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CITIZENSHIP

TEST: Is your German good enough for citizenship or permanent residency?

If you are planning on becoming a German citizen you are going to need to be able to prove basic competency in German comprehension. Would your language skills cut it?

German course
A sign for a German course in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

From discussing the subtext in a Thomas Mann novel to just being able to order a Bratwurst in your local Metzger, there’s a world of difference in the levels of German attained by foreigners in Germany, and of course most people improve the longer they stay here.

But gaining citizenship requires formal qualifications, so we’ve put together some sample questions to give you an idea of the level required. 

This article relates solely to your language ability – applying for citizenship has several other requirements, including having to demonstrate knowledge of German culture and history via the citizenship test.

The current citizenship rules in place require German at level B1 on the six-level scale of competence laid down in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

So what does B1 mean?

B1 on the CEFR scale is defined as being able to “understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc.”

A B1 candidate “can deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken” and can also “produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.”

In other words, you are not required to be able to speak perfect, error-free German, only to be able to make yourself understood and understand any replies you are given. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

Tests

Testing in Germany for language competency as part of a citizenship application is handled at the state level. Therefore there might be some small variation in the requirements from state to state. It is important to check with your local authority on just what certificate is recognised.

Generally though, naturalisation authorities will recognize tests conducted either by the Goethe Institute or by telc Gmbh. 

The testing is not done by state authorities so you will need to contact a nearby language school to find out whether they work with either of these organisations to do testing. A good bet is getting in touch with your local Volkshochschule where testing at all levels of language proficiency is done on a regular basis.

The nitty gritty

A full B1 test written by the Goethe Institute involves testing on four components: reading, listening, writing and speaking. You are not allowed to use a dictionary at any time during the test.

The reading component takes 65 minutes and involves having to comprehend several texts and answer questions about them.

The listening component requires you to listen to several pieces of audio and state whether statements about them are true or false.

The written component takes an hour and requires you to write a letter as well as express your opinion on a topic.

The spoken component takes 15 minutes and is done in discussion with a partner who is also taking the exam.

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: ‘Changing German citizenship laws is a priority’

Reading

The following questions come from a section of a sample test by the Goethe Institute. The text, which you can find here, talks about a project to create electricity in a village by using biogas. You need to decide which of the following options makes the statement true.

In diesem Text geht es um… 

  1. die neue Technologie von Eckhard Meier?
  2. die umweltfreundliche Stromproduktion in Feldheim? 
  3. einen Studiengang an der Universität Göttingen?

Die Wissenschaftler wollten zeigen, dass… 

  1. ein ganzes Dorf von modernen Energien leben kann? 
  2. eine Bio-Gasanlage mehr Strom produziert, als ein Dorf braucht? 
  3. man größere Mengen Strom sparen kann?

Damit die Idee auch in anderen Dörfern funktioniert… 

  1. benötigt man viel Geld. 
  2. braucht man genug Platz für die Technik. 
  3. muss die Bevölkerung dafür sein

German course in Hesse

Young men take part in a German course in Hesse in 2015. Photo: dpa | Andreas Arnold

Listening

For this section you will have to listen to audio of German people talking. The format of this section varies: for example, it could be a news report, an interview or a recorded discussion.

Here are some sample questions from a past B1 paper, in which you hear five short texts at the start of the audio (listen here). You have to decide which of the following statements about the texts are true.

Text 1 

Frau Stein soll… 

  1. die Chipkarte mitbringen?
  2. zehn Euro bezahlen?
  3. Zurückrufen?

Text 2

Herr Thomas… 

  1. möchte, dass Frau Brahms einen neuen Vertrag abschließt?
  2. braucht Zeugnisse von Frau Brahms?
  3. ruft später noch einmal an?

Text 3 

Auf der Autobahn gibt es Stau wegen… 

  1. einer Baustelle? 
  2. des Berufsverkehrs? 
  3. eines Unfalls?

Text 4 

Welcher Zug fällt aus? Der Zug nach … 

  1. Bern?
  2. Genf?
  3. Lausanne?

Text 5 

Vorausgesagt werden… 

  1. Gewitter an der Elbe?
  2. Temperaturen unter 10 Grad?
  3. Starke Regenfälle im Westen?

READ ALSO: German citizenship: Can people who apply before the law changes get dual nationality?

Writing

In the written section of the exam you are required to compose three texts. You are given them all at the same time and so you can chose which one you begin with but you will have to complete all of them in the 60 minute time frame. 

The first task requires you to write an email to a friend addressing the following issue:

Sie haben vor einer Woche Ihren Geburtstag gefeiert. Ein Freund/Eine Freundin von Ihnen konnte nicht zu Ihrer Feier kommen, weil er/sie krank war

The email should be around 80 words in length and address the following three points:

– Describe the celebration.

– Which gift do you find especially great and why?

– Suggest a time for a meeting.

Spoken

In the spoken component of the text you must present a short speech on a topic as well as discussing a scenario with your discussion partner.

In the following situation you need to discuss what to do with your partner. 

Ein Teilnehmer aus dem Deutschkurs hatte einen Unfall und liegt im Krankenhaus. Diese Woche möchten Sie ihn besuchen und ein Geschenk von der ganzen Gruppe mitbringen. Nächste Woche kann er das Krankenhaus verlassen. Da er allein lebt, wird er Hilfe brauchen. Überlegen Sie, wie Sie ihn unterstützen können.

The discussion should last for three minutes.

You can find the full exam paper with the correct answers (at the bottom) HERE.

READ ALSO: ‘Two years is normal’ – How Germany’s citizenship process leaves foreigners hanging

Member comments

  1. In discussions with our immigration lawyer, she checked the rules very carefully and told us that for both permanent residence AND citizenship, only A1 level is required PROVIDED you initially came to Germany on an EU Blue Card visa.

    I already tested this for my permanent residence application, for which I submitted only an A1 certificate and was granted the permanent residence.

  2. In discussions with our immigration lawyer, she told us that for permanent residence, only A1 level is required PROVIDED that you initially came to Germany on an EU Blue Card visa.

    I tested this out with with my permanent residence application in 2019, and submitted only an A1 certificate – and was granted my permanent residence.

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For members

BREXIT

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected] 

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