Immigration to Germany for Jewish descendants
Jewish descendants coming from the former Soviet Union have the right to immigrate to Germany under the relaxed rules enabled by a special state programme of the German government known as the Law on Measures for Refugees Admitted in the Context of Humanitarian Relief Actions (Gesetz über Maßnahmen für im Rahmen humanitärer Hilfsaktionen aufgenommene Flüchtlinge). It has been in place for 30 years after adoption on 12 April 1990 in the German Democratic Republic. The law became a legal framework for compensation of the Jews for Nazi persecution in the 1930–40s.
The Law on Contingent Refugees (Kontingentflüchtlingsgesetz) was changed on 9 January 1991 to encompass the Jewish immigrants to Germany from the former Soviet Union as a special group of immigrants, reportedly allowing about 220,000 Jews to enter the country.
The new Immigration Law (Zuwanderungsgesetz) came into force on 1 January 2005 to spell out that the Jewish people previously recognised as the contingent refugees may immigrate to Germany under the Resident Law (Aufenthaltsgesetz) of 30 July 2004 regulating residence of foreigners in Germany and has governed Jewish immigration to Germany up to present.
Advantages of immigration programme for Jewish descendants
- Changing residence and obtaining a residence permit in Germany under favourable terms applicable to Jewish descendants,
- The right to obtain citizenship in Germany,
- Travelling across the Schengen area without a visa,
- Social benefits and financial allowances,
- Joining the local Jewish community,
- The right to employment in the EU.
Terms of immigration to Germany for Jewish descendants:
- Have Jewish roots by birth: a parent or a grandparent is Jewish. However, the German authorities have recently refused in practice to the applicants whose grandfather is the only Jewish relative referred to in the application;
- Used to be a citizen of a former Soviet republic;
- Have at least a A1 level of German language proficiency (proven by a certificate);
- Be self-supporting in Germany;
- Be accepted by a Jewish religious community (with a documentary proof of acceptance);
- Not practice any religion other than Judaism,
- Have a high integration potential (scoring over 50).
Read the detailed terms and conditions for immigration of Jewish descendants into Germany in the Guide for immigrants of Jewish descendant in the Russian language.
What is an integration potential?
An integration potential is the ability of the migrant to integrate into the German society. The German authorities are committed to identifying how quickly the migrant can be employed and no longer need the financial support or social allowances from the state. To that end, the migration authorities make a forecast or prognosis of integration (Integrationsprognose).
The prognosis of integration is a main condition for acceptance of the immigrant of Jewish descent in Germany. All the information required for the prognosis is taken from the migrant’s application. The prognosis of integration assigns scores, and a successful applicant should score at least 50 of the potential 125 credits.
Integration potential criteria:
- Age. Priority is given to the youth. All the applicants under 30 years of age score 20 credits and one credit is to be deducted from the overall score each year as the applicant gets older. Thus, applicants over 49 years of age do not score any credits for this criterion.
- Education. The applicants with a completed university degree/higher education score 20 credits if the cumulative time of studies exceeds 15 years (of schooling and university studies). A college or vocational degree earns 10 credits.
- Professional experience. A candidate with a past working experience of over three years scores 10 credits.
- Children. This criterion depends on the age and number of children, and the maximum attainable score is 15 credits. Children under five years of age add six credits to the applicant’s score. Children under 12 years add four credits and another two credits can be added if they know German. Children at the age of 13 to 17 years old add three credits to the applicant’s score plus two credits for their knowledge of the German language.
- Membership in Jewish community. A certificate proving partaking in a Jewish community in Germany scores ten credits. This paper should specify the day when accepted as a member into the community.
- Relatives residing in Germany. Relatives residing in Germany add five credits to the overall score.
- Language proficiency level. A2 is the minimum level to gain credits and scores five credits. C2 is the maximum level scoring 25 credits.
- Knowledge of other languages. Knowledge of a foreign language can add up to five credits to the score (this refers primarily to the knowledge of English).
- Employment agreement or job offer in Germany. A job offer scores five credits and is seen as a compelling advantage by the immigration authorities.
If a family considers immigration to Germany, the migration authorities will make an integration prognosis for the entire family.
Jewish people may not be able to immigrate to Germany if they are:
- Citizens of the Baltic states as the Baltic states joined the European Union in 2004;
- Repatriates that moved to the other countries from the former Soviet Union, thus permanent residence in Germany under the grounds in review is not available for the repatriates currently residing in Israel or the USA;
- Former high-ranking officials of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU);
- Individuals convicted of a crime in the country of residence that is considered wilful misconduct in Germany;
- Individuals connected with criminal or terrorist organisations;
- Individuals violating the free democratic order, calling for the overthrow of power, or jeopardising the national security of Germany;
- Descendants of a Jewish grandfather as the only Jewish relative;
- Applicants that have no approval by a local Jewish community.
Important note: Approval by a local Jewish community is an important condition of immigration. The migration authority will ask the Central Welfare Board of Jews in Germany (Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland or ZWST) or the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany (Union progressiver Juden in Deutschland or UPJ) to give their opinion about the application. ZWST gives a favourable opinion if the Jewish roots are confirmed to stem matrilineally (a mother or/and a grandmother are Jewish).
The UPJ accepts also the applications with a patrilineal Jewish descent (if the applicant's father is a Jew on his mother’s side). The local Jewish communities usually do not approve the requests if the only Jewish relative of the applicant is a grandfather.
Immigration procedure to Germany for Jewish people
- Have German language proficiency: reach the basic level of A1 and pass a language test proven by a certificate;
- Collect the required documents, fill out the application for the main applicant (Antrag), and submit the set of documents to a consulate of Germany;
- Pass an interview in the German consulate;
- Receive an answer in person in the consulate;
- Prepare documents and obtain a visa to enter Germany (if the consulate’s answer is favourable);
- Enter Germany, stay in a shared living arrangement, integrate into the German society.
Obtaining a German language certificate
The basic knowledge of the German language (at least at the A1 level) is an obligatory condition for Jewish immigration. Knowledge of the German language is confirmed with a certificate proving a passed language exam. However, the certifying education facilities are not many, and the Goethe-Institut and German Society for International Cooperation (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit or GIZ) are among them. The more proficient German is, the more credits a migrant scores in the integration prognosis.
Collecting and submitting documents
The main document to be filed by the immigrant as an application is called in German Antrag. A spouse and underage children are also included into the Antrag. Family members must prove their knowledge of the German language (except for children under 14 years old).
All the information specified in the Antrag must be proven with documents. A set of documents and an Antrag are to be submitted to a consulate of Germany in the country of residence. An application is made by appointment only. The documents are to be submitted in the original with copies and translations into the German language. Consular officers review the set of the documents and verify authenticity of the enclosed originals.
Documents for Jewish immigration
- A documentary proof of Jewish background (issued before January 1990),
- Foreign passport,
- Birth certificate specifying Jewish ethnicity,
- Academic credentials proving a completed university or college/vocational degree,
- High/secondary school diploma,
- Employment record book,
- Marriage certificate,
- German language proficiency certificate,
- Military service card,
- Police clearance certificate,
- Documents to assess the integration potential.
Interview in consulate
After the documents are reviewed, the applicant is invited to an interview in a German consulate. Consular officers might ask about the reasons for immigration to Germany and the desired German region to settle in and might enquire whether or not the applicant has any friends or relatives residing in the country. The future migrant would be asked to explain the gaps in the prior working history, if there are any. Additional documents might be also requested during the interview.
The final decision on the application is taken by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge or BAMF), and the application processing time is particular for each case ranging from six up to 18–24 months.
The German consulate informs the applicant about the decision. If the application is approved, the migrant has one year to obtain a national visa to Germany to enter the country within 90 days.
An applicant that fails to exercise the right to move to Germany within one year may submit the documents repeatedly. An appointment in the consulate is to be scheduled to make a visa application.
Documents for national visa
- An application for a national visa in German,
- Decision on acceptance as immigrant issued by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF),
- National passport,
- Foreign passport,
- Birth certificate,
- Two 45 x 35 mm photos,
- German language certificate,
- Health insurance certificate with coverage for 90 days,
- Land register excerpt proving existing/no real estate in the applicant’s home country,
- Retirement benefit statement issued by the Federal Pension Fund (if applicable),
- Other documents, as required by the consular officers.
It takes at least five working days to process a visa application. The applicant needs to obtain a national visa valid for 90 days. This visa allows a single entry into Germany that is non-recurring and precludes multiple entries.
Arrival in Germany
A newly-arrived immigrant is to come to the region of settlement specified in the decision on acceptance as an immigrant. The region in Germany is selected with due consideration of the residence of the applicant’s relatives and/or friends or the desirable location specified in the application documents.
The immigrant arrives in Germany and comes to the initial reception facility allocating immigrants in the given federal state. The immigrant has to stay in the facility until a request is made by the location that will be the immigrant’s place of residence. Upon arrival to the residence location, migrants are also housed in a collective accommodation centre where they stay in a shared housing facility until they are able to get their own housing.
What migrant should do upon arrival in Germany
- Get accommodation in a reception facility for migrants,
- Register residence in a registration office (Meldebehörde),
- Obtain a residence permit issued permanently by an Immigration Office (Ausländeramt)
- Register in a Social Welfare Office (Sozialamt) to be entitled to an allowance,
- Register in an Employment Office (Arbeitsamt) and get a work permit issued permanently,
- Register in a consular office of the country of origin.
Citizenship: Jewish immigrants follow the general procedure to get citizenship in Germany. An applicant for a German passport must have lived in Germany under a residence permit for at least eight years, which term may be reduced to six years if the applicant has successfully passed the integration courses and is proficient in German. Germany does not recognise dual citizenship, so one has to give up the national passport of the original/home country.
Costs and terms of Jewish immigration to Germany
Potential costs of Jewish immigration
- German language courses and examination with certification,
- Translation of documents into the German language,
- Intermediary service fees, if application is made through an agency,
- Visa fee — €60,
- Service fee — €18–20,
- One-way ticket to Germany— €150–200.
It takes one or two years to complete immigration — from application to arrival in Germany.