Asylum seeker in Berlin
Asylum seeker in Berlin

As a foreigner in Germany, you may be eligible for benefits under the "Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz" under certain conditions. What does the Asylum Seeker's Benefits Act entail and what restrictions apply?

What is the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act?

Germany introduced the Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz (Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act) in 1993. It's a special regime determining social and medical entitlements for asylum seekers as distinct from other groups receiving benefits.

In 2015, the Act was revised, bringing the standard rates up to a level of about 90 percent of "standard" social benefits. It was also changed so that asylum seekers are now entitled to standard social benefits and full healthcare after 15 months of receiving benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act.

Since the 2015 reforms, the Act states that benefits are to be mostly provided in kind or in the form of vouchers, especially for those living in initial reception centers. For asylum seekers in other, decentralized, accommodation centers, it is up to local authorities to decide how benefits are provided.

Who is eligible?

The Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act applies to people applying for asylum from the time they make the application, as well as to those with an obligation to depart (Ausreisepflicht) or a temporary suspension of removal (Duldung).

What benefits are possible?

Benefits (in cash or in kind) include:

  • Basic benefits to cover necessities like food, accommodation, heating, clothing, personal hygiene and consumer goods for the household
  • Benefits in case of acute illness, pregnancy and birth
  • Other benefits, to be granted in individual cases, for example to vulnerable persons such as unaccompanied minors or victims of violence

Monthly allowance for asylum seekers as of January 1 2018

By law, asylum seekers living in reception or accommodation centers have to be provided with food, heating, clothing and personal items like sanitary products in the centers. This is why the rates for them are not as high as for those living in apartments on their own, who have to buy their own food, clothing etc.

Getting access to assistance

You are eligible to benefits under the Act as soon as you submit your application for asylum in Germany, but you need to apply to receive them from the local social welfare office. Offices may require different documents, depending on where you apply. However, most advise you to take a valid passport and statements of any income or assets. Current bank statements, a rental contract and utilities bills may also be helpful, if you have them.

It is a good idea to open a bank account so that the monthly payments can be made straight into your account.

What restrictions apply?

You may not receive benefits if:

  • You are required to leave and have traveled to Germany in order to receive benefits under the scheme
  • You have received an order to leave Germany, including a fixed departure date, and you have ignored the order
  • You are required to leave but your departure cannot be enforced because of something you have done 

When are your benefits reduced or stopped?

You are allowed to work and receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act, but your payments from the state will be adjusted according to your income. It is best to check with the social welfare office how your employment will affect the amount of benefits you receive.

In general, 25 percent of what you earn in your job is "free income" and does not affect your social benefits, as long as it does not exceed half of what you receive in benefits. The remaining 75 percent of your earnings is deducted from the benefits you would receive. If the social welfare office is paying your rent, that will continue unaffected.

You no longer receive benefits

  • after you have left Germany, or
  • at the end of the month in which your entitlement to benefits ceases, or in which you are recognized as being entitled to asylum.

The text of the Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz is available (in German) here.

You can find the main application form and appendix 2 for asylum seekers and foreigners in a bilingual version German/English here.

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