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Immigration For Members

EXPLAINED: Where to get free immigration advice in Germany

Sarah Magill
Sarah Magill - [email protected]
EXPLAINED: Where to get free immigration advice in Germany
A couple receiving advice. There are numerous places where foreigners living in Germany can go for advice on all manner of issues. Photo: Kindel Media/Pexels

Moving to Germany can be difficult, confusing and sometimes make you feel like you’re alone. But these places offer help for anyone struggling - and best of all, they're all free.

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Navigating your new life in Germany can be a challenging and sometimes frustrating experience. If you've ever found yourself waiting in the cold outside your local Ausländerbehörde or anxiously awaiting a response to an email about your residency permit that seems to have been lost in the void for months, you might wonder if Germany truly cares about new arrivals in the country.

However, amidst the complexities of settling in, there are some invaluable resources available to offer support and guidance free of charge.

Immigration advice centres

Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees runs a network of Migrationsberatungsstelle - migration advice centres - to help immigrants deal with a variety of issues "quickly and unbureaucratically".

They can offer support from your first day in Germany and can advise you on the topics of learning German, school and work, housing, health and even marriage and family issues.

READ ALSO: How foreigners will be able to bring their families to Germany under new skilled worker law

In most cases, they will be able to speak the language of your country of origin and will be familiar with the problems and challenges which settling into life in Germany may entail. You can talk to them in person, and then work together on a plan to help you feel at home in everyday life in Germany after only a short time.

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In the advisory session, the team will look at your skills and knowledge to help you find out which support programmes are available and where you can learn German. They will also check whether you are eligible to attend state-subsidised integration courses or can benefit from other local integration schemes. 

You can search for your local advice centre by entering your address on the website's map.

The Living and Working in Germany hotline

If you need to speak to someone quickly, The Living and Working in Germany Hotline is a valuable resource offering personalised information and advice on various topics related to living and working in Germany.

Advisors are available between 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday to Friday, and can give immediate advice to both current residents or anyone planning to move to Germany.

They can help with issues such as looking for work, recognition of foreign certificates, learning German and provide information on entry requirements, residence permits, and visa applications for those planning to move to Germany.

You can reach the hotline on +49 30 1815-1111. Advisors are able to communicate in German and English.

Caritas

Caritas is a well-known non-profit organisation that provides various social services and support to vulnerable groups, including immigrants and refugees. 

A sign indicates the Caritas Foundation Germany in North North Rhine-Westphalia, the state with the most foundations nationwide. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Henning Kaiser

Some local Caritas branches have specialised migration counselling services that offer free advice and support on immigration-related issues, such as visa applications, residence permits, integration, and more. These services are often provided by trained advisors who can help you navigate the complex immigration processes and offer guidance on specific situations.

READ ALSO: What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

To access free immigration advice from Caritas in Germany, you should contact the local Caritas office. They can provide you with information on the services available and guide you on how to seek the assistance you need.

University Law Clinics

University law clinics are educational programmes typically offered by law schools or universities, which give law students practical, hands-on experience in the legal field while offering free or low-cost legal services to members of the community.

In a university law clinic, law students work under the supervision of qualified attorneys or professors to provide legal assistance to those who cannot afford or access legal representation otherwise. 

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There are lots of law clinics in universities throughout Germany, many of which call themselves “Refugee Law Clinics” but offer help for economic migrants to Germany, too.

The Refugee Law Clinic Cologne e.V for example, gives free legal advice in matters of immigration law for people who have recently moved to Germany.

Online support groups

Often, what people really lack when moving to a new country is the feeling of having a supportive community around them. While this might not always be possible in the immediate, physical sense, you can come quite close to this with online groups. 

Groups like Expats in Germany on Facebook and Expat Forum are great for sharing tips and experiences with other non-German natives. While this may not be qualified legal advice, other foreigners can often help clarify some aspects of the immigration system that are hard to understand or to at least point you in the right direction with some useful resources.  

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mbeon App

Developed by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) in cooperation with other organisations, the mbeon app is a mobile application designed to provide support and guidance to refugees and migrants in Germany. 

The app aims to offer a secure and convenient way for newcomers to access reliable information and assistance on various topics related to living and integrating in Germany.

READ ALSO: 9 essential apps for foreigners living in Munich

Users can communicate with trained advisors and volunteers in multiple languages through the app's chat function. These advisors can provide information and answer questions about asylum procedures, residence permits, language courses, job opportunities, and other essential topics for newcomers.

The app offers assistance in multiple languages.

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