Immigration Hurdle: EU Questions Germany's Language Tests

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DPA

Germany may be violating EU law with language tests for certain immigrants, and the European Commission is looking into the matter. German politicians say the test isn't that hard.

Non-European foreigners who wish to join their spouses in Germany are required to pass a language test first. But according to the European Commission, this is unfair.

The Commission is looking into whether the language proficiency tests violate European Union law, it confirmed to German news agency DPA on Wednesday. The blanket requirement does not adequately take individual circumstances into account, the Commission said.

Berlin must now respond to a letter sent in late May by the Commission to defend its position on the matter.

On the German government's website, a page devoted to immigration law describes the language tests taken before entering the country that require "basic German-language knowledge, in particular to help incoming women with integration in Germany."

"Language knowledge at the lowest level is required, such as answers to questions like, 'Do you have a high school diploma?' and 'Do you currently work?'," it adds.

There are, however, exceptions for individuals with "less need for integration," such as those with university education, approved refugees, EU citizens or the spouses of those from countries that have a visa-free travel agreement with Germany.

Berlin sees no problem with the language tests. "The federal government will maintain its established legal position in its statement to the European Commission," the government wrote in response to a parliamentary inquiry filed by the far-left Left Party on July 5, which was cited by DPA.

Jörg-Uwe Hahn, the integration minister for the German state of Hesse, criticized the Commission procedure, saying in a statement it was "totally wrong and counterproductive" for integration policy. "The most basic level of communication with a few words of German is not too much to demand for immigrating to Germany. It's not patronizing, but instead promotes integration."

If Germany and the European Commission don't reach an agreement by the end of the multi-step inquiry into the matter, Germany faces fines and a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice.

kla -- with wires

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1. language tests and integration
sabine_atwell 08/01/2013
People do not integrate into a foreign society by taking language tests. They integrate by working and therefore being in touch with others in their host /new society. We have millions in the US at various stages of language proficiency in English, but most immigrants realize very fast that without English there is not much they can do. Too much " Vaterstaat" once again.
2. Sabine...
ninjapirate 08/01/2013
The United States is 300+ million people(I am one of them) where most speak the lingua franca of the world... there is absolutely no chance of any other language displacing English's position. Now, here's the problem with your attitude... what you are saying may be fine for Germany, but for smaller countries it is dangerous... people such as yourself with such blaise attitudes to outsiders is why peoples, languages, and cultures will die out to a mush of globishness. I am American, I don't want the whole world to be American. Again, Germany is not really in danger, but there are plenty of smaller countries that are in danger.
3. Language and Integration
bill.babbitt.jr 08/01/2013
A person cannot be a productive member of a community or country if they don't understand the language of that community or country. Integration means just that. You can't expect an immigrant's new community to go out of its way to learn the immigrant's language.
4. language tests and integration
spon-facebook-1650338631 08/01/2013
@ sabine_atwell And how exactly are they going to get a job at which they can "work" toward integration, or indeed, how can they be "in touch" with others in their host/new society, without at least some basic understanding of the host/new society's language. We resolve the problem in the US by offering classes in alternative languages - a enormous cost to the taxpayer. But that doesn't resolve the problem. Until they can communicate, those immigrants who have no English here will always remain separate. Genauso wie Einwanderer in Deutschland werden immer Ausländer bleiben, es sei den sie Deutsch lernen... It's not a bad requirement. It helps assimilation. We ought to institute it ourselves
5. I am currently going through Germany's Orientierungskurs
tmuntan1 08/01/2013
I (a US Citizen) recently moved to Germany with my German wife. In order to stay, I needed to achieve A1 Deutsch. After I got my certificate, I was then forced into a 660 Orientierungskurs to get B1 Deutsch so that I could pass another test. I like the idea of learning the language to better integrate with society, however, I don't agree with forcing people into paid classes so that they can stay in Germany. Now, I am waiting for my life to start with my wife where I am not being forced to go to classes everyday and I can better work on our web-design company.
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