Asylum in Germany: rights and procedure for obtaining a refugee status
On this page of our website you will find information about refugee rights and the procedure for granting asylum in Germany, links to the laws and sources of additional information. Most of the data on this page is based on the brochure "Information on the Asylum Procedure" (German) of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees of Germany, a link to the brochure can be found below on the website page. Find out the answer to the question: how to get the refugee status, political asylum in Germany? We invite all visitors to the site to make comments, exchange experience on the topic of refugees and political asylum in the country. You will find detailed information about the refugee benefits, allowances as well as integration courses for refugees, on dedicated pages of our website.
§ Right to asylum in Germany
Asylum in Germany is handled by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (in German: BAMF, Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge).
The German Basic Law (Constitution, article 16a) guarantees the right to asylum for persons persecuted for political reasons. However, this right is not granted to persons entering Germany from the so-called safe countries (these are mainly countries of the European Union), as well as to persons from safe countries of origin. Besides, in Germany, the Asylum Act (in German: Asylgesetz), is in force, which regulates the asylum procedure.
Constitution of Germany (article 16a, paragraph 1):
"Persons persecuted on political grounds enjoy the right of asylum"
Another document regulating the granting of asylum in Europe is the Geneva Refugee Convention, which defines who exactly can be considered a refugee, what rights s/he has in the states that have signed this Convention and what obligations s/he has to the state, to which s/he applies for asylum. A Protocol was adopted to this Convention, which expanded its temporal and geographical scope.
The Geneva Refugee Convention on the status of refugees (chapter 1, art. 1):
"For the purposes of the present Convention, the term "refugee" shall apply to any person who:... owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country...".
Due to the large number of asylum seekers in recent years, in Germany, just like in other countries of the European Union, discussions are held on the right to asylum and various amendments to the law come into force, those who are interested in the rights of refugees in Germany should be attentive to these changes. For example, on December 17, 2018, the UN General Assembly in New York adopted the Global Compact on Refugees. Although the given document does not have the legally binding force, it, however, defines the vectors for international cooperation in the sphere of asylum seekers protectio.
§ List of safe countries of arrival and origin
Safe Third Countries
Safe third countries (in German: Sicherer Drittstaat) are the countries, which apply the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. If a person, in search of asylum, enters Germany from a country that is on the Safe Third Countries List, s/he loses the right to seek asylum in Germany, as s/he has had an opportunity to apply for asylum in that country. According to the Asylum Act (§ 26a Abs. 1 AsylG) as of the beginning of 2019, safe third countries are as follows:
- All the European Union countries,
- Switzerland, and
Safe countries of origin
Under the Constitution of Germany (§ 16a Abs. 3), safe countries of origin (in German: Sicherer Herkunftsstaat) are the countries, which are free from domestic political persecution as well as from the inhuman punishment and treatment that dishonour human dignity. The list of such states is defined by the law of Germany. It is assumed that an asylum seeker from such a state is not prosecuted and therefore cannot be eligible for asylum in Germany; however, s/he may provide evidence of political persecution to have their application considered. According to the Asylum Act (§ 29a Abs. 2 AsylG) as of the beginning of 2019, safe countries of origin are as follows:
- All the European Union countires,
- Bosnia and Herzegovina,
- Senegal, and
§ German asylum laws, asylum legislation
The following list contains links to basic laws and other documents governing the rights and obligations of refugees in Germany.
- Constitution of Germany, article 16a
- Asylum Act, Asylgesetz
- Act concerning Residence, Employment and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Republic of Germany
- Geneva Refugee Convention aka the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, Protocol and Addenda
- Dublin Regulation
§ Forms of refugee protection and refugee status in Germany: terminology
Different terminology is used in relation to refugees in Germany, depending on the form of protection and the stage of obtaining asylum in Germany where the refugee is located. The tables below contain definitions of the protection forms and refugee status.
Forms of protection for asylum seekers in Germany
(right of asylum)
|Right to asylum for politically persecuted persons.|
(protection of refugees)
|Asylum for victims of persecution in the country of origin. Flüchtling (refugee) - a person falling under the refugee definition in the Geneva Convention.|
|Subsidiärer Schutz |
(subsidiary, auxiliary protection)
|A form of protection, asylum for persons who do not fall under the protection of Asylberechtigung and Flüchtlingsschutz, nevertheless, need asylum due to a serious violation of human rights, for example, the threat of torture, death penalty, and violence.|
(ban on deportation)
|A form of protection, asylum for persons who do not fall under the protection of Asylberechtigung, Flüchtlingsschutz and Subsidiärer Schutz, nevertheless, they cannot be expelled from the country for special reasons related to legal peculiarities or danger to human life, health and freedom.|
Difference between the terms "Flüchtlingen" and "Asylberechtigten". Both definitions, "Flüchtlingen" and "Asylberechtigten", refer to asylum seekers in Germany. The only difference is the legal basis for asylum. Flüchtlingen are the refugees being persecuted for the reasons of race, religion, nationality, etc., and in the given case the legal basis is the Geneva Convention. Asylberechtigten are the persons being persecuted for political reasons in the country of origin, and here the legal basis is the Constitution of Germany.
Refugee status, depending on the stage of obtaining asylum
|A person who has come to Germany in search of asylum.|
|A person who has applied for asylum.|
(eligible for asylum)
|A person who has proved their basis for asylum and has been granted asylum.|
§ How to obtain the refugee status in Germany
In order for a person who has arrived in Germany to be able to obtain the status of a refugee eligible for asylum in the country, s/he needs to go through several stages of the procedure prescribed by law, which are discussed in detail below on the page. The sequence of some of the initial stages may vary in some cases.
- Arrival in Germany;
- Registration as an asylum seeker and obtaining an interim certificate, a temporary ID;
- Assignment of the asylum seeker to one of the lands of Germany;
- Accommodation in a refugee shelter (in German: Aufnahmeeinrichtung);
- Applying for asylum;
- Verification, in conformity with the Dublin Regulation (in German: Dublin-Verfahren), which state shall consider applying for asylum;
- Interview on the reasons for applying for asylum;
- Waiting for the asylum decision;
- Obtaining a decision on asylum;
- In case of refusal to grant asylum, the said refugee can go to a lawyer and file a complaint with the court to verify the decision on refusal;
- Depending on the final decision, the refugee shall be entitled to stay in Germany, or, in case of refusal, shall have to leave the country.
Model 1. The main stages of obtaining
the refugee status (asylum) in Germany
§ Registration of an asylum seeker in Germany
A person arriving in Germany in search of asylum has to report this to one of the government agencies responsible for receiving refugees. S/he can do this already at the border guard service (in German: Grenzbehörde) during border checks, as well as at the police (in German: Polizei), at institutions for working with foreigners (in German: Ausländerbehörde), at reception facilities for refugees and displaced persons (in German: Aufnahmeeinrichtung) or at Refugee Centers (in German: Ankunftszentrum).
Refugee Centers are the central institutions involved in the asylum process in Germany. A complete list of addresses of these centers in all the lands(federated states) of Germany can be found at the link on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).
The persons applying for asylum in Germany will be registered as asylum seekers (in German: Asylsuchende), and in the course of registration their personal details will be fixed, along with their photographs and fingerprints taken. This information shall be stored in the central register of foreigners in the country.
The registered persons shall receive an an arrival certificate (formerly called "Certificate of notification as an asylum seeker" (BüMA), serving the evidence of registration (in German: Ankunftsnachweis) and containing their personal details as well the address of the authority that has issued the given document.
§ Refugee camps in Germany
After the asylum seeker registration, s/he is assigned to one of the refugee reception facilities (German: Aufnahmeeinrichtung) or, in other words, to a refugee camp. Which camp or institution the asylum seeker will be assigned to depends on the number of refugees arriving and state quotas for accommodation. Therefore, regardless of the place of initial registration, the asylum seeker may be allocated to a completely different place to go through a further asylum procedure.
As of 2019, the greatest number of refugees has been assigned to the following lands(federated states):
- North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen)
- Bavaria (Bayern)
- Baden-Württemberg (Baden-Württemberg)
- Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen)
- Hesse (Hessen)
The refugee camp or reception facility, to which the asylum seeker has been assigned, shall be responsible for providing the essential needs and accommodation for the asylum seeker. More information about cash benefits for refugees in Germany can be found on a dedicated page of our website.
§ Submission of an application, application for asylum
Either directly at the Refugee Center, or at the refugee camp where the asylum seeker will be assigned and sent, an asylum application will have to be submitted. Filing such an application takes place in the course of a personal conversation with the respectively responsible employee of the Center. An interpreter, too, shall be invited to take part in the given interview. In order to file the application, the applicant has to bring the earlier issued ID/ arrival certificate (in German: Ankunftsnachweis), the available personal documents, and the evidence confirming that the person has a reason to apply for asylum: s/he will have to tell in detail about himself / herself, their place of residence, education, knowledge of the language, as well as how s/he has arrived in Germany. Besides, while submitting the application, it is necessary to specify whether there are other family members in Germany at the given time.
Upon submission of the application, the person shall receive the asylum candidate status (in German, Asylbewerber), and instead of the ID/ arrival certificate (in German: Ankunftsnachweis) shall receive such a document as a Temporary Residence Permit (in German: Aufenthaltsgestattung). Thus the asylum candidate receives the right to stay in Germany, but the given right shall be limited by a certain territory or region, and if s/he would like to leave this region for some time, s/he will have to receive a respective permit.
§ Verification under the Dublin Regulation
Before the German state authorities begin to consider an application for asylum, they have to make sure that it is Germany that should deal with this application. According to the Dublin Regulation, the following factors play a role in deciding which state will consider an asylum application:
- Whether the applicant has his / her family members living in Germany or in another member-state of the Dublin Regulation;
- Whether the applicant has a visa or a stay permit issued by another member-state;
- Whether the applicant has arrived in Germany from (via the territory of) another member-state;
- Whether the applicant has a possibility to reside in the territory of another member-state without a visa or special permit;
- Whether the applicant has already filed/ submitted the asylum application at another member-state;
- and others.
In order to verify such information, the persons in charge/ PICs use the data as received from the asylum seeker, the tickets and other evidence submitted by them, as well the data from European databases regarding the visas and fingerprints.
So, it is most likely that Germany will not consider the application for asylum, if the applicant has the visa issued by another member-state, or if s/he has arrived in Germany from or via the territory of another member-state, or if s/he has already applied for asylum at another Dublin Regulation member-state.
However, as a matter of exception – for instance, in case of the applicant’s severe illness, Germany may attend to considering the application notwithstanding the fact that this has to be done by another state.
In case of refusal to examine the application and issue of the resolution on deportation to another state, the applicant may appeal against such a resolution in court.
§ Hearing, or interview with the asylum seeker
Upon finding that Germany is the country being responsible for considering the application for asylum, the hearing or interview with the asylum seeker shall take place for discussing the reasons, by virtue of which s/he applies for asylum (in German, Persönliche Anhörung). This interview is very important as the asylum decision will depend on its outcome so the applicant should thoroughly prepare for it.
The hearing or interview with the asylum seeker (in German, Persönliche Anhörung) about the reasons for applying for asylum is very important in the procedure of obtaining the refugee status in Germany, and it is necessary to be well prepared for it.
The interview shall be attended by: a Foreigners Registration Office representative who will conduct the interview, as well as an interpreter, the asylum seeker, and, if the latter desires so, his / her confidant.
At this hearing, it is necessary to describe the reasons, for which the refugee has left their country and cannot return there. Besides, evidence supporting the refugee's words, such as photographs, minutes and other documents, shall also be brought to this hearing.
In the course of the interview the minutes shall be taken and then read and orally interpreted for the asylum seeker. If something in the given minutes is wrong or missing, the applicant may introduce amendments. The given minutes shall be signed by the applicant. Either right after the interview, or later the applicant will receive a copy of the said minutes.
Video about the asylum interview
Provided by the Kölner Flüchtlingsrat e.V. initiative
§ Asylum decision
The decision on providing asylum or on refusal to grant it (in German, Entscheidung) shall be sent to the asylum seeker in writing.
If the refugee disagrees with the Office decision, s/he shall be entitled to lodge the complaint in the court to the effect of revising the decision. Such a complaint shall be lodged within the deadline as specified in the decision. In most cases, for appealing to court for revision of such resolutions, refugees resort to lawyers’ services.
In case of a positive decision, the asylum seeker shall receive the status of a person eligible for asylum (in German, Asylberechtigter) and the permit to stay in Germany (in German: Aufenthaltserlaubnis). Depending on the reasons for the asylum, the stay permit is issued for a period of 1 up to 3 years.
§ Further stay in Germany
In case of a positive decision, the asylum seeker shall receive a permit to stay in Germany for a period of 1 up to 3 years.
Upon elapse of the three years and under certain conditions, the refugee may receive a residence permit (in German: Niederlassungserlaubnis), providing the right to indefinite residence and unlimited employment in the country. The residence permit can be issued, if the refugee complies with at least two major conditions stated below:
- the refugee’s earnings are sufficient for covering his / her living expenses without support on the part of the state; and
- the refugee has quite a sufficient command of the German language.
Integration courses for refugees
For asylum seekers and asylees in Germany, the state provides courses in primary orientation and language acquisition, as well as integration courses. For more information about the integration courses and the German language courses, see a dedicated page of our website.
§ Deportation, return of refugees to their homeland
Upon receiving a negative/ unfavourable decision and denial of asylum, the asylum seeker has to leave the country. Besides, if, following the positive decision, the situation in the country of origin has changed for the better, and the refugee can return to his / her home country fearlessly, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees may revoke their residence permit and insist that the refugee return to the home country.
Voluntary return to the home country
In case of a negative/ unfavourable decision or revocation of the right to stay in Germany, the refugee shall be informed of the period, within which s/he has to leave the country. Normally such a period lasts for 30 days or, under some special circumstances, for one week.
Deportation means the coercive expulsion of a refugee from the hosting country, if s/he has not voluntarily left it within the set period of time. In such a case, the regress entry, re-entry and stay in Germany will be banned for the said person.
Video on the voluntary return of refugees
Provided by the IOM, the International Organization for Migration
§ Refugee family reunification
If a refugee has been granted asylum in Germany, their family members, too, may, under certain circumstances, obtain such a right. In particular, the persons, deemed to be the refugee’s family members, are as follows:
- husband, wife;
- underage children (under 18 years old), who are not married;
- parents raising unmarried underage children;
- adults having the right to custody of an underage unmarried child;
- whole-blood brothers and sisters of an underage unmarried child.
§ Useful links
Below you will find links to the sources of detailed information on refugees in Germany, and most of such sources are in German. Links to asylum laws can be found above on the page.
- Brochure “Information on the Asylum Procedure”;
- UNHCR – UN Refugee Agency, Germany;
- The refugee-related questions and answers on the German Government website;
- The UN Global Compact on Refugees;
- Asylum procedure in Germany.