Passport and visa
For travelling into Germany you need a valid passport or other document that confirms your identity. You will also need the passport later when you go to register at an authority. Residents of countries outside the European Union (EU) also need a visa.
You can apply for a visa at the German Embassy (consulate) in your own country. Do you already have a contract of employment in Germany, or do you have family members living here? Then it will be easier for you to get a visa. You can find information on this from the Federal Foreign Office.
Citizens of the EU or a country that belongs to the European Economic Area do not need a visa.
Residents‘ registration office and residence permit
In Germany you have to register at the Einwohnermeldeamt (residents‘ registration office) in your town/city of residence. Next you need to go to the Ausländeramt (immigration office). There you will be issued with a residence permit. It is a card showing your residence status. It says how long you are allowed to remain in Germany and whether you are allowed to work.
Do you need to visit an office, but can’t speak German very well? Then you can ask for an interpreter. That’s someone who can speak German and your language and will help you to communicate.
If you can’t speak German very well, then you are allowed to do an integration course. Sometimes you have to do the integration course. You will learn better German in the course. And you will also be given important information about life in Germany. The immigration office gives you a certificate for the course and tells you where you can do the course. You can read more about it by following the Integration course link.
Finding work and vocational training
The next step is finding work. Have you learnt a profession already in your own country, or have you been to university? Then you need to have the documents translated and certified. Ask where you could have that done at the employment agency. The employment agency will also help you to find work. If you don’t yet have a profession or school-leaving qualification, you should also go to the employment agency. They will give you careers advice. They will help you if you are unsure what sort of work you would like to do or would be able to do. The employment agency will also provide you with information about apprenticeships and courses. You can find more information on this in the Academic study and vocational training page.
Children and school
Children are required to attend school. Register your child at a school. The Jugendamt (youth office) in your town/city can help you. Read more on the following pages: Early education and School system.
Some of the insurance schemes are very important: in particular health insurance, pension insurance and care insurance (see Insurance page). If you have a job, you will automatically be insured on these schemes (see Starting work page). And you need a current account at a bank (see Bank account and finances).
You are looking for integration course providers or an immigration office? Under the heading Important addresses you can search for these addresses near your place. Then you will see the results with information such as address or telephone number on a map.
Have you come to Germany to claim asylum? This information is important for your asylum application.
First, you are registered at an initial reception centre. From the initial reception centre, you may be relocated to a different accommodation in one of the 16 federal states. Once you have reached the reception centre assigned to you, you can submit an application for asylum at one of the branches of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). The asylum procedure may take up to two years or longer.
You must submit your asylum application in person to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). You will receive an appointment notification for your application or the appointment will be displayed on a noticeboard in the initial reception centre. To locate the BAMF branch nearest you go here.
At the BAMF branch, your personal details will be captured. If you are older than 14 years, your fingerprint and photo will be taken. This is for the purpose of establishing that this is your first asylum application. The BAMF will inform you about your rights and duties as an asylum seeker.
In addition, you will be asked about your travel route as this determines whether or not Germany is responsible for your asylum claim. If you, for example, have had your fingerprints taken in another country, Germany may not examine your asylum application, and you will be returned to the country responsible for your claim. The authorities will therefore investigate which EU country is responsible for your asylum application. In most cases, this will be the country of first entry. This is according to the Dublin Agreement.
If Germany is responsible for your asylum claim, your application will be processed in Germany.
As soon as your asylum application has been submitted, you will receive a residence permit. The residence permit grants you legal residency in Germany for the duration of the asylum process. In some federal states, this temporary residence permit is limited to certain areas. This means that you may not leave the assigned area or the federal state during the first three months of your stay.
Each asylum seeker is assigned a case manager. This means that, if you are submitting an asylum application as a family, you will have several case managers. For this very reason, the length of the application process can vary for individual family members.
Each asylum seeker must attend his/her asylum interview in person. Each application is investigated on its own merits. A so-called decision-maker from the BAMF and an interpreter are present at the asylum interview.
The asylum interview is the single most important part of your asylum process and crucial for the decision. During the interview, you must explain, in as much detail as possible, why you cannot return to your home country and why you have fled your home country.
To this end, it is of particular importance to tell one’s personal story rather than to just describe the general situation in one’s home country.
If you have evidence that you are being persecuted, e.g. for political, religious or other reasons, you should bring such evidence with you to the asylum interview. At the end of this interview, you will receive a copy of the interview record. You should have this record translated back into your language and sign it only if you are certain that everything has been recorded correctly. It is extremely difficult to have corrections made retrospectively.
You will receive a letter notifying you of the decision on your asylum application. The letter will specify the reason behind the decision. If your application has been rejected, the letter will also request your departure from Germany. If this is the case, you will have to leave Germany, otherwise you will face deportation. However, you are entitled to appeal the rejection of your application. When doing so, it is advisable to seek the help of a lawyer or an advice centre.
Have you been granted refugee or asylum status? In this case, you are allowed to stay in Germany for at least three years. After these three years, you may receive a permanent residence permit. If you were granted national or international subsidiary protection (for one year), you may receive permanent residence after five to seven years.
Asylum seekers with a certificate of Duldung, a temporary stay of deportation, must reapply for an extension every three months. A temporary stay of deportation is not a residence status, which means that you remain obligated to leave the country and that, in theory, you may be deported at any time if the reasons for your temporary stay of deportation cease to exist. People who have been staying in Germany for a long time on the basis of a temporary stay of deportation and who are well integrated (attending school, receiving vocational training, working, learning German), may receive residence status. For more information, please contact the advice centres nearest you.
If you come form a so-called safe country of origin or seek asylum for economic reasons, your prospects of being granted asylum status or being recognised as a refugee are not good.
Your application was rejected? In this case you have different options: either you leave Germany or you start an appeal process. For the appeal process, it is advisable to seek the help of a lawyer or of an advice centre. You have a deadline within which to leave Germany or to lodge an appeal. This deadline must be observed.
Frequently asked questions
Which countries belong to the European Union?
You can find a list on the European Union website.
Which countries belong to the European Economic Area?
All EU countries plus Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.
Can I drive in Germany with my driving license?
If you come from an EU country or from within the European Economic Area, then yes. If you come from another country, then you can drive on it for 6 months. Then you have to take a German driving test. But driving licences from certain other countries are accepted, refer to ADAC: foreign driving licences.
ADAC: foreign driving licences
Do you have any more questions on the subject of visas and immigration?
You can find information on many aspects of this here:
Federal Foreign Office.
I do not understand this important letter. Who can help me with complicated documents in bureaucratic German / official German?
Please contact Migration Advice or local integration councils in your area. An overview can be found under “Mein Weg nach Deutschland” in the "Help" section.
Additional information for asylum seekersYou can also find help at Refugee Law Clinics, for example: Refugee Law Clinic: Counselling hours and support in the areas of asylum and laws concerning foreigners, which can help in particular with legal wording. Refugee Law Clinics can also be found in many different cities.
You can also contact refugee initiatives or support networks. These can be found in the “Help” section under “Addresses for refugees: refugee support networks and initiatives”.
Refugee Law Clinic: Counselling hours and support in the areas of asylum and laws concerning foreigners
Addresses for refugees: refugee support networks and initiatives
What services are available to me as an asylum seeker?
There is no clear and simple answer to this question. This is laid out in German social welfare law concerning asylum seekers as follows: According to Section 1, beneficiaries are entitled to “benefits including services to meet needs such as nutrition, accommodation, heating, clothing, healthcare and provision of household goods (necessities). The necessary requirements will be met with non-cash benefits.” Additionally you will receive benefits “to meet the personal needs of your daily life (necessary personal needs)”. These will also be covered by benefits in kind.
If benefits in kind, for certain reasons, are not possible in all cases, federal states and local authorities can decide whether these services will be covered in the form of vouchers or cash benefits. For more information please contact your local city administration.
My advisor at the social services/employment agency is treating me badly. What can I do?
You can contact a counselling centre. In the "Help" section you can find information on consultation such as: Migration Advice for adults as well as youth migration services. In the “Wichtige Adressen” section you can find Migration Advice in your area. There you can receive advice about your options and the best way to proceed.