An integration course serves to learn the German language and some things about the country. All foreigners who received their first residence permit on or after 1 January 2005 and have a permanent residence permit are obliged to take an integration course. ("Permanent", in this case, means at least 1.5 years.)
There are several legal bases for conducting integration courses: § 43 ff Residence Act (AufenthG), the Integration Course Ordinance (IntV) and the Integration Course Test Ordinance (IntTestV).
Only a few exceptions exist for not having to take part in an integration course: For example, if you have a full-time employment contract, are undergoing vocational training or are prevented from attending for private reasons. As a rule, an integration course takes 700 teaching units (one teaching unit is 45 minutes long), but there are also special courses with up to 1000 units or intensive courses with 430 teaching units. Most of the teaching units are used for the language course.
Language course as part of the integration course
An integration course consists of two parts: the language course and the orientation course. The language course deals with important topics from everyday life, such as working, living, education and leisure. Afterwards you should be able to write letters and e-mails in German, fill in forms or apply for a job.
Orientation course as part of the integration course
As soon as you have successfully completed the language course, the orientation course follows with 100 teaching units (the intensive orientation course consists of 30 units). Here you learn something about Germany the country. Topics covered include history and law, but also values such as freedom of religion and equal rights for men and women.
Since 1 July 2016, an integration course costs €1.55 per lesson, which means that the regular course costs are €1,365. If you receive unemployment benefit or social assistance, you can apply for exemption from costs.