Legal Matters

Whether a refugee is allowed to accept work in Germany depends particularly on his/her current residence status. If the refugee has a residence permit [“Aufenthaltserlaubnis”] ( = positive notification letter on an application for asylum), there is nothing standing in the way of the employment or the self-employed activities of the refugee.

Special case: prohibition of deportation for refugees

If initially only a prohibition of deportation is issued and not a residence permit, the immigration authority [“Ausländerbehörde”] may approve employment on a case-by-case basis. You can see whether this approval has already been given in the residence permit of the refugee or on the accompanying supplementary sheet.

Special case: Refugee with permission to reside [“Aufenthaltsgestattung”] or refugee with a temporary suspension of deportation status [“Duldung”]

Asylum seekers still in asylum proceedings are only given permission to reside. This entitles them to live and also to work under certain conditions in Germany until their asylum proceedings have ended. There are also persons whose application has been turned down but whose deportation has been suspended. They usually receive a certificate on the suspension of deportation [“Bescheinigung für die Aussetzung einer Abschiebung“] – referred to as toleration [“Duldung”]. Access to the labour market is somewhat more difficult for both of these groups.

Persons with permission to reside or a certificate of suspension of deportation must obtain permission to engage in work [“Genehmigung zur Ausübung einer Beschäftigung”] (work permit) from the immigration authority before taking up work. The authority decides in each individual case whether the person may take up work. In addition, the approval of the Employment Agency [“Agentur für Arbeit”] is required within the first four years of residence in Germany. If approval is given, the refugee may start work immediately.

Complete ban on working for refugees

However, the following groups of refugees are prohibited from gainful employment as a basic principle:

  • Persons who are still within the three-month waiting period after filing an application for asylum.
  • Persons with permission to reside who are obliged to live in a reception facility. As a rule, this applies during the first six months of the refugee’s residence in Germany at the maximum.
  • Persons from safe countries of origin who filed an application for asylum after 08.2015 or if it was turned down.
  • Persons with a certificate of suspension of deportation who entered the country in order to obtain benefits under the Asylum Seekers‘ Benefits Act and prevent measures to end their residence, e.g. by providing misleading information about their identity or nationality.

Depending on the type of protection granted, refugees receive a residence permit that is valid from between one and three years – with the option to extend it or be granted permanent residence.

Employment in Private Households

If a person employs a refugee in his/her private household to assist in household chores, as a babysitter, to care for a senior or to help with other chores, this is done in most cases on a mini-job basis, more rarely as a midi-job or as a self-employed activity.

Refugees with a residence permit may take up any work and may work in your home without any problems. If the refugee only has permission to reside and a certificate of suspension of deportation, he/she must apply for a work permit at the immigration authority – preferably with your help. In the process, a permit for specific work is obtained, i.e. the job in your home. If the refugee is granted a work permit, he/she may start work immediately.

Please remember:  Many refugees have a work permit but not a registered trade or business. Therefore, employment is the better alternative for refugees. If you employ a helper, you are not only a customer, you are also an employer – with all the related rights and duties. If your helper only earns up to 450 Euros per month, he/she must be registered with the mini-job centre.

No, they are not. Persons who have permission to reside or a certificate of suspension of deportation may not work on a self-employed basis as a basic principle and therefore may not issue any invoices.

Less effort is involved in employing a refugee for a mini-job in your home than a German person because as an employer you are not required to pay a flat rate to the health insurance for refugees who have a residence permit and thus receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. Otherwise, you and your 450 Euro helper have the same rights and duties that apply to any other mini-job.

Furthermore, as a private mini-job provider, you receive a tax reduction and can deduct up to 510 Euros per year in expenses for your helper (or 42.50 Euros per month) from your income tax.

A mini-job is short term if the work is limited to three months or 70 workdays in a calendar year. The level of earnings is not important in that case – unless the employee works on a professional basis. Refugees who earn more than 450 Euros per month and are generally considered a member of the working population always work on a professional basis which is why they are not allowed to accept a short-term mini-job! Refugees undergoing (vocational) schooling or studying are an exception in this case.

That is very simple. You do it via the mini-job centre [“Minijob-Zentrale”]. We will show you what steps you need to take:

  1. Obtain the information from the refugee that the mini-job centre will ask when employment is registered: Among other things, this includes the address, date of birth, name at birth and place of birth of the refugee, his/her social security number, email address and telephone number.
  2. Clarify whether you would prefer to pay over a flat-rate tax of 2 percent or wish to have the tax office calculate the refugee’s individual wage tax. You are obliged to pay over the tax in either case.
  3. Clarify with the refugee whether he/she wishes to pay social security contributions. These are usually deducted from his/her wages.
  4. Register your mini-jobber quickly and conveniently with the mini-job centre by carrying out what is referred to as the household check. This can be done online or request the form needed in writing, by telephone or by email. N.B.: You must also print out the online form, sign it and return it to the mini-job centre.

Your daily helper has the same rights as a full-time employee in many respects. Among other things, this includes protection against dismissal, payment of a minimum wage or continued payment of wages in case of sickness. You can obtain information on this subject from the mini-job centre. Furthermore, as a mini-job employer you must pay a flat rate to the pension insurance of 5 percent of the wages per month.

If as a firm you wish to employ a refugee, the brochure entitled “Potenziale nutzen – geflüchtete Menschen beschäftigen” (exploit potentials – employing refugees) will provide all the insight necessary on employment conditions and your rights and duties as an employer.