You’ve successfully begun your first week at work. Now you’d like to improve your German skills. Or you want to know more about German customs – what people eat for supper, for example. This is what integration courses are all about.
What is an integration course?
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 100 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.
Who can participate in an integration course?
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.
Katharina from Belarus
"When I came to Germany three years ago, my first wish was to integrate. Although as a student I wasn’t obliged to take an integration course, I would still advise anyone to attend one. Because they are really helpful. Integration is far more than learning the German language. My view is that anybody who feels a part of the community is integrated. That depends first and foremost on the motivation of the newcomer. Of course it takes time to find your feet here. Tolerance and patience are two things that have always accompanied me along the way. After three years, I have the feeling that I am a part of German society. In other words: I feel integrated."
Special rules apply to German citizens and German nationals returning back to Germany.
The website of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees contains an overview of the relevant rules and costs.
How to find an integration course
- As a non-EU citizen, go to your local foreigners’ registration office, which will issue you a certificate (Berechtigungsschein) allowing you to participate in an integration course.
- EU citizens should contact the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to apply for a place on an integration course.
- The next step is to find a course provider (Kursträger). The foreigners’ registration office or the migration advisory centre will help you. You can also search using WebGIS, the online information system of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees.
- When you have found a provider in your area, make contact either in person or by telephone. The provider will help you to select an appropriate integration course and let you know when it is scheduled to begin.
Benefit for you
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 on the course, half of the course fee will be refunded to you.
Where else to learn German
Additional to the integration course, there are numerous other course offerings in Germany. Find out more about where you can learn German in the section "Learning German“.
Federal Office for Migration and Refugees