Ukrainian citizens and persons who have lived in Ukraine as recognized refugees can enter Germany with a biometric passport without a visa (§18 Residence Act (Aufenthaltsverordnung)). A visa that would otherwise be required (for refugees coming from non-Schengen states Romania, Bulgaria or Moldova) is waived for humanitarian reasons.
In Germany, arrivals should immediately report to a police station, the Foreigners‘ Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) at their place of residence or a Central Reception Office (Zentrale Aufnahmestelle). There they will be registered, medically examined (possibly vaccinated against Covid) and provided with a certificate of registration in Germany.
In case they do not have accommodation, they will be assigned a place to sleep. The arrivals can move freely in Germany as they are not subject to the usual residence obligation. Should they have private accommodation, they are obliged to register there after 3 months at the latest.
Please do not apply for asylum – residence is sorted
People who fled Ukraine can apply for a residence title in Germany without having to go through an asylum procedure. For the first time, the Council of the European Union has applied the so-called mass influx directive (Massenzustromrichtlinie) RL 2001/55 EG (enacted in 2001 in response to the Yugoslav crisis) after passing the necessary resolution on March 3, 2022.
This residence title is regulated in § 24 Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) and grants an initial duration of stay of one year. It can be extended twice for six months each time and for another year through decision of the EU Council. Accordingly, the duration of stay can be up to three years. The residence permit entitles people to the following:
- Employment in Germany: Self-employment is possible without restriction (§ 24 Abs.6 S.1 Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz)). Dependent employment is only possible with the permission of the foreigners’ authority (Ausländerbehörde) (§ 24 Abs.6 S. 2 Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz)). However, there is an intra-agency directive to automatically include the permission for gainful employment in the residence title.
- Health care: German health insurance companies have already pledged their help with refugees from Ukraine.
- Financial assistance: social services under the Asylum Seekers‘ Services Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz) can be applied for at the relevant Social Services Office (Sozialamt). Current amount:
People fleeing Ukraine can use Deutsche Bahn services free of charge, as well as public transport in Germany. An Ukrainian passport or identity document is usually sufficient for travel. Children under the age of 18 traveling with them do not need an identification document. This scheme is initially valid until March 31.
To facilitate communication, for example with relatives in Ukraine, many phone companies have made phone calls from landline, mobile phone call and text messages free of charge. Among these are Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, O2/Telefonica, Pyur, NetCologne, M-net, EWE, 1&1, and the Freenet Group including the providers Klarmobil and Mobilcom-Debitel. Also no roaming fees are charged within Ukraine.
More and more children and adolescents come to Germany without their parents – what is there to know?
About one in four refugees in the EU is a child or adolescent. They need special protection and safe spaces, including special assistance, schooling or training, recreational and integration opportunities.
For instance an eleven-year-old boy arrived in Germany, though his parents put him on the train to Slovakia to stay with relatives in safety. His father was not allowed to accompany him (as all males from 18-60 are not allowed to leave Ukraine), the mother is taking care of her own mother who is in need of nursing care. If the eleven-year-old came to Germany, he would first be taken into care by a child and youth emergency service.
Since 2013, 60% of all cases of taking into care an unaccompanied minor foreigners have taken place in the ten major German cities (Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfurt at the top). First it is checked whether custodians or legal guardians live in Germany and whether the child is actually under 18. The responsible youth welfare office then immediately arranges for the appointment of a guardian or custodian at the family court. In the meantime the youth welfare office assumes these functions.
Also a private person may be proposed to the court. After the decision of taking the child into care, the child is placed in an initial reception group, a youth center or a similar children’s or youth facility. School attendance is compulsory for all six to sixteen year olds.
Stability enormously important
Germans who wish to take in children or young people who have fled privately should contact the responsible youth welfare office or care institutions. A number of requirements must be met before children can be taken in. These include, among other things, educational experience if possible, sufficient space for accommodation, sufficient time for care, and an extended certificate of good conduct. Requirements are checked very carefully by the youth welfare offices.
There is great willingness to help in Germany. Ukranian refugees who experienced much suffering long for stability, peace and security. The trauma therapist’s advice: Listen to your gut feeling and bear in mind that the people who are now fleeing will be continuously confronted with the war as it has not yet ended. For those affected, stability as well as distraction are enormously important. Also, one should avoid „talking down“ the situation.
This article was first published in German and translated into English by Carolin Martz.