Accommodation during the Asylum Process

A young man is sitting in an armchair in the livingroom

Where do I live during the asylum process?

During the asylum procedure, you will be accommodated in Berlin in reception and community centres. Under certain conditions, you can move out into your own apartment.
If Berlin is responsible for your asylum procedure, you will be accommodated in a reception centre by the State Office for Refugee Matters (LAF). It deals with accommodation in which many asylum seekers live and are looked after together. If there is not sufficient space, emergency accommodation will also be used. The living conditions can be very cramped. You are obligated to live at least six weeks up to a maximum of six months in the reception centre. The obligation to live in a reception centre can be lifted if you are extremely ill or threatened by violence or if other compelling grounds prove fitting for a move.
If you come from a so-called “secure country of origin” (which are currently the following countries: Ghana, Senegal, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Albania and Kosovo as well as all member states of the EU), you must usually remain in the reception centre for the whole asylum procedure and if refused, until you leave.

All other asylum seekers should, according to law, be accommodated at the latest after six months in a community centre with better facilities and more private space. If there is a lack of accommodation in Berlin, it could be the case that you will stay longer in the initial reception centre.
As a rule, you have the right to look for your own apartment after three months, and at the latest after six months stay in Berlin. If your cost of living is financed by the State of Berlin, this apartment is not to be too expensive. In Berlin, affordable living space is in short supply, leading to many people in the asylum process not finding apartments.

What is an Aufenthaltsbeschränkung (stay limit)?

A stay limit means that that you initially may not leave the district of the Ausländerbehörde (foreign nationals department) in which your initial acceptance centre is located – in your case, this is the state of Berlin. You may not work during the limited stay period. For asylum applicants and special leave applicants, the stay limit only applies to the first three months following submission of the application. After this, you may usually move freely within Germany. If you live in an initial acceptance centre (see line above), then you are also subject to a stay limit there for the duration of obligatory residency (i.e. six months after moving in).
Exceptions apply to asylum applicants from “safe origin countries”, who usually need to remain in an initial acceptance centre during the entire asylum process and until departure from the country if asylum is rejected.

What is a Wohnsitzauflage (specified residence)?

The residence requirement is issued by the immigration authorities with the obligation of taking residence in a certain place. It can be issued to tolerated persons, owners of a humanitarian residence permit (§ 25 paragraph 3 of the Residence Act), asylum seekers and persons, whose asylum application has been approved. Here, there are a lot more conditions and exceptions. If in doubt, you should seek advice from a lawyer or from a consultation centre.

When do I have to live in initial acceptance centres / emergency accommodation?

You must live in an emergency accommodation until you are registered and assigned to an external office of the Federal Ministry of Migrant and Refugee Affairs. After this, you must live in an initial acceptance centre. It may occur that both accommodations are in the same building. In any case, you must remain in the initial acceptance centre for six weeks and for a maximum of six months after you have been registered. Asylum applicants from “safe origin countries” must normally remain at the initial acceptance centre until a decision is made about their asylum application or until their departure from the country in case the application is rejected.

When do I have to live in shared accommodations?

After you have lived in an initial acceptance centre for a maximum of six months, you will be moved to shared accommodation as quickly as possible. In any case, there is a lack of living space in many areas, which means that you may need to stay in an initial acceptance centre for longer.

Can I move into an apartment during the asylum process?

In this case, you must consider two separate periods: you are obligated to live in your assigned initial acceptance centre for six months after moving into the initial acceptance centre and for three months after receiving your first stay permit. If both periods have expired, then you are permitted to move into an apartment.
If the state of Berlin is financing your living expenses, then your apartment may not be too expensive.

Before you start looking for an apartment, you need to apply for a Mietübernahmeschein (rent acceptance permit) at the central asylum applicant coordination centre. Once you have this document, you may register with EJF to look for an apartment and get advice.

After this, you may look for an apartment. Tips and ideas for continuing are provided in Search for an Apartment. Your apartment must be appropriately large and inexpensive, and a stove and kitchen sink must also be available.

Before you sign the rental contract, you also need confirmation that the public authorities will assume the costs for exactly this apartment in particular, which you have chosen. For this purpose, you must visit EJF with the following documents:

  • Allgemeiner Mietübernahmeschein (general rent acceptance certificate)
  • Gültige Aufenthaltsgestattung (valid stay permit)
  • Ausgefüllte Erlaubnis zur Weitergabe von Daten (completed data transfer permission)
  • Rental offer specifying rent without heating costs and with utility and heating costs
  • Current contact data for the landlord and for yourself (telephone and e-mail)
  • Possible supported costs and a payment statement from the district office or job centre

Additional information about this topic is available from EJF. If you have received conformation that your rental costs will be covered, then provide this to your landlord and ask them if you may move into the apartment.

If you have a room that you would like to offer to provide accommodation to a refugee, there are different options for offering your room. For example, you can register your free room via the Flüchtlinge Willkommen website. Or you can inform yourself with this information paper.

When do special protection needs apply to residency?

Some refugees require more protection and help than others. They therefore have special rights and receive special support. Those in particular need of protection are for example, pregnant women, people with disabilities or are extremely ill, women travelling alone, single women, under-age children and gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGBT).

Should you have a special need for protection which effects your living (for example, with pregnancy, disability, severe illness, because you travel as a solo woman or with children, because you are gay or transgender), please make it known at registration or at the welfare services of the State Office for Refugee Matters. There, there are special contact persons for women, gay and transgender people, who you can confide in with confidence at a later time. You can also confide in Caritas. You then receive help, if your particular protection need during your stay has been recognised by the State Office for Refugee Matters.