Integration Courses

Germany expects that expats integrate into Germany. Period. Integration simply means that you know the German way of life. Below you will  find out if you must or can visit a state subsidized course. You will also learn more of what expected from you.


 I have heard a lot of rumors of Germany wanting to assimilate foreigners to “real Germans”. What is meant by this? I don’t want to be transmogrified!

No reason to worry! You have heard about “deutsche Leitkultur (dominant German culture)”. It is all about having Non-Germans become a real part of Germany if they wish to permanently reside here. The German government has recognized (that especially for demographic reasons) the German economy needs foreigners. In the 1950s and 1960s Germany invited guest workers to fill the many either unskilled or semi-skilled jobs. They occupied the lower strata of the employment market. Everybody expected that these persons would only stay as long as they were needed. During the past 40 years, it has become a reality that people of different origins and cultures are an everyday feature. Germany is once again trying to attract foreign laborers but expectations and conditions have diametrically changed. Nobody wants to transmogrify you. The government only wants you to learn a bit more about Germany so that you will have an easier life here. If you only wish to stay temporarily, then you can skip this section.

What’s the general idea of this integration?

It is both a demanding and promoting! So far you have only been obligated to take German lessons to achieve a basic command of the language. Now, much more is being demanded (§44 AufenthG). You now have to have

  • © moonrun – fotaliasufficient command of German:
    This will enable you to be able to correctly say “Merharbar!”
  • knowledge of Germany’s legal order:
    This will enable you to learn how Germans (try to) cheat the Finanzamt and not get caught.
  • knowledge of Germany’s culture:
    This will enable you to find out that a Berliner is not always a Berliner, but sometimes a Pfannkuchen.
  • knowledge of Germany’s history:
    This will enable you to know that Germans were never germs, but in older days a barbaric tribe, and that they are now a major nationality in Europe.
Aha. How do I obtain this knowledge?

You will have to visit courses, which will be held in your vicinity in either public schools (Volkshochschulen, adult education schools) or private institutions (language schools offering German as a foreign language). Depending on your current command of German, you might have to visit basic and/or advanced courses for up to 300 hours. In addition to the language course, there is also the orientation course, which lasts for 30 hours of lessons. The Federal Office for Migrants and Refugees published a list of accredited schools on its homepage ( The certificate you will receive from that school shall be presented to the foreigners offfice while applying for a settlement permission.

How much will these courses cost me?

It depends. You will be required to pay everything if you book these courses yourself or if the foreigners office obligates you to pay. Normally, you will only have to pay € 1 per hour of class – meaning € 360 for this course. Your cost contribution is due at the beginning of each course (100 hours). If you wish to repeat individual parts of the integration course, then will you have to pay the entire costs of € 2.05 per course hour.

How much German is sufficient? Must I have a PhD in German?

No, a PhD in German is not necessary. However, in that case you would not have to visit a language course at all but rather just the orientation course and the final test. To enable better chances in the labor market, you are expected to show the level B1 on the first step of independently learning a language on the scale of the Common European Reference Scope for Languages.

Who is entitled to visit an integration course?

You are entitled if you are here for permanent residence. The law understands permanent residence in this case if you

  1. have received a residence permit for (self-)employment the first time,
  2. have received a residence permit for following a family member as a dependent,
  3. have received a residence permit for more than one year,
  4. are here on a residence permit for more than 18 months.
Is it a “must” that I am to visit these integration courses?

The law generally speaks of “being entitled”, but eventually you are obligated to pass an integration course. §9 II Nr. 7, and 8 AufenthG requires of a settlement permit that you have adequate knowledge of the German language, basic knowledge of the legal and social system and the way of life in Germany. You will have to prove this! The law typically experts this by means of an integration course. Few persons must visit these courses. The most common reason for such a visit is that parents of minors cannot speak even in simple German. The law deems that you fulfill these prerequisites if you have successfully passed an integration course (§9 II 2 AufenthG). Of course, there are exceptions for persons, who grew up and were in enrolled in Germany’s school system. These persons will never have to pass an integration course.

Come on! Are there really no exceptions? I am not at all planning to remain here for the rest of my life.

Sure there are exceptions (§44a AufenthG). If your stay is only temporary, then you will be exempt. You will have to prove this with a temporary work contract, granted support for only a certain amount of time, etc. The law especially exempts such persons from integration courses who

  • are undergoing vocational training or any other form of training or education with a temporary intention,
  • furnish evidence of attendance of comparable education measures in Germany,
  • do not need it because it would be unreasonable.
Aha. I, hated school since childhood and have found a way around these courses. There is this exception for “unreasonableness”. When are these courses unreasonable for me?

Long-term participation is impossible or cannot be expected from you if, in the long term, there will be no course that is tailored to your specific needs. This applies particularly to cases where relatives need to be cared for, or if childcare is inadequate, or if participation would present an unreasonable time constraint.

Now, don’t tell me that my toddler will have to learn how Germans cheat and not get caught. Do youngsters have to visit integration courses? My friend has a close German relative and already speaks German. What about him?

Your child is not to learn how to cheat but to behave! The entitlement to visit integration courses does not apply for

  1. children,
  2. young adults in school education or continuing previous school education in Germany,
  3. those where the need for integration is discernibly minimal.
As I was in my local foreigners office to renew my permit, the officer ordered me to visit an integration course. Can this be?

Yes,that can be. You seem to have been reluctant to really learn German in the previous time of your residence. Consider this as a well-intended warning. In the case you are still reluctant to learn German – even though you could learn it then do not expect to be allowed to remain here on the basis of a settlement permit.

Having studied German back home and fluently speaking German, is this also relevant for me?

No, German and integration lessons will not be required in your special case! However, you will have to hand in your diploma.

Is there any certain time when I have to visit these courses? I am not sure if I will be staying here indefinitely or temporarily.

If you want to participate in the subsidized public classes, you will need to do it within the first two years of having your residence permit. Otherwise, you will have to pay them yourself. However, if there are any available places, you should be able to book such a course.

What will happen if I register for the courses and skip the courses? Knowing that Germany has a keen eye on data protection, I suppose the foreigners office will not find about it.

Don’t worry, you will not be imprisoned. But this will be considered when applying for a settlement permit or if you are dependent on welfare. It is very likely that your residency permit will not be renewed if you do not have good reasons for not having participated in the immigration courses. You do not have to come up with a new idea of still having a work permit which will allow to you reside in Germany. That does not work. No work permit – no residence permit. Remember, Germany is earnestly expecting you to integrate or get lost! The foreigners authority will be informed on you having skipped classes (§44a III AufenthG).

And so the school tells tales that I skipped classes. What are the authorities going to do about this? Will they arrest me and drag me to class?

No way are they going to drag you to class! But, when your permit expires it might not be renewed and you might be ordered to leave. And the next time you apply for residency, you can reckon that the authorities will not want to grant you residency in Germany because you are not willing to integrate. Not willing to integrate implies that you might be or might become a problem for Germany.

Oh, come on. It was not my fault that I did not visit integration classes. As the class started, I was bed-sick. And after recovering, the class had achieved so much progress that I could not follow. It would have been a waste of time. Can I not excuse myself?

Sure you can excuse yourself. However, be sure to obtain a doctor’s report for the foreigners office showing that you were bed-sick. It would be very helpful if the teacher would state that you were not able to follow lessons anymore upon your return because the class had progressed so much in the mean time. Now, do not come up with the idea that you are now exempt from integration classes. That would be absolutely wrong. You will have to take the next class.

I was living here prior to 2005. Do I have to book these integration courses?

You may if you want, but you do not have to. However, if you only have a poor command of German, the foreigners authority might obligate you to visit such courses.



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