Learning German can be difficult for many of us. But you don´t have to be intimidated by it! At the end, it is the most spoken language in the EU and it can open so many doors for you. As we need to prove our German level when aplying for a residence permit, here we present a comprehensive list of the most important certifications.

Do I need to learn German to live in Austria?

To live in Austria, it is best to learn the language. Starting with everyday life, in supermarkets and stores some people will speak English and you may not need to speak much to pay for your daily groceries, but it is always better to be prepared. Another example: Viennese waiters are known for their grumpy “charm” and for avoiding English at all costs. 

In Vienna and other tourist cities you will find English speakers, but don’t expect them in places without international tourism. In some other ultra-cosmopolitan countries or cities such as Amsterdam or Berlin, where the percentage of young foreign population is very high, it may not be as necessary to learn the local language as it is in Austria. 

While it is true that – at least in Vienna – almost all young people speak English perfectly, most work environments will ask you to speak German. Of course, there are exceptions: international companies with clients in different countries, startups, banks, or the international organizations that are here (such as the UN) use English as their main language.

As for the university, there are different master’s and bachelor’s programs that are entirely in English, but they are few, and naturally focused on international areas. If you want to get a degree or master’s degree in German, you will be asked to take the B2 or C1 test (it depends on the field of study and the university). This official proof is also requested when applying for a visa to live in Austria. 

At the end of the day, It is always better to learn the basics of the language of the country you plan to spend some time in, and this will always be a sign of respect. For this reason, below we present a list of the most important German certifications that there are; what exams are valid for each case; and what levels are needed for the different visas.

What official German language exams are there?

There are many official tests to prove your German knowledge, however, here we present the most recognized in Austria.

ÖSD

It stands for Österreichisches Sprachdiplom Deutsch (Austrian German Language Diploma) and also for Österreich, Schweiz, Deutschland (Austria, Switzerland, Germany), as it is a certification recognized in these three countries (also known as DACH countries). This exam includes reading and listening comprehension, written expression (writing and grammar), as well as oral expression. The peculiarity of this exam is that it takes into account the different ways of speaking of the three countries mentioned above, so it will not focus only on one type of German dialect but will integrate several.

Where can I take the exam? In Austria there are many centers where you can do it, distributed in the different states, but you can also do it in your country of origin.

Find the centers here: ÖSD Centers

How much does it cost? It depends on the level and the center where you do it. The price is between €130 for the A1 and €250 for the C1. You can check the exact price at the center you have chosen to take the exam.

ÖIF

Stands for Österreiches Integrations Fond (Austrian Integration Fund). This exam was implemented in 2017 together with the reform of the Integration Law. This test is valid for the visa application and the only one accepted for residency renewals and for the application for Austrian citizenship. Among its characteristics you can find that it focuses on Austrian German, with the unique expressions and words of the national dialect, as well as questions about Austrian culture: the system of government, democracy, etc. It only offers levels A1 to B2, and with or without questions about Austria, it depends on what you need the certificate for.

Where can I take the exam? You can do it in the different centers in Austria.

Find the center closest to you here

How much does it cost? Depending on the center where you take it, the exam can cost between € 130 to € 160.

Goethe-Zertifikat

As its name says, it is the certificate issued by the Goethe Institute. This institution is in charge of spreading the German language around the world (its equivalent to Spanish is the Instituto Cervantes) so there are many centers in different countries, which also offer classes. The test is offered in a general format as well as in special formats for teenagers, for workers, for university studenst, among others.

Where can I take the exam? At any headquarters of the Institute around the world.

You can find a list by country here.

How much does it cost? Depending on the level and the place where you do it, the price is around €150.

Test DaF

It stands for Deutsch als Fremdsprache (German as a Foreign Language). This test, unlike the others, is not classified by level. It is a general test and at the end, you receive the result that lets you know in which level you are at. In general, it is more accepted in the universities of Germany than in Austria, but it can also be helpful sometimes.

Where can I take the exam? In various centers in Germany and around the world.

You can find the full list here.

How much does it cost?It depends on the country where you do it. In Germany, it has a fixed price of € 195.

As we mentioned earlier, there are plenty of other official tests. The ones we mention here are among the most important for developing your life in Austria. Depending on your goals, you will decide which is the best for you. The ÖIF is necessary to obtain long-term visas or nationality, but it could not help you much, for example, if you want to study at a Swiss or German university. The ÖSD is very useful to open doors for you in these 3 German-speaking countries, but it is not useful for renewing your Austrian visa! You should also remember that, in general, it is a requirement that the result of your test is not older than one year, since your level may have changed during this time.

So which test do I need to apply for my Austrian visa?

First time

To apply for the Austrian visa for the first time (no matter the type: student, family member, work) you necessarily need to demonstrate at least level A1. This first application is the “easiest”, so to speak, since you can demonstrate this level with any of the official tests, or by demonstrating that you have a certain level of “integration” if you studied an official degree (baccalaureate, bachelor or master’s degree) at a German-speaking school or university.

first renewal

After a year of obtaining your visa you have to renew it, this time you do not have to present any proof of German.

second renewal

After two years you must renew your visa again and comply with the integration agreement, which you accepted when applying for residency for the first time. The visas that must comply with this agreement are: Rot-Weiß-Rot, Niederlassungsbewilligung, and Familienangehöriger in all its forms. For this second renewal, you must have the A2 level certificate through the ÖIF test.

Application for nationality or permanent residence

According to your resident status and the years you have lived in Austria, after at least 6 or up to 10 years of residence (depending on the visa), you can apply for permanent residence or nationality. At that time you must prove to have the B1 level through the ÖIF test.

For the fulfillment of the integration agreement, there are several exceptions, which you can consult on the Migrations website.

Conclusion

Learning German is not the easiest but it is highly necessary to have more possibilities in Austria. In other articles, we will talk about the peculiarities of the Austrian dialect and various resources that can help us to better understand the people who live here. What do you think? Is German difficult? Is it necessary to speak it to live in Austria? Leave your comments!

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