Regulated access to the German job market is a pre-requisite for successfully integrating asylum seekers living in Germany. The right framework conditions must be provided in order for refugees' potentials to be maximised. This includes fast recognition of school, vocational and university qualifications, as well as the opportunity for German businesses to employ foreign workers.
General rules on employment
Asylum seekers and refugees are not allowed to work during the first three months of their stay in Germany.
Once the asylum procedure is underway, asylum seekers may work in accordance with the requirements of § 61 Para. 2 of the German Asylum Procedure Act (AsylVfG). That means: They may hold down employment if the Federal Employment Agency has consented to this, or if this is permitted without the Federal Employment Agency's consent. In this context, the Federal Employment Agency's Foreign and Specialist Recruitment Headquarters (ZAV) conduct a so-called precedence assessment (Vorrangprüfung)* to check, based on the job market situation, whether the position can be filled by a German or EU citizen.
This means: The Foreigners' Bureau may permit employment if the Employment Agency (BA) has consented to this or the employment does not require the BA's consent. In this context, the International Placement Services (ZAV) run by the BA conducts a priority check*, in which the job market situation is assessed to determine whether the relevant position can be filled by a German or EU citizen.
For asylum-seekers and foreigners with special exemption to remain, this priority check for employment within the state of Saxony is waived between August 2016 and August 2019.
A change in status from asylum-seeker to foreigner with special exemption to remain does not result in extra waiting time to access the job market. For persons with special exemption to remain, however, the grounds for denying approval as per Section 60a Para. 6 of the German Residency Act (AuftenthG) must always be noted in relation to employment permits. These grounds exist if the foreigner has travelled to Germany in order to obtain benefits under the Asylum-seekers Benefits Act, or measures to terminate residency cannot be enforced for reasons caused by the foreigner themselves (particularly in the case of identity or nationality fraud, or false information), or the foreigner is from a safe country as defined by Section 29a of the German Asylum Act and lodged their application for asylum after 31/8/2015.
Legitimate asylum-seekers and recognised refugees have an unconditional employment permit, and can thus work or undertake training. They do not require the consent of the Foreigners' Bureau or the Federal Employment Agency.
Persons for whom the BAMF has established a deportation ban (Section 60 Para. 5 and & AufenthG) may be issued with an employment permit by the Foreigners' Bureau without the consent of the Federal Employment Agency.
*The priority check rule has been suspended for a period of three years for certain jobs by virtue of the Integration Act ordinance in order to give the asylum-seekers faster access to the German job market.
After three months, asylum seekers are allowed to undertake vocational training in a state-accredited or equivalent recognised trade without the consent of the Federal Employment Agency.
The following must be noted:
- Academic vocational training is always legally permitted for asylum seekers and persons with exceptional leave to remain, and does not require approval from the Bureau for Foreigners.
- Practical vocational training (dual system) is open to asylum seekers from the fourth month onwards, and to persons with exceptional leave to remain once this leave as been granted, insofar as they are not banned from working, and the Bureau for Foreigners allows this.
- A work permit must be applied for from the Bureau for Foreigners for each specific training position.
- Based on the legal changes which took effect on 1 August 2015, the Bureau for Foreigners can initially grant exceptional leave to remain for qualified vocational training for one year. If the training continues, and is expected to be completed within a reasonable time frame, the Bureau for Foreigners shall extend the exceptional leave to remain by one year at a time. This requires that the trainee start the qualified vocational training before turning 21, and not be from a safe country of origin.
Recognised refugees holding residence permits for humanitarian, political or international-law reasons may undertake training.
Recognised refugees holding a residence permit for humanitarian, political or international-law reasons have unrestricted access to the job market, and may thus also complete internships.
Asylum seekers holding temporary residence permits, and people with exceptional leave to remain, may complete internships, although the term "internship" is used to denote a variety of activities with very different focuses. The residence assessment must therefore always be performed on a case-by-case basis. The possible scenarios and associated admission requirements are described in the "Practicums and Internships for asylum seekers and persons granted exceptional leave to remain" handout issued by the Federal Employment Agency.
Asylum seekers are immediately free to utilise »work opportunities« (»Arbeitsgelegenheiten«), which do not involve any work contracts under labour law, nor any employment contracts in terms of statutory health and pension insurance.
The brochure entitled »Guidelines for providing work opportunities in the Free State of Saxony«, issued by the Saxon Ministry for the Interior in July 2015, contains a brief overview of this subject.
Asylum seekers and persons with exceptional leave to remain, who have been in the country for three months, have access to virtually all unemployment insurance services (recruitment support, advanced vocational training, involvement in working life), and may receive assistance from the employment agencies insofar as they meet the respective requirements in each case.
Recognised refugees holding residence permits are attended to and assisted at the job centres (not the employment agencies), and have unlimited access to the work integration services as per §§ 16 ff. of Volume II of the German Social Code.
The statutory minimum wage applies to all workers over 18. There is no special rule for refugees.
Whether or not refugees are allowed to start up their own businesses depends on their residence status.
They cannot start up a business while an asylum procedure is in progress. The same applies to people who have simply been granted exceptional leave to remain.
Recognised asylum seekers and refugees are unconditionally allowed to start up their own businesses and use relevant subsidy programmes.
In the event of a different residence status (e.g. a residence permit for family reasons or another purpose), it is advisable to contact the Bureau for Foreigners, which may be able to issue a permit to start up a business.
Recognition of qualifications
Regarding the recognition of academic qualifications, a distinction is made between recognising an academic degree (studies already completed) and studies/performances for further studies and the recognition of university eligibility.
The Saxon State Ministry of Science and Art is responsible for recognising academic degrees. These are assessed by the Centre for Foreign Education (ZAB).
The respective university is responsible for recognising studies and exam performances entitling admission for further studies at a German university.
Said university is also responsible for recognising university eligibility acquired abroad. This may be in the form of a qualification equivalent to the German Abitur (school-leaving examination), which enables studies at a university.
Information for businesses
The »Work permit process« hotline (tel. 0228 713-2000) set up by the Federal Employment Agency is an important point of contact for businesses, providing information on all matters relating to employing refugees. Employers wanting to employ foreigners also receive assistance from the employer services offered by their local employment agencies.