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FAQ Refugees from Ukraine – residence in Germany and social benefits

In this FAQ, you can find information on the general regulations on the right of residence and social law that apply to refugees from Ukraine who are staying and working in Germany, and links to further information.

(up-dated 10 June 2022)

What are the rules for entering and staying in Germany?

Refugees from Ukraine are exempt from visa requirements for Germany according to the ‘Ukraine Residence Transitional Ordinance‘ (Ukraine-Aufenthalts-Übergangsverordnung, UkraineAufenthÜV) as of 7 March 2022. This applies to all persons

  • who were residents in Ukraine on 24 February 2022 and who entered Germany after this date, regardless of their citizenship,
  • who are Ukrainian citizens, refugees recognized in Ukraine or people who have been granted international or national protection in Ukraine, and who were temporarily not in Ukraine on 24 February 2022, but resided there until then.

This regulation applies retrospectively from 24 February 2022 and until 31 August 2022 (Federal Council decision of 8 April). Until the end of August, residence without a residence title is permitted. A residence permit for further stay in Germany can be applied for in Germany.

Working as an employee or as a self-employed person is not permitted without a residence title.


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What are the options for staying in Germany?

An application for a residence permit must be submitted by 31 August 2022. The migration authority at the current place of residence or at the place of registration is responsible.

An application for a residence permit in accordance with Section 24 („residence for temporary protection“) of the Residence Act is possible.

An application for a residence permit for a particular purpose is possible, e.g. as a student, as a skilled worker, as a self-employed person, family reunification, etc. In order to obtain such a residence permit, it must be possible to independently secure a livelihood in Germany.

It is currently not recommended to apply for asylum. An asylum procedure is associated with a ban on working, accommodation in collective housing, etc.


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Residence according to § 24 AufenthG „residence for temporary protection“

Temporary protection under section 24, Residence Act, implements the EU's mass influx directive (Directive 2001/55/EC). Applying for asylum is not necessary.


When and where must the application be submitted, how long is it valid?

The application must be submitted before 31 August 2022. The migration authority at the current place of residence is responsible (BAMF: responsible authorities). Applications are free of charge and, in some cases, possible online.

It is valid for 2 years and may be extended up to 3 years under certain circumstances. The stay cannot be counted towards a later application for a permanent residence permit.


With a residence permit issued according to § 24 AufenthG, working is permitted

The residence permit allows full access to the labour market, employment and self-employment are possible – from the time of application. When the application is submitted, a so-called ‘Fiktionsbescheinigung‘ (fictional certificate) is issued which already allows working.


Who can get temporary protection according to § 24 AufenthG?

  • People with Ukrainian citizenship who fled Ukraine on or after 24 February 2022.
  • Non-Ukrainian citizens of other countries and stateless persons who were recognized as refugees in Ukraine or had other international or national protection status and left Ukraine on or after 24 February 2022.
  • Family members of the groups mentioned above (including unmarried partners)
  • Non-Ukrainian citizens of other countries and stateless persons who had a permanent residence permit in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 and who are unable to return safely and permanently to their country of origin.


Place of residence in Germany

Those who have a sustainable housing option and can prove this by means of a permanent tenancy agreement, confirmation from the housing provider or registration in the municipality can stay in the place they have chosen themselves. A binding job offer, a training place or a place at university can also be decisive.

Those who do not have a sustainable housing option will be assigned to a municipality. The residence requirement can be lifted if employment subject to social security contributions is taken up, vocational training or studies or if a person moves to join family members.


Change of residence permit

A later change to another residence permit (for employment, taking up studies etc.) is possible.


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Residence permit for a particular purpose (employment, self-employed activity etc.)

Instead of a stay for temporary protection (according to § 24 AufenthG), a residence permit for another purpose can be applied for at the local migration authority during the visa-free stay, e.g. as a skilled worker (employment), for self-employment, for study purposes, for family reunification with relatives living in Germany etc.

For these residence permits, the livelihood must be secured independently. This means that no social benefits can be claimed.

The residence purpose is indicated in the documents. For example, if you have a residence permit according to § 21 AufenthG (Self-employment), you can only work as a self-employed person in the specified field of activity. The authorities must agree to a change in the purpose of residence.

An application may make sense if one intends to stay in Germany in the long term and is seeking a permanent residence permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis). It is possible to change from a residence permit according to § 24 AufenthG to another residence permit.


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Can social benefits be drawn?

Refugees from Ukraine are entitled to social benefits.

Until the end of May 2022, only the regulations of the ‘Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act‘ (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz AsylbLG) applied in the case of a residence permit according to § 24 AufenthG (Residence Act) . The regulations include:

  • Cash benefits (housing benefit, money for food etc.),
  • Social insurance,
  • Child benefit (and family benefits if gainful employment is taken up),
  • Access to German courses (however, there is no entitlement to an offer free of charge),
  • Access to the school system,
  • Right to family reunion,
  • Counseling and mediation in accordance with employment promotion law by the employment agencies. This also applies to the ZAV Künstlervermittlung, which can advise performing artists who have had to flee Ukraine.

The social welfare office (Sozialamt) at the place of residence is responsible.

On 1 June 2022, amendments to the law came into force that newly regulate the entitlements to social benefits for refugees from Ukraine with a residence permit under section 24 of the Residence Act (AufenthG) or after applying for a residence permit under section 24 of the Residence Act.

From 1 June 2022, benefits according to the Social Security Code SGB II/SGB XII can be claimed if

  • a residence permit according to § 24 has been issued or an application has been filed and a fictional certificate (Fiktionsbescheinigung) has been issued

and

  • if an identification process (§ 74 SGB II) has been carried out (exceptions apply for children).

The Job Centre (for persons capable of working) or the Social Welfare Office (for persons capable of working to a limited extent) at the place of residence is responsible for benefits according to the SGB.

At the Job Centre one can receive benefits to secure livelihood, accommodation, and heating in the form of money or vouchers, e.g. for food, clothing, rent. In addition, one gets insurance through the statutory health insurance.

As long as these requirements have not yet been met (residence permit or filed application and an according identification process), benefits can still be received under the AsylbLG, see above.

There are transitional regulations that must be observed.

Summaries of the regulations can be found here:

  • Bundesministerium für Arbeit und Soziales FAQ
  • Berlin Senat: New regulation: Applying for social benefits at the Job Centre – link

 

Important: Any payments that exceed the needs for daily life (including gifts, donations, scholarships and stipends) must be reported and are counted towards social benefits. The exemption amount for own ‘usable assets‘ is limited to 200 euros per person.

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Residence according to § 24 AufenthG + employment

Employment is possible. The same rules apply as for all employees. The employer pays social security contributions, the employee insures him/herself with a health insurance fund. The income is taxable.

The income is counted against social benefits. An allowance of 25% of the gross income applies, max. 50% of the established standard need is exempt from offsetting. 

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Residence according to § 24 AufenthG + self-employed activity

Self-employment is possible. The same rules apply as for all self-employed persons: Independent insurance with a health insurance fund, social insurance via the Künstlersozialkasse (Artist’s Health Insurance, KSK) is generally possible, registration of self-employment is required (via the form „Fragebogen zur steuerlichen Erfassung“, ELSTER Online).

The income is counted against social benefits. An allowance of 25% of the gross income applies, max. 50% of the established standard need is exempt from offsetting.

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Residence according to § 24 AufenthG + scholarships and stipends, allowances etc.

Payments of expense allowances, for voluntary work etc. are possible. An allowance of 250 euros per month applies, which is not to be considered as income and is not counted against social benefits.

Scholarships and stipends are possible but will be counted against social benefits.

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Advice services

List of contacts in Germany: https://adressen.asyl.net/language/en/welcome-to-informationnetwork-asylum-and-migration/

Refugee Law Clinics: www.refugeelawclinics.de, overview Refugee Law Clinics in Germany > link

Networks in Berlin:

Moabit Hilft

Berlin Hilft

Flüchtlingsrat Berlin

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