German Language Skills
Third-country nationals who immigrate to Austria or who want to remain in Austria must prove, under certain circumstances, that they have certain German language skills.
The decisive point is the classification of language proficiency levels in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (“Gemeinsamen Europäischen Referenzrahmen für Sprachen”):
- Level A reflects elementary language skills (basic user).
- Level B reflects independent use of the language (independent user).
- Level C reflects a proficient use of the language (proficient user).
In turn, each level is divided into two sub-levels. This means that there are six levels in total: A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 and C2. German language skills up to a B2 level are relevant for immigration and residence in Austria.
In principle, German certificates must be shown to the Immigration and Residence Authority (“Aufenthaltsbehörde”). As a rule, these certificates confirming a certain mastery of the German language must not be older than one year old. However, there are exceptions, for example if you concluded your studies in German. Please kindly clarify such cases with the Immigration and Residence Authority.
In particular, the Austrian Integration Fund (“Österreichischer Integrationsfonds”) is responsible for issuing such German certificates. You can find information concerning materials, course materials, sample examinations, recognised German language institutesand test dates on the ÖIF website.
German Language Skills Recognized in Austria
Basic Language Ability (A1 and A2)
A1 -- Beginner: The ability to both use and understand familiar everyday expressions
and basic phrases, as well as interact verbally in a simple way.
A2 -- Waystage: The ability to use and understand sentences and expressions related to relevant topics, such as personal and family information, shopping, local geography and employment.
Independent Language Ability (B1 and B2)
B1 -- Intermediate: The ability to understand the main points of a clear discussion or input on familiar matters you’ll likely encounter at work, school, leisure or while traveling.
B2 -- Upper intermediate: The ability to firmly grasp the main ideas of a complex text on topics both concrete and abstract in nature, including specialized discussions in your professional field.
Proficient Language Ability (C1 and C2)
C1 -- Advanced: The ability to express yourself fluently and spontaneously. Flexible and effective language use in social, academic and professional situations.
C2 -- Mastery: The ability to effortlessly understand everything you hear or read as well as deciphering the finer shades of meaning in the German language.
Finding a course
Many universities, as well as numerous public and private institutes, offer German courses. The Austrian Integration Fund (Österreichischer Integrations Fonds, or ÖIF) together with the Austrian Institute (Österreich Institut, or ÖI), offer a great overview of available courses at any level via their online language portal (Sprachportal). Whether you are already in Austria or planning to move, you can filter by local or international institutions. Companies in need of German lessons for their employees can contact Österreich Institut for various offers.
Costs and Subsidies
The cost of a German course can vary widely, from free to several hundred euros, depending on the institute, duration, and proficiency level. That shouldn’t stand in your way, however, as Austria offers several ways to obtain language vouchers and qualify for discounts or even free lessons.
As a part of the Start Coaching program, Vienna provides vouchers (Sprachgutschein) for courses at selected providers. In other Federal States in Austria you can consult theÖIF, and they are often provided by the VHS and AK. Qualifying third-country nationals seeking to obtain a residency permit (and who have existing family ties in Austria) can receive up to €300 (3x €100), while citizens from the EU/EEA and Switzerland can receive up to €150 from ÖIF.
If you are seeking employment or want to increase your chances on the job market, you can apply for financial support from the Austrian Public Employment Service (AMS) or the Vienna Employee Promotion Fund (WAFF) if you live in Vienna. For other subsidies, contact the ÖIF or the Sozial- und Weiterbildungsfond (SWF).
Free Lessons and Materials
Across Austria, women can attend women-only courses where they learn how to read and write in German. The courses are free of charge and even include child care. Furthermore, the EU-backed project Deutsch.info offers free online German courses for levels A1, A2, and B1 in 13 languages. ÖIF’s Sprachportal also offers a variety of free online exercises, as well as recommended books for adults and children.
German before immigrating / German before moving to Austria
- Third-country nationals who apply for a Red-White-Red – Card Plus (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte Plus”) as a family member if the skilled employee in the family has a Red-White-Red – Card (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte”) (exception: Red-White-Red – Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Besonders Hochqualifizierte”).
- Third-country nationals who apply for the Residence Permit – Family Member (“Aufenthaltstitel Familienangehöriger”).
- Third-country nationals who apply for a settlement permit (“Niederlassungsbewilligung”), a Settlement Permit – Relative (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Angehöriger”), a Settlement Permit – Artist (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Künstler), a Settlement Permit – Special Cases of Gainful Employment (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Sonderfälle unselbstständiger Erwerbstätigkeit“) or a Settlement Permit –Employment Excepted (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit“).
You do not have to show an A1 German Certificate before immigrating to Austria if you apply for one of the following residence permits:
- Red-White-Red – Card (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte”)
- EU Blue Card (“Blaue Karte EU”)
- Settlement Permit – Researcher (“Niederlassungsbewilligung Forscher”)
- A Red-White-Red – Card Plus as a family member of a skilled worker, if the skilled worker in your family holds one of the following residence permits:
- Red-White-Red – Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers
- EU Blue Card
- Settlement Permit – Researcher
- Red-White-Red – Card Plus if the skilled worker had a Red-White-Red – Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers, an EU Blue Card or a Settlement Permit – Researcher beforehand
- Long-Term Resident EU permit (“Daueraufenthalt EU”), if the skilled worker had a Red-White-Red – Card for Very Highly Qualified Workers, an EU Blue Card or a Settlement Permit – Researcher in the past
If you completed your studies at a recognised university, you do not need a German certificate either. Instead, you need to show your university diploma to the authorities. Verifications may be necessary depending upon the country which issued your diploma. It does not matter which studies were completed and in which language. The only important thing is that the university is recognised and that the diploma document is verified and translated by a court-certified translator into German or English. This diploma is considered to be a substitute for both an A1 German certificate as well as for the A2 Integration Certificate (“Integrations-Zertifikat A2”).
Did you obtain your school-leaving examination / high school diploma(“Matura”) or complete studies at a university in Austria? In these cases, you do not need to show a German certificate either.
EU/EEA and Swiss nationals and their family members (wife/husband, civil partner, children) do not have to present a German certificate at any time, because they are privileged on the basis of EU law.
In principle, only German certificates from the following institutions are accepted: Austrian Integration Fund (ÖIF), ÖSD, TELC and Goethe-Institut.
The Indian national Deepika Singh wants to immigrate to Austria with her husband and her 14-year-old daughter. She applies for a Red-White-Red – Card for Other Key Workers (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Sonstige Schlüsselkräfte”). For this reason, she does not have to present a German language certificate before immigrating to Austria. In theory, her husband must show an A1 German Certificate. However, because he concluded his Bachelor studies in mathematics in New Delhi several years ago, he can show his university diploma instead of an A1 German Certificate. As his diploma was issued in India, he needs an apostille (legalisation of foreign documents) as well as a certified translation of his award certificate. Deepika Singh's daughter is 14 years old. That is why she is the only member of the family who has to show an A1 German certificate before immigrating to Austria
The Canadian national Wesley Adams wants to immigrate to Austria with his civil partner. He applies for a Blue Card. Both he and his partner do not have to present an A1 German certificate in order to immigrate to Austria.
The Integration Agreement
Integration exams have two parts: a German language part and an integration or values part. This is the reason why it is not enough to present a simple German certificate. The Integration Exams are prescribed in the Integration Agreement (“Integrationsvereinbarung”). The Integration Agreement has two modules: Module 1 and Module 2. In order to fulfil Module 1, you must take the A2 Integration Exam. To fulfil Module 2, you must take the B1 Integration Exam. The result is an ÖIF Integration Certificate (“Integrations-Zertifikat”), which is valid for two years.
Who has to show which German Certificate or Integration Certificate, and when? The following overview presents the most important cases when you extend residence permits:
You have to present an ÖIF A2 Integration Certificate when you want to extend your residence permit and you have had one of the following residence permits for at least 2 years:
- EU Blue Card
- Red-White-Red – Card Plus
- Residence Permit - Family Member (“Aufenthaltstitel Familienangehöriger“)
- Settlement permits (Settlement Permit – Gainful Employment Excepted (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – ausgenommen Erwerbstätigkeit“), Settlement Permit – Family Member (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Angehöriger“), Settlement Permit – Artist (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Künstler“), Settlement Permit –Special Cases of Gainful Employment (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Sonderfälle unselbstständiger Erwerbstätigkeit“), Settlement Permit –Researcher (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Forscher“)
In any case, you do NOT have to present an A2 Integration Certificate (“Integrations-Zertifikat A2”)when extending your residence permit if you:
- previously held a Red-White-Red – Card and, after a period of two years, apply for a Red-White-Red – Card Plus
- concluded studies at a recognised university abroad. Instead of an A2 Integration Certificate, you must present a university diploma (with verification and/or translation by a court-certified translator) to the Immigration and Residence Authority.
- are engaged as an artist with a Settlement Permit - Artist (“Niederlassungsbewilligung – Künstler), in an artistic activity in one of the artistic fields named in Section2 Para 1 (1) Arts Promotion Act
- already presented an A2 or B1 Integration Certificate when applying for previous residence permits.
- already have a B1 Integration Certificate.
- concluded studies in Austria.
- obtained the Austrian school-leaving certificate (“Matura”) in Austria or have the Austrian general university entrance qualification (“österreichische allgemeine Universitätsreife”).
- submit an application on behalf of a child who is under the age of 14.
- submit an application for a child who is 14 years old or older but is attending a school in Austria and had a positive grade in German in his or her last school report.
The Indian national Deepika Singh immigrated to Austria with her husband and her 14-year-old daughter. She has a Red-White-Red – Card for Other Key Workers (“Rot-Weiß-Rot – Karte für Sonstige Schlüsselkräfte”) which is valid for two years. Her husband and her daughter both have a Red-White-Red – Card Plus which is valid for one year. After one year, both her husband and daughter extend their residence permit. They do not have to show an A1 German Certificate because they already fulfilled this requirement before immigrating to Austria. After the family has stayed in Austria for two years, they all apply for the Red-White-Red – Card Plus. This permit is valid for three years. None of the family members has to present an A2 Integration Certificate because Deepika Singh has a Red-White-Red – Card, because her daughter attends a school in Austria and had a positive grade in German in her last school report, and because her husband already presented his university diploma when they immigrated to Austria for the first time.
The Canadian national Wesley Adams immigrated to Austria with his civil partner. He has a Blue Card, and his partner has a Red-White-Red – Card Plus. After two years, they both apply for a Red-White-Red – Card Plus which is then valid for three years. For this purpose, they must show an A2 Integration Certificate. But Wesley Adams has completed his studies in electrical engineering and presents his university diploma. His partner has not completed any university studies and does the A2 Integration Exam. When he applies for an extension of his Red-White-Red – Card Plus, he shows his A2 Integration Certificate.
If you apply for a Long-Term Resident EU permit (“Daueraufenthalt EU”), you have to present the ÖIF B1 Integration Certificate when you extend your residence permit. A university diploma is not considered as a substitute for a B1 Integration Certificate. However, children who are 14 years old or older can show their school report as a substitute for this certificate if they have a positive mark in German.
Deepika Singh, an Indian citizen, immigrated to Austria five years ago with her husband and her two children. As a researcher, she had the Settlement Permit – Researcher for two years and then had the Red-White-Red – Card Plus for three years. Her husband and her two children had the Red-White-Red – Card Plus for five years. Now the entire family applies for the Long-Term Resident EU permit. For this purpose, Deepika Singh and her husband both do the B1 Integration Exam. Both children go to school in Austria and have positive grades in German. That is why they do not have to show an Integration Certificate.
- Section 21a Austrian Settlement and Residence Act (“Niederlassungs- und Aufenthaltsgesetz” - NAG)
- Integration Agreement Decree (“Integrationsvereinbarung-Verdordnung” - IV-V 2017)
- Section 64 Universities Act (“Universitätsgesetz” - UG 2002)
- Sections 41, 43a NAG
- Section 2 Art Promotion Act (“Kunstförderungsgesetz”)