A person holding up a certificate of a 'Duldung' | Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/picture-alliance
A person holding up a certificate of a 'Duldung' | Photo: Wolfgang Kumm/dpa/picture-alliance

For the more than 100,000 migrants who have been staying in Germany for five years or longer with 'tolerated' status, a new law could end their legal limbo starting with a one-year residency status "on probation". Here's what you need to know.

This piece is based on an overview by Mediendienst Integration.

What does 'Duldung' mean?

  • A 'Duldung' (literally 'tolerated stay', but meaning 'temporary suspension of deportation') occurs in case one's asylum application is turned down but a deportation is not possible, either for humanitarian or technical reasons.
  • A 'Duldung' is a temporary stay permit -- a temporary leave to remain. It is not an actual residence permit, but rather a temporary residence document which enables migrants to reside legally in Germany for a limited period of time while their obligation to leave still stands.
  • Many rejected asylum seekers receive several 'Duldungen' in a row that can add up to more than five years living and sometimes working in a country, all without any fixed-term prospects of remaining. These so-called 'Kettenduldungen' -- repeatedly extending temporary suspensions of deportations -- are widely considered a barrier to integration.
  • According to Mediendienst Integration, the duration of a 'Duldung' is determined by the responsible foreigners' office.

What does the new law mean?

  • The 'Chancen-Aufenthaltsrecht' (translates as 'opportunity-residency right') draft law, introduced in early June and adopted by the German cabinet on July 6, 2022, is yet to be approved by the German Parliament.
  • It plans to grant those who have lived in Germany for at least five years (as of January 1, 2022) a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) "on probation" for one year. This also applies to the applicants' close relatives, even if they haven't lived in Germany for five years yet.
  • Within those 12 months, those who receive the temporary residence permit have to meet the requirements for permanent right of residence, which include the ability to provide for themselves financially, sufficient German language skills and having one's identity resolved.
  • Those who meet the requirements receive an extension of their residence permit in accordance with residence law section 25b. Those who don't fall back to tolerated stay status ('Duldung').
  • Those with a tolerated stay who provided wrong information about their identity or committed a criminal offense -- as well as their relatives -- are excluded from the new law.

Which groups can apply for a residence permit?

According to Mediendienst Integration, the following four groups -- all of them holding a "long-term tolerated stay" or those who cannot be deported -- have been eligible to apply for a residence permit since 2015.

  • Those who are tolerated and are 'sustainably integrated,' meaning they have been living in Germany for a longer period of time and are able to provide for themselves financially. (At least eight years for those living alone and at least six years for families with underaged children.)
  • Teenagers (14-18 years of age) and young adults (18-21 years) who have lived in Germany for four years or have obtained a school or vocational degree. If they succeed, their parents, siblings, spouses or life partners can also get a residence permit.
  • Those with a 'qualifying vocational training' or skilled workers with at least three years of employment as well as sufficient language skills and living space.
  • People who presumably cannot be deported for the foreseeable future.

Who receives a 'Duldung'?

Rejected asylum seekers and other third-country nationals (TCNs) without residence status are requested to leave the country. Provided they don't do so in between seven to 30 days, they become subject to deportation. However, the deportation can be delayed or suspended in combination with a 'Duldung' -- provided the 

  • state authority suspends the deportation for a maximum of three months for reasons related to international law or humanitarian reasons;
  • the foreigner is pursuing a 'qualifying vocational training';
  • she or he has an underaged child that possess a residence permit;
  • they are closely related to another person with a tolerated stay;
  • they have a doctor's notice certifying they have a serious illness that can hamper the deportation;
  • or provide legal reasons that make the removal impossible, such as missing travel documents.
  • Those with a 'Duldung' who do an apprenticeship can have their 'Duldung' extended until they have finished it. According to the German residence law, this so-called Ausbildungsduldung ('temporary suspension of deportation for the purpose of training') can last for up to three years, plus two years of 'Anschlussbeschäftigung' ('follow-on employment').
  • Starting in 2020, those with a tolerated stay status who have worked in Germany for at least 18 months were eligible for a 'temporary suspension of deportation for the purpose of employment', a so-called Beschäftigungsduldung. It usually lasts for 30 months and can be extended or result in a residence permit if the applicant meets certain conditions.

How many 'tolerated' and those 'obliged to leave the country' are living in Germany?

  • According to German news magazine Der Spiegel, almost 300,000 people in Germany are currently 'ausreisepflichtig', or obliged to leave the country. This group comprises rejected asylum seekers as well as foreign students, employees and tourists whose visas have expired ('overstays'). Their number has risen by some 43% since 2015. 
  • Around 64% of those obliged to leave the country are asylum seekers.
  • Some 83%, or around 242,000 people of those obliged to leave the country have a 'Duldung'. Of those, according to Mediendienst Integration, around 100,000 have been living in Germany for five years or longer. The federal government spoke of some 136,000 people. Those without a 'Duldung' (the remaining 17%) are "imminently obliged to leave the country."
  • According to the federal government, by far the most common reason for a 'Duldung' is missing travel documents. Other reasons include unresolved identity, family ties to others holding a 'Duldung', urgent humanitarian or personal reasons, such as finishing schooling/apprenticeship or caring for family members, a ban on deportation for certain groups or to certain states, medical reasons, unaccompanied minors and a variety of other reasons, which alone make up around one third of all 'Duldung' cases.

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