War in Ukraine: Information & legal advice for helpers of refugees

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Hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have already had to leave their homes due to war. It is not yet clear how many more will follow. The refugee agency UNHCR estimates that up to 4 million people will be displaced. Although the majority of them are currently being accommodated in Eastern European countries, many refugees also make their way to Germany. There is a great deal of solidarity and willingness to help among the population, ranging from large-scale in-kind donation campaigns to spontaneously set up collective shelters and private households that make guest rooms and sofas available to refugees free of charge.

In order to support those helping, we have compiled the most important legal questions concerning direct assistance and reception of refugees below. We hope this information will serve helpers as assistance and that it will answer the most urgent legal questions. If you have any further questions, as a policyholder of VGH Versicherungen, please feel free to use the extension number below, where you will be given free legal advice via phone on issues related to direct assistance of refugees from Ukraine.

VGH Versicherungen offers free legal advice for helpers of refugees

0800 8440 700*

0800 8440 700*

* Under this number, customers of VGH Versicherungen receive free legal advice in german language on all issues related to direct assistance for refugees.

*1,99€/Min inkl. USt. aus dem Festnetz. Höhere Kosten aus dem Mobilfunk.

FAQ: Questions and answers for helpers

Whom can I contact if I want to accommodate refugees?

There are various online platforms on which you can offer private accommodation, if you would like to take in refugees from Ukraine. There is an overview at the bottom of this page.

In addition, you should also contact your local municipal government, advises Andrea Kothen from human rights organisation Pro Asyl. In the long term, it makes sense to rent your private accommodation directly to the municipality for the purpose of use by refugees. Thus, you can help without taking on the financial risk yourself. The rent and utility costs will then be paid to you by the municipality. For example, Haus & Grund Schleswig-Holstein e.V. offers a sample rental agreement for accommodating refugees and asylum seekers. The agreement is available as a free download.

What applies to unaccompanied minor refugees from Ukraine?

Refugee minors who arrive unaccompanied from Ukraine may not simply be taken in privately by you as a helper. This has been pointed out by the association "Moabit hilft". Instead, unaccompanied refugee children and minors must first be placed in special arrival centres and registered with the Youth Welfare Office (Jugendamt). You may contact the local Youth Welfare Office where you live. For example, in Berlin, you can contact The Initial Reception and Clearing Centre for Unaccompanied Refugee Minors (Erstaufnahme- und Clearingstelle – EAC) (Phone: +49 (0)30 818 608 31 10).

Do any COVID-related entry restrictions apply? Which certificates are required?

Ukraine is currently not considered to be an area of variants of concern. Therefore, as of 31 May 2022, proof of vaccination, proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery is no longer required (so-called 3G rule).
These former restrictions have been lifted until August 31.

Is there a registration requirement for refugees from Ukraine?

Until August 31, Ukrainian refugees can stay in Germany without a visa or residence permit. They will need to register if they want to be eligible to receive government benefits. If they want to stay in Germany for a longer period of time, refugees can apply for a residence permit.

Do I have to ask my landlord for permission before I can take in refugees?

That depends on the circumstances and is not clearly regulated by law. Visits for up to 3 months are widely regarded as in line with German legislation. However, according to the German Tenants' Association, your landlord is entitled to ask you about the specifics of the visit after just six weeks. We therefore advise you in any case to inform your landlord if you take in refugees from Ukraine.

If you are subletting your apartment or individual rooms to refugees or to the municipality, oyu need to ask your landlord for permission. However, your landlord may not simply object to subletting, as long as domestic peace is not threatened, there are not excessive numbers of people in the apartment or the apartment is completely given over to the refugees, and as long as you have a "legitimate interest" in subletting. As for the latter, you can argue with humanitarian reasons. Be aware though that as a tenant, you are liable for your subtenant.

Am I liable for damage that refugees from Ukraine cause to my rented flat?

You are best advised to ask your private liability insurer directly whether refugees in your household are also insured at no cost. Some insurers already offer extended insurance coverage as a gesture of goodwill, guaranteeing refugees who have been welcomed the same protection as the policyholder – regardless of whether personal injury, property damage or financial loss are concerned. The extended insurance coverage is initially valid for one year and depending on decisions made by the EU may be extended.


FAQ: Questions and answers for refugees

How can I enter Germany?

At the moment, you only can enter Germany from Ukraine through neighbouring countries. To make entering Germany easier, Deutsche Bahn (DB) allows refugees to travel to Germany from Poland, Austria and the Czech Republic at no cost. You can present a Ukrainian identity document as proof of identity. If you do not have a Ukrainian ID card, another document proving that you are a resident in Ukraine will suffice (e.g. a residence permit). Deutsche Bahn confirmed this in a post on its Instagram account dbpersonenverkehr on February 28.

Direct entry by air is not possible at the moment.

For people from Ukraine, you can get general information on entering and staying in Germany from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF).

What do I need to enter Germany?

Currently, you can simply enter Germany without visa or biometric passport and remain there for the time being.
A special rule currently applies in relation: you can remain in Germany without a visa until August 31, 2022. This gives you time to apply for a residence permit ("Aufenthaltstitel") at your local immigration office. This means that you can remain in Germany for one year, up to a total of 3 years, and in this case also work.

Current European Union (EU) regulations also mean that if you have a biometric passport, you can remain and travel in the EU for 90 days without a visa.
The Ukrainian Embassy in Germany offers further information on entering Germany with a biometric passport on its website.

To make sure you don't remain in Germany without permission by mistake after August 31, you can apply for a residence permit at your local immigration office ("Ausländerbehörde"). All you have to do is provide your personal details, the reason for your stay (in this case, the conflict in Ukraine) and the date you entered the EU. Your application needs to be made in writing.

You can also submit your application directly online. The Department of the Interior and for Municipal Affairs of the State of Brandenburg (MIK) provides the same service.

Are there any COVID-related restrictions on entry?

Ukraine is currently not considered to be an area of variants of concern. Therefore, as of 31 May 2022, proof of vaccination, proof of a negative COVID-19 test or proof of recovery is no longer required (so-called 3G rule).
These former restrictions have been lifted until August 31.

How can I continue my journey in Germany after entering Germany?

Deutsche Bahn, Germany’s national railway company, is offering the “helpukraine ticket” free of charge for long-distance train travel. You can get it in any DB travel centre (DB Reisezentrum) or in a DB agency. The ticket is valid for 2 days to give you time to travel to your destination. You may pick up the ticket no earlier than 3 days before you plan to travel. It is valid for long-distance train travel within Germany, plus for onward travel to some countries abroad.

If you use only local public transport (Nahverkehr), you ride for free for your arrival into Germany. Please ask the train staff for assistance. Starting June 1, you will need to purchase a ticket when travelling on public transport. A Ukrainian ID or passport will no longer serve as your ticket.

Some transportation authorities also allow free travel with a Ukrainian identity document.

You can find out more information about offers of assistance on the Deutsche Bahn website. The website is available in German, Ukrainian and English.
Deutsche Bahn also provides information on its Instagram page. For example, the "Help Ukraine" story highlights contain FAQ on tickets and the most important train connections for refugees.

How long can refugees from Ukraine remain in Germany?

The Temporary Protection Directive from the EU, sometimes referred to as the 'mass influx directive', gives refugees from Ukraine the right to a residence permit. This allows you to remain in Germany and, in this case, also work. Temporary protection is initially valid for one year, but can be extended by a total of two more years. Sec. 24 Residence Act (AufenthG) provides the legal basis for this. Sec. 24 is sometimes used therefore as a synonym for the EU regulation.

The directive applies to Ukrainian nationals and third-country nationals or stateless persons who benefit from international protection in Ukraine, as well as to their family members. You receive temporary protection if you were on Ukrainian soil on or before February 24, 2022. You still have the chance to receive protection if you were living in Ukraine as a third-country national on or before February 24. This is possible if it is unsafe for you to return to your home country. In EU member states, you will then receive either temporary protection or appropriate protection under the law that apples there.
You can find more detailed information in the press release issued by the European Union Council.
If you receive protection under the 'mass influx directive', your family members (e.g. spouse, life partner and children (under 18) will usually receive it as well, even if they are not Ukrainian nationals.

In order to facilitate entry and to make sure refugees are not residing in Germany illegally, the Federal Ministry of the Interior has issued a temporary policy change: Initially, they are allowed to stay in Germany without a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). The temporary policy change gives you more time to apply for a residence permit. You must have submitted your application to the competent Foreigners' Authority (Ausländerbehörde) by 31 August 2022.

What is Section 24 and who does it apply to?

Sec. 24 refers to the Residence Act (AufenthG). It regulates the residence permit for refugees in accordance with EU resolution. For refugees from Ukraine, this resolution is sometimes referred to as the 'mass influx directive'. It gives you and your family protection in Germany after fleeing.

You will find the requirements for receiving temporary protection below:

  • You are a Ukrainian citizen, third-country national or stateless person benefiting from international protection in Ukraine (protection then also usually applies to your close family members)
  • Your stay in Ukraine began before or on February 24, 2022

In certain circumstances, you can also be granted protection if you have lived in Ukraine as a third-country national. This is possible if it is unsafe for you to return to your home country. In EU member states, you will then receive either temporary protection or appropriate protection under the law that apples there.
You can find more detailed information in the press release issued by the European Union Council.

Who is responsible for taking in refugees in Germany?

In basic terms, the federal states and local authorities are tasked with taking in refugees. However, so far, no standardised procedure has been put in place for taking in refugees from Ukraine. If in doubt, you should contact the regional reception office (Landesaufnahmebehörde) for your state.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) has set up the germany4ukraine help portal for refugees from Ukraine. This portal provides you with information on topics including accommodation, work and medical care. The website is available in German, English, Ukrainian and Russian.

Can refugees from Ukraine apply for asylum?

In order to relieve the national asylum systems, the EU has activated the Temporary Protection Directive. This gives you a residence permit and access to work, education, medical care and housing. This protection status is initially valid for one year, but can be extended to a total of three years.

In general, an asylum application is currently not necessary.

Who can I turn to if I need accommodation?

In Germany, the reception of refugees is the responsibility of the federal states and municipalities. You can contact various official bodies if you need accommodation:

  • Foreigners' Registration Office
  • Police stations
  • Reception centres of the federal states
  • Central contact points in cities

In addition to the official agencies, there are platforms for arranging private accommodation. You will find an overview of mediation platforms for private accommodation further down this page.

Do I have to register in Germany?

Not at first. The temporary policy that is currently in force allows you to stay in Germany without a visa or biometric passport until 31 August. If you have a biometric passport, you can stay and travel in the EU without a visa for 90 days according to the applicable EU visa-free regime.

However, if you want to be eligible to receive benefits, you must register. Depending on the federal state you are in, you can usually register at the local arrival centre. Some states even have the option to register online by e-mail.

However, it may be that you have to contact several agencies or that other agencies/offices are responsible, depending on which city or federal state you are in.

How do I get medical care in Germany?

If you receive social benefits, you are entitled to healthcare.
You will receive a statutory health insurance card and can then visit a healthcare provider. Any costs incurred are covered by the Social Welfare Office.

If you receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act (AsylbLG), you are only entitled to receive necessary medical treatment of acute diseases or pain.

Some clinics in Germany are currently offering treatment to refugees from Ukraine free of charge.

Can I get financial support in Germany?

Yes. As of June 1st, you can receive money from the Job Centre. If you are unable to work full time or if you receive old age pension, you can receive benefits from the Social Welfare Office. To do so, you need a residence permit or Fiktionsbescheinigung (a so-called Fictional Certificate) from the Foreigners' Authority (Ausländerbehörde).

Am I allowed to work in Germany?

Yes. If you have a residence permit, you are allowed to work in Germany.
While you are waiting for the residence permit, you can often be issued a Fiktionsbescheinigung (a so-called Fictional Certificate). It may state that you are allowed to work in Germany.

Can refugee children attend school in Germany?

Yes, they can. The 'mass influx directive' applies here as well. Some of the federal states are planning ‘welcome classes’ ("Willkommensklassen") and lessons in Ukrainian for refugee children. The respective state education ministries are usually responsible for the admission of refugee children to schools. The rules may vary depending on the state where you live.
Most education ministries offer information for refugees on their websites and sometimes even their own hotlines.

County and local authorities are often responsible for local coordination. You can usually register with them if you want to send your child to school.

How can I keep in touch with my family?

Many phone providers have made phone calls and text messages to Ukraine free of charge. So you will not be charged any fees, and there are no roaming charges either.

Am I insured if I have an accident with my Ukrainian car?

Yes. Until May 31, 2022, German third-party vehicle insurers will cover claims against third parties caused by uninsured Ukrainian cars. The organisation of this is being taken over by the "German Green Card Bureau (DBGK)". You can also report an accident to them, for example.

How high the insured sum is depends on the amount of damage. Up to EUR 7.5 million is covered for personal injury, EUR 1.22 million for property damage and EUR 50,000 for financial losses (when it comes to money lost as a result of the accident, for example loss of earnings).

I do not have Ukrainian citizenship but live in Ukraine: Can I still enter Germany?

Yes. If you resided in Ukraine before or on 24 February 2022, you are currently allowed to enter Germany without a visa, even if you are not a Ukrainian citizen. This policy will be in force until 31 August 2022. The temporary policy change gives you more time to apply for a residence permit. This permit will then make you eligible to receive temporary protection status for 2 years.

You weren't actually in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, although you live in Ukraine with a residence permit and your family members are Ukrainian citizens? In this case, please contact the visa office in Kyiv – preferably using this contact form.

Alternatively, you contact the diplomatic missions in neighbouring countries if you cannot reach anyone at the visa office in Kyiv. You can find a list of the addresses and contact details for the diplomatic missions abroad here.

How long can I stay in Germany if I fled Ukraine but do not have Ukrainian citizenship?

Even if you do not have Ukrainian citizenship, you can apply for a German residence permit by 31 August 2022. Temporary protection status is granted for 2 years. To be eligible to receive the residence permit you must have been a resident of Ukraine before or on 24 February 2022…

  • You either benefitted from international protection or equivalent national protection in Ukraine
  • Or you resided legally in Ukraine (temporary short stays do not count!) and you can no longer return to your country of origin safely and permanently.

For more information in Ukrainian see here.

As a third-country national, what do I need to apply for a residence permit in Germany?

You can apply for your residence permit directly at your local immigration office (Ausländerbehörde). You should have the following information with you for your application:

  • Full name and date of birth
  • Copy of an identity document
  • Number of accompanying family members
  • Present accommodation address in Germany
  • Phone number and email address

The immigration authorities will then use a separate procedure to check whether you are eligible for receiving a residence permit in Germany or whether you can safely and permanently return to your home country. Among other things, a check is made to verify how long you and your family have been in Ukraine and what the current situation is in your country of origin.

You can also submit your application directly online. The Department of the Interior and for Municipal Affairs of the State of Brandenburg (MIK) provides the same service.

Can I bring my family to Germany without Ukrainian citizenship?

Yes – as long as you are resident in Ukraine. You can apply for a family reunification visa for Germany at the foreign missions in the neighbouring countries to Ukraine.

Can I get support in Germany without Ukrainian citizenship?

Yes, you can. The EU 'mass influx directive' also applies to non-Ukrainian refugees. You will receive basic care locally (food, clothing and other essential items) and are also entitled to financial support. You need to register in Germany if you want to make use of the assistance to which you are entitled – usually at your local arrival centre ("Ankunftszentrum"). You can read more about this in the top section of the FAQ under "Questions and answers for refugees".

 


Further links with official information and contact points

Official information for refugees

 

Platforms for offering and arranging private accommodation