Even after you have been recognised as a person in need of international protection, you are free to remain living in a reception centre. You may also move if you find a suitable apartment. However, you may not move to another state within the first three years after the decision on your asylum status – unless one of the exceptions provided for by the law applies, for example if you have found employment that fulfils certain conditions. This regulation is referred to as “Wohnsitzauflage” (a requirement for refugees/asylum seekers to stay within a certain residential area). It applies regardless of your residence status. The Aliens Authority may approve a move if you or your spouse can find employment, are admitted into an academic institution or start a vocational training course in another federal state. However, relocation is only permitted if the prospective job meets certain criteria.
This residence requirement (“Wohnsitzauflage”) only applies to your place of residence and not to your general freedom of movement. After your recognition, you can move freely in Germany and visit relatives or friends in another city.
If your application for asylum has been successful and you have been recognised as a refugee or asylum seeker, you can apply for a special travel document for refugees at the German authorities. You do not have to contact the diplomatic mission (e.g. embassy) of your country of origin. The substitute passport is recognised by all countries who have signed the Geneva Refugee Convention on Refugees from 1951.
When traveling abroad, you should find out in advance about the general entry requirements of the country. For further information, please contact the embassy of the country you are traveling to. You can travel to all EU Member States without a visa and are allowed to stay there for three months without any further permission. For longer stays, you need a corresponding residence permit for that EU country. Before traveling, make sure you know exactly how long you can stay within the EU. Remember, with the substitute passport you are travelling as a refugee, and not as a national of your home country, e.g. Syrian national. There might be different entry requirements outside the EU than those you are familiar with. While you are in possession of the substitute passport, you may not be denied re-entry into Germany but you are also obligated to travel with the substitute passport and not the passport of your home country. Always carry your residence permit with you on your travels.
Those under subsidiary protection are not entitled to this substitute passport. You may, however, obtain a special passport for foreigners if it is not possible or reasonable for you to obtain a passport from a diplomatic mission of your home country.
Should you travel to your home country, you may be deprived of your residence permit or other residence authorizations and rights. This is because the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees granted you refugee status or subsidiary protection in order to protect you from persecution or serious harm in your country of origin. Should you return, the Federal Republic may assume that you no longer need this protection. In this case, the German authorities will initiate a revocation proceeding, which may subsequently lead to the revocation of your residence permit.
You are entitled to health insurance after a positive decision has been made regarding your application for asylum. This health insurance is equivalent to the one that German nationals receive through a statutory health insurance scheme. If you do not have your own income, the costs of the statutory health insurance will be borne by the social welfare office.
You will receive financial aid from the state if you cannot provide for yourself as a refugee, as a person entitled to asylum or subsidiary protection. This serves to cover your basic needs such as housing and sustenance. The job centre assigned to you will be responsible for providing these services.
There is a uniform integration course / German course that offers foreigners the opportunity to learn German as quickly as possible for orientation purposes as well as to develop an understanding for the country. This integration course enables you to better navigate everyday life in Germany. The course includes 900 hours of instruction: a language course and a section about the German legal system, values, culture and history. There are also various specialised courses, for example for people who may not be able to read or write properly. The integration course ends with a language test, which when passed places you on the B1 level. There is also a test about life in Germany.
You are entitled to participate in an integration course once you have been recognised as a refugee or a person entitled to asylum or subsidiary protection. This also applies if you have arrived in Germany via a humanitarian admission programme of the Federal Government or through a resettlement programme. If you have been granted a national ban on forced return or if you arrived with an admission programme of a federal state, then you can only participate if there are available spots.
You must apply to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) to participate in the integration course. You may be exempted from the costs for the course if you are receiving benefits from social services or the job centre.
Further information on the content and programme of the integration course can be found on the website of the Federal Office.
In addition, volunteers and other institutions offer free German courses or the so-called language cafés. Information on such courses can be obtained from the advisory centres.
Kindergartens and day-care centres help children to settle into life in Germany, learn the German language and (to) find friends. The language acquisition is most important because it is a prerequisite for the subsequent admission to school. Even before they start school, children are supervised with peers of the same age in day care centres. This applies regardless of the resident status of the parents. The youth welfare office may fully or partially bear the costs for this.
It is compulsory for children (and adolescents) above the age of 6 to attend school for 9 years (in some federal states 10 years). This also applies if they are in the asylum seeking process, have already been recognised as refugees or have been granted subsidiary protection in Germany.
At some schools, so-called preparatory classes or welcome classes have been set up to teach the basics of the German language before the children participate in regular classes. Every child in Germany has the right to attend school. If your child is between 6 and 18 years old, he/she must go to school; it is compulsory. In some federal states compulsory education ends at the age of 15.
If your child has not yet acquired sufficient German language skills, he will first visit a so-called welcome class. There he/she will acquire the German language and will be prepared for regular lessons. He/she will then change to a regular class. The exact registration procedure differs according to the federal state in which you live. In Germany, the attendance of public schools is free of charge. However, special costs may arise during the school year, for example for schoolbooks. You may apply for these extra costs to be taken over by the social welfare office.
You will receive a residence permit once you have been granted asylum, refugee status or subsidiary protection. With this residence permit you can work in Germany without restrictions and do not require permission from the Aliens Authority. If you only have a national ban on forced return, then you will need permission from the Aliens Authority to work.
Once you have successfully completed the asylum process, you can start a training course at any time and do not need permission from the Aliens Authority. A vocational training qualifies you for a specific profession and facilitates your entry into the labour market. There is institution-based training and company facilitated training. In the case of an institution-based education, you will acquire all the necessary knowledge for a specific profession at a vocational institution – for example, for employment as a nurse. In a company facilitated training you work directly in a company and attend a vocational institution. A vocational training usually takes between two to three years and is partially compensated.
In principle, everyone in Germany is allowed to study – regardless of their residence status. Unlike in the professional field, there are no specific restrictions on asylum seekers and those under subsidiary protection. One may therefore not forbid you from studying. There are, however, a few practical obstacles: lack of language skills and academic attestations as well as financing problems.
In principle, the university decides on the specific prerequisites for admission. If you would like to apply for admission at a German university, you need to have proof of certain qualifications. For this purpose you will need to submit all previously acquired certificates to the university. If you do not have documents of proof or the university does not accept your documents, then you must take a special exam.
In addition to proof of your professional qualifications, you usually also have to demonstrate appropriate language skills in German. Admission without German language skills may be considered for international courses that are not taught in German.
Another obstacle is the financing of your studies. In principle, students can receive financial aid from the state if they can neither finance their studies themselves nor with the help of their parents. This financial aid is called BaföG (Federal Training Assistance Act/BundesAusbildungsförderungsGesetz) and can be applied for under general preconditions after your recognition as a refugee, a person entitled to asylum or subsidiary protection.
If you would like to study, you also have to consider whether you are free to travel and change residence. If the regulation of “Wohnsitzauflage” (a requirement for refugees/asylum seekers to stay within a certain residential area) still applies to you, then you must apply for authorization from the Aliens Authority.
Recognition of qualifications
Having your foreign academic and professional qualifications officially recognised would greatly improve your professional start in Germany. You can check whether your qualifications – school, academic or professional – correspond to German standards. For recognition, you need to file an application at the responsible certification authority.
You can receive consultation regarding the recognition procedure. For further information, please visit the IQ Network website.
The Federal Government has also set up a website informing about the recognition of professional qualifications.