Covid-19 Crisis: Help for freelance photographers in Berlin

Including links to forms and where possible, in English.

Hier auf Deutsch.

We have a small number of students from the Neue Schule für Fotografie Berlin willing to help with paperwork and translation remotely. Please get in touch with Ben Chislett: 017623548004, ben.chislett@neue-schule-fotografie.berlin if you need help or want to help. If you find a mistake also please tell us so we can update this document.


The Senate’s “Soforthilfe II” program is no longer available as of 1 April. You can no longer apply for it. We are sharing an approximate translation / short version of the press release by berufsverband bildender küstler*innen berlin in reaction to the cancellation:

“When the IBB website is back up and running on Monday, 6 April, it will only be offering the grants of the federal government – these can be used for narrowly defined business costs only, such as studio rent. The huge run on the 5000€ Soforthilfe II grants of the state of Berlin (which are meant to cover lost income due to the pandemic and can be spent on living costs for freelancers and small businesses) prove that this type of aid is what is needed. The federal government needs to change the terms of use of their grants instead referring millions of people whose income has disappeared to welfare.”

Further info

About the Virus

Solo-selbständige / Freelancers

Applying for ALGII (Grundsicherung)
Your Visa and ALG II Berlin

Information from the BFF (German)

Forced Quarantine

Information for Employees

Short-time Work (Kurzarbeit)

General Information Hotlines for work related issues

About the Virus

The Corona Hotline (Senate Health Administration) for Berlin is:
030 902 828 28
Every day from 8:00 to 20:00.

Info about the virus from the Federal Ministry of Health here.
Info about the virus from the Robert Koch Institute here.

Keep up to date with Covid-19 in Berlin in English via:
The Local


Soloselbständige / Freelancers

The “To Do” List:

  1. Document everything, and try and keep it ordered for reference
  2. Create a list of cancelled, postponed gigs with date, time and expected income
  3. Calculate roughly how much income you expected to have and will now not get
  4. Calculate your monthly running costs with everything from BVG tickets, to rent, amenities, adobe cc and other software licenses, even to the amortization of your technical equipment (for example camera cost / how long you are expecting to use it in months), to look at what you can cut back on and what is essential

Ways to reduce/put off your expenses:

  1. Talk to your Landlord / Rental Company / Hausverwaltung and ask for a temporary reduction in rent (decided on an individual basis)
  2. If you pay MwSt (income tax) call your tax consultant or the Finanzamt to ask for a “Aussetzung von Einkommen- und Umsatzsteuervorauszahlungen” – not having to pay taxes monthly / in advance
    Musterformular / Example letter: https://www.steuerrat24.de/images/bestand-doc/vorauszahlungen.doc

    Letter generator: https://kontist.com/offers/tax-relief

  3. Call your Health insurance company / the KSK and ask for a reduction in rates due to an expected reduction in income (Antrag für den Fall von Umsatzeinbußen)
  4. If you have other insurance policies (life insurance, technical insurance etc) ask for a temporary pause in payments
  5. Adobe CC is offering 2 months free for your Photoshop, Lightroom and Creative Cloud needs (and every little helps)
  6. Here you can find more information for Freelancers: www.vgsd.de

More things to think about

  1. Ask your bank for a credit or an overdraft
  2. Plan your food with a budget
  3. Cancel your monthly BVG ticket (and get a bike)

If you cannot pay a bill, get in touch with the company and explain your situation and ask what you can do. Most are willing to offer payment plans. The worst thing you can possibly do in Germany is ignore a letter.
* Current news is also talking about new measures banning landlords from evicting tenants who cannot afford their rent. Here is a link to the Berliner Mieterverein (Berlin Tenants’ Association) who can help with such matters (€7.50 to start, then €9/Month).


Applying for ALGII (Grundsicherung)


ALG II means getting government assistance but not having to give up your freelance status and still being able to invoice people, and should be your second option after the Soforthilfe II for freelancers (which should have less strings attached). The downside is that you need to have used up most of your savings (car over €7500, second home, savings over around €9750) before being eligible, and can be required to go to job interviews (which at this point is not an issue) and declare travel plans (also not a current issue). For those who are already at that point where funds are nearly drying up, this is a lifesaver. The ALG II is awarded for 6 months and pays for rent, health insurance, and up to €432 for food (if you start earning over €450/month, some has to be repaid).

This is available to Germans, EU citizens, non-EU citizens with permanent residency and work permits, and students too as far as I can understand, but not tourists, seasonal workers, or asylum-seekers. Applying for this may affect your visa, but seeing as all visas have been extended for at least the crisis period, this should be ok.

For ALG II you need to fill out the following forms:

Here are some helpful instructions for each form:

General Information (English)
General Information (German)
Kreis-lup.de page with instructions on filling out the forms in russian, greek, turkish, rumanian, bulgarian, croatian, french, italian, portuguese, spanish, serbian


Your Visa & ALG II (in Berlin)

From 18.03.2020 to 17.06.2020 applying for this will not affect your Visa or Asylum application:

  • On 24th March 2020 and 27th March 2020 Berlin Immigration Office issued two General Decrees. These state that your residency permit does not become invalid if, between 18th March 2020 and 17th June 2020, you draw short-term work benefits, SGB II (Hartz IV), SGB XII (social assistance) or AsylbLG (Asylum Seeker Benefits Act) benefits.
  • This applies in spite of the conditional stipulation in your residency permit, provided that for the entire period when you draw these benefits Berlin Immigration Office remains the Foreigners Authority responsible for your residency status (i.e. provided you retain your primary place of residency in Berlin and are registered as living here). In that case you do not need to take any action.
  • It is true that your residency permit may be terminated by Berlin Immigration Office if one of the fundamental criteria for obtaining it is no longer met (the so-called curtailing of validity under Section 7(2)2 of the Residency Act). However, Berlin Immigration Office will not apply this provision with effect until 17th June 2020 with regard to the resort to such benefits.
  • Please bear in mind that, when seeking a formal extension of your residency permit after the Coronavirus pandemic has ended, you will once again be required to prove that you can secure your subsistence yourself without recourse to supplementary welfare benefits.

If your residency permit is due to expire within the next six weeks, please complete our online form.

BFFs (Professional Association of Freelance Photographers and Film Creators) Useful Information about work situations for photographers (in German):

Part I

As a PDF (German)
In English Online (Translated by Google)

Part II

As a PDF (German)
In English Online (Translated by Google)

Part III

As a PDF (German)
In English Online (Translated by Google)

Forced quarantine (§ 56 Infektionsschutzgesetz IfSG)

Self-isolation without an order/doctor’s recommendation does not count.

Regular sickness is the usual problem for freelancers of no work=no pay, unless you have an extra insurance policy for that, or it affects you for longer than 7 weeks.

As a freelancer you are entitled to your expected income for up to 6 weeks, measured on your last tax declaration or what you can prove (documentation, documentation, documentation). The form is given out by your local Gesundheitsamt (find it with this link). Here is the form for Berlin and it needs to be sent via email to Entschaedigung@senfin.berlin.de with a copy of your last tax declaration, a copy of your health insurance payments, and a copy of the quarantine order.




Employees (non-freelancers) Info from the german ministry of labour and social affairs:

Questions Relating To Labour Law answered by the Ministry

Short-time work (Kurzarbeit) info:

Many companies, especially in the retail, catering and service industries, have been forced to shut down or limit their activities. In order to avoid bankruptcies, “short-time working” is one of the fastest and most effective ways for such companies.

Short-time working means that the employer reduces working hours, and thus only has to pay the employee for the actual hours worked. The employment office (Arbeitsamt) pays employees 60% of the difference (67% for people with children). This also applies proportionately to part-time employees and temporary workers, but not to mini-jobbers, who do not receive short-time work benefits, and are eligible for ALG II (see above).

Before the introduction, the employer must obtain the approval of the works council, if there is none, every employee must agree in writing. In this phase, the workforce can also influence the organization of short-time work (e.g. a voluntary commitment on the part of the employer to evenly distribute short-time work among employees so that nobody suffers excessive fines).

Short-time work info:


Information on the short-time work in English.

General Information Hotlines for work related issues:


Tile Image: Eva Bertram