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Integration course, language and orientation course

    Integration courses in Germany

    Integration courses in Germany
    (© Thomas Lohnes/ ddp)

    If you come to Germany as a migrant, you can familiarise yourself with the German language and culture, legal system and values system as part of integration courses.

    Integration courses

    Language is key to successful integration. The aim of the integration course is to be able to manage in everyday life and thus get closer to German society. The course comprises 645 classes. 600 of which are language classes and 45 are classes relating to politics, democracy, history, society, culture and similar topics (»orientation course«).

    You may have to share in the costs for this by paying 1 Euro per hour. Recipients of the Arbeitslosengeld II unemployment benefits are exempt from this.

    The integration courses are governed by the ordinance on integration courses. Please read these if you are unsure whether you have to complete an integration course.

    Can you or must you take an integration course?

    The migration act stipulates various ways of accessing integration courses. This depends on when you obtained your residence status, whether you are an ethnic German resettler or EU citizen, or whether you have a different status under the German Immigration Act.

    Regardless of which group you belong to, you must first obtain a permit before you can participate in an integration course.

    You obtained your residence status prior to 2005

    If there are still places available, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees can admit you into an integration course. This requires you to lodge an application with the office’s regional centre.

    Who bears the costs for your integration course?

    One lesson costs EUR 2.35 per participant. The participants pay EUR 1.00 towards each lesson, and the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees bears the remaining EUR 1.35. The participants’ own contribution for a block of 645 lessons totals EUR 645.00. Participants may be exempted from making their contribution if they can demonstrate particular hardship with regards to paying the costs. An income check is performed for this.

    In some cases, you may also be obliged to participate (e.g. if an authority requests your participation): Foreigners may be obliged to participate if they receive the Arbeitslosengeld II unemployment benefits and this obligation is stipulated in the integration agreement.

    Recipients of Arbeitslosengeld II (long-term, lower level welfare benefits) and social welfare payments are exempted from the contribution upon request.

    Eligible persons who receive Arbeitslosengeld II and who are obliged by a basic social welfare provider to participate in an integration course or who have been exempted from the cost contribution are reimbursed the necessary travel expenses for ordinary participation. Participants not receiving any Arbeitslosengeld II, and who have been ordered to participate in a course by the Bureau for Foreigners, receive a travel expense allowance.

    You obtained your residence status after 2005

    If you received a permanent residence or settlement permit for the first time after this date, you are entitled to participate in an integration course. This entitlement does not apply for children, teenagers or young adults completing their schooling in Germany, for those people not requiring a high level of integration, or if you already speak adequate German (though you can still undertake an orientation course).

    You are obliged to attend a course if you cannot communicate sufficiently in German, or receive the Arbeitslosengeld II unemployment benefits and are asked to attend by the relevant support authority.

    The entire course costs you EUR 645, i.e. EUR 1 per hour. Recipients of Arbeitslosengeld II (long-term, lower level welfare benefits) and social welfare payments are exempted from the contribution upon request. Other participants may be exempt from paying this fee if they can demonstrate particular hardship, in which case an income assessment will be conducted.

    Entitled participants who receive the Arbeitslosengeld II and are obliged by a social welfare provider to attend the integration course or who have been exempt from paying the fee are reimbursed the necessary transport costs if they duly attend the course. Participants not receiving any Arbeitslosengeld II, and who have been ordered to participate in a course by the Bureau for Foreigners, receive a travel expense allowance.

    The information system run by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides details on where courses can be taken.

    Ethnic German resettlers

    You are entitled to participate in an integration course if you either returned to Germany after 1 January 2005, or returned to Germany beforehand but have not yet completed a language course sponsored by the Federal Employment Agency. Even if you have completed a language course run by the Federal Employment Agency, you can be admitted into the integration course if places are still available (§ 44 Paragraph 4 Clause 2 of  the German Residency Act).

    The course is free of charge for you, your spouse and your children.

    EU citizens

    The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees can admit you into a course if there are still places available. This requires you to lodge an application with the office’s regional centre.

    The entire course costs you EUR 645, i.e. EUR 1 per hour. The information system run by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides details on where courses can be taken.

    German citizens

    If you do not speak adequate German, or particularly require integration, you can participate in a course if there are still places available. This requires you to lodge an application with the office’s regional centre.

    The entire course costs you EUR 645, i.e. EUR 1 per hour. The information system run by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides details on where courses can be taken.

    Foreigners with long-time exceptional leave to remain

    § 104 a of the German Residency Act states the conditions under which foreigners with long-time exceptional leave to remain can obtain a residence permit enabling them to complete an integration course. If they hold a residence permit in accordance with § 104 a Paragraph 1 of the German Residency Act or § 23 Paragraph 1 of the German Residency Act, foreigners can apply to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees to request admission to an integration course. Once approved, they can register for a course through a course provider.

    Foreigners with long-time exceptional leave to remain may be obliged to participate in a course if they receive Arbeitslosengeld II (long-term, lower level welfare benefits), and an obligation is stipulated in the integration agreement.

    The entire course costs you EUR 645, i.e. EUR 1 per hour.

    Recipients of Arbeitslosengeld II (long-term, lower level welfare benefits) and social welfare payments are exempted from the contribution upon request. Other participants may be exempt from paying this fee if they can demonstrate particular hardship, in which case an income assessment will be conducted.

    Entitled participants who receive the Arbeitslosengeld II and are obliged to attend the integration course or who have been exempt from paying the fee by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees are reimbursed the necessary transport costs if they duly attend the course. Participants not receiving the Arbeitslosengeld II, and who have been forced by a foreigners’ affairs authority to attend an integration course, can receive an allowance for transportation costs.

    The information system run by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides details on where courses can be taken.

    Foreigners from third-party countries entitled to long-term residency

    If you can prove you have stayed in another EU member state for more than five years, the Bureau for Foreigners recognises your entitlement to participate in a course. You will then be entitled to participate.

    You are obliged to participate if you speak little or no German, or receive Arbeitslosengeld II (long-term, lower level welfare benefits) and the competent centre requires you to take a course. If you hold a residence permit according to § 38a of the German Residency Act (i.e. your residence permit can be transferred from another EU country) and you have already undertaken integration activities in another EU country, you only need to attend the language course, not the orientation course.

    The entire course costs you EUR 645, i.e. EUR 1 per hour (or EUR 600 if you don’t participate in the orientation course).

    Recipients of Arbeitslosengeld II (long-term, lower level welfare benefits) and social welfare payments are exempted from the contribution upon request. Other participants may be exempt from paying this fee if they can demonstrate particular hardship, in which case an income assessment will be conducted.

    Entitled participants who receive the Arbeitslosengeld II and are obliged to attend the integration course or who have been exempt from paying the fee are reimbursed the necessary transport costs if they duly attend the course. Participants not receiving the Arbeitslosengeld II, and who have been forced by a foreigners’ affairs authority to attend an integration course, can receive an allowance for transportation costs.

    The information system run by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides details on where courses can be taken.

    Federal Office for Migration and Refugees: Saxony office

    The 22 branch offices of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees are also responsible for processing applications for integration courses. The Saxony office is located in Chemnitz:

    Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge / Federal Office for Migration and Refugees
    Außenstelle Chemnitz / Chemnitz Office
    Adalbert-Stifter-Weg 25
    09131 Chemnitz

    Phone: 0371 4901-0
    Fax:  0371 4901-199
    Email: M11Posteingang@bamf.bund.de

    Integration courses as preparation for the naturalisation test

    The integration courses can also be used as preparation if you are due to take the naturalisation test and require proof of sufficient German knowledge for this. The 45-lesson orientation course covers lots of topics which are part of the naturalisation test. However, there are also special naturalisation courses which prepare extensively and systematically for the naturalisation test based on a framework curriculum.

    Other language courses

    Apart from the legal integration courses, there are also many other options for learning German.

    The Goethe Institute is the largest and most important establishment teaching German. It not only provides courses tailored to your needs; it also familiarises students with Germany’s culture through events and group activities.

    Many other language institutes and schools in Saxony, including the regional adult education centres, run certified German courses and examinations.

    TIP: When choosing a language institute, make sure it is licensed by telc GmbH. telc GmbH is the testing centre for adult education establishments. Its language certificates are directly based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

    Release note

    Saxon State Ministry of the Interior, Saxon State Ministry for Social Affairs and Consumer Protection. 20/12/2012