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Subsequent entry of spouses: language skills required before entering the country

How to acquire and prove basic German-language skills

Language skills are an elementary requirement to ensure successful integration.

Foreign nationals who want to move to Germany to be with their spouse must therefore as a general rule be able to prove they have basic German-language skills before they enter the country. The Federal Republic of Germany wishes to ensure that these people can participate in society from the outset. Proof of language skills is not required if either of the married couple is a national of a member state of the EU or the EEA states Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland. If a foreign national moves to Germany to join a German spouse, proof of linguistic ability is not required if the German national has previously taken advantage of his right of freedom of movement within Europe or if the efforts required by the foreign spouse in order to acquire basic German skills whilst abroad are impossible, cannot be reasonably expected or do not prove successful within a period of one year.

What are basic German-language skills?

Can you understand familiar, everyday expressions and very simple sentences and also use these yourself? Can you ask for directions, introduce yourself and others, and ask and answer questions about yourself, for example, where you live? Then as a rule you will have basic German-language skills that correspond with skills level A1 of the "Common European Framework for Languages" defined by the Council of Europe. Don't worry: The person speaking to you must of course speak clearly and be prepared to help you. It is also important, for example, that you can write some basic words in German so that you can fill in your name, address and nationality on forms issued by the authorities.

How can a spouse prove he or she has basic German-language skills?

When you apply for a visa at a German embassy or at a Consulate General to enable you to join your spouse, you can demonstrate at your interview that you have the required German-language skills. As a rule, your application papers must, however, include a certificate showing that you have been successful in one of the following language examinations: "Start Deutsch 1" run by the Goethe-Institut or telc GmbH, "Grundstufe Deutsch 1" forming part of the Austrian Language Diploma (Österreichisches Sprachdiplom (ÖSD), "TestDaF" run by the TestDaF-Institut e.V.
You can find information on how to demonstrate basic German-language skills on the webpages of the Visa Offices of German Embassies and Consulates General. These offices will advise you on your visa application and will make a decision regarding the recognition of your language qualifications.

What are the exceptions?

Exceptions include:

  • Spouses of holders of an EU Blue Card (section 30, subs. 1, sentence 3, number 5 of the Residence Act)
  • If the spouse already living in Germany is employed as a highly qualified worker or researcher and the marriage existed prior to their entry into Germany (section 30, subs. 1, sentence 2, number 1 of the Residence Act),
  • Persons who are unable to learn German due to a physical, mental or psychological disability (section 30, subsection 1, sentence 3, number 2 of the Residence Act).

How can you acquire basic German-language skills?

If you cannot make yourself understood in simple German, you should attend a German course locally if possible. However, Deutsche Welle radio also offers ways of learning German. German courses for beginners and advanced students are available in almost 30 languages on the radio station’s website. These are free of charge. Deutsche Welle has developed "Radio D", an audio language course, in conjunction with the Goethe-Institut. Beginners with no previous knowledge of German can download the course or subscribe to it as a podcast. In addition "Radio D" is broadcast by Deutsche Welle. You can find information about further learning programmes and language courses in the information leaflet entitled Faltblatt zum Ehegattennachzug.

display as hint: The Federal Office will be pleased to help:

More detailed information about the options for learning German can be obtained from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees' telephone hotline on +49 911 943- 6390.

Date 14 June 2013