Have you come to Germany to claim asylum? Once you have made it clear that you want to submit an asylum application, you will, initially, be accommodated in a nearby initial reception centre. It may happen, however, that you are then assigned to a different federal state where you will be accommodated anew in an initial reception centre. On the one hand, this depends on your country of origin and, on the other, on the number of people that have already been allocated to this initial reception centre.
Most of the time, initial reception centres are former schools, sports halls or other vacant buildings. They have many beds in large rooms, a canteen and a doctor. The premises are often fenced in and are policed by private security firms. You will be provided with clothing, sanitary products and three meals a day. You will be registered at the initial reception centre. This means that your personal data will be captured and you will be issued with a residence entitlement card. However, this is not yet your asylum application.
In the beginning, you will not be able to choose where in Germany you will be staying. During the first three months of your stay in Germany, you are not permitted to leave the area or the federal state you have been assigned to. Only once these three months have passed, will you be allowed to visit other federal states as well.
You will remain in the initial reception centre for up to six months. Within these six months, you will be transferred to a municipality within this federal state. This means that you will relocate to a different accommodation. Sometimes you may be able to move into a flat, but sometimes you may move into a group residence. There, residents must share a room. You will be living in this follow-up accommodation until your asylum application has been decided upon. It is particularly important that you inform the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees of your new address each time you relocate, so that important mail reaches you.
You come from a so-called safe country of origin? In this case you must remain in your initial reception centre until your asylum application has been decided upon. You may not leave the assigned area or the federal state.
When your asylum process has been completed and approved and you are given a residence permit, you are free to decide where in Germany you would like to stay. However, you are only permitted to leave the federal state if you are not receiving any state benefits, also referred to as social security benefits. This may, however, take a year or longer. You may search for a flat yourself and file an application. Or you can ask for help with your search. In this case, the local municipality will find a flat for you. You can get more information from the Office for Migration and from refugee initiatives.
Do you have a certificate of Duldung, a temporary stay of deportation? Then you will, in most cases, not be allowed to relocate within Germany.