Persons with refugee status are entitled to “travel documents for refugees” (“Reiseausweis für Flüchtlinge”) in accordance with Article 28 of the 1951 Refugee Convention. The travel document for refugees is either automatically issued together with the residence permit after status determination has become final, or it is issued upon application. The document shall adhere to European standards and therefore has to include a storage medium with the facial image, fingerprints etc.
The duration of the travel document for refugees is “up to three years”. Alternatively, it can be issued as a preliminary travel document, i.e. without an electronic storage medium, for “up to one year”. A prolongation of the document is not possible, so refugees have to apply for a new document once the old one has expired.
Beneficiaries of subsidiary protection can be issued with a “travel document for aliens” (“Reiseausweis für Ausländer”) if they do not possess a passport or a substitute document and if they cannot be reasonably expected to obtain a passport or a substitute document from the authorities of their country of origin. This is a general provision which applies to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection as well as to other aliens with residence status in Germany.
While it is generally accepted that refugees and their family members cannot be reasonably expected to obtain a passport from the authorities of their country of origin, this is not the case for beneficiaries of subsidiary protection. Guidelines by the Federal Ministry of Interior stipulate that persons who cannot be deported for legal or humanitarian reasons generally cannot be expected to travel to their countries of origin if this is necessary to obtain a passport. This applies to beneficiaries of subsidiary protection as well. However, if it is possible to obtain a passport from an embassy in Germany, beneficiaries of subsidiary protection are generally required to do so. If they argue that this is impossible for them, they have to apply for a “travel document for aliens” on individual grounds and have to demonstrate that they cannot be reasonably expected to get a passport on individual grounds.
The duration of the “travel document for aliens” is usually equivalent to the validity of the residence permit that a foreign citizen has in Germany. For beneficiaries of subsidiary protection this is one year with an option of renewal(s) for two years (see Residence Permit).
 Council Regulation (EC) No 2252/2004 of 13 December 2004 on standards for security features and biometrics in passports and travel documents issued by Member States, OJ L385/1.
 Section 4(4) Residence Regulation (Aufenthaltsverordnung).
 Section 4(1) Residence Regulation.
 Section 5(1) Residence Regulation.
 Federal Ministry of Interior, Allgemeine Verwaltungsvorschrift zum Aufenthaltsgesetz (General Administrative Guidelines for the Residence Act), 26 Oct. 2009, no. 188.8.131.52.
 Section 8 Residence Regulation.