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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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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

It’s always good to know your legal rights when living as a foreigner in Austria - including if you get in trouble with the police.

What happens if you get arrested in Austria?

Getting arrested is probably not high up on a list of must-dos for international residents in Austria, but it’s not a bad idea to know what would happen if you did.

In a nutshell, the process in Austria is similar to most other countries in that you have to be suspected of committing a crime to be arrested.

But what happens next? What are your rights? And how long can someone be held in custody?

Here’s what you need to know.

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When can someone be arrested in Austria?

If someone is suspected of being a criminal, they can be arrested by the police and taken to a police station for questioning. 

Under the Austrian Code of Criminal Procedure, suspects must be informed of their rights as soon as possible, or at the very least before being interrogated by the police.

They also have a right to remain silent or to make a statement, as well as consult a lawyer.

According to Vienna-based attorney Evert Vastenburg, the initial detainment after arrest can last up to 48 hours while a judge decides whether a person should remain in custody or not.

A suspect can then be released on bail or under certain conditions, such as handing over a passport to police.

However, those suspected of serious crimes that typically lead to a prison sentence of 10 years or more (if found guilty) are almost always remanded in custody.

READ MORE: Austria wary of cyber attacks after personal data of foreign residents leaked online

When is someone remanded in custody?

To be refused bail and remanded in custody, there must be serious suspicion that another crime could be committed. 

The judge also must believe there is no other way to deal with the suspect. For example, he/she needs to be readily available to the authorities for questioning.

Another valid reason to keep someone in custody past the initial 48 hours is the risk of someone absconding. In fact, Vastenburg says a flight risk is often assumed with people that do not live and work in Austria.

Other reasons to deny a suspect release are a risk that evidence will be destroyed, witnesses will be contacted, or there is a possibility that further crimes will be committed.

What happens if bail is denied?

If bail is denied and a person must be held in custody for more than 48 hours, they have to be legally represented by a lawyer.

If a suspect can’t afford to hire a lawyer, they will be appointed a Verfahrenshilfe (public defender) by the state.

The case will be then reviewed by a judge on a regular basis to decide if custody should continue.

The first review will take place after 14 days, then at one month and every two months, but a suspect can petition for release at any time.

READ ALSO: Six tourist scams to be aware of in Austria

How many foreigners are in Austrian prisons?

According to data from the Austrian Judiciary, the number of foreigners in Austrian jails as of June 1st 2022 was 4,332 – almost 50 percent of all prisoners.

In relation to the statistics, the Austrian Judiciary states: “The high proportion of foreigners is one of many challenges for the Austrian penal system. 

“In particular, with regard to successful rehabilitation, the fastest possible transfer to the countries of origin is encouraged.

The most common nationality of foreign prisoners in Austria is Romanian, followed by people from the former Yugoslavian states, Hungary, Nigeria and Turkey.

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