What types of support exist for my voluntary departure?
If you are a migrant in Germany who is thinking about leaving, you can apply for financial and logistical support for your voluntary return to your home country or departure for resettlement in a third country. The voluntary return support programme in Germany is called the REAG/GARP programme, which is implemented by the International Organization for Migration (IOM). In these schemes, beside coverage of your travel costs, you can also receive financial starter grants. These grants should help you make a new start in your country of origin or a third country willing to issue you a residence permit. You can receive this aid within the frame of REAG / GARP- your nationality, however, is a deciding factor.
Attention: Due to the global corona pandemic, voluntary departures in the framework of the REAG/GARP programme are currently not possible in a number of countries. However, you can still submit relevant applications with the help of a voluntary return counselling centre. You can obtain further information from a voluntary return counselling centre or by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do I need to know?
In principle, you can apply to REAG/GARP if you cannot personally finance your trip from Germany AND you belong to one of the following groups:
- Persons whose asylum application is ongoing, individuals who have a tolerated stay ("Duldung") or those obliged to leave Germany – provided they withdraw their asylum applications or refrain from seeking further legal remedies.
- Persons who are recognised, according to the Geneva Convention, as a refugee – and have a German residence permit.
- Persons who are entitled to reside in Germany according to international law or for humanitarian or political reasons.
- Victims of forced prostitution and/or human trafficking.
Please note that for voluntary departure from Germany to another country, you need a valid travel document of the respective state (e.g., a passport or a surrogate-passport like the Laissez-Passer) and a Border Crossing Certificate ("Grenzübertrittsbescheinigung" or GÜB) from German authorities. The Immigration Office is responsible for the issuance of Border Crossing certificates- you need to hand in this document at the border before your departure. For resettlement in a third country, you will need an immigration visa that entitles you to permanent residence or a long-term residence permit of at least one year, valid from the date of your departure.
EU nationals cannot benefit from the REAG/GARP programme – except they are victims of forced prostitution or human trafficking. If you come from a non-EU country and do not require a visa to travel to Germany, your travel costs could be covered, but you won’t receive a travel allowance or financial starter grant - this applies, e.g., to people from the Western Balkan countries.
Counselling centres are the only places where you can apply for a voluntary return to your home country. Their non-binding, independent counselling can help you make an informed decision about a voluntary return to your home country. During individual sessions, the staff of these counselling centres will inform you about the possible support options fitting your particular case and then pass your application on to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). You can find voluntary return counselling at various charities and other organisations as well as the Social Welfare Office and the Immigration Office. Furthermore, you can file your REAG/GARP application at specialised counselling services, central repatriation advisory centres ("zentralen Rückkehrberatungsstelle") and the UNHCR. You can find (and seek help from) a voluntary return counselling centre in your area at returningfromgermany.de.
If you cannot afford your voluntary return, the REAG/GARP programme will support you financially and also help you plan and organise your departure. Whether you will receive financial support and if so, how much depends on different criteria, namely your nationality. The following options are possible:
- Covering the travel costs, i.e., ticket costs for the plane, bus, train or car
- Additional travel allowance
- A one-time starter grant
If your travel documents need renewal; you will have to pay for the new documents personally. You will also need to cover the costs of your commute to the airport or train station. If you are planning to resettle in a country other than your home country, you will have to apply for an entry visa and cover the respected expenses.
As the primary programme concerning voluntary departure, REAG/GARP can financially assist you with your new start in your country of origin - this financial aid is called a starter grant or "Starthilfe". The amount of your starter grant depends on your nationality.
You can find detailed information about the REAG/GARP-programme in various languages at returningfromgermany.de.
Due to persistent security difficulties, the IOM does not support a voluntary return to Syria, Yemen or Libya within the REAG / GARP programme at this time. The same currently applies to voluntary return to Afghanistan. And also, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. Voluntary return to these countries is currently not supported.
If you are from the above countries, you can benefit from REAG / GARP only if you have a visa or a long-term residence permit from a third country, i.e. to leave Germany and resettle in a third country.
Please note: Some federal states, however, allow a voluntary return to Syria, Libya and Yemen independent of the REAG / GARP programme - ask your refugee council whether your federal state allows voluntary return to these countries.
Voluntary return to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Somalia is possible, but must be examined separately for each case. This means the processing can take longer.
Returning to Belarus, Armenia and the Russian Federation may also be difficult at the moment. Here, too, processing can therefore take longer.
Your temporary stay permit ("Aufenthaltsgestattung") or residence permit ("Aufenthaltserlaubnis") loses its validity upon your voluntary departure. So, you cannot simply return if you change your mind. However, you can apply for a visa and travel to Germany later, since, in principle, voluntary returnees are not prohibited from re-entry. After deportation, however, you are, in principle, not allowed to return to Germany for a few years. You can find out more about the different types of visa and the relevant requirements in our chapter "Immigration".
Please note: In case you re-enter Germany after voluntarily leaving with the IOM's aid, you will not be entitled to support for voluntary return again. If you return to Germany permanently after a voluntary return, you must repay the financial aid you have received.
If you can finance your departure yourself or in case you have already received aid within the REAG/GARP programme once, you will not be able to apply again. However, the IOM may be able to help you with travel expenses through the Special Migrants Assistance Programme (SMAP) by providing you and one of your companions with discounted airline tickets. Besides, migrant workers, students and other migrants can also benefit from the SMAP. Flight costs should be covered before departure by the individual or by another body, such as the Social Welfare Office or a charity. In some cases, the Social Welfare Office also assists you with your onward journey to a third country that is ready to allow your resettlement.
Depending on the country you want to return to, there are different reintegration programmes to support your new start in your country of origin. You can get support for labour market integration, further training or receive payments in kind. On returningfromgermany.de, you can see whether there are reintegration programmes available in your country of origin.
The Federal Government also supports various IOM activities which are facilitating reintegration, for example in Afghanistan and Iraq. The IOM is also implementing multiple reintegration projects under the joint EU-IOM Initiative for the Protection and Reintegration of Migrants in 26 countries, namely for returnees in the Sahel and Lake Chad, North Africa and the Horn of Africa. For more information, find a counselling centre nearby at www.returningfromgermany.de.
At returningfromgermany.de, you can find specific information regarding the voluntary return to your home country. You can also seek information and advice online from the IOM's voluntary return counsellors through their "Virtual Counselling" programme. This service allows you to get in direct contact with voluntary return counsellors from your country. You can watch this explanatory YouTube video to learn how to get help from the IOM's online information and counselling service.
You can call the BAMF's voluntary return hotline (+49 911 9430) Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. and ask your questions about voluntary departure. The staff speak German and English. If you live in Berlin or Brandenburg, you can also contact the IOM hotline on + 49 30 90 269 4848 and + 49 3364 427150.