Everyone at Fintiba is deeply touched by the current crisis in Ukraine and our thoughts are with the people who are in the midst of it. We condemn the war in Ukraine and stand for peace and a Europe united in diversity. We feel that the best thing we can do is to continue supporting all of our clients in the best way we can. In addition, we remain in close contact with the foreign office to advocate for faster and more efficient processes to accommodate the higher numbers of student visa applications.
In this blog post we have summarised important information for international students and expats planning to arrive to Germany for the winter Semester 2022, as well as support measures specifically for Ukrainian students and refugees.
Proximity of Ukraine to Germany
Although at a first glance at a map of Europe, Germany appears to be close to Ukraine, there are a number of countries between the two states, which are either members of NATO, and / or members of the European Union. Germany itself is also a member of NATO since 1955. NATO is the acronym for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. It is an intergovernmental military alliance between 30 member states. Of those 28 are in Europe and 2 other in North America (Canada and the United States). NATO’s purpose is to guarantee the freedom and security of its members through all necessary political and military means. The organisation is committed to the peaceful resolution of disputes. However, if diplomatic efforts fail, it has the military power to undertake crisis-management operations.
It is also important to note that currently, no civilian airplanes are flying over Ukraine. Thus anyone travelling to Germany from Asia would not have to worry about passing through the zone of conflict.
Inflation of goods hits all European states
Similar to other European states, the inflation rate in Germany is rising due to the war in Ukraine. The prices of goods are now around 7.6% higher than a year ago. The costs for both gasoline and diesel have also reached new heights, passing €2.00 per litre in April 2022. In addition to that, the increase of energy prices (electricity and gas) is the main reason for the growing inflation. Consequently, the cost of living has risen with up to 25% in some instances, for everyday expenses such as grocery shopping, transportation, dining out and more. These rising cost are especially hard on lower income groups. Among those are also students, who now have to adjust their monthly budgets by cutting down on some optional expenses.
Some ways, in which international students can cut on everyday expenses include shopping at discounter supermarkets (e.g. Lidl, Aldi, Penny, Netto) vs more premium or bio stores; making use of discounts you can get with your student ID card and travelling in your city and the surrounding area with the semester ticket you already have or with the new discounted EUR 9.00 monthly ticket, which will be launched from 1 June 2022 for local and regional transportation all around Germany. You can find more ideas and suggestions on how to optimise your budget in Germany in our blog post called 15 ways to save money in Germany.
Energy security in Germany
In addition to the human cost of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Europe is also worried about its energy security due to its reliance on Russia’s energy courses. Russia is the third largest oil producer in the world after the USA and Saudi Arabia. More than half of Russia’s oil exports were sent to Europe at the start of 2022. In addition, Russia accounted for 41% of the EU’s natural gas imports.
For Germany in particular, the numbers were quite similar. At the start of the conflict, Germany was sourcing approximately 55% of its gas from Russia, as well as 50% of its hard coal and 30% of its oil. To reduce its dependency on Russia, Germany is implementing drastic changes to its energy policy. The government aims to achieve a 100% renewable power supply by 2035. In fact, a lot of progress has been made over April and May 2022. The dependency on Russian oil and coal was reduced to 8% and 12% respectively. However, it might still take some more time for Germany to completely detach itself, in particular from Russia’s natural gas imports. Those were reduced to 35% since the start of the conflict. Other measures to ease the burden of rising energy costs for consumers in Germany include a one-off lump sum payment of 300 euros, cheaper tickets for public transport, and a tax cut on fuel.
In addition, the planned transition to renewable power supply in Germany will inevitably open a lot of career opportunities for students and professionals in the renewable and sustainability energy sectors.
Social activities to support Ukraine and Ukrainians arriving in Germany
Many people in Germany have great sympathy for the fate of people in Ukraine and tremendous willingness to help. This is evident from the large number of donated items, as well as numerous private campaigns to collects and send funding to humanitarian organisations.
The German government has also agreed on a package helping federal states accommodate and integrate all Ukrainian refugees. This includes access to job centers and language courses, as well as visa-free stay from refugees from Ukraine in Germany until 31 August 2022, and a simplified process to apply for longer residence (Ukrainians no longer need a blocked account to apply for a residence permit). In addition, from 1 June refugees from Ukraine will be able to apply for the so called “Grundsicherung” or basic income. The usual amount is EUR 449 to cover basic costs of living not including rent (EUR 808 for couples).
There are many other activities running in support of Ukrainian civilians coming to Germany, such as:
- The multilingual Germany4Ukraine portal (available in English, German, Ukrainian and Russian) offers useful information and assistance about accommodation, medical care, working in Germany and much more.
- The Deutschland verstehen initiative from the Zeit publisher, which aims to help newcommers to quickly adapt to everyday live in Germany and better understand the people and language here.
- The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) also has a dedicated page with information for international and specifically Ukrainian students on their way to Germany. On this page there is an overview of all existing support offers and scholarships from specific universities.