What are federal state admission programmes?
Based on a judicial ruling of the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) on June 28th, 2013, all federal states, with the exception of Bavaria, have created their own state admission programmes for the legal entry of refugees from Syria. Along with the federal government humanitarian admission programmes, the respective state admission programmes offer an additional option for Syrian nationals to have their family members join them. The state admissions represent a further safe option for entry from the civil war region. As a general precondition, Syrians seeking protection are only considered for a state admission programme if their relatives living in Germany provide proof of their financial ability to cover accommodation and living costs for up to five years. Out of 15 federal states with state admission programmes, only Berlin, Brandenburg, Hamburg, Schleswig-Holstein, and Thuringia renewed their decrees after 2015. You can find up-to-date information on this matter on this website under the heading “Current Admissions”.
Foto: Caritas Friedland/Eva Lutter
What are the preconditions for federal state admission programmes?
The requirements vary in the individual federal states. For example, in Berlin, Thuringia, and North Rhine-Westphalia, individuals who are not Syrian nationals (for example stateless Kurds and Palestinians from Syria) were also considered whereas other federal states denied this group access to their programmes. However, some general conditions can be determined:
For people abroad seeking protection in Germany:
- In the case of individuals to be admitted, the state admission programmes (LAP) are restricted to a narrowly defined degree of family link. Hence, only relatives of the first and second degree may enter (e.g. parents, children, spouses, grandparents). Cousins or aunts cannot enter via a federal state admission programme.
- Vulnerable individuals from Syria can only enter Germany if they live in Syria, the neighbouring countries (e.g. Lebanon or Jordan) or Egypt. Relatives who have already arrived in the EU are excluded from admission.
For relatives in Germany:
- The relatives living in Germany are required have a German passport or residence permit.
- The relatives must be a resident in Germany for at least one year or since January 1st, 2013 in order to be allowed to make an application for the respective admission Programme.
- The relatives living in Germany must sign a so-called “declaration of commitment” (under Section 68 Residence Act) at the local Immigration Office committing them to provide for accommodation and living costs of their relative. The Integration Actlimits the term of the declaration of commitment to a maximum of five years. A resolution by the Conference of the Ministers of the Interior of June 2014 determined that the costs for care in the event of illness are paid by the local authorities in almost all the federal states. As a rule, those concerned receive medical care under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.
How does the admission via a state programme generally work?
The relatives living in Germany apply at the local Immigration Office for “advance approval of visa issue”. During this, they must sign the aforementioned declaration of commitment. The Immigration Office also needs proof of their financial ability and assesses the family relationships. If the Immigration Office accepts the application, it sends the advance approval to the German embassy abroad (e.g. to the German embassy in Beirut). The German representation abroad invites the relatives seeking protection to an appointment at the embassy. After the visa is issued, the individuals concerned must organise and pay for their own travel to Germany.
What are the legal bases for the state Programmes?
According to Section 23 (I) of the Residence Act, the highest federal state authority may direct individuals from certain countries or groups to be determined are issued a residence permit for reasons of international law, humanitarian reasons, or for the protection of political interests of the Federal Republic of Germany. To maintain consistency throughout Germany, the directive requires the consent of the Federal Minister of the Interior.
Residence: Syrians entering Germany via a federal states’ admission programmes are given a one- or two-year residence permit under Section 23 (I) Residence Act.
Social security benefits: The individuals entering do not receive social security benefits with the exception of medical care in the event of illness. The relatives who have signed the declaration of commitment must provide for accommodation and living costs.
Work: revision of statute in 2019: The residence permit does not entitle the person to seek work. It can be allowed by order.
Place of residence: The residence permit includes restriction regarding the place of residence for the federal state or the administrative district in which the relatives live.
Family reunification: It is not possible for individuals who have entered via a state admission programme to apply for further family reunification.
Integration: The individuals are not entitled to an integration course. They can attend an integration course if there are spaces available and they cover the fees themselves.
– „Who arrives? – Arrivals“ [GER]
– Overview over the different legal frameworks for refugees after the launch of the Integration Law by 25.08.2016_of NDS Minnisterium für Inneres und Sport [GER]
What is private sponsorship?
Private sponsorships are admission programmes for refugees in specific countries financed by non-governmental organisations, municipalities or private individuals. They enable refugees to participate in state national resettlement programmes or work as a supplementary immigration instrument. In the classical immigration countries of Canada and Australia this practice has been in operation for several years. Unlike the German declaration of commitment, the Canadian model provides that the obligation to pay for accommodation and living costs of the individuals admitted expires after a specified date.
Why is private sponsorship important?
A possible benefit of private sponsorship is that the inviting organisations or private individuals enter into a commitment with the person seeking protection and that this can positively influence future integration. Furthermore refugees who do not meet the statutory conditions for family reunification may bring in their family members through privately financed admission programmes. National resettlement programmes can be funded or expanded by private sponsorship. Private sponsorship should be implemented as a supplementary instrument to national programmes and not as a replacement for regular asylum processes and resettlement.