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

Also non-nationals are eligible for study grants!

Students in Germany who lack sufficient income may receive government grants to cover their costs of living. This is a provision for the resident population, including non-nationals but excluding “foreign students”. If your residence permit is conditional on your enrolment at a German university (§ 16 Residence Act) you are not eligible for the mainstream grant.

Foreign students, don’t despair: There are numerous scholarship programs available for you!

Administrative obstacles

Resident immigrants who have already obtained a university degree abroad frequently experience difficulties in having their study grant claims accepted. If you haven’t completed your study abroad and don’t want to continue in exactly the same subject here it may be even worse. German citizenship makes no difference in these respects.

The law (the Bundesausbildungs­förderungsgesetz — BAföG) sees a person’s claim fulfilled if the person has already obtained an academic degree. (There is an exception for master courses following a B.A.). This appears reasonable in the case of domestic educational careers. However, the law (which originated as early as 1971) does not adequately take non-standard educational careers into account. Immigrants may find themselves in a dilemma: They may not find a qualified job since their degree is not appreciated on the German labor market. And they may be denied financial support for studying again since they already hold a degree. Judges have step by step interpreted the law. They have paved your way to a study grant regardless of your foreign degree. However, the grant administration apparently finds it difficult to adequately apply these rules. Therefore, the unique situation of immigrant academics is often disregarded.

A companion about study grants regardless of foreign degrees

For that reason, we have worked out a companion in order to inform immigrant academics about their rights. This companion will help you assess your chances of obtaining a study grant regardless of your foreign degree. You can better decide whether filing an application with the grant administration is worthwhile for you. A recent ruling by the Federal Administrative Court (August, 2019) has made things a lot simpler and improved your chance to obtain a study grant regardless of your foreign degree.

The grant administration may not automatically follow the judges

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 references to previous court rulings which may be helpful in supporting your claim.

A graphic representation

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.

The companion is in simple German but cannot be simpler than the problem

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.