Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) says it has spent some €40 million on digital offerings to bridge the interruption of integration and language courses caused by COVID-19. According to BAMF, close to a quarter million migrants in Germany are currently having to pause their courses.
Many government services in Germany have been suspended because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. These include integration and language courses coordinated by the German asylum office, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF). All courses were suspended on March 16.
To help approximately 220,000 migrants in Germany resume their lessons, BAMF now said it has invested some €40 million to continue the courses in a digital format.
Currently, nearly 83,000 immigrants are participating in digital integration and language courses, Uta Saumweber-Meyer, BAMF department head told Funke Mediagroup.
#COVID19-Update für Kursträger: Das #BAMF hat einen Stufenplan zur Fortführung der #Integration|s- & #Berufssprachkurse entwickelt. Hier geht es zum aktuellen #Trägerrundschreiben▶️ https://t.co/9N9IHg6wTT pic.twitter.com/1ElRbryisg— BAMF (@BAMF_Dialog) May 14, 2020
According to Saumweber-Meyer, the BAMF has approved some 7,000 online tutorials and so-called virtual classrooms with lessons via video conferencing. While two thirds (140,000) of the participants whose lessons are interrupted took part in generic integration courses before the suspension, the official said, one third (80,000) participated in specialized vocational language courses.
At this point, it is unclear when normal lessons in classrooms will resume in each of Germany's 16 federal states. Since May 6, it's up to each federal state to decide when to lift the restrictions put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Unless we uphold the integration efforts in times of the pandemic, too, both personnel-wise and financially, a large group of immigrants, especially refugees, is in danger of not making it upon their arrival in Germany," Saumweber-Meyer warned.
Schools in Germany have separated classes to implement physical distancing as a precaution measure. Saumweber-Meyer said it would require a lot more staff to do the same in integration courses.
End of COVID-19 lockdown: Important updates
- The "German test for immigrants" (Deutsch-Tests für Zuwander, or DTZ), part of the final examination, will resume on June 19/20; short-notice registration isn't possible, and participants, whose DTZ examination was cancelled due to coronavirus, are prioritized
- Similarly, the "Life in Germany" (Leben in Deutschland, or LiD) test can first recommence "in the middle of June"; BAMF will start accepting registrations on May 25
- Missing classes due to recommended or mandated suspension of courses do not count as absences
- In regards to fees, participants won't be charged for DTZ courses and "won't suffer disadvantages" due to the cancellation of LiD tests; as for vocational language courses, registration and examination fees will be refunded in the final billing
- You can find a current list with more detailed questions and answers in this BAMF online FAQ (in German only)
- Testing institute telc has updates on its (digital) courses here
- Integration course venues, integration courses, immigration offices and MBE regional offices finder (BAMF)
What are integration courses?
Introduced as part of the Immigration Act of 2005, integration courses are mandatory if "you cannot make yourself understood in German at a simple, adequate level." According to the BAMF, the "immigration authority will decide if attendance is required when it issues the residence title to you."
Integration courses consist of a language course (600 hours) and an orientation course (usually 60 hours). The languages course, whose goal is to convey B1-level skills, covers "important aspects of everyday life," including work and career, bringing up and raising children, leisure time and social interaction as well as media and media use.
••••➤ Read more: Our explainer on integration courses has detailed information, including how to sign up and course fees
With material from KNA, AFP