Although I am not a German, I can proudly say that one of the strongest sides of German government is that they care about people living here. And when I say people I really mean all people, not only the Germans. The Government offers new arrivers a lot of possibilities to facilitate their everyday life, such as get a new job or fit into the new culture. Anyone who lives permanently in Germany but is not yet a German citizen can under certain conditions, be naturalized. Of course, this doesn’t happen automatically, but there are some good possibilities. One of these is, so called, “integration course” which is financed by the Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF), Germany’s federal department for migration and refugees.
So here I am going to cover the following topics:
- What is “integration course” and why is it so much important?
- Who can participate and is it mandatory?
- Is it free or will you be charged?
- How long does it last and what will you get?
Integration course is not only about the language
One of the significant problems people are facing after settling in Germany is the language and culture barrier. This can be a real hurdle for east Europeans, Russia, Middle East, East and the rest of the world. Even if you work here and have some friends that’s not enough to be a fully integrated member of society. For this purpose, the German government offers special school-like system of courses where you can not only learn German language but also its history, culture, legal system, tradition, customs as well as the system of values.
Language is, surely, the key to a successful integration. The aim of the integration course is to help the newcomers in their everyday lives and, thus, get closer to German society. The course comprises 700 hours; 600 of which are language classes and 100 are classes on politics, democracy, history, society, culture and similar topics. The lasts are, so called, “orientation courses”.
Who is the integration course for?
Integration course is directly aimed to migrants and people with an immigrant background, Asylum seekers, European Union citizens and late repatriates. In almost every case it is mandatory. Although EU nationals can get by without German language knowledge. However, if they want they can attend integration course combined with orientation course. Here is a quick list of those who are obliged to attend an integration course:
- People who obtain a permanent residence or settlement permit and cannot communicate in German in a simple manner
- People who receive unemployment benefits (Arbeitslosengeld II) and are asked to attend by the relevant support authority
- People who are in special need of integration and have been called by the authority for foreign nations to participate
The following individuals are not entitled to attend:
- children, youths and young adults who take up a school education or resume their previous schooling in Germany
- people, for whom long-term attendance at the integration course is impossible or unreasonable, for example if they have to look after a family member.
- persons who have sufficient knowledge of German, but even in this case they should pass orientation course.
How much and who should pay?
When it comes to the costs of an integration course, the Residence Act sets out various rules which depend on the person’s current residency status. The costs are either entirely covered by the BAMF, or participants must contribute 1.95 euro per hour of lesson.
This amount of money should pay, for instance, German nationals who don’t speak adequate German or EU member states’ citizens as well as the family members of Blue card holders.
People who receive the Arbeitslosengeld II and are obliged to attend the integration course are exempt from paying the fee as well as are reimbursed the transport costs if only they attend the course duly. Participants not receiving any Arbeitslosengeld II but who have been ordered to participate in a course by the Bureau for Foreigners, receive a travel expense allowance.
How long does it take?
As I mentioned the course consists of 700 hours and overall may last 7-8 months. But it mostly depends on the language school as well as the participant’s ability to acquire a new language.
At the end of your course there is a final examination, consisting of a language test and orientation test called “Living in Germany”. If you prove sufficient command of German (B1) and sufficient knowledge of orientation course you receive the “Integration Course Certificate”.
So, by successfully participating in the orientation test you can demonstrate knowledge of the legal and social order in Germany which you need in order to be naturalized in Germany. It also helps you get German citizenship after seven years of lawful residence.
Now you know which steps to take to become an integrated member of German society. Viel Spaß!