What are integration courses?
Integration courses aim to improve and ease the integration of immigrants in Germany. The courses launched in 2005 in the scope of the Immigration Act introduce newcomers to the German language as well as to everyday customs, the culture and the legal system.
The legal basis for the integration courses is found in Sections 43 and 44 of the Residence Act. Section 43 states “The integration courses shall convey the German language, legal system, culture and history to foreigners.” It “is intended to acquaint them with the way of life in Germany to such an extent as to enable them to act independently in all aspects of daily life, without the assistance or mediation of third parties.”
Two-part courseEach integration course consists of two parts: a language and an orientation course. The language course familiarises you with the German language. The orientation course gives you an understanding of the legal system as well as the culture and history and everyday life in Germany. The orientation course aims to enable you to navigate family and vocational life in Germany. In most cases, the integration course encompasses 660 class hours and six modules from A1 to B1 as well as the orientation course. A placement test is taken before beginning the course. Rather than full-time, working individuals can attend a part-time language and orientation course that is held in the afternoon and evening hours.
Requirements for participationThe integration course addresses both newcomers and people who have long lived in Germany but were unable to acquire sufficient German skills.
Even if you were granted a residence permit prior to the year 2005, you can take part in an integration course if places are available.
Anyone who was granted a residence permit after the year 2005 and still possesses minimal German skills is obligated to take an integration course. This also applies if you receive unemployment benefit II. The authority that approves the unemployment benefit can require that you take part in a course.
CostsFor each hourly lesson of the integration course you have to pay 1.95 euros or a total of 1,287 euros for the entire course. Participants who registered for an integration course before 1 July 2016 continue to pay 1.55 euros per lesson. However, you do not need to pay the fee all at once, but can pay it per course section of 100 lessons. The fee will be higher if you attend a special course with correspondingly more lessons (for example, 1,872 euros for 960 lessons).
All other costs are covered by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Whoever passes the final test within two years after course approval can be reimbursed for half of the paid course fees.
If you receive unemployment benefit II or social assistance, you will be exempted from the costs. Exemption is also possible if it is not reasonable for you to pay the fees for economic or personal reasons.
RefugeesSince October 2015, new rules apply to more rapidly integrate refugees into society and the labour market. According to this, refugees with a good perspective to stay in Germany can apply to attend an integration course with the headquarters of the Federal Office for Migration in Nuremberg.
The following requirements apply:
- You have made an application for asylum (Section 55 (1) of the Asylum Act) and the prospect of remaining is foreseeable
- You are already recognized as entitled to asylum
- You possess deportation suspension status (Section 60 a (2) 3 of the Residence Act)
- You are permitted to remain in the Federal Republic of Germany on humanitarian grounds (Section 25 (5) of the Residence Act)
After being approved by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, refugees who fulfil these requirements may take the integration course at no charge.
Participation in an integration course is, however, not possible for asylum seekers coming from a so-called safe country of origin.
Rights and obligationsYou are permitted to choose a provider of integration courses in your local area.
You can find courses through the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees or the Federal Employment Agency.
Regular attendance of the lessons is mandatory.
The final examination consists of two sections: a language text for level B1 and a test about “Life in Germany.” The “Life in Germany” test focuses, for example, on questions about Germany’s political system, on religious diversity and on equal status of men and women.
Should you not pass the exam, you are permitted to repeat the course once.
Courses for special target groupsThe basic integration course is not suitable for everyone. Prior knowledge of German as well as age, educational level and situation in life are often quite different. Therefore, special courses are being offered for immigrants from specific target groups. These special courses offer additional focal themes and therefore – with the exception of the shorter crash courses – comprise a total of 960 class hours.
Integration courses including literacy
These address those who have not yet learned to read and write using the Latin alphabet.
Integration courses for women
These courses are taught exclusively by women and also address topics that are especially important for women with children, e.g. questions of child-care, school and training for adolescents. The courses are held while children are attending school or kindergarten.
Integration courses for parents
These courses inform parents specifically about the German educational system and introduce mothers and fathers to their children’s teachers. It aims to assist parents in helping their children make decisions about their school careers.
Integration courses for young adults
In these courses, young adults up to the age of 27 can learn German with their age peers. The subject matter is aligned to the lives of young people and explores, for example, school and training, working life, health as well as culture and recreation. During a practical phase, learners are put into contact with educational institutions and employers.
Follow-on courses are for those who have lived in Germany for a while but have not yet had the chance to take a German course.
Crash courses, with 400 class hours plus 30 hours of orientation course, are shorter than the other integration courses and intended in particular for those who have already had experience learning a foreign language and therefore require less time.
You can decide for yourself what types of courses you wish to attend. The eligibility certificates from the immigration offices are good for all integration courses.
Language courses and instructor qualificationsThe Federal Office for Migration and Refugees is in charge of coordinating the integration courses and training the course instructors. There are presently nearly 7,000 licensed public and private providers that conduct integration courses on behalf of the Federal Office such as adult education centres and the Goethe-Institut. The Goethe-Institut offers some integration courses in its “Fortbildung und Bildungskooperation” division in the scope of instructor continued education.
Those who wish to teach these courses must demonstrate specific qualifications. Several institutes offer “Additional training for integration course instructors” on behalf of the Federal Office. All of these providers are listed on the website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees:
Framework curricula for language and orientation coursesBoth the language courses and orientation courses have a framework curriculum that designates the content of the respective courses. The Framework Curriculum for Integration Courses – German as a Second Language was developed by the Goethe-Institut for the Federal Ministry of the Interior and forms the basis for language lessons. It describes the learning goals of the course as orientation for course planners, textbook authors and instructors. The curriculum is the basis for the Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer (DTZ) language examination held at the end of the language course.
- Framework Curriculum for Integration Courses (Website of the BAMF)
- Framework Curriculum for Orientation Courses (Website of the BAMF)