General information about entry and stay

Residence permit for studying vs asylum procedure

If you come from abroad and want to study in Germany, you need permission to stay here to study. Depending on which country you come from, the options for obtaining a residence permit vary greatly.

You won't have a problem at all if you come from a country in the European Union, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. Then the so-called freedom of movement applies to you, which means you can study wherever you want within Europe, provided you meet the requirements of the respective university.

It's different if you come from a so-called third country, i.e. a country outside of the ones mentioned above. Then it depends on whether you want to come to Germany to study or whether you want to come to Germany for reasons of escape. As a person with a refugee background, what legal residency options you have depends very much on your individual situation. For comparison purposes, we have described the requirements for a residence permit for studying and an asylum procedure. But there is much more. Come to our consultation!

In order to study here, you need a residence permit for studying in accordance with. § 16b Residence Act. You can then freely choose your desired university and the place where you would like to study.

This has the following requirements:

  • Valid passport
  • Proof of being able to secure a living in Germany from your own resources (around €11.000 for one year)
  • Adequate health insurance
  • Certificate of enrollment or conditional admission from the university to a full-time course of study
  • Proof of your main residence in Berlin or rental agreement and move-in confirmation from the landlord

With the residence permit according to § 16b AufenthG you can

  • Complete a subject-specific course of study
  • Until February 2024: work 120 full or 240 half days per year of stay as an employee, from March 2024 140 full and 280 half days. A special regulation applies to university-related activities
  • With a few exceptions, it is not possible to apply for social benefits.
  • no residency requirement
  • Valid for a minimum of 1 year and a maximum of 2 years. Will be extended after re-examination if all requirements are still met.

Many important information For example, you can find information about staying in Germany to study on the website DAAD  and the Federal government.

They also offer International Offices of state universities and technical colleges.


If you plan to stay in Germany not just to study, but to seek protection as a refugee due to a well-founded fear of persecution in your country of origin because of your ethnicity, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership of a certain social group, then you can in certain circumstances Asylum apply in Germany.

But attention: The asylum procedure is sometimes a lengthy and complex procedure, which, depending on the country of origin, is unsuccessful in many cases and entails many requirements. For example, you cannot freely decide where in Germany you want to live, but rather you are distributed according to a certain key. In addition, it is hardly possible to switch to a residence permit to study if the asylum procedure has a negative outcome for you. 

So you should think about this step very carefully and get advice!


Process of the asylum procedure:

 To give you an idea of ​​the asylum process, here is an overview of the process:

  •  Arrival and registration in Germany
  • Initial distribution to the federal states
  • Reporting and accommodation in the responsible reception facility
  • Personal application to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)
  • Examination of the “Dublin procedure”
  • Personal hearing at the BAMF
  • Possible decisions by the BAMF: Recognition as a refugee (Sections 3 and 4 AsylG), determination of a ban on deportation (Section 60 Paragraphs 5 and 6 Residence Act), rejection of your application with the result of deportation

If you have decided to apply for asylum, you can generally study in Germany regardless of the status of the procedure, i.e. with a so-called permit or with a toleration if you have not received protection status. If your asylum application is successful, you will receive a residence permit for a maximum of 3 years.

Further general information about the asylum procedure For example, you can find it on the website of BAMF and the Refugee Council Berlin.

An Overview of study options Depending on your residence status in the asylum procedure, you can find it on the website University Rectors' Conference.

pdf: Procedural instructions for staying in Berlin (5.73 MB)

Disclaimer: The advice and assistance provided by the Center for Student Refugees is subject to careful examination of the content. However, we do not assume any liability for the content. All advice and assistance are of a general nature and cannot cover every individual case. For further questions please do not hesitate to contact us.