The aim is to integrate all people permanently and lawfully living in our country into society and to grant them the related rights and duties. Integration means living together as one society, not in separate worlds. Our society should be characterized by respect, mutual trust, shared responsibility and a sense of community. This is also how the parties in the governing coalition for the 17th legislative term have described it. Integration should ensure that immigrants have equal opportunities and the chance to participate in all areas, especially social, economic and cultural life. To do so, people who come to Germany intending to stay must learn the German language and acquire basic knowledge of our history and our legal system, in particular the significance of Germany’s free and democratic order, the party system, the federal structure, the welfare system, equal rights, tolerance and religious freedom. And they should be familiar with Germany’s constitution and laws and should respect and abide by them.
Integration means feeling part of a community and developing a common understanding of how to live together in society. Integration can work only as a two-way process. It requires acceptance by the majority population and the willingness of immigrants to learn and respect the rules of the host country and to take responsibility for their own integration.
Immigrants should be able to become integrated and take advantage of the opportunities offered to all citizens and new arrivals in Germany.
The two main pillars of federal integration policy are the Residence Act and the Federal Expellees Act, which define in law the basic framework for federal integration services.
The core element is the integration course. It is the most important federal policy measure for promoting integration. A nation-wide system of courses helps new immigrants and those who have lived here longer in their efforts to become integrated. In addition to the necessary language skills, immigrants learn about Germany’s government, history and society in an orientation course. Courses are taught according to uniform standards which apply both to public adult education centres and private course providers.
The integration courses are a success: More than 51,500 courses have been offered since 2005, and more than 410,000 immigrants have completed the course.
Sufficient German language skills are required to complete the course – and a prerequisite for successful integration since they enable participants to take advantage of education and job opportunities. Integration courses including orientation courses are good preparation for the naturalization test if immigrants wish to become naturalized citizens.
Apart from the integration courses, another important element mandated by the Residence Act is the federally funded advising for immigrants. The Youth Migration Services supervised by the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth and the Migration Advising for Adult Immigrants (MBE) initiate, guide and assist with the integration process. The MBE offers services for up to three years. Professional individual advising, usually provided soon after arrival, helps immigrants develop the capacity to act independently in their new environment. The MBE consists of an advisory network with more than 600 locations nation-wide and serves approximately 50,000 persons each quarter. With its one-on-one advising, development and implementation of a support plan and long-term assistance for its immigrant clients, the MBE ensures the comprehensive approach essential for successful integration.