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IMMIGRATION

Austria: Just how good does your German have to be to gain residency and citizenship?

A good knowledge of German is a pre-requisite for residency and citizenship - but how good does it have to be?

Austria: Just how good does your German have to be to gain residency and citizenship?
Photo: DPA

Austria is a German-speaking country. This means if you want to live in Austria on a long-term basis you will need a decent grasp of the language.

Almost any international resident in Austria will tell you that many people speak English, especially in places like Vienna. But to fully integrate into Austrian culture, German language skills are needed.

And for people that want to apply for permanent residency or citizenship in Austria, it’s a mandatory part of the process. 

How good does my German have to be?

The 2011 Integration Agreement promotes the linguistic integration of international residents that want to live in Austria on a long-term basis. It applies to third country nationals (e.g. non-EU citizens). 

When people first move to Austria with a residency permit they sign the Agreement with the Österreich Integration Fonds to commit to learning Level A2 German within two years. The aim is to ensure new residents in Austria can integrate and a big part of that is being able to communicate.

Module 1 of the Integration Agreement includes the Fit for Austria test (A1), which covers basic understanding and speaking in German. This is followed by the ÖIF test (A2).

Module 2 is non-compulsory and includes the German test for Austria (A2 / B1) and B2 ÖIF test. 

Even if you work in English, or another language, it’s still important to become proficient in German. Especially if you plan to make a permanent home in Austria.

Learning German – how good does it have to be to become Austrian? Photo: DPA

What German language level is needed for permanent residency in Austria?

You can apply for permanent residency (Aufenthaltstitel Daueraufenthalt) in Austria after living in the country for five years. As part of the application process, you need German language skills at Level B1.

Level B1 is part of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) of which there are six levels (A1 to C2).

B1 is a step above basic understanding and speaking (A2). It means you are an independent user of the German language and can understand the main points in conversations and in texts.

According to the Goethe-Institut, Level B1 German also means you can express yourself simply about certain topics, and describe hopes and ambitions. It’s not a fluent level of language, but it’s deemed suitable to be able to live and work in Austria on a permanent basis.

The B1 German exam is split into four parts and involves reading (Lesen), listening (Hören), writing (Schreiben) and speaking (Sprechen) tests.

What German language level is needed for citizenship in Austria?

For permanent residents in Austria looking to become a citizen, there are a few prerequisites. 

First, non-EU citizens must have lived in Austria for ten years with five of those as a permanent resident. EU citizens can apply for citizenship after six years of permanent residence. Plus, applicants will have to revoke their original citizenship.

Citizenship also requires Level B1 German. You can show proof of this if you have attended school or university in Austria.

Alternatively, you can take the Integration Test, which includes a Level B1 German exam and a test about in-depth knowledge of Austrian values.

But if you have Level B2 German, or higher, you can bypass the Integration Test. As long as you have a B2 certificate from a recognised language school to prove your language skills.

What is the difference between B1 and B2 German?

B2 German is considered an advanced level of language capability. It means you can understand the main parts of complex texts and have technical discussions in your area of expertise.

At Level B2 you can have conversations with native speakers almost fluently and express your opinion on current affairs. It’s a much more accomplished level of language skills, which is important for people that are becoming a citizen of a German-speaking country.

For more information

There is plenty of help available for people living in Austria that want to improve their German for permanent residency or citizenship applications.

For more information, visit the links below:

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For members

AUSTRIAN CITIZENSHIP

QUIZ: Would you pass the Austrian citizenship politics and history test?

In most cases, people applying for Austrian citizenship through the naturalisation process must pass a general social, political and history test. Would you pass?

QUIZ: Would you pass the Austrian citizenship politics and history test?

Austria is seeing a rising number of naturalisation processes, and many non-Austrians in the country are looking to apply for Austrian citizenship, as The Local reported.

There are many requirements for naturalisation, including living in Austria for a certain period of time (depending on other criteria), proving your German knowledge and passing a general “Citizenship Test”, including questions on a fundamental understanding of how Austria works and its history.

READ ALSO: MA35: Vienna’s immigration office under fire as waiting times increase

What is the citizenship test?

The Austrian citizenship test is an exam designed to demonstrate an applicant’s knowledge of Austria. It was introduced in 2006.

It covers the democratic system, the national history and regional facts about where an applicant lives.

A central committee prepares the questions on Austria’s democratic system and history, and the respective provincial governments design the regional questions.

If a person fails the test, they can retake it until they pass.

Who needs to take the test?

Not everyone applying for citizenship needs to take the test, though. For example, children who are younger than 14 years of age – or those who are underage and attending a secondary school with completion of German in the last school semester, won’t need to take the citizenship test.

Pupils who achieve certain grades in history at school are also exempt.

READ ALSO: How do people prepare for Austria’s citizenship test?

What is the test like?

The test, which is in German, lasts for 120 minutes and you have to answer 18 questions in total. These include six questions on democracy in Austria, six on the history of Austria and six on the history of the respective federal province where you are taking the exam.

Four answer options are offered for each question, at least one of which is correct, but not all.

The citizenship examination is considered passed if, in each examination area, at least half of the points provided have been achieved, or a total of at least 12 points has been achieved (two-thirds of the possible number of points), according to Einbürgerung.at.

READ ALSO: How foreigners can get fast-track citizenship in Austria

So, for example, if you get three questions right on each part of the test, for a total of nine correct answers, you pass. Alternatively, if you get 12 correct answers in the 18 questions, even if you got zero points in one area but aced the other two, you also pass.

Would you pass?

The questions are in German, but we have translated them here so more people can try them out. Also unlike the actual examination, there is no time limit to answer the exam. These are sample questions from the official training website for the national test.

Since there are nine different states with their specific tests, we now have brought only parts one and two of the exam, so samples of the democracy and history of Austria.

READ ALSO: Austrian citizenship: Do you really have to renounce your original nationality?

Now it’s time to test you knowledge:

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