There are several documents that attest to your residence status and that you will come across during your arrival and stay in Germany. It is important that you keep these documents separate because they accord different rights and obligations.
In principle, each person who would like to travel Germany requires a visa. This visa is issued for a specific purpose, for example for work, for family reunification or for humanitarian reasons. When you enter with a special admission programme - such as a resettlement programme or a humanitarian admission programme - the German diplomatic mission abroad provides you with a visa with which you can legally enter Germany. Your local Aliens Authority will then issue a residence permit/authorisation for the duration of your stay. You cannot obtain a visa to apply for asylum in Germany. You can only personally apply for asylum in Germany.
Proof of arrival (“Ankunftsnachweis”)
If you are entering Germany without a visa and you are looking for asylum, you will receive proof of arrival upon being registered at the reception facility. This proof of arrival contains your personal data and a photo. Until your formal application for asylum to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), this will serve as proof to the authorities that you are legally residing in Germany. The proof of arrival is only valid until you have submitted your application for asylum to the Federal Office.
Temporary residence permit for the duration of the asylum procedure (“Aufenthaltsgestattung”)
As soon as you have submitted an application for asylum to the Federal Office, you will be provided with a residence permit for the duration of the asylum procedure. The proof of arrival expires once you get this permit. It proves that you are allowed to stay in Germany for the duration of your asylum procedure.
Residence permit (“Aufenthaltserlaubnis”)
If your application for asylum is successful, you will receive a residence permit. This applies to all cases in which the Federal Office makes a positive decision - in other words, in the case of recognition as a refugee, a person entitled to asylum or subsidiary protection or if the Federal Office issues a national ban on forced return. A residence permit is only granted for a limited period of time. For asylum seekers and refugees they are valid for three years, for people with subsidiary protection and persons with a national ban on forced return (they are valid) for only one year. A residence permit can be extended.
Permanent residence permit (“Niederlassungserlaubnis”)
Once you are issued with a permanent residence permit you may stay in Germany indefinitely. The issuance is dependent on certain prerequisites - for example, that you have already been in Germany for a certain period of time, secured your own livelihood and acquired German language skills.
Toleration permit (“Duldung”)
If your application for asylum is rejected, you are obligated to leave the country. If there are specific reasons that prevent you from leaving, the Aliens Authority may issue a toleration permit. Even with this permit, you remain obligated to leave. However, you may not be forcibly returned during this time.