Registration of the asylum application


Country Report: Registration of the asylum application Last updated: 06/04/23


Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik and Marlene Stiller

Making and registering the application

Asylum seekers cannot make their asylum application directly at the border. Instead, asylum seekers who apply for asylum at the border have to be referred to an initial reception centre for asylum seekers.[1] When doing so, the border police registers their personal data and informs both the BAMF and the reception centre.[2] Irrespective of special regulations which apply in the border region only (see Access to the territory and push backs for details), most applications are made by asylum seekers who have already entered the territory. Under these circumstances the law obliges asylum seekers to ‘immediately’ report to a ‘reception facility’ (Aufnahmeeinrichtung). Alternatively, they can report to a police station or to an office of the foreigners’ authorities, in which can they have to report to the nearest reception facility as soon as possible.[3] At this stage of initial registration, personal data including photographs and fingerprints are collected and stored in the ‘Central Register of Foreigners’ (Ausländezrentralregister (AZR)), to which a number of public authorities have access.[4] The authorities can initiate checks with police and secret service agencies at this stage to check for entries indicating crimes on the basis of which international protection is to be denied or in connection to terrorism.[5] Following this first contact with the authorities, the asylum application has to be filed ‘immediately’. There is no strict definition of an ‘immediate’ application and there are no exclusion rules for applications which are filed at a later date. However, it is established case law that the application should be filed after a maximum of two weeks unless in exceptional circumstances.[6] Delay in filing the application may be held against the asylum seeker during the asylum procedure if no reasonable justification for the delay is brought forward.

Once asylum seekers have reported to the ‘reception facility’ mentioned above, they must be issued an ‘arrival certificate’ (Ankunftsnachweis). Afterwards, the responsible branch office of the BAMF is determined with the help of distribution system known as Initial Distribution of Asylum Seekers (Erstverteilung der Asylbegehrenden, EASY). This distribution system allocates places according to a quota system known as ‘Königsteiner Schlüssel’ based on the reception capacities of the Federal States. These capacities are determined by taking into account the size and the economic strength of the Federal States. Furthermore, the EASY-system takes into account which branch office of the BAMF deals with the asylum seeker’s country of origin (see section on Freedom of Movement).[7] It is possible that the EASY-system assigns a place in the facility to which asylum-seekers have reported. In this case, they are referred to the BAMF office, often located on the same premises or nearby, for the registration of the asylum application. If the EASY-system assigns a facility located in another region, asylum-seekers are transported to this facility or are provided with tickets to travel there on their own.

While the BAMF is responsible for the processing of the asylum application, responsibility for the reception and accommodation of asylum-seekers lies with the Federal States. Therefore, the regional branch offices of the BAMF are usually assigned to an initial reception centre managed by the Federal State. Both branch office and initial reception centre may in turn be parts of an ‘arrival centre’ (Ankunftszentrum) or of an ‘AnkER-centre’ (AnkER-Zentrum). The organisational structure and the denomination of these institutions depends on the way the Federal States have organised the reception system and how they cooperate with the BAMF at the respective location (see Housing).

Only the BAMF is entitled to register an asylum application. Hence asylum seekers reporting to the police or to another authority will be referred to the BAMF and they do not have the legal status of asylum seekers as long as they have not arrived at the responsible branch office of the BAMF and until their applications have been lodged. However, persons with an arrival certificate (Ankunftsnachweis) are also entitled to minimum benefits according to the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act. Asylum seekers are obliged to appear in person without delay or on the date determined by the authorities at the responsible branch office of the BAMF. Asylum seekers who fail to comply with this obligation face the sanction of ‘failure to pursue’ the asylum procedure. The asylum procedure thus can be abandoned before it has begun.[8] As a result of the increasing number of asylum seekers since September 2022, the BAMF experienced some delays in registering asylum applications in the autumn of 2022. According to the BAMF, measures have been taken to remedy this situation as of January 2023.[9]

If a person expresses the intention to seek asylum in a detention centre, the application is filed in written form to the BAMF, who then designates the responsible branch office (for more details see Legal framework of detention).[10]

Lodging the application

Once they arrive in the responsible branch office of the BAMF, which may be a part of an arrival centre or an AnkER centre, asylum seekers lodge their application with the BAMF. Following the lodging of the application, they are issued a ‘permission to stay for asylum seekers’ (Aufenhaltsgestattung). With this document, the arrival certificate ceases to be valid and must be retracted by the authorities.

While the application generally must be lodged in person, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the application procedure. From 23 March 2020, the BAMF stopped in-person applications and allowed applicants to submit their application for asylum by filling in a form instead.[11] Application forms could be filled in in initial reception centres and sent by post to the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). Asylum interviews were reduced to a minimum in order to adapt the branch office facilities to hygiene and protection standards.[12] From May 2020, German authorities resumed registration and relevant services in person when the conditions in branch offices allowed for it.[13] Nonetheless, applications via written form were still possible as of early 2022 if this is necessary to comply with infection protection regulations.[14] As of early 2023, this is still possible based on an agreement between the BAMF branch office and the respective initial reception centre, according to information provided by the BAMF.[15] For subsequent applications, the written registration of applications was possible until 1 October 2021.[16] From the 7 July 2022 onwards, the need to have a certificate of vaccination, a negative result or proof of a passed infection was lifted.[17]

Use of digital tools in the asylum procedure

Since 2015, the BAMF has gradually increased the number and use of digital tools for establishing the identity and country of origin of applicants at the registration or lodging stage under what it calls ‘integrated identity management’.[18] Four tools are being used:

  • Reading out of mobile devices such as smartphones
  • Language/dialect detection software
  • Image biometrics
  • Transcription of names[19]

If any of these give indications that the identity or country of origin of an applicant might be different from what they report, this is to be clarified during the personal interview.[20] Reading out of mobile devices, language detection and name transcription are not used in cases where an entry is found in the VIS-database on Schengen visa, since this is regarded as sufficient proof of identity.[21]

The reading out of mobile devices is possible in cases where applicants do not provide identity documents or where there are indications that the documents provided are falsified.[22] It can only be performed by persons qualified to be judges (i. e. with two completed law exams), who decide whether to share the obtained data with the responsible case officer. The obtained information can only be used to establish identity or country of origin, and not for other purposes during the asylum procedure.[23] The types of data that are used as indications for country of origin or identity are geolocation data, the countries to which the majority of phone calls are made, the language of communication, the countries in which the saved contacts are located, or the domain host country of frequently used websites.[24]

If an applicant refuses to hand out their smartphone, the BAMF considers the application to be withdrawn and ends the asylum procedure.[25] For subsequent applications, failure to hand out one’s smartphone can be used as a ground to withdraw material benefits, as these can be reduced for applicants who fail to cooperate with authorities (see Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions). However, reading out of smartphones is only done in these cases when the BAMF intends to conduct an interview with the applicant.[26]

The practice of screening applicants’ smartphones has been ruled illegal by the Federal Administrative Court on 16 February 2023, after the Gesellschaft für Freiheitsrechte (GFF, an NGO focused on strategic litigation for fundamental and civic rights) filed several lawsuits.[27] The court ruled that the screening interferes with the fundamental right to guarantee the confidentiality and integrity of information technology systems and that it is not lawful when less severe means are available to the BAMF to establish applicants’’ identity, such as other certificates and documents (e. g. marriage certificates), register comparisons and inquiries with the translator about linguistic abnormalities

Language or dialect detection software can also only be used when no identity documents are provided, and only for applicants older than 14 years.[28] Applicants have to speak into a telephone, and a speech analysis software then produces a report on the languages or dialects detected and the probability that these were indeed the spoken languages or dialects. As for smartphone screening, the results can never be used as proof or identity or country of origin, but merely as indications which will be raised during the personal interview in cases where the reports contradict the information given by the applicant. According to BAMF internal guidelines, as of January 2023 speech recognition is used for the main Arabic dialects (Maghrebian, Egyptian, Iraqi, Levantine and Gulf) and for Dari, Pashto and Persian.[29] As of August 2022, the detection rate for these languages and dialects was around 80% for Arabic dialects, ca. 73% for Dari and ca. 77% for Pashto.[30]

The use of language detection software has been subject to criticism by NGOs and the opposition, who claim that detection tools can be dangerous especially when asylum officers are overworked and thus more likely to rely on them as facts, rather than falsifiable indications. The software has been found to perform poorly especially for Arabic dialects in countries with a high number of local languages, such as Yemen or Sudan. In addition, the amount of training data for the artificial intelligence varies significantly between languages, leading to likely more accurate predictions for some languages than others. Furthermore, while the BAMF has announced that a scientific study would accompany the introduction of the language detection system, this has not yet happened.[31]

In addition, the BAMF has been piloting the use of blockchain technology to improve communication in the asylum procedure in the AnkER facility in Dresden since April 2021.[32]




[1] Section 18 (1) Asylum Act.

[2] A collection of documents used by the authorities and information handed out to asylum seekers at this stage is available on the BAMF website in several languages:

[3] Section 13 Asylum Act, Section 20 asylum Act.

[4] BAMF, Arrival and registration, available at:

[5] Section 73 Residence Act

[6] Federal Administrative Court (BVerwG), Decision 9 C35.96, available in German at

[7] BAMF, Asylum and refugee protection, available at:

[8] Sections 20, 22 and 23 Asylum Act.

[9] Federal Government, response to written question by Clara Bünger (The Left), 20/5137, 6 January 2023, available in German at:, 29.

[10] Section 14(2) Asylum Act.

[11] Information provided by the BAMF, 10 March 2022, see also Pro Asyl, ‘Newsticker Coronavirus: Informationen für Geflüchtete und Unterstützer*innen‘, available in German at According to the BAMF, the application via a form does not constitute a written application in the sense of Section 14 para.2 Asylum Act, since this would mean applicants would not be obliged to live in a reception centre, see BAMF, Entscheiderbrief 04/2020, 5, available in German at

[12] Information provided by the BAMF, 10 March 2022.

[13] ECRE, Information Sheet 28 May 2020: Covid-19 Measures Related to Asylum and Migration Across Europe, available at:; ECRE, Information Sheet 7 December 2020: Covid-19 Measures Related to Asylum and Migration Across Europe, available at:, 3.

[14] Information provided by the BAMF, 10 March 2022.

[15] Information provided by the BAMF, 9 March 2023.

[16] BAMF, ‘Weitere Themen (Stand: 20.12.). Informationen zu den Auswirkungen des Corona-Virus (COVID-19), die im Zusammenhang mit dem Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF) stehen. Available in German at

[17] Information provided by the BAMF, 9 March 2023.

[18] For an extensive overview of data collection and management In the German asylum procedure see Janne Grote, Accurate, timely, interoperable? Data management in the asylum procedure in Germany, Study by the German National Contact Point for the European Migration Network (EMN), Working Paper 90 of the Research Centre of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, February 2021, available at

[19] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, available in German at, 307.

[20] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 307, available in German at

[21] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 307, available in German at

[22] Section 15a Asylum Act, BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 307, available in German at

[23] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 308, available in German at

[24] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 314, available in German at

[25] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 310, available in German at

[26] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 310, available in German at

[27] Federal Administrative Court, Case 1 C 19.21, 16 February 2023. A summary of the decision can be found at  See also GFF, BAMF-Handydaten­auswertungen, available in German at

[28] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 317, available in German at For an overview I English see EMN/OECD, The Use of Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence In Migration Management, February 2022, 9, available at

[29] BAMF, Dienstanweisung Asyl (internal directive for asylum procedures), version of January 2023, 317, available in German at

[30] Federal Government, response to parliamentary question by The Left, 20/3238, 31 August 2022, 10.

[31] See, BAMF weitet automatische Sprachanalyse aus, 5 September 2022, available in German at

[32] EMN/OECD, The Use of Digitalisation and Artificial Intelligence in Migration Management, February 2022, 8, available at

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation