobcenter will also pay you what is known as an ‘initial allowance’ for pregnancy and childbirth. This should enable you, for example, to buy a baby changing unit, baby cot, high chair or pram. However, this support is only available if you do not still own appropriate clothing and equipment from previous pregnancies and births. It's important that you submit the request in writing before you buy anything. The Jobcenter will only pay for what it has pre-approved.