/ Information for Ukrainian refugees

Last updated 25.03.2022

On 7 March 2022, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior issued the Ukraine Residence Transition Regulation (UkraineAufenthÜV). This initially regulates the residence of refugees from Ukraine without a residence permit in Germany with retroactive effect for the period from 24 February 2022 up to and including 23 May 2022. (It goes further than the visa exemption for Ukrainian nationals in Schengen states!)

Under it, the following groups of people do not need a residence permit (e.g. a visa or a residence permit) from 24 February 2022 until, initially, 23 May 2022 to enter and stay in Germany lawfully (s2 of the Ukraine Residence Transition Regulation):

  • Foreign nationals who were in Ukraine on 24 February 2022 and who enter Germany by 23 May 2022 who do not hold a longer-term German residence permit. This therefore also covers individuals who are not Ukrainian nationals.

  • Ukrainian nationals who were resident in Ukraine on 24 February 2022, but who were temporarily absent from Ukraine on that date, and who enter Germany by 23 May 2022 who do not hold a longer-term German residence permit. This also applies to refugees recognised in Ukraine within the meaning of the Geneva Refugee Convention and individuals enjoying international or equivalent national protection in Ukraine.

  • Ukrainian nationals who were already legally residing in Germany on 24 February 2022 who do not hold a longer-term German residence permit.

Please note: Employment in Germany is not permitted during the stay without a residence permit (s4a of the Residence Act)!

Individuals in the categories set out above can apply for a longer-term residence permit until 23 May 2022 during their stay in Germany (s3 of the Ukraine Residence Transition Regulation).

Which residence permit can successfully be applied for depends on further requirements. There are two options:

  • Option 1: Applying for a residence permit for temporary protection
  • Option 2: Applying for a regular residence permit
  • Changing from a residence permit for temporary protection (Option 1) to a regular residence permit (Option 2) later on is possible.

More detailed information on Options 1 and 2 is outlined below:

  • Option 1: Residence permit for temporary protection – who is eligible?

The majority of refugees from Ukraine are likely to be eligible for a residence permit for temporary protection (s24 of the Residence Act, EU Council Decision 2022/382, EU Directive Temporary Protection Directive (2001/55/EC). Detailed practical instructions can be found in the German Federal Ministry’s (BMI’s) letter to the foreigner offices of 14 March 2022 (only available in German) – those are summarized below (for details, please refer to the BMI’s letter).

If a person fulfils the requirements of a residence permit for temporary protection, s/he has a legal claim to it being issued. The foreigner office has no discretion over whether it is issued. The following groups of people are entitled to the residence permit for temporary protection:

  • Ukrainian nationals who were resident in Ukraine before 24 February 2022.

  • Stateless individuals and nationals of third countries other than Ukraine who have enjoyed international protection (under the Geneva Convention) or equivalent national protection in Ukraine before 24 February 2022.

  • Family members of people in the categories in the two points above. (Please refer to the BMI letter for further information on which family members are eligible.)

  • Stateless individuals and nationals of third countries other than Ukraine who can prove that they were legally resident in Ukraine before 24 February 2022 on the basis of a valid permanent residence permit issued under Ukrainian law (this can be proven by presenting the Ukrainian residence permit) and who are unable to return safely and permanently to their country or region of origin.

  • Nationals of third countries other than Ukraine, if they can prove that they were legally resident in Ukraine on 24 February 2022, and not only for a temporary short stay of maximum 90 days (this can be proven by presenting the Ukrainian residence permit) and who cannot return safely and permanently to their country or region of origin.

  • Ukrainian nationals who are already residing in Germany with a residence permit even if they entered before 24 February 2022, for example, if their residence permit is expiring and cannot be extended.

Temporary protection is also granted to individuals who fled from Ukraine not long before 24 February 2022, when tensions increased, or who were in the EU shortly before that date (e.g. on holiday or for work) and who cannot return to Ukraine as a result of the war.

  • How to apply for a residence permit for temporary protection under Option 1

Residence permit applications must be submitted to the local foreigner office (Ausländerbehörde): This is the foreigner office at the refugee’s registered place of residence in Germany. If s/he has not yet registered residence in Germany, s/he should apply at the foreigner office at the place where s/he is staying in Germany (paragraph 7 of the BMI letter). Which local foreigner is competent can be found out here.

The application procedure differs slightly depending on the place of application and the foreigner office. In Berlin, the application can be submitted online here.

After submitting the application, applicants initially receive a ‘transitional certificate’ (Fiktionsbescheinigung, s81 paragraph 3 sentence 1 and paragraph 5a of the Residence Act). In Berlin, this is issued automatically as a PDF document after the application has been submitted online. Later, applicants in Berlin receive an appointment at which the long-term residence permit is then usually issued. In other municipalities, however, a personal visit to the Foreigners' Registration Office is sometimes necessary to apply for and receive the transitional certificate.

  • Duration of residence permit for temporary protection under Option 1

Residence permits are granted retroactively from the date of entry into Germany, at the earliest from 4 March 2022, until 4 March 2024 (Article 4 of EU Directive 2001/55/EC, s26 paragraph 1 of the Residence Act).

  • Right to work with a residence permit for temporary protection under Option 1

The transitional certificate and the longer-term residence permit for temporary protection entitle the refugee to legal residence in Germany and give him/her the right to work in Germany (s24 paragraph 6 of the Residence Act, s31 of the Employment Regulation).

Consequently, as soon as the transitional certificate with the note ‘Erwerbstätigkeit erlaubt" or ‘Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet’ (work permitted) is made available to the refugee (in Berlin, for example, this will usually be the case immediately after the online application as a PDF document), refugees may work in paid employment or on a self-employed basis in Germany (s4a of the Residence Act).

Please note: Refugees are not allowed to work or be employed or commissioned in Germany before a residence permit or transitional certificate permitting work has been issued.

  • Registration as a refugee and assignment to a place of residence

Please also note that refugees can register as refugees (for Berlin see e.g. here) in order to receive basic welfare benefits including accommodation, food and medical care (s1 paragraph 1 no. 1a of the Benefits for Asylum Seekers Act). However, they do not obliged to register (although some foreigners authorities require refugees to register in order to be able to process the application for a residence permit). Otherwise, refugees are entitled to basic welfare benefits after the residence permit for temporary protection has been issued (Sec. 1 para. 1 no. 3 Benefits for Asylum Seekers Act).

Please note: Refugees do not have the right to stay in the town they want in Germany. After registering as refugees, they receive an allocation decision from the authorities to a place in Germany where they are allowed to reside (s24 paragraphs 3 - 5 of the Residence Act). This may or may not be the town where they have arrived. Allocation to another town happens particularly often in Berlin now (although there are ways to influence the decision, such as having a place to stay permanently in the place prior to registering, though obviously this will be very difficult for many). However, this residence requirement can subsequently be waived, for example, for family reasons or if refugees take up employment, study or training (for more details, see the BMI’s letter).

  • Option 2: Applying for a regular residence permit

Third-country nationals who have fled Ukraine and who do not fulfil the requirements for the eligibility described above are not entitled to a residence permit for temporary protection, even though they can legally stay in Germany until 23 May 2022 (under s2 of the Ukraine Residence Transition Regulation). This applies in particular, for example, to third-country nationals who do not have Ukrainian citizenship but who have a Ukrainian residence permit and who can safely and permanently return to their country of origin.

If they wish to remain in Germany despite this, they can apply for a ‘regular’ residence permit during their stay in Germany (under s3 of the Ukraine Residence Transition Regulation), provided they fulfil the conditions for issuance. For example, a residence permit for the purpose of employment (s18 et seq. of the Residence Act) can potentially be applied for if the third-country national holds an employment offer in Germany. Please note, however, that a regular residence permit will usually permit the refugee to perform one specific job rather than giving full access to the labour market.

Applying for a regular residence permit is also open to persons who are eligible for a residence permit under Option 1.

  • Changing from a residence permit under Option 1 to Option 2

The Federal Interior Ministry has now clarified (in the BMI letter) that changing from Option 1 to Option 2 is possible. This means, for example, that a refugee who already holds a residence permit for temporary protection can also later apply for an EU Blue Card under s18b paragraph 2 of the Residence Act, provided s/he meets the requirements for it being issued. An EU Blue Card can be advantageous, as it enables its owner to apply for permanent residence in Germany after only 21 months if further requirements are met, especially B1 level German language skills (s18c paragraph 2 of the Residence Act).

To seek employment in your field (especially if you are considering applying for a regular residence permit), you may need to know if your education is recognized in Germany.

If you have a foreign university degree, you can check whether the university you obtained it from as well as the degree is recognized in Germany on the Anabin platform (see here, only available in German).

If you have vocational or other education, this may need to be formally recognized by the competent authority. You can find more information on this on the German government website “Make it in Germany” here.

A good starting point for a job application is this website. You will find job postings here.

For many jobs, you will need to speak and understand (and possibly write and read) either English and/or German to apply. Keep an eye open for free German language courses – for example, you can find information on this here.

For a job application in Germany, you will usually need a CV (curriculum vitae, a summary of your professional life so far), as well as any relevant school or university degrees and – if possible – translations of those to German or English. If you can provide any, job references or recommendations are also useful. A personal job interview may follow; interviews by videocall have become more common with the Covid situation.

An employment contract should be concluded in writing (on paper or as a pdf). This is because, in order to obtain a work permit, you may need to show this contract to immigration authorities as well as to a possible landlord if you happen to find an apartment.

The contract typically includes information on your job role, the starting date, the gross salary (more information on “gross” in a moment), the notice period, the amount of vacation days (in Germany typically between 20 and 30) and other rights and obligations for both parties. German labor law provides employees with a fairly high level of protection – clauses which are unfair may be considered invalid by a labor court.

As in most countries, the German labor market is divided into full time and part time jobs. In Germany, a typical full time work week is 36-40 hours per week from Monday to Friday. Overtime may be expected (though in many cases, this must be paid additionally). The statutory maximum work week is 48 hours, Monday-Saturday. Special rules apply for employment on Sunday.

In part time jobs, the salary is pro-rated according to the work time agreed, which can be anything lower than a full-time work week. If you earn only up to currently 450 € per month, this will be called a Minijob – this is subject to lower deductions of taxes and no social security payments, therefore leaving more net income but lower social protection (more information on this is available here).

Fixed-term contracts, as opposed to unlimited employment contracts, only run for a certain period of time (e.g. a few months or years). They will – if the fixed-term is legally validly agreed - end at the agreed dated without a notice.

German employers will usually require you to have a German or EU bank account where your salary can be deposited. In order to open an account with a German bank, you will usually need your pass- port, a residence permit (see on this above), a certificate of registration (Meldebescheinigung), and potentially your employment contract offer (more on this here).
 
As mentioned already, your salary will be a “gross” salary. That means that out of your income, the employer is obligated to deduct income tax (the percentage depends on your tax class and bracket, which is determined according to your amount of salary and on your marriage status, number of chil- dren etc.) and social security (health insurance, care insurance, pension insurance, unemployment insurance, altogether roughly 20% deducted from the gross salary and 20% paid additionally to the authorities by the employer). The remaining “net” amount is then paid out to you. You can make a rough calculation from gross to net salary here.
 
At the end of your first month of work (and every following), you will receive a pay slip on paper or as pdf and your net income (i.e. the gross income minus the deductions) by wire transfer onto your bank account.
 
For your taxation, you will need a German tax number. This number is granted by the tax authorities. A rough guide on this can be found here.
 
If your salary is handed out in cash, no deductions made, and you have not received a written contract, this will usually be considered illegal employment (Schwarzarbeit). It bears significant risks for you and the employer and is in no way advisable. Often, in this kind of work environment, there can be safety concerns too.
 
Please note that the hourly minimum wage in Germany is currently 9,82 € gross. Jobs in particular sectors can have higher minimum wages.

If you have a job in Germany and pay social security contributions (i.e. not a Minijob or illegal employment), you will have to join a statutory health insurance company (or, under certain prerequisites, you may instead be able to join a private health insurance company). If you obtain statutory health insurance this way, your spouse and children will usually be eligible to also be covered by your health insurance in family insurance (more information on this here). If you obtain residence under the “mass influx” procedure, you will most likely be able to health services as outlined here.

Please note that while we want to support employers and employees with this general set of information, we cannot take over responsibility for the use of this general information nor for any of the content provided in the external links.

Created by attorneys Dr. Jessica Jacobi and Dr. Julia Uznanski, LL.B.