Information & Orientation for New Neighbours

Arrival in NRW - what next?

Information & Orientation for New Neighbours

After weeks on the road, refugees arriving in Germany are sent to different federal states. The new neighbours most certainly will have many questions - we offer some answers.

Where am I?

The distribution of refugees in the respective federal states in Germany is based on the so-called distribution formula known as the "Königsstein" (Königsteiner Schlüssel). Here, the tax revenue and population of each federal state is taken into account in coordinating the placement of refugees throughout the country. This means you may be sent from another federal state to NRW (North Rhine-Westphalia) because that state has already proportionately taken in more refugees than NRW.

Why am I here?

When you come to Germany as a refugee you will first be placed in an initial registration / accommodation facility. NRW currently has five such facilities, each with the capacity of accommodating up to 500 refugees. At this facility your personal data will be registered, you will be asked to participate in a routine medical examination and it is also here where your application for asylum may then be placed. After a stay of up to six month, you will be sent to the assigned refugee accommodation in a German city or other community / municipality. Asylum seekers who come from so called secure countries of origin need to stay in an initial registration / accommodation facility until the procedure for granting the right to asylum is completed.

Can I have an influence on where I would like to be located?

Very little. The distribution of all asylum seekers takes place through a computer program called „EASY“ („Primary Distribution of Asylum Seekers“). As previously mentioned, the "Königstein"(Königsteiner Schlüssel) distribution forumla controls the percentage i.e., the number of refugees each federal state is required to accommodate. In the case that you already have familiy members living here in Germany, the possibility of a NRW residency will only be taken into consideration if these are immediate (first-of-kin) family members. For example, if you "only" have a cousin or aunt living in NRW, it is still possilbe that you will be sent to the federal state of Baden-Württemberg. For the time being, you are required to live in the city / community to where you have been assigned.

When do I have the right to my own apartment / living space?

During the asylum seeking procedure, as a rule, you will initially be living with several people in one room, sharing a kitchen and a bathroom ("shared accomodation"). There is one exception: in the case of serious illness or traumatisation, an accommodation in social housing outside of the assigned shared accommodation may be requested. The entitlement to having your own accommodation (e.g., apartment) may first be obtained after you have been officially recognized as a refugee.

How long does it take to process my appliction for asylum?

Based on the national average, if an application is placed within the first half of 2015, a decision can be expected to follow within ca. 5,3 months  However, with some asylum seekers and with particular countries of origin, this process may take significantly longer as it is sometimes a more complex process to determine the identity of a person and their reasons for seeking asylum. The Federal Agency of Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge) decides whether your application for asylum will be accepted or denied.

Who can help me?

Your local immigration registration office (Ausländerbehörde) is responsible for questions dealing with immigration law, in this case, also asylum-related issues. A number of relief agencies and humanitarian organisations will be able to provide you with support in dealing with these governmental offices and official application procedures. On the website you will find the contact information for numerous aid organisations located in NRW.

What happens when my application for asylum has been accepted?

When your application for asylum has been accepted, as a rule, you will initially receive a limited right of residence – usually for three years. With this residence permit, you are entitled to have your spouse (wife / husband) and under-age children come to stay with you.

Learning the language

You are first allowed to participate in a integration course (Integrationskurs) when your asylum seeking process has been fully completed and you have been given your residence permit. Asylum seekers with a good prospect of obtaining the right of abode can start the courses earlier. There are also numerous volunteers who are available to teach the German language to refugees located in several cities and communities throughout the country. We have put together a list of possibilities available through the internet where you can learn German.

Education and Studies

For children and young adults with a temporary residence permit, school education is compulsory until the age of 16. In Germany, one is allowed to study with official acceptance to a university / facility of higher education along with proof of an acknowledged proficiency examination. For knowing which proficiency examinations are necessary to study an English degree programme you need to contact the universities / facilities of higher education directely for they decide individually. BAFöG – a form of financial aid for students – can be applied for immediately by everbody who is acknowledged as a refugee. Persons with exceptional leave to remain may only apply for BAföG after four years of residency. It is planned to reduce this period to 15 months from 1. January 2016.

Will my education be recognized in NRW?

Immigrants with residency in North Rhine-Westphalia (NRW) may apply for official recognition of their vocational training previously obtained from their respective countries. Trainings according to the Vocational Training Act  (Berufsbildungsgesetz) in the commercial-technical / commercial sectors may be officially recognized through the territorial (local) jurisdiction of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Industrie- und Handelskammer). Trainings in the technical / handicraft sectors may be officially recognized by the local jurisdiction of the Chamber of Commerce (Handelskammer). The Certification Accreditation Office (Zeugnisanerkennungsstelle – ZAST) located in district government of the city of Düsseldorf (Bezirksregierung Düsseldorf) is responsible for the recognition of foreign study certificates (e.g., high school / secondary school education) that may possibly meet the standards of higher education entrance qualifications in Germany (Allgemeinen Hochschulreife) or of practice-based education certificates (Fachhochschulreife).

When am I allowed to work?

At the earliest you are allowed to work after three months – and, only when you are no longer living in an initial registration / accommodation facility will you receive a work permit. This also includes internships and on-the-job-trainings – these forms of employment activities may also not be executed before this period of time. As a rule, you are only allowed to take on a job in the first 15 months as long the Federal Labour Office (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) agrees to this employment and as long as no other German citizen or EU-member applies for this particular job. During the first 48 months, the Federal Labour Office also checks that the conditions of the job are not worse than those of comparable German employees. Asylum seekers who are trained physicians may get the permission to support medical care in accomodations for refugees.

When you have found a job / work place, you must then apply for a work permit at your local immigration registration office (Ausländerbehörde). Asyl seekers coming from secure countries of origin who have applied for asylum on 1st of September 2015 or later are not allowed to work as long as the procedure for granting the right of asylum is underway or in case the application for asylum is rejected.

Where do I get medical care?

In the first four years you are only entitled to limited medical care i.e., only if you are suffering from a severe illness and / or severe pain circumstances will you receive medical attention. If you are still located in a initial registration / accommodation facility, you will receive a certificate for medical treatment from the facility director. If you have already been located to a municipal accommodation, the responsible local social services department (Sozialamt) will decide whether medical treatment will be granted and if the costs can be covered. Exception: in the case of pregnancy there are no medical treatment restrictions. In NRW the first local authorities plan to introduce a health insurance card for refugees who don't live any longer in initial registration / accommodation facilities - a measure which allows them to turn to a doctor directely.

How do I obtain financial support?

During the process of applying for asylum you will receive benefits. In the federal state reception / accommodation facilities, these benefits are predominantly offered in the form of material resources. In a municipal / communal facility the benefits can differ. In most cases it is a mix of material resources, cash, vouchers for the purchase of food and other necessary benefits in kind as well as an allowance / pocket money for personal needs.

Money will be paid at most one month in advance. For those who are obliged to leave the country and don't have the prospect of obtaining the right of abode, benefits will only be provided until the scheduled date of departure.

How do I obtain access to the internet?

In addition to pre-paid cards for smartphones, there are a number of „hotspots“ in NRW offering free WLAN/WiFi. By the end of 2015, free WiFi will be made available in 100 cities througout NRW.

Aus dem Deutschen übersetzt von Jennifer Jones.

Stand: 22.10.2015, 14:18

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