What is the difference between the obligation to take up residence, residence restriction and residence obligation?

Once an asylum application has been filed, asylum seekers’ mobility rights will be temporarily regulated. Accordingly, they are required to take up residence, just as their freedom of movement can be curtailed.

Residence obligation

The residence obligation (Residenzpflicht) takes effect as of the day the asylum application is filed, usually for three months, but no longer than the applicant is required to reside in a reception centre. Residence obligation means that the person concerned may not to leave the territory of the responsible municipality, city or district without permission.

In order to attend a court appointment that requires an asylum seeker to appear in person, a prior permission to leave the allocated residence is not mandatory.

Once the residence obligation has ended after three months, the person may travel through-out Germany and stay overnight with friends.

Obligation to take up residence (not “residence restriction”, see below on this point)

This obligation (Wohnsitznahmeverpflichtung) determines where asylum seekers are required to take up permanent residence, that is, where they have to live and be registered. Just as the residence obligation, this regulation takes effect from day one.

There is an additional provision implying that asylum seekers reside in a reception centre, as a rule for the first six weeks, but no longer than six months. Even once having relocated to private housing or a shared accommodation, there is still the obligation to reside in a particular district or independent town.

There are also special regulations that apply, among others, to persons from so-called safe countries of origin.

In the case of so-called safe countries of origin, the legislator assumes that, due to their democratic status and general political situa-tion, there is no threat of persecution in these countries and that the respective state is capable of protecting citizens from persecution by non-state actors. The so-called safe countries of origin appear in a list contained in the annex to the Asylum Act. The list is reviewed every two years. Currently (as on September 2017), the following countries are included: the mem-ber states of the EU, Albania, Bosnia and Herze-govina, Ghana, Kosovo, Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro, Senegal, Serbia (Asylum Act, annex II ad section 29a).

Persons from these countries, except for EU citizens among them, are required to reside in the responsible reception centre for the duration of their asylum procedure. This rule can even apply until deportation if their asylum application has been rejected as “manifestly unfounded” or “inadmissible”. During this time, they are not allowed to take up work and may only temporarily leave the area specified in their residence permit if they have received permission from the Federal Refugee Office.

Residence restriction

Lastly, there is the residence restriction (Wohnsitzauflage) that has been added to section 12a of the Residence Act in 2016. This provision does not apply during but after the asylum procedure. This means that, for three years after having been granted asylum, recognised refugees are obliged to reside in that federal state which was responsible for their asylum procedure. Hence refugees cannot simply relocate to another federal state once they have been recognised as refugees. Moreover, according to this law, it is possible to specify in which municipality exactly the person concerned has to reside. The cancellation of the residence restriction can be achieved if a person takes up a study program, an apprenticeship or an employment, or because of other important reasons, such as violence and the ensuing necessity of taking refuge in a women’s shelter in a different municipality or in a different federal state.  

For further information: