Rights to Employment for Asylum Seekers (Refugees) in Germany

Kenyan Asylum Seeker in Austria
Kenyan Asylum Seeker in Austria getting advice on working in Austria

Kenya might be known as the “stability anchor” of Africa, but that doesn’t stop Kenyans from seeking asylum in other countries. In Germany especially, we have a large number of Kenyan asylum seekers. Considering that can’t be undone, let’s look at how one can study and/or work as an asylum seeker living in Germany.

The rights of asylum seekers to work and study in Germany are regulated by the Asylverfahrensgesetz (Asylum Procedure Act (AsylVfG)) and the Aufenthaltsgesetz (Act on the Residence, Economic Activity and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Territory Residence Act (AufenthG)).


Who, When and Where one may work

Asylum seekers in Germany aren’t allowed to work at all within their first year of applying for asylum. Afterwards they can apply to get a work permit that allows them to work. The work permit may only be issued if the job can’t be offered to a German, EU citizen or other “legal foreigners” in Germany already. Also the conditions offered shouldn’t be any different if the job was being offered to another person. (this is to avoid exploitation of asylum seekers.)


(§ 61 Abs. 2 AsylVfG )

(1) Foreigners shall not be allowed to take up paid employment as long as they are required to stay in a reception centre ( Aufnahmeeinrichtung).

(2) An asylum applicant who has lawfully stayed in the Federal territory for atleast 9months  may, be permitted to take up employment if the Federal Employment Agency has granted its approval or a statutory instrument stipulates that taking up such employment is permissible without the approval of the Federal Employment Agency. Previous periods of tolerated or lawful residence shall be counted as part of the waiting period.

(§ 39 Abs. 2 AufenthG)

(2) The Federal Employment Agency may approve the granting of a residence permit to take up employment pursuant to Section 18 or of an EU Blue Card pursuant to Section 19a if

1.  a)  the employment of foreigners does not result in any adverse consequences for the labour market, in particular with regard to the employment structure, the regions and the branches of the economy, and

      b)  no German workers, foreigners who possess the same legal status as German workers with regard to the right to take up employment or other foreigners who are entitled to preferential access to the labour market under the law of the European Union are available for the type of employment concerned or

2.  it has established, via investigations for individual occupational groups or for individual industries in accordance with sentence 1, no. 1, letters a and b, that filling the vacancies with foreign applicants is justifiable in terms of labour market policy and integration aspects

and the foreigner is not employed on terms less favourable than apply to comparable German workers. German workers and foreigners of equal status shall also be deemed to be available if they can only be placed with assistance from the Federal Employment Agency. The potential employer of a foreigner who requires approval in order to take up employment shall be required to furnish the Federal Employment Agency with information on pay, working hours and other terms and conditions of employment.


Forced Volunteering

Asylum seekers in Germany may be forced to volunteer at non-profit organisations or within the home they live in for €1,05 an hour. In this case, they should not replace a professional employee who would have taken up that position.



The income asylum seekers can receive is regulated by §7 of the Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz (AsylbLG). An asylum seeker in Germany may not earn anything more than €1,05 an hour. If they find a job that pays more than this, the “excess” is taken by the state as payment for taking care of the asylum seeker.


How to Apply for the Work Permit

  • Find yourself a job.
  • Obtain the 2 forms: “Antrag auf Erlaubnis einer Beschäftigung, die der Zustimmung der Bundesagentur für Arbeit bedarf” and the “Stellenbeschreibung”  from the immigration office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area,
  • The employer must fill out and sign the  “Stellenbeschreibung” form. Signing the form shows the employer’s consent to the job offer being advertised by the Federal Job Agency. Consider the duration of the application process when picking a starting date for the job. The process may take upto a couple of months in some cases.
  • Make copies of the forms for your files (they can later be used to prove your efforts in trying to find a job)
  • Submit the forms to the immigration authorities. Carry your passport to do this.
  • Now you have to wait several weeks. Only when the authorities believe that the workplace can not be conveyed to a privileged workers, you get the work permit.
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