Access to the labour market



Informationsverbund Asyl und Migration

The time limit for access to the labour market was reduced to 3 months in November 2014.1 Before that, since 6 September 2013, asylum seekers were not allowed access to the labour market for a period of 9 months.2 Until September 2013, the time limit had been 1 year, but the law was changed to transpose the recast Reception Conditions Directive.

However, with the adoption of a law in October 2015, new restrictions for access to the labour market were imposed. Asylum seekers are now barred from access as long as they are obliged to stay in an initial reception centre. The maximum period for this stay is 6 months for most asylum seekers, but asylum seekers from safe countries of origin are obliged to stay in initial reception centres for the whole duration of their asylum procedures. In principle, the law thus provides that asylum seekers from safe countries of origin do not have access to the labour market at all, but it might prove difficult in practice to enforce the obligation to stay in initial reception centres for longer periods (see Fast-Track Processing).

For asylum seekers who are not from safe countries of origin the new law results in unequal treatment: For those who are allowed to leave the initial reception centres after a short period (for legal or practical reasons, e.g. because of overcrowding), access to labour market can be granted after 3 months, while those who stay in these centres for a longer period do not have access for up to six months.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work on a self-employed basis for the whole duration of their asylum procedure, since the permission to pursue self-employment is dependent on a regular residence title, to which the asylum seeker's residence permit (Aufenthaltsgestattung) does not belong.3

After the waiting period of 3 or 6 months has expired, access to the labour market is granted in principle, but with restrictions. Firstly, asylum seekers have to apply for an employment permit. To this end, they have to prove that there is a “concrete” job offer, i.e. an employer has to declare that the asylum seeker will be employed in case the employment permit is granted, and they have to hand in a detailed job description to the authorities.

Secondly, for a period of 15 months following the registration of the asylum application and the issuance of the Aufenthaltsgestattung, the job centre usually has to carry out a “priority review”, i.e. an examination of whether there is another job‑seeker who is suited for the offered position and who has a better status in terms of employment regulations, in particular German citizens or foreigners with a secure residence permit. However, in August 2016, an addendum to the Employment Regulation (Beschäftigungsverordnung) was introduced, according to which this “priority review” has been suspended for three years in most parts of Germany. This addendum lists 133 of 156 regions of the labour agency (areas to which a local labour office is assigned), so only in 23 regions the priority review still has to take place.4

In any case, the priority review is not mandatory after 15 months of stay.

Furthermore, the job centre carries out a “review of labour conditions”, i.e. an examination of whether labour rights are adhered at the workplace and whether wages correspond to regional standards.  

  • 1. Gesetz zur Einstufung weiterer Staaten als sichere Herkunftsstaaten und zur Erleichterung des Arbeitsmarktzugangs für Asylbewerber und geduldete Ausländer, BGBl. I, No. 49, 5 November 2014, 1649.
  • 2. Section 61(2) Asylum Act.
  • 3. Section 21(6) Residence Act.
  • 4. These are areas in which the local labour market is considered to be “strained”, but the list actually does not seem to adhere to this principle. The priority review is still in place in parts of Bavaria (11 out of 23 regions), parts of Nordrhein-Westfalen (7 out of 30 regions) and in the Federal State of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti