Germany abandoned stranded foreign students

Engy Ashraf, fictional certificate, student, abroad, foreigner, residence permit

Engy Ashraf shows the imaginary testimony comfortably. The document that she had to fight for two months to be able to return to Germany. © Sandra Wolf

Ingy Ashraf, 23, an Egyptian psychology student at the University of Dusseldorf, visited her family at home during term breaks. Then the borders closed – the Corona pandemic. Suddenly, Engy Ashraf could not return to Germany. Her subsequent campaign with the German authorities is typical and poses a problem for many foreign students.

to Sandra Wolf Friday, 07/10/2020, 5:24 am|Last update: Friday, July 10, 2020, 5:59 pm Reading time: 4 minutes |

Sandra Wolfe: You traveled to your family in Egypt during the semester break at the beginning of February. Then Covid-19 was declared a pandemic and borders were closed. When you realized you were stuck in Egypt, what went through your mind?

Engy Ashraf: I was insecure and nervous because I knew I was going to have trouble with my German residence permit which was due to expire on April 20th. I didn’t know when I would be able to travel to Germany again. What will happen to my studies? In the middle of March, when borders were closed around the world, no one knew how long this situation would last.

Have you received information about the situation and your situation from the German authorities?

Engy Ashraf: I did not get any information in this regard. I had to find myself. At the end of March, the website of the Immigration Office in Düsseldorf under the heading “Aktuelles” stated that, according to the new regulations, all residence permits that expire between mid-March and mid-April will remain valid until a decision is made on the next date of the extension and will be automatically extended until August.

Unfortunately, my residence permit expired on April 20th, so I didn’t belong to this group for a few days. I already had an appointment with the Immigration Office in Düsseldorf at the end of March. This was usually sufficient for re-entry if the border was not closed. However, this appointment was canceled due to Corona and a new appointment was scheduled for me on February 24, 2021.

Then they became active.

“The statements contradicted each other and no one was able to give me a definitive answer for a long time and even after finding a solution, people of the same authority contradicted each other.”

Engy Ashraf: Yes I had to. I called the Immigration Office in Düsseldorf to see if I could return to Germany without a valid residence permit and the late appointment with the Immigration Office. Then began a long journey of phone calls and emails.

How long did it finally take until I received reliable information?

Engy Ashraf: More than 2 months and many expensive phone calls and emails sometimes.

How did you find contact with the German authorities and the embassy?

Engy Ashraf: Very difficult and annoying. The data contradicted each other and no one was able to give me a definitive answer for a long time, and even after finding a solution, people of the same authority contradicted each other.

I didn’t get to the embassy for a long time by email or phone, then when someone finally answered me, I was told they didn’t know what to do in this situation.

But my case is proof that this is not true. There is no single statement. This is impossible and unreasonable for those affected.”

The Immigration Office in Düsseldorf answered the phone after several calls, but then made different statements. At first it was said that I could re-enter Germany with a certificate called a “fantasy certificate”. After I asked again if it would really be enough, I received the answer by e-mail that such a certificate can only be issued to foreigners who are already in Germany. Then it was said that I had to apply for a completely new visa for Germany and that the German embassy in Cairo was responsible. However, the visa office has been closed due to Corona. When I got to the embassy anyway, they said my case was not within their scope. When I reported this statement to the immigration authorities, they then said that due to the new regulation, “mock certificates” could eventually be sent abroad. At the end of May, thank God, I was able to pick them up from the German embassy in Cairo.

Did you call the university?

Engy Ashraf: Yes, the university held a video meeting with a representative from the Immigration Office to answer the questions of international students. Asked about the possibility of “Fiktionsbescheinigung” as a solution for students stranded as residence permits expire, the answer was that “Fiktionszettel” would never be sent outside Germany. But my case is proof that this is not true. There is no single statement. This is impossible rudeness to those affected.

Do you think that without your commitment you would have obtained a solution from the German authorities in time?

Engy Ashraf: No. Anyone who has applied for a visa to Germany knows how bureaucratic Germany is and how long it all takes. I might have to apply for a new visa in the end.

What would you advise other students in the same situation?

Engy Ashraf: Keep it up and don’t give up. Be active and keep asking questions, even if it’s hard.

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