Written by Florian Kastl
Everybody is talking about immigration, refugees, whether they are allowed to stay or even who is allowed and who not. But what’s next? What happens if somebody comes to Germany and gets his permission to stay? Besides the urge of a flat and work, there is one crucial aspect: Learning the language and getting integrated into German society. Because both is not easy in many cases, there is the opportunity and, sometimes, even the obligatory to attend an Integrationskurs – an integration course.
Who has to attend an Integrationskurs?
First of all, not everybody who is coming to Germany and is planning to stay is obligated to attend such a course. It would not even be possible because there aren’t even enough courses for those who need one. There is a difference between the obligatory and the optional courses. As soon as somebody gets his or her Aufenthaltsgestattung, the permission for staying in the country, he or she can apply for a course until three months after receipt.
But as said before, sometimes you have to take a course. This is the case if the Ausländerbehörde (the bureau for foreigners) has the opinion that you are particularly needy to get integrated into German society, for example, if you won’t find a job. This is also the case if you will receive social welfare of a particular kind or, for instance, your kids have problems at school that could be put down to you or your behavior.
What does an Integrationskurs include?
No matter if somebody is obligated or not, the Integrationskurs contains two different parts: Learning the language and learning about the culture of Germany. Both is, of course, very tightly linked and especially the language course ought to teach you about the cultural circumstances of your new home country. The language course consists of 600 hours of lessons, separated into basic and advanced courses. The focus of this courses lies especially on coming around in your everyday life as a new citizen of Germany. Consequently, you will not only learn how to deal with your neighbors or the people at the bakery but also how to understand German bureaucracy. The goal is “intercultural competence” and you can achieve it through ongoing analysis of the differences between Germany and the according culture of origin. At the end of this language course, you will have to pass the Deutsch-Test für Zuwanderer (German test for foreigners).
What happens afterwards?
After 600 hours of learning the German language, the second part – the Orientierungskurs (orientation course) – contains just 60 hours. It is designed to teach the participants about German culture, history, law and matters of dealing with your fellow citizens. Also, this course ends with a test.
The classes are not held by public governmental agencies, but by social institutions. They get a certain amount of their money by the German state, but also the participant of the course has to pay one-half of the costs. Because the payment for the social institutions depends on the number of participants, there have also been cases of fraud where the participants could only speak unsatisfactory German.
But after all, integration courses are a superb opportunity for new citizens to become a part of this country by learning not only its language but also its very own culture.