Refugees in Germany

Helpful tips & advice

visa application

First of all, welcome to Germany!

We’ve written this guide for refugees and asylum seekers in Germany. We hope that it will help you finding your way around. We try our best to keep you updated with the latest information and bureaucracy around refugees in Germany.

We explain what to do if you need to see a doctor in Germany;  where to register and how to sign up at the online university for refugees.

Finally, we also provide information on how to get a free sim card and a free bank account. We provide you with links for integration courses in your area and useful apps for learning German online.

+Update+ A friend of mine has come up with a wonderful idea: She has compiled a cultural guide for refugees in Germany. It exists in several languages and is a wonderful source for refugees to learn about German culture. To download it, just scroll below.

#1 You’ve just arrived in Germany & need to get a cheap sim card

Maybe you have just arrived in Germany, but most likely you want to stay in touch with your family and friends. LycaMobile is one of the cheapest sim cards for international calls. You can get these sim cards in most corner shops.

How it works

The SIM card is completely free of charge. It’s a prepaid SIM card. This means that you only ever top up as much money as you want to. You can also get special bundles, where you get free data, free minutes and free texts. This way you can stay in touch with your home country.


#2 Learn about German culture

There are many things that you may find confusing in Germany. For example, that people shake hands all the time when they meet. Or the way that people dress in public space.

Maybe you don’t understand what certain gestures mean.

My advise: Read the ‘RefugeeGuide’ (

A friend of mine is working on that project, and I think it’s brilliant! There are so many subtleties and details that Germans take for granted in their culture, and that newcomers may misunderstand.

The guide picks up on many of such subtleties.

Please do read that guide – it will make your life in Germany so much easier.

Understanding the German culture is key once you have arrived here. I’m sure it will clarify many of your confusions.

The guide is currently available in Arabic, English, German, Albanian, Serbian, French, Macedonian,…

#3 Once you’ve moved into your housing, you must register the address

Once you have moved into your housing, then you have to register your address at the so-called Bürgeramt. This is very important. It’s not difficult to register.

All you have to do is fill in the registration form, take your passport and your rental agreement, or a paper that shows your refugee status and the address of your housing.

Then take all of these documents to a local ‘Burgeramt’. To find out the address, just google ‘Bürgeramt’ + your city/district (in German!)’. For example, ‘Bürgeramt Regensburg’.

As a refugee, you can also fill in our registration form online.

We want to help you, so we have made this service completely free for refugees.

Please just send us a quick email with a copy of a document that shows that you’re a refugee. After that we will send you a code, which gives you free access to the form.

Registra il tuo domicilio

#4 I‘m sick and I need a doctor. How can I apply for a ’Gesundheitskarte’ in Germany?

If you are an asylum seekers or refugee in Hamburg, Bremen or Northrine Westphalia, then you can directly apply for a German ‘Gesundheitskarte’ (health card).

The other areas in Germany are still debating how to handle the situation; for now you will need to apply for permission to see a doctor. To get permission you need to go to the ‘Sozialamt’.

Once you have access to the German ‘Gesundheitskarte’, this health card allows you to be treated by doctors in Germany. You don’t have to pay for the treatment.

The German public health insurance pays for you. So you have the same rights like German citizens in that respect.

When you have the German health card, you can make an appointment at a doctor in Germany.

If you don’t speak German, you can find an English-speaking doctor. Read our article ‘Need to see a doctor in Germany? 9 Things you must know’.

Update: There is a now an official health guide for asylum seekers in Germany. You can download it in English, Arabic, Pashto and Kurdish.

#5 Learn German

Learning German is vital, if you want to stay in Germany. Many Germans speak some English. But you will find it a lot easier to find access to the German culture and society, if you make an effort to speak German.

Needless to say, speaking German is essential if you ever want to study or work in Germany.

There are currently many volunteers who are happy to teach German for free. So the best thing would be to ask around in your local community if there are any free ways to learn German.

If you have a smartphone, you can also try out ‘Babbel’, or ‘Duolingo’. These are free apps, which help you learn German. You can download these apps for free on our page Top 3 Ways to learn German.

If you are looking for another free resource to learn German, you should check out DW Deutsche Welle (

They offer German news in several languages and also offer free material for learning German. You can also check out their Facebook page. They give you daily German exercises which can help you study!

To search for integration courses, please go to the official page of the Federal Ministry for Migration and Refugees.

Here you can also find integration courses, which are particularly aimed at women or families. Just scroll around. It’s easiest to use, if you type in your ‘city’ (Stadt).

Learn German

#6 Study at the refugee university!

Kiron is an amazing project that supports refugees who would like to educate themselves and study. It’s an online university and it is backed up by many prominent politicians and even former Harvard professors.

So if you were a student before you came to Germany, or if you would like to be a student now, here’s your chance: Sign up now. They’re currently collecting money to fund places for refugees.

To become a student at the online university Kiron, you need the following documents:

  1. a residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis)
  2. permission to reside (Aufenthaltsgestattung)
  3. a document that states the temporary suspension of deportation status (Duldung)
  4. the recognition of refugee status from any State;
  5. the recognition of refugee status from UNHCR
  6. a document that states subsidiary protection status
  7. a document certifying that you started your asylum application;
  8. if you live in a refugee camp, a self-certification of your residence there, signed by the camp manager, will be enough. Please note, this document does NOT have any legal status, we just need it for our internal administrative processes.
  9. In case you don’t fit into any of the above categories, please fill in this certification to be approved by a representative of a state-organization / NGO you are in contact with (e.g. social worker, counsellor, legal consultant).

Does this sound interesting to you? If so, then do apply. You can’t lose anything, so just give it a go!


#7 Get a free bank account in Germany

You definitely need a bank account in Germany, sooner or later. The fastest and easiest way to get a bank account is to apply online.

Please make sure that you have a registration confirmation. You get this confirmation after you have registered in Germany. You need this to open a German bank account.

How to open the bank account? 

1. You enter your email address on the website.
2. Eventually you will get an invitation to open the bank account.
3. You enter all you data; name, address, passport number.
4. You have a video call with an employer to check your identity.
5. Your bank account information and the bank cards are sent to you.

For bank transfers, we usually need the ‘IBAN’ and ‘BIC’. These are bank account numbers and sort codes. When you want to get your monthly allowances paid to your bank account, then you have to provide your IBAN and BIC codes.

A bank transfer usually takes 1-2 business days in Germany. The money arrives on the same day, if you send the money to a person that has an account at the same bank.

Want to add something? Do you know other useful websites or services for refugees? We’re happy to include them. We do our best to keep this article up-to-date. Nevertheless, if you spot anything that’s unclear or inaccurate, then please contact us.

© 2016 Copyright, Expat Services UG (haftungsbeschränkt). All rights reserved. Expat Services UG (haftungsbeschränkt) assumes no liability for the correctnessaccuracy, relevance, reliability or completeness of the information published.