BAföG for refugees: Anyone who is recognised as a refugee and has enrolled for a course of study at a recognized institution of higher education can apply for BAföG, the mainstream state grant for students.
Residence titles of refugees with which one can apply for BAföG (see § 8 BAföG):
- Persons entitled to asylum (residence permit according to § 25 Para. 1 Residence Act).
- Recognition of refugee status or granting of subsidiary protection (residence permit according to § 25 Para. 2 Residence Act)
- Residence permit for temporary protection on the basis of a decision of the Council of the European Union in accordance with Directive 2001/55/EC (§ 24 Residence Act, currently for war refugees from Ukraine - see § 61 BAföG)
- Prohibition of deportation (residence permit according to § 25 para. 3 Residence Act), residence permit for urgent humanitarian or personal reasons or due to substantial public interests in case of extension (§ 25 para. 4 sentence 2 Residence Act), residence permit due to permanent impossibility of departure (§ 25 para. 5 Residence Act) or toleration (§ 60a Residence Act) after at least 15 months of uninterrupted stay in Germany
- Residence permit due to good integration (§§ 25a and 25b Residence Act).
If your residence title is not listed here, please refer to § 8 BAföG. There are other residence titles that are eligible for BAföG, but these are rare.
BAföG for refugees is therefore not a problem in principle. There are no special restrictions because of the status as a refugee!
However, some refugees have already studied abroad. They want to study again in Germany because their foreign degree is not recognised in Germany. Or they were unable to complete their studies in their country of origin and now want to obtain a degree in Germany.
Those who already have a degree may have problems applying for BAföG. Normally, funding is only provided until you have one degree. Funding is also provided for a Master's degree if you already have a Bachelor's degree, but not for a second Bachelor's or second Master's degree. Even if the foreign degree is not worth anything in Germany, the BAföG offices rarely make exceptions.
If you continue a degree in Germany that you interrupted abroad, you may have problems with BAföG if you do not continue your studies in the same subject. There can be many sound reasons for changing subjects, but the law requires an "irrerfutable" reason for doing so if you have already studied abroad for more than five semesters. "Irrefutable reason" means: it must have become completely impossible to continue studying in the previous subject or to pursue the previously intended profession in Germany. Most people do not have such a strong reason.
The courts have developed solutions for both cases. Refugees who already have a degree or who change their subject after an incomplete degree can receive BAföG!
But they usually do not receive it automatically upon application to the BAföG office. These applications are often rejected first, and then you have to fight for your BAföG: by appealing against the rejection decision, and if that doesn't help, by taking legal action before the administrative court.
Studies, BAföG and citizen's income
Only full-time students can apply for BAföG. And: anyone who starts a full-time course of study no longer receives the "citizen's allowance" (Bürgergeld) from the jobcenter. This is a big problem for refugees who have been living on social benefits and now want to study.
Often, the BAföG offices do not manage to process the applications quickly enough so that the first BAföG payment is in the account when the studies begin. This is a big problem for all first-year students who need BAföG for their livelihood. Those who grew up in Germany may be able to borrow money from parents or relatives. Refugees have fewer options for private support. For them, it is more difficult to bridge the time financially until the first BAföG payment.
If the decision on the BAföG claim is delayed for a longer period of time because the application is initially rejected or because the BAföG office is deliberating its decision for a long time, then it becomes really difficult. Unfortunately, no statistics are kept on how many first-year students have to give up their studies for this reason.
Important for parents and spouses: By taking up a course of study, the citizen's allowance only ceases for the person who is studying; the others continue to receive benefits from the jobcenter. However, the jobcenter no longer pays the entire rent and heating costs, but only the share for the family members who are not studying.
That's why you should contact us as early as possible if you belong to one of the two groups mentioned:
- Foreign degree, going to study for second degree in Germany
- Studies abroad not completed, new studies in Germany in another subject.
We will support you on a voluntary basis and free of charge!
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