If you want to settle down, live and work in Germany, speaking German will make life a lot easier for you. In order to truly embrace and appreciate German culture, customs and lifestyle, it’s essential to have good knowledge of the language. If you want to really feel a part of your new German community, integration courses are a great way to gain the required language skills and cultural knowledge. You may or may not be required to attend an integration course when you move to Germany, but it will surely help you feel right at home.
- What is an integration course in Germany?
- Who can participate in integration courses?
- Why take an integration course?
What is an integration course in Germany?
Integration courses are official language and orientation courses designed by the German government through the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF), the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. The integration courses comprise nearly 700 hours of instruction, involving a blend of language and “orientation” materials designed to accustom attendees to German culture and society. If you already have a good basic knowledge of German, you may be allowed to follow the fast-track integration course consisting of 430 lesson units.
The language course will cover aspects of everyday life including work, education and training, raising children, shopping, leisure time, health, media and housing. You will learn how to compose letters and emails in German, complete forms, make telephone calls and apply for jobs or training courses. The topics you learn will vary according to the type of course you attend. If you attend a youth integration course, for instance, you will deal with topics relevant to young people, such as applying for an apprenticeship. The final stage of the language course consists of the “German language test for immigrants” (DTZ – Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer).
On completion of the language course, you will attend the orientation course comprising 100 lesson hours. The fast-track option, if applicable, will take 30 lesson units. Themes for discussion during the orientation course include the German legal system, German history and culture, rights and obligations in Germany, forms of community life, and values that are important in Germany, such as freedom of religion, tolerance and gender equality. You will complete the orientation course by taking the “Life in Germany” (Leben in Deutschland) test. An assessment test of your level will be carried out before the integration course begins.
Who can participate in integration courses?
These courses are available to immigrants in Germany who have not yet attained an adequate level of the German language. The courses may be offered for free and, depending on your circumstances, are sometimes even mandatory.
Non-EU nationals will be either entitled to or obliged to attend an integration course. If you have a permanent settlement permit, or a temporary one for the purpose of work, humanitarian reasons or family reunification, you are guaranteed a place in an integration course. Integration courses are not necessary if you already have proficient knowledge and understanding of the German language, though you still have the option to attend.
You will be obliged to partake in an integration course if your German is not adequate for navigating everyday scenarios, or if you are a recipient of unemployment benefits and your job center determines you must attend. You may be exempted from this obligation if you are employed in a full-time position or if you have considerable responsibilities for care work. The Ausländeramt (Immigration Office) will inform you of whether you are allowed to or obliged to attend a course.
If you are an EU citizen you can sign up for an integration course if there is a space available, but it’s not necessary for you to do so.
Why take an integration course?
These courses can help you to understand and manage everyday themes, topics and challenges, whether it be a casual conversation or discussing your children’s education. All the core issues that will face you in everyday life in Germany will be addressed during the course. This will greatly enhance your chances of successful integration and alleviate the stress of settling into your new homeland.
German integration courses are usually attended on an intensive full-time basis but for those already working in Germany, there are evening and part-time participation options available. At the end of the course, participants take a final exam to test their engagement with the course content. Once you pass the final examination, you will receive an “Integration Course Certificate”. What’s better, if you pass the exam within two years you can have half of the course fee (if applicable) returned to you!
Get fully immersed
German integration courses are a wonderful opportunity for immigrants in Germany to gain the language and cultural knowledge needed to engage fully in German society. Whether you are an EU citizen or are coming from further afield, working through the language and orientation classes to earn your Integration Course Certificate will surely help you to make Germany your new home.
Leona has her roots in the South of Ireland, where she grew up on her family farm. She went on to study World Politics at Leiden University College, The Hague and then completed her MPhil in International History at Trinity College Dublin. Leona has now settled in Berlin, having fallen in love with the city. In her spare time she is working on perfecting her German in anticipation of her doctoral studies, during which she plans to study modern German social history. Her hobbies include bouldering, dancing and reading a healthy mix of history books and corny fantasy fiction. You can find more info about her on LinkedIn.