Important information on entry and residence for people fleeing Ukraine
The Russian invasion of Ukraine forces many people to flee Ukraine. Here you will find information on the situation at the borders and on entering/staying in Germany for Ukrainian citizens and people of other nationalities who have lived in Ukraine. Ukrainians already in Germany can also find reliable and up-to-date information here.
We are striving to provide answers to all questions. As soon as we have news, we will inform you immediately here and on Facebook.
Looking for counselling by phone? Then call the Particip.ai hotline. The staff speak Ukrainian, Russian and English and will provide you with all the essential information free of charge. You can reach the hotline Monday to Friday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on 0800 5052400. The call is free.
What do I need to know?
As long as you are allowed to stay in Germany without a visa or have a visa, you are free to choose your place of residence. You can also live with friends or family or find your own apartment. You can read more about this in our chapter “Searching for a flat”.
Many people in Germany and Europe are willing to help and are currently offering free accommodation to people from Ukraine. You can search for private accommodation on the following websites. It is possible to start your search before arriving in Germany. Please note: These websites are not created or verified by Handbook Germany.
- host4ukraine (English)
- CryptPad (English)
- warmes-bett.de (German)
- mapahelp.me/ (Ukrainian, Russian, English)
- icanhelp.host (Ukrainian, Russian, English, German, etc.)
- wunderflats.com (Ukrainian, Russian, English)
- unterkunft-ukraine (Ukrainian, Russian, English, German)
- everybedhelps.com (German, English)
On uahelp.wiki/accommodation you will find other platforms where you can search for temporary or permanent accommodation in Germany.
You can also ask the official helpers at the train stations for help. But make sure that you only ask official helpers for help. They usually wear a coloured vest and are active at the official aid stands.
In general: Be careful! There are also dubious offers from people who want to take advantage of you. If you feel unwell or threatened, call the helpline on 08000 - 116 016. The call is free. The employees speak Russian and many other languages. The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day. Alternatively, you can contact an authority, the police or the helpers at the train stations. Important: Never let your passport out of your hand.
In addition, you can also be accommodated at short notice in the initial reception facilities or emergency shelters of the individual federal states. You can ask the police or the immigration office for an address.
You can also find the addresses of refugee arrival centres on GoogleMap.
Important: Accommodation in a state facility does not obligate you to apply for asylum. However, the state authorities are obligated to provide you with everything you need.
Furthermore, on booking.com, you can find free or affordable hotel rooms for a few days throughout Europe.
Important: With a residence permit according to Section 24 of the Residence Act or as an asylum seeker, you are generally not allowed to choose your place of residence yourself. You can find out more about this in the “Residence” section.
If you have a residence permit according to Section 24, you can also live in your own flat. You do not have to live in shared accommodation. If you do not have your own money, Jobcenter will cover the costs.
Jobcenter will only pay the rental costs up to a certain amount and only if certain conditions are met. Therefore, before looking for a flat, ask your advisor at the Jobcenter how high the rent may be and what other requirements the flat must meet. The allowed amount of rent varies from city to city and depends on various factors, such as the type of heating and the size of the building. In addition, on the one hand the flat must have a certain size and on the other hand it must not exceed a certain size.
All Jobcenter cover the costs (rent and heating) for a flat of “reasonable” size. What counts as reasonable size differs in every city. As a rule, however, a flat of 45-50 square meters is considered adequate for one person. This limit increases by 10-15 square meters for each additional person who moves into the flat (e.g., approx. 60 square meters for 2 people and approx. 75 square meters for 3 people).
Only rental costs that are deemed reasonable will be covered. The additional costs that are accepted depending on the city in which you want to stay. Here are some examples: In Berlin, the reasonable gross basic rent for one person is around €426, in Munich around €781, in Hamburg around €543, and in Cologne around €633. If there are more than one person, the appropriate gross rent increases. For instance, for two people, the gross rent in Berlin would be around €515,45, for three people it would be around €594,45. For two people in Munich, the gross rent would be as high as approx. €1005 and for three people, approx. €1184. In Cologne, the reasonable gross rent for two people would be around €1155 and for three people around €1365,65. In Hamburg, the gross rent for two people would be approx. €798 and for three people, €1015,70.
Furthermore, many offices reject rental offers for a limited period of time as well as rental offers with gradually rising rents. It is therefore essential to find out what conditions apply to you before you start your search.
Refugees from Ukraine who are already working in Germany and whose income is not enough to pay their rent can, under certain circumstances, receive a rent subsidy (“Zuschuss zur Miete”). When that is the case, you would also be entitled to the so-called “housing benefit” (“Wohngeld”). You can receive housing benefits if you do not receive any other state aid that includes rent money. So, if you receive "Bürgergeld", BAföG, basic security in old age (“Grundsicherung im Alter”), vocational training allowance (BAB), training allowance (“Ausbildungsgeld”), basic benefits under the Asylum Seekers Benefits Act or if you have a so-called “Erwerbsminderung” (reduced earning capacity), you are not entitled to housing benefits.
The amount of the housing benefit is calculated case by case. It depends on your income, the amount of your rent and the number of people in your household. You can find a housing benefit calculator (Wohngeldrechner) on the Federal Ministry of Housing, Urban Development and Building website – use the calculator to work out the approximate amount of your housing benefit. Among other things, you have to enter the total number of people in your household, the amount of rent and the total monthly income of the people in your household into the calculator. The calculator is only available in German.
Please note: The offices responsible for housing benefits may have different names depending on the city. Often the citizens’ registration office (Bürgeramt) or the housing benefit office (Wohngeldstelle) are responsible for the housing benefit. You can find the right authority in your area by searching online. To do so, enter the words "Wohngeldstelle" and the name of your place of residence in the search bar. On wohngeld.org, you will find housing benefits applications in each federal state.
Important: You will receive housing benefits for a period of 12 months. After that, you must apply for housing benefits again.
Important: If you receive the housing benefit, you are also entitled to the so-called "heating cost subsidy" (“Heizkostenzuschuss”). You can learn more about this subsidy and other offers of help in our chapter "Help with rising prices".
With a certificate of entitlement to social housing (WBS) you can rent social housing. The rent is cheaper in social housing because these flats are funded by the state.
In order to obtain a certificate of entitlement to social housing (WBS), you must meet certain requirements:
- You do not have much money available every month, for example because you earn very little or because you receive benefits from the Social Welfare Office or Jobcenter.
- You have a residence permit for Germany that is valid for at least one year.
- With a residence permit according to §24 Residence Act you are eligible for WBS. But as long as you only have a registration or a “Fiktionsbescheinigung, you usually cannot receive WBS.
There may be other requirements in each federal state. Ask the relevant office which requirements you have to meet to be granted a WSB. You can learn which authority is responsible and which documents are needed for the application in our chapter "WBS".
If you live in Hamburg, you can apply for WBS online. At hamburg.de you can find instructions (in German) on how to apply online. There you will also find information about the required documents and fees.
Important: If you have applied for asylum and are still in the asylum procedure, you usually cannot receive WBS.
Finding an apartment is very difficult, especially in large German cities. You can find some tips in the "Searching for a Flat" chapter.
Many people in Germany and Europe are willing to help and are currently offering free accommodation to people from Ukraine. You will find many platforms with cost-free accommodation offers in the section "Where can I find short-term accommodation?". Ask in advance if you can bring your pets with you.
You can search for and find private accommodation where pets are also welcome on the following websites. Please note: The websites are not created or verified by Handbook Germany.
You can also ask the official helpers at the train stations for assistance. But make sure that you only seek help from official helpers - they usually wear a coloured vest and are present and active at the official aid stands.
On the linktr.ee/support_ukrainian_pets page, you will find various Telegram channels where you can seek information on transporting and housing your pets in Germany.
In general: Be careful! There are also dubious offers from people who want to take advantage of you. If you feel uneasy or threatened, call the helpline 08000 - 116 016. The call is free, and the employees speak Russian and many other languages. The helpline is staffed 24 hours a day. Alternatively, you can contact an authority, the police or the helpers at the train stations. Important: Do not give anyone your passport.
With a residence permit according to §24 Residence Act you cannot choose your place of residence. That means you are assigned to a specific federal state and then to a specific municipality. If you have long-term accommodation in a certain city, in principle, you are allowed to stay there. If that is the case, you have to prove it, for instance, by presenting a rental agreement or a police registration certificate.
All people who come to Germany and seek protection here are distributed throughout Germany according to the so-called "Königsteiner Schlüssel". The distribution of the refugees from Ukraine is carried out with the help of the software "FREE" (special application for registering, recording and initial distribution). When distributing the refugees, this software also takes into account, among other things, whether you have family or a flat in a German city. Once assigned to a city, it's difficult to change it. Only the city assigned to you is then initially responsible for you. You are only entitled to accommodation and financial aid from the state in that specific city.
Moving to another location (redistribution or “Umverteilung”) later is rarely allowed. For that to happen, you must submit a "relocation application" or "Umverteilungsantrag" to the Immigration Office responsible. The Immigration Office responsible for you is the Immigration Office at your current place of residence. You can find the address at bamf.navi. In order to have a chance of success, you need good reasons for moving, such as caring for a sick family member, the availability of a specialized and urgently needed doctor, starting vocational training or a university degree or attending “Studienkollegs” in the desired city. You can also move if you find a job that is subject to social security contributions with a minimum of 15 hours per week and a certain level of income.
If you want to move to another city, you can first inquire directly at your Immigration Office about the conditions and requirements.
If you are planning to move to another city, it is best to seek advice beforehand. You can find a counseling center nearby on the Pro Asyl website.
Refugees from Ukraine who have received a residence permit according to §24 Residence Act usually have to abide by a so-called “residence requirement” or “Wohnsitzauflage. The residence requirement obliges you to remain in the place to which you were distributed for 3 years (starting from the time you have been granted the residence permit).
Under certain conditions, however, you can apply for your residence requirement to be lifted. You can do so if you:
- Take up employment subject to social security contributions for at least 15 hours per week or
- begin vocational training or
- find a place at university or a vocational training programme or
- attend an integration course or
- attend a work-related language course or begin a qualification measure that takes at least three months and leads to professional recognition.
Important: These reasons do not have to apply to you. It is also sufficient if they apply to your spouse, registered civil partner or an underage unmarried child living with you to whom you are related.
You must apply to the Immigration Office responsible for you to have your residence requirement lifted. The Immigration Office responsible is the Immigration Office at your current place of residence. You can find the address at bamf.navi.
Both the Immigration Office responsible for you and the Immigration Office in the place to which you want to move must agree to the lifting of the residence requirement.
When all the above-mentioned requirements are met, the authorities usually agree. If the authorities in the place where you want to move do not object to your application within four weeks, it means they have no objection to your application, so you can move.
Please note: The Immigration Office currently responsible will contact the other Immigration Office directly and ask for their approval to lift your residency requirement.
Important: Residence requirement does not mean that you are not allowed to travel within Germany or to other EU countries or Schengen states. You can find more on the subject of "travel" in the sections "Can I travel to other EU countries or Schengen states with my residence permit?" and in our chapter "Travelling within Germany".