When speaking about asylum and refugees in Germany, the federal government recognizes several categories:
- Category 1 – Protection from Political Persecution
- Category 2 – Protection as a Refugee
- Category 3 – Subsidiary Protection
- Category 4 – Prohibition of Deportation
If you fall into any of these categories then you can apply for asylum in Germany.
Category 1 – Protection from Political Persecution
To be politically persecuted means there is a state or quasi-state (state-sponsored militia or group) that is violating your rights with such an intensity that you cannot have normal peace as an individual. These violations must be against the freedom of your personal religious beliefs, political convictions, or other intangible characteristics that define you as an individual. These violations must be so severe that they violates your human dignity beyond what is acceptable in your home country.
Poverty and civil war do not necessarily qualify you for asylum based on political persecution.
Category 2 – Protection as a Refugee
You can earn refugee status if you face a justified fear of persecution in your home country based on your race, nationality, religion, membership of a social group, and/or political beliefs.
Any of the following can qualify as a persecutor:
- Groups who are part of the state
- Non-state groups who physically dominate a territory
Persecution is defined as acts that severely violate your basic human rights, or a combination of acts that taken together severely violate your basic human rights.
Category 3 – Subsidiary Protection
If you don’t qualify as being politically persecuted or as a refugee, you may qualify under subsidiary protection if you are at risk of serious injury in your home country. Examples in this category include:
- Your life is at risk due to an armed conflict in your country
- You face torture or inhumane/degrading treatment in your home country
- You face the death penalty in your home country
Category 4 – Prohibition of Deportation
If you did not qualify under the previous three categories, you may be granted Prohibition of Deportation status if either of the following are true:
- You face a substantial concrete danger in your home country
- You face an extreme general danger in your home country
Making an Application
To get this process started you need to apply for asylum, which can be done at places like:
- Border crossing checkpoints into Germany
- Police stations – these will refer you to a federal office near you (such as the two below)
- Foreigners Authority / Immigration Office (Ausländerämter) – you can search this federal directory by postal code (starting with PLZ0-9) to find the office nearest you
- Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge – BAMF) – you can search for the nearest federal office to you by typing in your postal code
The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) reports that you can also make an application for asylum at an initial reception facility. Asylum-seeker processing facilities are growing throughout the country on a large scale and now it seems these are located in virtually every medium to large city, as well as in many small cities and towns.
German law says that you need to apply for asylum “immediately,” upon entering the country. You won’t be considered as an asylum seeker officially until you have registered as such with a federal authority.
Asylum Personal Interview
After you make your application you will be interviewed about your personal details and circumstances, as well as fingerprinted. The interview is the most important part of your application; the decision to grant you asylum or not is based largely on the interview, which is video recorded. You will also have an interpreter at your interview.
You will be asked to provide specific details about how you are being persecuted, and you are strongly encouraged to provide evidence of this persecution, if possible. Keep in mind that what you say will be cross-checked with information from UN agencies, non-profit organizations, German foreign intelligence, academic reports, and news stories.
Decision for your Case
While your application is processed you will be assigned to an initial reception facility. These are located throughout the country, in large cities and small towns. Where you will be assigned depends on which federal office you apply for asylum at, as well as the capacity of nearby initial reception facilities.
During the time your application is processed you have the right to live in Germany, and will be issued a temporary residence permit.
Once a decision is reached in your case you will be mailed a notification. If needed this will contain a translation of the decision.
If your application for asylum on refugee or political persecution grounds is accepted you will receive instructions for the next steps you can take, as well as a residence permit that is valid for up to three years. If you receive subsidiary protection you will receive a residence permit that is valid for up to one year. If you receive a “prohibition of deportation” decision you may also get a residence permit valid for up to one year.
If your application is rejected you will receive a deportation notice with additional information about how you can appeal and find legal help.
Can you work while you’re in Germany?
BAMF is the agency that will rule on your asylum application. It will make one of the following five decisions:
- You have the right to political asylum – you can work without restrictions
- You have refugee protection status – you can work without restrictions
- You have subsidiary protection – you can work without restrictions
- You will not be deported immediately (prohibition of deportation) – the immigration authority may grant you permission to work if it finds that you have not provided false information about your identity
- Your application for asylum is denied – you cannot work and must return to your home country or appeal the decision
While you are waiting for your decision
From the time you apply for asylum until your decision is made, you have the right to reside in Germany, but you cannot start working immediately. If you want to work during the period you are waiting for your application to be processed, you will need to be granted permission to work by BAMF. At minimum this can be granted after three months from your application. Technically you will also need to obtain permission to work from your local employment agency, however BAMF will often do this for you when it issues your right to work while your application for asylum is being processed. You can find specific information on working while your application is processed here.
It should be noted that the current government policy for asylum is somewhat different from what is written in law. In August of 2015 the government announced it would prepare to accept 800,000 refugees. As this stated policy is implemented, it remains to be seen how strictly and to what extent all laws written on paper will be enforced. At the time of this writing EU officials are conducting meetings to try and determine a comprehensive immigration plan.
You can find more information on the asylum process with the following links:
- Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
- Asylum Information Database
- Germany’s Asylum Procedure Explained in Detail (BAMF)
Note for readers: I compiled this information by reading various government websites. I don’t have direct experience with asylum/refugee cases so I can’t be of much more help. Feel free to leave a question or comment though and perhaps someone with helpful information will respond.