You’ve successfully begun your first week at work. The baker down the street even knows what kind of rolls you like for breakfast. Now you’d like to discuss politics with your colleagues at lunch. Or you want to know more about German customs – what people eat for supper, for example, or the tradition of taking a walk on Sunday. This is what integration courses are all about. Not only will you learn German or improve your German; you and other newcomers will learn about Germany and its citizens, traditions, history and much more. In addition, you’ll be able to make new friends.
Integration courses consist of a language and an orientation component. They cover everyday topics such as the workplace, shopping, television and radio, and childrearing. Participants learn about dealing with administrative offices, writing emails and letters, and interviewing for a job. You will also learn more about Germany as a country, from a number of perspectives: culture and politics, how people live and interact in Germany, and the values on which German society is based. The language course usually consists of 600 hours of instruction, the orientation course takes 60 hours. There are special courses for women, parents, young adults up to the age of 27 and other groups. At the end of each course, all participants take a final examination, free of charge.
Integration courses are intended for anyone who has recently arrived in Germany and whose German language skills are not yet adequate for dealing with the demands of everyday life. Whether you may take an Integration course or, in some cases, are required to do so, depends on your country of origin and your level of fluency. The most important guidelines are these:
As a citizen of the EU, you are welcome to participate in an Integration course if you want to learn German or improve your German, provided that a place is available. You are not required to do so.
Non-EU citizens are also allowed to take these courses. If your German is not yet particularly good, you may, under some circumstances, be required to take a course. Are you employed and unable to take a full- or part-time course? You may be excused from participating. Upon issuing your Residence permit, the foreigners’ registration office will let you know whether you are allowed or required to take an Integration course.
Special rules apply to ethnic German immigrants and to German citizens.
The website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees contains an overview of the relevant rules and costs.
Regular instruction from well-trained teachers will help you become fluent in German quickly, and you will soon feel comfortable in your new surroundings. Taking the final examination offers additional advantages: after passing the test, you will be issued an “Integration Course Certificate”. This allows you to claim Naturalisation after you have lived in Germany for seven years, rather than the usual eight.
Another advantage: If you pass the final examination within two years of being accepted into the course, half of the course fee will be refunded to you.
In addition to integration courses, other courses are available as well:
„Deutsch für den Beruf“ (German for the workplace). This course is for people whose German needs improvement and who are either looking for a job or interested in further training in their current jobs. In addition to providing typical language instruction, the course may help you practice your interviewing skills or learn more about a specific subject that is relevant to your job. There is also a practical component that offers insight into working life through internships and visits to businesses. These courses are tailored to your degree of fluency and specialised skills. Detailed information about this course can be found here.
Courses for your children are available as well, as German classes are offered for people of every age. Some classes are tailored to the interests and language skills of children and young people. This is important: When young children begin learning German immediately, it is easier for them to adapt to their new environment, make new friends and start to feel at home in Germany. Further details are available here.
In some cases employers provide language coaches or contribute to the cost of a language course – just ask your boss or supervisor.
[Translate to Englisch (US):]
Für Spätaussiedler und deutsche Staatsbürgerinnen und Staatsbürger gibt es Sonderregelungen.
Einen Überblick zu allen Regelungen und Kosten erhalten Sie auf der Seite des Bundesamts für Migration und Flüchtlinge (BAMF).
Why people from all over the world feel at home in Germany (German, English, Spanish)
Becoming part of Germany’s tradition of successful immigration