People eligible for social services - in particular, federal financial aid (BAföG, in the case of Germans) - may be exempted from the duty to pay upon the submission of an application.
In principle, there is no general exemption for foreign students, nor so for recipients of other forms of financial aid or students in exchange programmes (e.g., Erasmus).
For students from non-EU countries, there is no possibility for exemption. Because such an exemption would be permissible solely on the basis of social need – as is the case with German citizens – this would automatically contradict the requirement under German residence regulations (Aufenthaltsgesetz) that all non-EU students provide proof of financing their studies.
But students from EU countries can be exempted from the fees when they receive a government-sponsored study grant from their home country due to financial need. Because this possibility has not been explicitly stated in the Broadcast Services Treaty, a special hardship (“besonderer Härtefall”) request must be made in this case. Thus, as a first step, a special hardship request must be filed with the Broadcast Contribution Service. Then, receipt of a government-sponsored study grant from the home country must be proven. To do this, the Broadcast Contribution Service has created a form (available in English) that can be obtained only from their office. EU students must then receive proof on this form from their home country’s government agency that they receive aid due to financial need.
The licence fee is only collected once per apartment. For example, students living together in a shared apartment can all contribute to the fee. If one resident is exempt, this does not automatically apply to the entire shared apartment.
We have put together answers to the most important questions relating to the licence fee for you.