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. Same is the case if you have become separated from your family after arriving in Germany.
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. You can learn more on fluechtlingsrat-bremen.de. 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. You can learn more in our chapter “Registration as an asylum seeker.” 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 what you are. Otherwise, you cannot benefit from the support you are legally entitled to in Germany. Find a counselling centre nearby on Pro Asyl’s website to seek 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 he or she 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 ask for asylum are usually granted a tolerated stay 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 a counselling centre nearby on the website of ProAsyl or the Youth Migration Office.
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. You can read more in our chapter “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 somehow registered (e.g. fingerprinted) in another EU country. You can read more in our chapter “Dublin Procedure.”
In Germany, all children must attend school from the age of six or seven, depending on the federal state in which they live. Refugee children of the same age range and older in most of the federal states 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. Find out more in our chapter "Family reunification" and on familienlebenfueralle.net (in German & Arabic).
Please note: You cannot apply for family reunification independently- You have to do this along with your guardian.
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 apply for asylum, a residence permit or an educational tolerated stay permit („Ausbildungsduldung“). You can find a lawyer or a counselling centre through ProAsyl, the Refugee Council or the Youth Migration Service. To learn more about “Duldung” and what it means for your future stay in Germany, check our chapter “Tolerated Stay (‘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 community accommodation and face restricted healthcare service and lack of support in education and training. 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 unterstuetzung-die-ankommt.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.