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Asylum and exceptional leave to remain

Asylum

The right for the politically persecuted to seek asylum is a basic right stipulated in the German Constitution, meaning Germany has one of the securest rights of asylum anywhere in Europe. It is the only basic right dedicated solely to foreigners. The Federal Republic of Germany also abides by the Geneva Convention, which governs the handling of refugees, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The right of asylum applies for the politically persecuted. According to the Geneva Convention, these are persons who, because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a certain social group, or political conviction, are persecuted by the government in their country.

Note: General emergencies, such as poverty, civil war, natural disasters and unemployment, do not constitute reasons for granting asylum.

In order to seek asylum in Germany, an asylum application must be lodged with the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Anyone not holding the required entry documentation must apply for asylum at the border. In the event of illegal entry, the affected party must immediately report to a reception centre, or apply for asylum with the Bureau for Foreigners or the police.

The website of the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) details the exact asylum process.

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Residence permit for specific purposes

If you seek asylum in Germany, you’ll be given a residence permit for specific purposes, which allows you to stay in Germany legally. This permit applies until your asylum procedure is complete.

During the asylum procedure, you cannot freely select your location, which means your stay is geographically limited to the area of the competent Bureau for Foreigners. Asylum seekers are distributed across all German states according to a special code.

Please note! The residence permit for specific purposes is not linked with any work permit. You can only obtain a work permit after one year.

Safe third-party states

If you enter Germany from a so-called safe third-party country, you cannot seek asylum in Germany. You will not be recognized as having the right of asylum.

EU member states and other countries such as Norway and Switzerland are classified as »Safe third-party countries«, as it is believed they reliably uphold the Geneva Refugee Convention and the European Human Rights Convention – as does the Federal Republic of Germany.

Foreigners with exceptional leave to remain

According to the German residency act, exceptional leave to remain means that deportation of a foreigner obliged to depart the country is officially suspended. The obligation to depart is not lifted. The person with exceptional leave to remain is not deported while this leave is in effect.

The exceptional leave to remain is not a residence permit. If you are given exceptional leave to remain, this purely serves to clarify your legal status. It does not legalise your stay in Germany.

Exceptional leave to remain is issued if your deportation is not possible due to legal or actual reasons. If deportation is deferred for more than 18 months, a residence permit is issued. In order for this to occur, it must be impossible for you to leave the country (through no fault of your own), and there must be no foreseeable prospect of deportation being permitted.

Please note! Exceptional leave to remain does not mean you are given a work permit for Germany. Gainful employment for the time the leave is valid is granted after a minimum of one year.

Exceptional leave to remain may be associated with different requirements, e.g. geographic restrictions. It expires when the foreigner leaves the country.

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