Study Grants for Immigrants in Germany – A companion for holders of foreign degrees

Students in Germany may receive state grants to cover their costs of living if they lack sufficient income. This is a provision for the resident population, including non-nationals but excluding „foreign students“ (those whose residence permit is based on admittance to study courses at a German university  –  § 16 Residence Act).

Foreign students, don’t despair: There are numerous scholarship programs available for you – but this is not the mainstream state grant with which we are dealing here.

However, immigrants who have already attended university abroad or have even obtained a foreign degree frequently experience difficulties in having their claims accepted. German citizenship makes no difference in this respect.

The law (the Bundesausbildungs­förderungsgesetz — BAföG) sees a person’s claim fulfilled if the person has obtained an academic degree. (There is an exception for master courses requiring a B.A.). This appears reasonable in the case of domestic educational careers. However, the law (which originated in 1971) does not adequately take into account that degrees from abroad are often not appreciated on the German labour market. Immigrants find themselves in the dilemma that they do not find a qualified job since their degree is not valued and that they will not be supported to study again since they already hold a degree. Judges in the administrative courts (the category of courts responsible for these matters) have step by step developed rules for interpreting the law in favour of immigrants holding foreign degrees. However, the grant administration apparently finds it difficult to adequately apply these rules which are complex, indeed. Therefore, the unique situation of immigrant academics is often disregarded.

For that reason, we have worked out a companion in order to inform immigrant academics about their rights regarding study grants. This companion will help you assess your chances of obtaining a grant and whether filing an application with the grant administration is worthwhile for you.

Your application may be rejected at first. In this case, our companion will help you, your German counsellor or your lawyer to file an appeal against the rejection. If your appeal has no success, your lawyer must sue the grant administration. In the footnotes of our companion your lawyer will find reference to previous court rulings which may be helpful in supporting your claim.

As a kind of roadmap and navigation tool, the companion begins with a chart which you see in a simplified version on this webpage as well. The questions on blue ground are easy to answer, whereas the questions on orange ground deal with assessments that are often controversial. These questions can only be adequately understood by studying the applicable section of the text in detail. In order to help you navigate between the chart and the text, the chart is replicated in the companion document which you can download. Hyperlinks will allow you to jump between the questions in the chart and the text as well as within the text itself.

Sorry, the companion itself is only in German! The reason is simple: Translating this legal matter into English would not only be difficult but also a waste of time since it would not help you. The relevant proceedings must be done in German, anyway, and in order to defend your claims, you or any person helping you must deal with the key concepts in German. We have done our best to use simple German and explain everything step by step. This has made a long text necessary.