Insurance for International Doctoral Students
Health insurance covers the costs for preventative medical check-ups as well as for medical treatment in the case of illness or accidents. Depending on the policy, health insurance provides either full or partial coverage.
Everyone who lives in Germany or visits for an extended period is obligated by law to have health insurance coverage. For this reason, you will receive a visa and a residence permit and will be allowed to enrol at the University only if you can demonstrate that you have adequate health insurance.
In general there are two kinds of health insurance in Germany: health insurance provided by state-regulated providers and insurance provided by private health insurance companies.
In most cases, the kind of insurance that you have is determined by how you fund your stay in Germany. Therefore, you will most likely not be able to choose freely between having state-regulated or private insurance. For this reason we have organized this chapter according to doctoral students who have an employment contract and those who have an alternative form of funding.
If you have health insurance in your home country, you should first determine whether and to what extent this insurance will cover you while you are in Germany.
Health insurance from other EU countries and from countries with which Germany has a social security agreement may be valid in Germany.
Doctoral students with an employment contract
This is called obligatory insurance (Pflichtversicherung). You may choose your health insurance provider on your own; however, it is not possible to be insured with a private health insurance company. In the case of obligatory insurance, both the employer and the employee pay into the health insurance coverage and the payments are automatically deducted from your monthly salary.
Doctoral students without an employment contract (with a fellowship or private funding)
If you have a doctoral fellowship or are financing your doctoral studies privately, you might be able to choose between two health insurance options:
- voluntary health insurance coverage with a state-regulated provider (“voluntary” means that you have the choice between a private health insurance company and a state-regulated provider, as opposed to the obligatory insurance described above. Thus you can voluntarily choose a state-regulated provider),
- coverage with a private health insurance company.
Voluntary coverage with a state-regulated provider (Freiwillige Versicherung bei einer gesetzlichen Krankenkasse)
Generally, you will be able to obtain voluntary coverage with a state-regulated provider only if you were insured in the state-regulated system in Germany before beginning your doctoral studies. In most cases, international doctoral students who have come to Germany for the first time will not qualify for this kind of insurance.
Recognition of past health insurance coverage
If you have been insured in the past through a state-regulated health insurance system as opposed to having private health insurance coverage, you can inquire at the state-regulated provider of your choice in Germany as to whether they will recognize this coverage. If so, you can take out voluntary insurance coverage with this provider.
Private health insurance coverage
Private health insurance coverage and premiums depend on criteria such as your age, gender and the state of your health. The costs for private health insurance as well as the coverage provided vary greatly from company to company. Therefore, we recommend that you contact several companies and compare the conditions and the coverage offered. You can also ask if the companies offer any special rates for doctoral students.
Because your health insurance coverage will not begin until you have finalized your employment contract or your insurance contract, it is a good idea to have additional coverage such as travel health insurance to cover the time between your arrival in Germany and the start of your German health insurance. Please note, however, that travel health insurance does not provide adequate coverage for a longer stay in Germany.
Proof of health insurance coverage for enrolment at the University
Depending on the kind of health insurance you have, the certificate either confirms that you are covered by obligatory insurance from a state-regulated provider (Pflichtversicherung) or, if you have private insurance, it confirms that you are exempt from such obligatory insurance. The certificate can be obtained from any state-regulated provider by showing proof of your health insurance coverage (your insurance card, a copy of your policy etc.).
Important! Health insurance grants for scholarship holders as of 1 September 2017
As of 1 September 2017 holders of a scholarship awarded by one of the 13 funding organisations supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (Begabtenförderungswerke) are eligible for a grant to their private health insurance coverage if they are exempt from the obligatory insurance with a state-regulated provider.
Further information about the amount of the grant and the application procedure is given by the funding organisations.
Third-party liability insurance
We strongly recommend that you take out third-party liability insurance during your stay in Germany. Liability insurance covers accidental or unintentional damage you might cause to another person or their property.
Only doctoral students who are enrolled at the University (§ 2, par. 1, nr. 8c SGBVII) and those who have an employment contract with the University (§2 par. 1 nr. 1 SGB VII) have full insurance coverage.
Doctoral students who are registered in their faculty but not enrolled at the University have limited accident insurance coverage. They are covered while working at the University. This includes activities that fall into the field of responsibility of the University such as participation in lectures and classes or working in the University library. They are, however, not covered on the way to or from the University or when taking part in University sports activities.
The Unfallkasse Baden-Württemberg is the accident insurance provider for Heidelberg University. Accident reports must be made through the student services organization, the Studierendenwerk.
Further information is available here:
► Unfallkasse Baden-Württemberg (UKBW) (German)
► Deutsche Gesetzliche Unfallversicherung (DGUV)
The information on this page is meant to provide a first overview of the topic. The Graduate Academy has made every reasonable effort to ensure that the information on this website is correct at the time of publication. However, the contents are continuously subject to legal changes and revisions that may not be incorporated immediately on the webpage. Please contact the relevant institutions if you have specific questions because only they can provide legally binding information.