Unaccompanied minor refugees in Germany
Can I apply for asylum if I am a minor?
In Germany, you will be registered as an "unaccompanied minor refugee" (or "umF") when you are under 18 years old and have come to Germany without your family. This applies to you whether you got separated from your parents in your way to Germany or had to flee your country without your parents. The same is the case if you have become separated from your family after arriving in Germany. Unaccompanied minor refugees are particularly vulnerable, so the rules and regulations applying to them are different from the rules and regulations for adult refugees or child refugees who fled to Germany along with their parent(s).
What do I need to know?
Unaccompanied, underage refugees will be taken into custody by the Youth Welfare Office upon their arrival in Germany, which means the Youth Welfare Office provides you with initial accommodation and oversees all official procedures related to you. In the first step, a so-called clearing procedure ("Clearing-Verfahren") is carried out. If you do not have any ID or paper, your age will be determined through an age-assessment process, which is usually conducted based on a medical evaluation by an expert. If your age is estimated to be above the legal age (i.e. 18 years), you will be referred to the relevant Initial Reception Centre for adult refugees. However, if (according to your documents or as a result of the age assessment process) it is established that you are still a minor, the authorities will check if you have any relatives in Germany or Europe with whom you can and are willing to live. If this is not the case, and you are under 18 years old, you will be referred to the Youth Welfare Office responsible for you, which may be located in the city of your initial arrival or another town in Germany. The staff there will provide you accommodation - either with a foster family or in a superintended housing facility for children and young people - and take care of your other needs (school, education, residence status, and alike).
Additionally, they will try to find you a guardian. A guardian will function as your legal representative and care-taker. You need to have a guardian since, as a minor, you are only able to decide a few things personally. In principle, either an employee of the relevant Youth Welfare Office or a private volunteer individual takes over the guardianship. As an unaccompanied minor refugee, You will have a guardian until you are of legal age according to the law in your home country.
Please note: If your age is miscalculated, talk to your guardian, a social worker at your initial reception facility, or staff at a counselling centre. It is crucial that the authorities do not consider you to be older than you are. Otherwise, you cannot benefit from the support you are legally entitled to in Germany. You can find counselling centres nearby on the website of the Youth Migration Service, the website of the Federal Association of Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) and our Local Information page. Enter the name of the city where you live and search for asylum, residence or legal counselling advice.
You can not apply for asylum as a minor, but your guardian can apply for asylum in writing on your behalf. To do so they just needs to send an informal letter to a branch office of the BAMF in your area. Seek advice from a lawyer or a counselling centre to learn whether it makes sense to apply for asylum in your case or not. Unaccompanied minor refugees who do not apply for asylum are usually granted a tolerated stay permit or ("Duldung"). According to the law, refugee children cannot be deported unless it is verified that a competent caregiver is waiting for them in their home country. You can find counselling centres nearby on the website of the Youth Migration Service, the website of the Federal Association of Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) and our Local Information page. Enter the name of the city where you live and search for asylum, residence or legal counselling advice. Visit our chapter "Asylum procedure" to learn more about the asylum procedure in Germany.
In principle, if you are underage and unaccompanied, you may not be deported from Germany. Only if your parents, another caretaker, or a specific facility for children and adolescents in your home country officially guarantees to take care of you, the German law (§58 of the residence Act) permits your deportation.
Dublin Regulation does not apply to unaccompanied minors, which means you may not be deported to another European country. In other words, you can stay in Germany, even if you have been registered (e.g., fingerprinted) in another EU country.
In Germany, all children must attend school from the age of six or seven, depending on the federal state in which they live. In most of the federal states, refugee children of the same age range and older must start school soon after their arrival in Germany. The regulations regarding mandatory schooling for refugee children are different from state to state, but all children and adolescents living in Germany should attend school for at least nine years. Find out more about the German school system in our chapter "School".
If you are looking for your parents or other family members, you can seek help from the following relief organisations:
The search service of the German Red Cross (GRC Tracing Service) finds and unites families in Germany and worldwide
On the online portal of REFUNITE, you can search for missing relatives. To register, you only need to provide your phone number.
On the online platform Trace the Face, you can start your search with just a picture. If you recognise your family member, they can connect you with them directly.
Upon successful completion of the asylum procedure, unaccompanied refugee minors have the right to bring their parents and sometimes their underage siblings to Germany.
Your parents must apply for a visa for family reunification at the German mission abroad (e.g., at the German embassy in the country where they live). And you must inform your local Immigration Office in due time if you want to bring your family to Germany. This is called "fristwahrende Anzeige"– you have to do it together with your guardian.
I am a "recognised refugee" or person entitled to asylum:
If a parent of yours with the rights of custody does not already live in Germany, you have the right to family reunification. The application for family reunification must be filed (e.g., per fax) within three months after you have been granted protection as a "recognised refugee" or person entitled to asylum. Adherence to the three-month deadline is vital when submitting the application, because if the application is submitted later, you would need to meet further requirements. You can find out how and where your parents should apply for family reunification in our chapter "Family reunification for refugees" in the section "How and where do I apply for family reunification?".
Good to know: According to current the European Court of Justice case law, the crucial point in family reunification for minors is that you are a minor at the time you apply for asylum. It does not matter whether you come of age during your asylum procedure or during the family reunification procedure. You still have the right to be reunited with your parents.
I have subsidiary protection:
This protection status has different regulations: If you apply within the deadline (i.e., 3 months after recognition of protection status) and both the application for family reunification and the entire procedure are completed before you become of age, you have the right to parental reunification. If you reach 18 in the meantime, this right expires and whether you should have the possibility of family reunification is only at the discretion of the authorities. This means that there must be humanitarian reasons why your family should come to Germany.
Important: If you will reach 18 within the next 6 to 12 months, you must apply for an early appointment at the respective German mission abroad.
You can find out more about family reunification in our chapter "Family reunification for refugees". You can also check out information on how family reunification works on the website of the International Organization for Migration (IOM). You can also search for contact details of IOM offices in various countries on the website of IOM Germany. To read more on the topic in German and Arabic, visit familienlebenfueralle.net and find more information in German and English on the website of the Federal Government Commissioner for Integration.
If you have not yet applied for asylum and hold a tolerated stay permit or "Duldung" as an unaccompanied minor refugee, you lose your deportation protection as you turn 18. This means you may get deported starting from your 18th birthday. That is why it is crucial that you talk to a lawyer or counselling centre about your residence options before you turn 18. You can, for instance, apply for asylum, a residence permit or an educational tolerated stay permit („Ausbildungsduldung“).
You can find counselling centres nearby on the website of the Youth Migration Service, the website of the Federal Association of Unaccompanied Minor Refugees (BumF) and our Local Information page. Enter the name of the city where you live and search for asylum, residence or legal counselling advice. Visit our chapter "Asylum procedure" to learn more about the asylum procedure in Germany
To learn more about “Duldung” and what it means for your future stay in Germany, check our chapter “Tolerated Stay (‘Duldung’)” and “Residence Permits for People with ‘Duldung’”.
Your guardian and the Youth Welfare Office are no longer responsible for you from the day you turn 18 which means you can make legal decisions independently. However, You may have to move out of your housing facility and your healthcare service is not going to be as extended as before. Besides, as you reach the legal age, you will receive less or no support regarding education and vocational training compared to before. Under certain conditions, however, you can apply for a so-called "extension of assistance" („Antrag auf Hilfeverlängerung“ ) at your local Youth Welfare Office. If accepted, you will receive support until you reach the age of 21. But you need to be able to explain and prove why you need these extra years of support. You must submit your application for further assistance together with your guardian before your 18th birthday. You can find the Youth Welfare Office responsible for you on jugendaemter.de.
If you, as an unaccompanied minor refugee, do not want to apply for asylum, you will be granted a tolerated stay or "Duldung" until your 18th birthday. As soon as you are of age, this "Duldung" loses its validity. That is why it is crucial that you talk to a lawyer or counselling centre about your residence options before you turn 18.