BAMF - Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge - Voluntary Return

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FAQ: Voluntary Return

People whose asylum application in Germany has been turned down may opt to return voluntarily. This is an alternative to forced return. Asylum-seekers whose asylum proceedings have not yet been concluded may also return to their country of origin voluntarily. These FAQs indicate what needs to be taken into account, what the advantages of voluntary return are and what promotional programmes and advice are on offer.

Lists of FAQs for Voluntary Return

What are the advantages of voluntary return?

Voluntary return is an alternative to forced return once a person’s asylum application has been turned down. It makes it possible to leave the country independently, without the involvement of the authorities, and at a time selected by the returnee. This means better planning of and preparation for leaving the country. There are also promotional programmes which support voluntary return, for instance by taking on the travel expenses, providing start-up aid, and operating reintegration programmes. The various possibilities can be individually discussed within return advice.

If a third-country national who is obliged to exit the country fails to do so voluntarily, they must as a matter of principle meet the cost of their return themselves.

How long is voluntary return possible for individuals who are obliged to leave the country?

Once an individual has received a negative asylum notice obliging them to leave the country, and should they have opted for voluntary return, they should contact the responsible immigration authority as soon as possible. This authority can inform them by what date they may return voluntarily.

The notice turning down their asylum application will also state by when they must leave. This period is 30 days as a rule. If the asylum application is turned down as immaterial or “manifestly ill-founded”, the deadline period for leaving is one week.

Is voluntary return possible as long as the asylum proceedings have not yet been concluded?

Voluntary return is also possible if the asylum proceedings have not yet been concluded. In such a case, the applicant should withdraw the asylum application before leaving.

What agencies offer advice on voluntary return?

Return counselling is offered by the authorities responsible, such as the residents’ registration office or the immigration authority, as well as by non-governmental organisations and charitable institutions (the Diakonie aid agency, the Red Cross or Caritas). Return counselling centres can be found via the database of the Information Centre for Voluntary Return (ZIRF) and the web-based geoinformation system (Web-Gis).

Who does the return counselling service target?

The advice that is on offer targets all third-country nationals, regardless of whether their asylum proceedings are ongoing or have already been concluded.

Is return counselling obligatory?

No. Participation in return counselling is voluntary.

Does attending a counselling session affect ongoing proceedings?

No. Attending a counselling session does not affect ongoing proceedings. The session is confidential.

In what languages are counselling sessions offered?

Different languages are offered in each counselling centre. It is possible to take someone along to the counselling session who can interpret.

What promotional possibilities exist within voluntary return?

The REAG (Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum Seekers in Germany) and GARP (Government Assisted Repatriation Program) programmes support voluntary return. The support that is available includes meeting transport costs, granting financial travel benefits or providing initial aid. Further information regarding the prerequisites for promotion and the promotional benefits available can be found on the website of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

Is voluntary return promoted to states from which it is possible to travel to Germany without a visa?

The Federation does not promote voluntary return to third European countries from which it is possible to travel without a visa. No initial aid or financial travel benefits are provided. Only transport costs (the cost of transport by public or private transport) can be met. This particularly applies to nationals of the vWEB States (visa-free countries of the Western Balkans)as well as of the Republic of Moldova and Kosovo:

 Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia: visa exemption since 19 December 2009

 Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania: visa exemption since 15 December 2010

 Republic of Moldova: visa exemption since 28 April 2014

No initial aid is granted to nationals of Kosovo (in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 1244) who entered Germany after 31 December 2014.

Further information regarding the prerequisites for promotion and the promotional benefits available can be found on the website of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

What promotional programmes exist for voluntary return to Kosovo?

Promotional programmes for voluntary return to Kosovo are offered by the project entitled "URA" with comprehensive counselling services and many reintegration and support activities.

Is there a legal entitlement to assisted return?

No. There is no legal entitlement to benefits. Benefits under the REAG/GARP programme and other voluntary return support programmes/projects are voluntary benefits. Each individual may also only be granted benefits once. Any benefits which have been paid must be paid back should they re-enter the country.

What is the situation in the country of origin?

Information on the current situation in the respective country of origin is offered by the database of the Information Centre for Voluntary Return (ZIRF). Specific enquiries on professional and medical care and treatment possibilities, on the local infrastructure, as well as on the labour and housing markets, in the countries of origin can be made via the ZIRF counselling project.

What documents are needed for voluntary return?

At least a border crossing certificate is needed for voluntary exit. Valid entry papers need to be available for entering the country of origin (passport or replacement passport). The immigration authority in question will help on request should difficulties occur when it comes to acquiring travel documents.

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