Collaboration with refugee artists and persons engaged in the cultural sector: requirements for employment, bookings and the awarding of contracts
Anyone wishing to work with refugee artists and newcomers to the German art and cultural scene must be familiar with the conditions governing residence status for employment, internships and the awarding of contracts. Possible forms of collaboration depend on the specific residence status.
What residence titles and papers are there?
- Ankunftsnachweis (proof of arrival) = The 'proof of arrival' document certifies that an asylum seeker has registered in Germany; it is a prerequisite for submitting an application for asylum; information on registration and issuance can be found here at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).
- Duldung (exceptional leave to remain) = 'Exceptional leave to remain' refers to the temporary suspension of deportation of persons obliged to leave the country; i.e. persons who are not (or no longer) subject to an ongoing asylum procedure or have had their application for asylum rejected; this exceptional leave to remain is extended (often several times) as long as there is an obstacle to departure.
- Aufenthaltsgestattung (temporary residence permit for asylum seekers) = This residence permit entitles a person to stay in Germany until the asylum procedure has been completed.
- Aufenthaltserlaubnis (residence permit) = The residence permit is a temporary residence title, granted for a specific purpose, which is issued, for example, after refugee status has been recognised or for the purpose of engaging in gainful employment. The purpose is noted on the document as a reference to the relevant paragraph in the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz - AufenthG). Often several temporary titles are strung together until a permanent residence permit can be obtained (usually after five years under a temporary residence permit).
- Niederlassungserlaubnis (settlement permit) = The settlement permit is a permanent residence title.
Important information on migration to Germany, asylum and refugee protection, etc. can be found on the BAMF (German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) website.
These documents can also be viewed in the "Ein Leitfaden zu Arbeitsmarktzugang und -förderung FLÜCHTLINGE" (2018), published by BMAS, the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (in German only).
How does one know who may be employed or commissioned?
Refugee artists and persons engaged in the cultural sector only have full access to the labour market under certain conditions. The ancillary provisions in the residence documents indicate whether a person has access to the labour market, whether such access is restricted, etc. In the case of electronic residence titles, which are now used in most federal states, the ancillary provisions are stored on the chip and printed on an additional sheet. The employer/client should review the documents.
- A settlement permit grants full access to the labour market.
- A residence permit is issued for a particular purpose, which is decisive for unrestricted or restricted access to the labour market. Formally recognized refugees and persons with subsidiary protection status (Section 4 (1) AsylG) usually have full access to the labour market. Other residence permits, for example for the purpose of engaging in gainful employment, are linked to a specific position, training, etc.
- Asylum seekers with a temporary residence permit or exceptional leave to remain are generally not allowed to work in Germany during the first three months of their stay. After four years, they can usually take up any occupation.
In the meantime, the ancillary provisions in the documents must be observed:
- If the residence document states "Gainful employment permitted" ("Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet"), the document holder has unrestricted access to the labour market and can enter into an employment relationship without additional official authorization.
- If the residence document states "Employment permitted" ("Beschäftigung gestattet") or "Self-employment permitted after authorization by the Foreigners' Registration Office" ("Selbstständigkeit nach Erlaubnis durch die Ausländerbehörde gestattet"), the document holder may work as an employee without restrictions, while self-employment requires separate authorization by the Foreigners' Registration Office.
- If the residence document states "Employment permitted after authorization by the Foreigners' Registration Office. Self-employment not permitted" ("Beschäftigung nach Erlaubnis der Ausländerbehörde gestattet. Selbstständigkeit nicht gestattet"), the document holder may obtain a permit for a specific position, while self-employment is not permitted.
- If the residence document states "Gainful activity not permitted" ("Erwerbstätigkeit nicht gestattet"), the document holder may not engage in any form of employment or self-employment.
This is the case, for example, for persons from what are known as safe countries of origin or if the individual's departure is being impeded through their own fault – if, for example, the duty to cooperate in the removal of obstacles to departure is not fulfilled (see Section 60a (6) AufenthG).
Sample documents for review can be found in the Leitfaden zu Arbeitsmarktzugang und -förderung. Flüchtlinge, Kundinnen und Kunden der Arbeitsmarktagenturen und Jobcenter, BMAS (2017).
Persons from safe countries of origin according to Section 29a AsylG (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Senegal and Serbia – last updated: autumn 2018) are subject to a general prohibition on employment if they have filed for asylum after August 31, 2015 and have obtained a temporary residence permit for asylum seekers or – following rejection of their application for asylum – exceptional leave to remain.
There is also a ban on employment for persons with a temporary residence permit for asylum seekers who are required to live in a reception centre. The "AE-Wohnverpflichtung" (obligation to live in a reception facility) applies for six weeks and usually overlaps with the employment ban during the first three months of a person's stay. However, this obligation can be extended to a maximum of six months (further information can be found on the BAMF website).
If an individual is not permitted to engage in gainful activity, he/she should consult a counselling centre to discuss further steps (see information on counselling centres below).