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?

In the event of voluntary return, the departure can be planned and organised; the travel costs are in part assumed. Depending on the country of origin, it is also possible in addition to obtain travel assistance and start-up assistance or take part in a reintegration programme. This simplifies a new start in the country of origin, for example through assistance in finding work or accommodation and/or by the provision of payments in kind. The return counselling centres provide individual advice on the various options. The information portal provides an overview of thereturn counselling centres.

Voluntary return is also possible after a rejected asylum application. If a citizen of a third country obliged to leave does not depart within the deadline imposed, he must pay the costs for his repatriation himself.

For how long is a voluntary return possible for those obliged to leave?

After receiving a negative asylum decision, those obliged to leave who have decided on voluntary return should contact the responsible foreigners' authority as soon as possible. The latter can provide information on how long voluntary return is still possible. Together with the rejection of the asylum application, the person obliged to leave will be given notice of a deadline by which he has to leave the country. This period is normally 30 days. The deadline for leaving the country if the asylum application is rejected as insignificant or "manifestly unfounded" is one week.

Is voluntary return also possible if the asylum proceedings have not yet ended?

Voluntary return is also possible if the asylum proceedings have not yet been concluded. Those returning from particular countries of origin can apply for additional financial support via the federal programme StarthilfePlus. The asylum application must be withdrawn before departure.

What bodies provide advice on voluntary return?

Authorities with national responsibility, such as the foreigner' authority or Residents' Office and NGOs and charitable institutions (Diakonie, Red Cross or Caritas) provide advice on returning. Contact data and addresses of local return counselling centres can be found via the information portal

To whom is the return advice addressed?

The offer of advice is addressed to all third country nationals who are interested in voluntary departure, irrespective of ongoing or already terminated asylum proceedings.

Is return advice mandatory?

No. Return advice is voluntary, non-binding and open-ended. Advice is always free and does not oblige to voluntary departure. Individual return counselling is recommended especially for persons with little prospect of remaining in Germany, a rejected asylum application or an obligation to leave for other reasons.

Does participating in an advisory talk have an influence on ongoing procedures?

No. Taking part in an advisory talk has no influence on ongoing procedures. The return counselling is confidental.

What languages are counselling sessions offered in?

Advisory talks are normally offered in German, but often also in English. You are encouraged to bring someone who can act as an interpreter to ensure adequate communication. If necessary, advice in the mother tongue or provision of an interpreter can be agreed in advance.

What support options are available for voluntary return?

The programmes REAG (Reintegration and Emigration Program for Asylum Seekers in Germany) and GARP (Government Assisted Repatriation Program) are available to support voluntary return. The support options include assumption of the travel costs and if applicable, payment of travel assistance and start-up assistance. Furthermore, additional financial support by the federal programme StarthilfePlus or a reintegration programme in the country of origin is possible too. Return counselling centres check the individual options for support. The information portal provides additional information.

Is voluntary return supported to countries from which entry into Germany is possible without a visa?

Voluntary return to European third countries from which entry is possible without a visa is not supported by the federal government. No start-up assistance or travel assistance is provided. Only travel costs (costs of transport with public or private transport) can be covered. This applies in particular to citizens of vWEB countries (visa-free countries of the western Balkans) and the republics of Moldova, Georgia,and Ukraine:

  • former Yugoslavian republics Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia: visa-free entry since 19.12.2009
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania: visa-free entry since 15.12.2010
  • Republic of Moldova: visa-free entry since 28.04.2014
  • Georgia: visa-free entry since 28.03.2017
  • Ukraine: visa-free entry since 11.06.2017

Citizens of Serbia and Albania tolerated for at least two years in Germany have been able to apply for reintegration assistance in the event of voluntary return since 01.01.2018 as part of level D of the StarthilfePlus programme. You can find details about this support for long-term tolerated persons at Return advice bodies check the individual options for support. The portals or provide more information.

What support programmes are there for voluntary return to Kosovo?

Citizens from Kosovo cannot apply for any travel assistance and start-up assistance via the REAG/GARP programmes. Only travel costs (costs of transport with public or private transport) can be assumed. The reintegration programme URA based in Pristina advises people after their return and supports them individually with numerous measures during reintegration in Kosovo.

Is there any legal claim to return support?

No. There is no legal claim to receive return support. Moreover, support by the REAG/GARP programmes and other programmes/projects is only possible once. In the event of re-entry, payments already made must be repaid.

What is the situation in the country of origin?

The Information Centre for Voluntary Return (ZIRF) publishes information on the current situation in the particular countries of origin in the information portal Special queries related to individual cases on medical care and treatment and local infrastructure, the job and residential market in the countries of origin can be made by the return advice bodies via the ZIRF-Counselling project.

What documents are needed for voluntary return?

Before departure, the foreigners' authority hands over a border-crossing certificate, which the person leaving gives to the federal police, or in the event of departure from the Schengen area, to the border authorities. Valid entry documents (passport/passport substitute document and if necessary, a visa) must be available for entering the country of origin or a third state willing to accept entry. On request, the responsible foreigner' authority helps in the event of difficulties in procuring travel documents.

Can persons with a residence permit or other right to remain also be supported in the event of their voluntary return?

Depending on nationality and residence status, persons with a (temporary) right to remain can also be supported in the event of voluntary return to their country of origin. These include

  • persons with a residence permit
  • persons being granted a tolerated stay status (temporary suspension of deportation)
  • those entitled to protection, who have been granted protected status under German law (recognised refugees, those entitled to asylum, subsidiary persons entitled to protection)
  • other foreigners who were granted residence on international law, humanitarian or political grounds

Return counselling centres check the individual options for support. The information portal provides additional information.

For what countries of origin is support in returning available?

The possibility of supported voluntary return depends primarily on the nationality, apart from many other criteria. Return counselling centres check the individual options for support. The information portal provides additional information.

Are there programmes for support after return in the country of origin?

Reintegration programmes provide support in making a new start in many countries of origin. The following can form part of reintegration programmes:

  • payments in kind
  • support in looking for accommodation and work,
  • mediating training and further education measures,
  • help in setting up a business or
  • support in social and medical matters.

The information portals and provide information on existing reintegration programmes in the particular countries of origin.

Is there additional support for families?

A family allowance can be applied for if at least four family members depart together via the programme StarthilfePlus. Return advice bodies check the individual options for support. The information portal provides additional information.

Are unaccompanied minors supported in the event of voluntary return?

An individual return advice body can provide information on the conditions and possibilities for support of unaccompanied minors. At any rate, approval of the legal representative and Youth Welfare Office must be obtained by the body transmitting the application. Before the return, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) checks whether care of the minor is ensured in the country of origin.

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