Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions


Country Report: Criteria and restrictions to access reception conditions Last updated: 05/06/24


Teresa Fachinger, Paula Hoffmeyer-Zlotnik and Marlene Stiller

Asylum seekers are entitled to reception conditions from the moment they make their asylum application (Asylgesuch) in accordance with the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act (Asylbewerberleistungsgesetz).[1] They do not receive the full benefits, however, until they formally gain the status of an asylum seeker through the issuance of an arrival certificate (Ankunftsnachweis) at the reception centre to which they have been assigned to.[2] In practice, this usually happens within a few days after they have reported to the authorities (see also Registration of the asylum application).[3]

Foreigners remain entitled to these reception conditions, at a minimum, as long as they have the status of asylum seeker. After a rejection, asylum seekers usually retain their status for the duration of the appeal proceedings. If the asylum application has been rejected as ‘manifestly unfounded’ or ‘inadmissible’, however, and their request for suspensive effect is rejected, asylum seekers will lose their status and will instead be issued a temporary suspension of removal, also known as ‘tolerated stay’ (Duldung). In spite of its title, the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act does not only apply to asylum seekers, but also to people with a Duldung and even to certain groups of people who have been granted a temporary residence permit.[4]

In this context, the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act does also apply to those asylum seekers whose asylum application in Germany has been rejected as inadmissible and whose obligation to leave the territory is enforceable (‘vollziehbar ausreisepflichtig’).[5] This means that the rejection is final, thus the asylum seeker has usually gone through an appeals process. Following the legislative reforms of August 2019, persons who have already been granted international protection in another EU Member State are exempted from this rule and should be excluded from all social benefits after a transition period of two weeks (see Reduction or withdrawal of reception conditions below).[6]

As a rule, asylum seekers receive both non-cash and cash financial benefits only in the town or district to which they have been assigned to.[7] Accordingly, they will not be entitled to benefits in other parts of Germany, unless they get permission by the authorities to move there (see also Freedom of movement).

The receipt of cash (and its amount) has been heavily debated during the course of 2023. Some parties find it a pull factor and want to further cut the benefits. To reduce the reputed ‘pull factors’, the Federal States have decided to introduce the so-called Bezahlkarte (‘payment card’) for asylum seekers.[8] Almost all Federal States will organise its introduction together apart from Bavaria and Mecklenburg-Western-Pomerania, who will organise their own procedure. At first glance, this card is supposed to function as any other debit card – asylum seekers can pay ‘normally’ at any card payment terminal in restaurants or supermarkets. However, transfers from card to card or to foreign countries should not be possible and cash withdrawal is limited.[9]

Assessment of resources

If asylum seekers have an income or capital at their disposal, they are legally required to use these resources before they can receive benefits under the Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.[10]

For example, asylum seekers are asked to hand over any cash they may possess at registration stage, i.e., before the application is formally lodged. The amount of money which they are allowed to keep varies across the Federal states, at minimum they are allowed to keep of € 200 in cash.[11] It is also possible that the police carry out body searches on other occasions (e.g. when reporting to the police as asylum seekers, upon apprehension by the police for other reasons, or for security reasons, in reception centres) if they have reasons to believe that asylum seekers are in possession of documents or other information which might be essential for identification purposes. Cash that is found during such occasions is seized by the authorities, except for the remaining € 200 that asylum seekers are allowed to keep. The cash is used to compensate partially the reception costs, so asylum seekers do not get any restitution.




[1] Section 1 (1) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[2] Section 11 (2a) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[3] Section 63 (1) Asylum Act.

[4] Section 1 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[5] Section 1 (1) Nr.4 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[6] Section 1 (4) Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[7] Section 10 and 10a Asylum Seekers‘ Benefits Act.

[8], Bezahlkarte für Flüchtlinge kommt bundesweit, 31 January 2024, available in German at:

[9] Ibid.

[10] Section 7 Asylum Seekers’ Benefits Act.

[11] Evangelischer Pressedienst (epd), Flüchtlinge müssen auch in Deutschland ihr Bargeld abgeben, 21 January 2016, available in German 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