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Foreigners refers to a natural person that another nationality than the staying state has. Germans who live abroad for a longer period of time or permanently are called Germans abroad .


The definitions of the term foreigner used in general linguistic usage and in specific subject areas (e.g. national and international law , population statistics ) are not completely congruent and in some cases also inconsistent. Even within individual technical languages , the definitions as usage definitions are context-dependent (cf. below, for example, the term “football German”, which was “tailor-made” for a specific purpose, namely the distinction between eligible and non-eligible footballers). Particularly in the case of statistical variables, it is therefore essential to state the exact meaning of the word used in each case.

In many languages ​​of the world, the word "foreigner" (in the sense of "stranger" , coming from abroad ) has a negative connotation . B. Gaijin in Japanese or Gweilo in Cantonese .

Word meanings

The meaning of the word “foreigner” is revealed from the perspective of a domestic . By this one has to understand regularly a state according to the current definition of international law . (For some non- sovereign territories or states in the making, the following points also apply in part).

Immigration law

The legal term foreigner includes everyone who is not German within the meaning of Article 116, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law , in accordance with Section 2 (1) of the Residence Act . The legislature has thus decided in favor of a negative definition in immigration law . The livelihood of a foreigner is secured when it, including adequate health insurance protection without recourse to public funds can deny. The receipt of child benefit , child allowance , childcare allowance , parental allowance , training subsidy benefits according to SGB ​​III , the Federal Training Assistance Act and the Advancement Training Assistance Act or public funds that are based on contributions or that are granted to enable residence in federal territory are not considered to be the use of public funds Benefits according to the Maintenance Advances Act (Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Residence Act).

Citizenship criterion

In some countries, a person is considered to be a foreigner by law if he or she is a national of another country. According to this understanding, a person is not a foreigner (from the point of view of the national concerned) if he or she does not have citizenship of another country. If someone has both the nationality of the country and that of (at least) another country, then he is considered in the respective countries as a foreigner and a national of the country at the same time. This definition is legalistic and is commonly used in relations between states; in practice it is insofar of no central importance, since in democratic countries every citizen - also a citizen with multiple citizenship - has all civil rights and all civil obligations arising from nationality .

According to some legal systems (e.g. in the immigration law of many countries), a foreigner is considered to be someone who has the citizenship of a foreign state, but not that of Germany. There is then, for example, an obligation of representation on the part of the foreign state, for example in cases of deportation . Stateless persons , on the other hand, are not legally regarded as foreigners in the relevant legal systems (e.g. cannot be deported to their home country, are not represented diplomatically). However, they are on an equal footing with foreigners in terms of immigration law. As a generic term for the words foreigners and stateless persons , the term is often State stranger used.

Economic criteria

In the national accounts , an economic subject is regarded as a foreigner if he has his permanent place of residence outside the national economy in question. Accordingly, nationality does not play a role in economic considerations. Economic entities with permanent residence in Germany are economically referred to as residents .

The term “ labor market resident” is important for the labor market . In Germany belong to this group

The so-called domestic primacy applies to the above-mentioned groups on the labor market . When taking up a job, they are preferred to those who are new to Germany as third-country nationals ( foreigners from the labor market ) and are looking for work. The priority given to German and foreign labor market residents primarily serves to protect them from displacement . In Austria , the national primacy is laid down in Section 11 of the Aliens Employment Act.

Criteria in foreign trade law

The German foreign trade law used since September 2013 instead of the no longer used the concept of non-residents the legal concept alien to all natural or legal persons or commercial partnerships with residence or place of business in abroad ( § 2 para. 5, AWG ). As foreign companies are branches of foreign legal persons or partnerships within the country if the branches, management have abroad and there is no separate for them accounts there, and permanent establishments of foreign legal persons or partnerships within the country if the establishments their management have not at home ( Section 2 (15) AWG).

Criteria in education

When it comes to the question of entitlement to access to German universities , a distinction is made between foreign students and foreign students . The group of Bildungsinlaender includes everyone who has obtained their higher education entrance qualification in Germany or at a German school, regardless of their nationality. All persons with a German higher education entrance qualification are treated equally at German universities, provided there are no problems with the residence status of an applicant.

Bildungsauslaender are people who have acquired their university entrance qualification abroad at a non-German educational institution. You will be admitted to study at German universities in a separate procedure. German citizens can also belong to foreign students if they did not acquire their higher education entrance qualification at a German school.

Criteria in sport

There are regulations for foreigners in various sports . These determine who is considered to be a resident of the respective sport (e.g. as a football German ) and who is not. Furthermore, foreigner regulations stipulate how many sports non-residents may compete in a certain team at the same time in the sense of the sport-specific definition.

Legal basis

The essential feature that distinguishes a foreigner and a stateless person in a constitutional state from a national is that human rights apply to everyone who is within the scope of the legal system in question, but civil rights only apply to the nationals of that state. On the basis of international agreements, some civil rights can also be granted to nationals of the contracting states. This applies, for example, to the rights that are granted to nationals of other states of the European Union within the framework of EU citizenship , which means that they are considered “EU residents” (i.e. privileged foreigners).


Development of the population in Germany 1970–2004
Immigration to Germany since 1991
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  • According to German law, someone is a foreigner or foreigner who is not German within the meaning of Article 116, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law (GG). The term “German” includes not only German nationals, but also so-called status Germans according to Art. 116 GG . These are currently ethnic repatriates who have not yet been issued a certificate in accordance with Section 15 BVFG. Even until the certificate is issued (the process can take a few months), a repatriate is not considered a foreigner, even though he does not have German citizenship at that time .

    A person who has both the nationality of Germany and at least one other country can, but does not have to, be counted as a foreigner for statistical purposes. In no official German statistics is a person who is considered a “German” within the meaning of Article 116, Paragraph 1 of the Basic Law, as a foreigner or foreigner.

    The law on the residence, employment and integration of foreigners in the federal territory ( Residence Act - AufenthG) defines a foreigner in Section 2 (1) of the Residence Act as a person who is not German within the meaning of Article 116 (1) of the Basic Law . On January 1, 2005, the Residence Act replaced the Aliens Act that had been in effect until then .

    As of December 31, 2016, 10.04 million foreigners were legally living in Germany, 4.27 million of them as EU citizens, 5.76 million from non-EU countries and 1.16 million with restricted right of residence.

    Type of residence status number
    Freedom of movement under EU law 4,361,000
    unlimited residence permit 2,498,000
    temporary residence permit 1,808,000
    Residence permit 274,000
    Residence permit 633,600
    Tuldung (only for refugees ) 154,800

    As of December 31, 2016

    The right of residence and other rights and obligations of foreigners are regulated in the foreigner legislation ( aliens law ). With the naturalization, a foreigner receives the full civil rights of his host country, e.g. B. the right to vote , and thus becomes a citizen by law . Depending on the host country, this may require U. the citizenship of the foreign country may be given up. Some states (including Germany) automatically revoke their citizenship if that of another state is accepted.

    Foreigners who violate the laws of their host country can be expelled and lose their residence status . Foreigners who are illegally staying in the country without having a residence status can, if necessary, be deported (Switzerland: deported).

    The German federal government has appointed a commissioner for foreigners who is responsible for the integration issues of foreigners in the Federal Republic of Germany.

    European Union

    Due to the law of the European Union , in many areas EU nationals (i.e. nationals of other EU states) are largely on an equal footing with the nationals of the member states in that they can assert many civil rights across the EU.


    In Liechtenstein , the law on foreign nationals is regulated in the Foreign Nationals Act ( Ausländergesetz - AuG) and specifies the requirements for the residence of people who do not come from an EEA state or Switzerland.


    In Austria , aliens law is regulated in the Settlement and Residence Act (NAG) and the Aliens Police Act 2005 (FPG). There is also a law on the employment of foreigners for employment law .


    In Switzerland was in 2005 Federal Law on Foreigners (short Aliens Act  - FNA) decided in 2008, the Federal Law on Sojourn and Residence of Aliens replaced on 26 March 1931st

    special cases

    As a rule, the following applies: The nationals of State A are classified as foreigners in State B and vice versa. There are the following exceptions to this rule:

    1. If there is a separate nationality of sub-states in federal states, people with the nationality of the federal state are not considered foreigners in these sub-states (e.g. non-Bavarian Germans in Bavaria, where there is their own Bavarian nationality, are not foreigners). Likewise, nationals of the states of the same state are not considered to be foreigners in any other state.
    2. If a state was created through secession , its citizens are not considered to be foreigners in the state from which it has broken away if it has not recognized the new state under international law. For example, at no point in time between 1949 and 1990 was the citizens of the GDR recognized by the Federal Republic of Germany (with the effect that while the West Germans in the GDR were officially considered foreigners since 1967, GDR citizens were always Germans in the FRG ) .
    3. If a state loses part of its national territory (e.g. as a result of a lost war), citizens of this state who remain in the separated area can, under certain circumstances, retain their original citizenship and pass it on to their descendants. This applies e.g. For example, approach people who are Polish citizens, descendants of German citizens and live in an area that is within Germany's 1937 borders . These people are not considered foreigners in Germany.

    "Foreign Citizens"

    Sometimes foreigners (sometimes also other people with a migration background who, as German citizens, are at most former foreigners and can get the impression that their “being German” should be questioned by the attribute “foreign”) are considered “foreign fellow citizens” in Germany. designated.

    In the first sentence of the preliminary remark to the second edition of the standard work on German Aliens Law , Werner Kanein stated in 1986:

    “The terms of 'foreign fellow citizen' or 'guest worker', which are often used because of their euphemistic effect, are misleading and also capable of evoking unfounded illusions. The alien (stateless person or foreigner) is not a fellow citizen. He is a resident. […] The rights of the foreigner are limited. On the other hand, he is not without rights. "

    It is correct that foreigners as foreigners do not have any civil rights in Germany (even if citizens of the EU are granted some civil rights such as the right to participate in the European Parliament elections or the right to free movement ).

    However, the quotation does not take into account the fact that there is no congruence between legal terminology on the one hand and colloquial language and the language of politics on the other. The intention of those who speak of “foreign fellow citizens” to include people who are supposed to be marginalized by others as “ foreigners ” is well understood in most cases.

    Opinion polling

    When asked by the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy : “To put it very generally: Are there too many foreigners living in Germany today or not too many?” 79% of respondents in 1984 and 53% in 2008 answered with “too many”. The proportion of those who answered that there are not too many foreigners was 8% in 1984 and 24% in 2008. The number of foreigners increased from 4.4 million to 7.3 million between 1984 and 2008. After the refugee crisis in Germany from 2015, 45.3% of citizens without a migrant background answered yes to the question of whether too many foreigners live in Germany in April 2017, 25.8% answered no.

    See also


    • Helgo Eberwein, Eva Pfleger: Aliens law for studies and practice . LexisNexis, Vienna 2011, ISBN 978-3-7007-5010-9 .
    • Ulrich Herbert : History of the policy on foreigners in Germany. Seasonal workers, forced laborers, guest workers, refugees . CH Beck, Munich 2001, ISBN 3-406-47477-2 .

    Web links

    Wiktionary: Foreigners  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

    Individual evidence

    1. Brockhaus, Volume 2 . 20th edition. Brockhaus Verlag, Leipzig 2001, ISBN 3-7653-3662-9 , p. 364 .
    2. Migration online: Labor market
    3. ^ Ljubomir Bratić : The primacy of the natives. On the precariousness of migrants , IG Kultur Austria.
    4. Germans and foreigners with education . Website of the Ludwig Maximilians University of Munich , accessed on February 28, 2015.
    5. International Office of the University of Regensburg: Application process for foreign students archive link ( Memento from June 12, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
    7. ^ Foreigners ( Memento from August 6, 2013 in the Internet Archive ), accessed on August 22, 2010
    8. Federal Statistical Office, press release No. 227 of June 30, 2017, More than 10 million foreigners in Germany , accessed on February 7, 2018
    9. Law of 17 September 2008 on foreigners (Aliens Act; AuG). State Administration of the Principality of Liechtenstein - Legal Service of the Government, accessed on April 18, 2015 .
    10. Federal Law on Foreign Nationals. The federal authorities of the Swiss Confederation ( ), accessed on April 18, 2015 .
    11. ^ Egbert A. Hoffmann: Twenty years ago, on February 20, 1967, Ulbricht proclaimed "GDR" citizenship. It's about Germans in the middle of Germany ( Memento from July 26, 2014 in the Internet Archive ).
    12. Werner Kanein (Ed.): German law on foreigners . 2nd Edition. CH Beck, Munich 1986, ISBN 3-406-31330-2 , p. 1.
    13. Thomas Petersen: The tender little plant integration. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , March 18, 2008, accessed on March 3, 2015.
    14. Survey: Many German citizens find the number of foreigners “too high” In: Handelsblatt from May 12, 2017, accessed on February 7, 2018