What is Voluntary Return?

Returning voluntarily is a possibility for migrants who are considering going back to their country of origin. For example, persons whose asylum application has been rejected in Germany, who have been granted a residence permit, or whose asylum procedure has not been concluded yet can return voluntarily. In 2016, more than 54,000 persons chose this option.

In individual counselling sessions you can talk about the possibilities of voluntary return, allowing you to make an informed decision. Return counselling does not oblige you to leave Germany. It does not affect your asylum procedure.
Support programmes can assist you with the organisation of the journey, cover your travel costs, or provide financial start-up assistance.
Layer 1When returning voluntarily, you can set the date of your departure yourself and by doing so plan and organise your return. You will travel independently and without an official escort by plane or by bus.
Layer 1If required, medical escort and care as well as arrival assistance can be organised.
Layer 1In some countries of origin reintegration programmes can help you with your new start.

Voluntary return: Returning with dignity

  • Unbiased and individual counselling
  • Informed decision
  • Migrant protection
  • Organisational and financial assistance for the departure
  • Sustainable reintegration support

Are you considering returning to your country of origin?

Return counselling and decision making: Contact a counselling centre and learn in individual conversations what possibilities of support are available for you.

There are independent and governmental return counselling centres.

There are independent counselling centres, for example welfare agencies organisations, NGOs or and other organisations, as well as governmental counselling centres, for example social welfare offices and immigration authorities. Find your nearest counselling centre here. Different languages are offered in each counselling centre. You can bring someone to the return counselling who is able to translate.

Return counselling is always voluntary and non-binding. It does not affect your ongoing asylum procedure.

Only after you commit to a voluntary return by e.g. applying for support through REAG/GARP, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) requires you to to sign that you withdraw your asylum application and waive legal means.

If and what kind of financial support you can receive depends on various criteria, for example on your nationality and your asylum status.

Within the REAG/GARP programme, travel costs for your voluntary return are covered and you can receive a small travel assistance. Depending on your nationality, you can also receive a financial start-up assistance. . For people from the West Balkans only travel costs are covered with the REAG/GARP programme, no additional travel assistance or financial start-up assistance can be disbursed.

In addition to REAG/GARP, you can receive further financial assistance through StarthilfePlus. It depends on your nationality and your residence status whether or not you can get StarthilfePlus. If you have been registered in Germany before 1 February 2017 and if by 1 August 2017, you are either obligated to leave the country, you have a temporary permission to stay or you applied for asylum for the second time, you can also receive StarthilfePlus.

In some countries of origin there exist reintegration projects which can support your new start upon your return.

One example is the ERIN programme, which among other things can support you with education opportunities, finding an apartment or starting your own business. Find out what kind of reintegration assistance is available for you by entering your country of origin into the search bar.

Within the the ZIRF-Counselling project, your return counselling centre can ask for specific information at the IOM in your country of origin.

This project allows you to research e.g. what medication is available or what costs should be expected when starting your own business. For some countries useful information is summarised in Country Fact Sheets.

Application and Preparation: Your return counselling centre files your application and assists you with the required documents as well as concrete planning.

If you have decided for a voluntary return with REAG/GARP, your counselling centre completes the application forms for REAG/GARP with you, and in case you are eligible, also for StarthilfePlus.

The applications are sent to IOM where they are checked. Please note that there is no legal entitlement to voluntary return assistance. If you return voluntarily, you can come to Germany again. But you will not receive new support for another return. If you come back to Germany permanently, you have to pay back the received assistance.

The return counselling centre also assists you with applying for the required documents.

In order to return voluntarily, you need a valid passport or passport replacement papers as well as a border crossing certificate (“GÜB: Grenzübertrittsbescheinigung”) for your country of return. Some countries also allow to enter with an EU Laissez-Passer. The return counsellor helps you with applying for the necessary documents.

As soon as IOM sends the confirmation to your counselling centre, you can start your concrete planning.

IOM books the tickets for your return with you and the return counselling centre. If you need medical assistance, you can be accompanied when travelling to your country of origin. In some countries IOM can assist you with your onward journey or offer temporary accommodation. Please ask your return counselling centre for more information.

Find out if a reintegration programme is available for you. Apply for possible support with your counselling centre and prepare your reintegration plans.

Apply for ERIN support with your return counselling centre in case it is available for your country of origin. Within the framework of the ZIRF-Counselling project, your counselling centre can obtain useful information on the labour market, housing situation or medical care in order to facilitate your reintegration after return.

Departure: You travel by plane or bus.

Usually you will travel by plane.

At the final meeting before your departure, your counselling centre provides you with the flight confirmation and practical information regarding the journey.

Please take notice of the different luggage regulations which apply to the respective airlines.

The permitted number of luggage items or the weight limit can differ with respect to the airline and flight route.

In some cases a return journey by bus can be booked.

Under certain conditions return by car is also possible.

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The new start in your country of origin: Make use of the possibilities.

Depending on where you are returning to, there might be arrival assistance available.

In some cases you can receive medical assistance, temporary accommodation or support with your onward journey.

If you partake in a reintegration programme, consult your respective contact person on site.

Start with your reintegration plan right away.

If you receive StarthilfePlus, you will obtain the second instalment six months after your return at IOM in your country of origin.

Please call the IOM office in your area to make an appointment. You can find the contact information on your StarthilfePlus documents.

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