German A1, B1 or B2 – Which language certificate do I need? (2023)

A prerequisite for being allowed to work, study and/or live permanently in Germany is almost always sufficient knowledge of the German language. The easiest way to prove this is with the help of a recognized language certificate of the levels A1,A2,B1,B2,C1 and C2. In this article we explain which certificate you need, which courses, exams and exercises are available and what costs you should expect.

German A1 – Beginners

“Can understand and use familiar, everyday expressions and very simple phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type. Can introduce him/herself and others and can ask other people questions about themselves – e.g. where they live, what kind of people they know or what kind of things they have – and can give answers to questions of this kind. Can communicate in a simple way if interlocutors speak slowly and clearly and are willing to help.”[1]

German A2 – Basic knowledge

“Can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. personal and family information, shopping, work, local area). Can communicate in simple, routine situations involving simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters. Can describe in simple terms own background and education, immediate environment and things related to immediate needs.”[2]

German B1 – Advanced language use

“Can understand the main points when clear standard language is used and when dealing with familiar matters from work, school, leisure, etc.”. Can deal with most situations encountered when travelling in the language area. Can express him/herself simply and coherently on familiar topics and personal areas of interest. Can report on experiences and events, describe dreams, hopes and ambitions, and give brief reasons or explanations for plans and opinions.”[3]

German B2 – Independent use of language

“Can understand the main ideas of complex texts on both concrete and abstract topics, including technical discussions in his/her field of specialization. Can communicate so spontaneously and fluently that a normal conversation with native speakers is quite possible without major effort on either side. Can express him/herself clearly and in detail on a wide range of subjects, explaining a point of view on a topical issue and giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.”[4]

German C1 – Professional language skills

“Can understand a wide range of demanding, longer texts and also grasp implicit meanings. Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without having to search for clearly identifiable words. Can use language effectively and flexibly in social and professional life or in training and study. Can express him/herself clearly, in a structured and detailed way on complex subjects, making appropriate use of various means of linking text.”[5]

German C2 – Approximate native language proficiency

“Can understand with ease virtually everything he/she reads or hears. Can summarize information from a variety of written and spoken sources, giving reasons and explanations in a coherent presentation. Can express him/herself spontaneously, with great fluency and accuracy, making clear finer shades of meaning even in more complex situations.”[6]

How do I find out what language level I am at?

Our tip: With this free placement test from Deutsche Welle, you can easily find out how good your German skills already are. If you are good at self-assessment, this CEFR placement test can also help you.

German A1, B1 or B2 – Which language certificate do I need? (1)

Which language certificate do I need for the settlement permit?

The requirement to have sufficient knowledge of the German language is laid down in § 9 para. 2 No. 7 Residence Act. However, applicants are regularly faced with the question of which certificate they need for this.

German B1 for settlement permit after 5 years (principle)

To meet the requirements of the § 9 para. 2 Sentence 1 No. 7 i.V.m. § 2 para. 11 Residence Act and to obtain a permanent right of residence in Germany, the language level German B1 is required. This level can also be proven by successfully passing the German Test for Immigrants (DTZ) as part of integration courses.

German A2 for settlement permit with refugee status after 5 years

If you are a recognized refugee in the sense of the Residence Act and do not apply for a settlement permit after 3 years but after 5 years, you will need the following acc. § 26 para. 3 Sentence 1 No. 4 i.V.m. § 2 para. 10 Residence Act only language skills at the German A2 level.

German C1 for settlement permit with refugee status after 3 years

As a recognized refugee, it is possible for you to receive a settlement permit after only 3 years. For this, however, you must prove that you have “mastered” the German language. So, in order to get a permanent right of residence as a refugee in Germany after only 3 years, you have to acc. § 26 para. 3 Sentence 3 No. 3 i.V.m. § 2 para. 12 Residence Act via Have language skills at the German C1 level.

German A1 for spouses

For the reunification of spouses, simplified conditions apply. You must have a basic knowledge of German. In this case, proof of the German A1 language certificate is sufficient, i.e. passing the easiest of the 6 levels.

German A1, B1 or B2 – Which language certificate do I need? (2)

How difficult are the individual certificates (German A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 & C2)?

Level | Difficulty

German A1 – for beginners, easy

German A2 – a bit more difficult, basic knowledge of the language is necessary

German B1 – for advanced students, you should be able to speak German well

German B2 – you must be able to speak German fluently

German C1 – First step towards bilingualism, very good knowledge of German required

German C2 – highest German certificate, native speaker level

Is it possible to buy a language certificate?

No, a language certificate is similar to a certificate of completion of a course. In order to receive the certificate, you must prove that you have the appropriate language skills. It is not for sale. However, you can purchase preparation courses or special practice materials to help you prepare for the exam. However, there are also many free exercises on the Internet (overview: German A1 to German C1 exercises can be found below).

How long is a language certificate valid?

Tests always reflect the actual state, i.e. they certify what knowledge you currently have. However, a language certificate, just like a certificate of completion of school or training, cannot simply become invalid, even if it is many years old. As a rule, a language certificate is therefore valid for life.

What are providers for German tests (language certificates)?

There are various institutions where you can obtain a recognized language certificate. They differ mainly in their familiarity and the main purpose of the exam (naturalization, application to study/training, etc.). These are some language certificate providers:


TELC’s standardized language tests test their listening, reading, writing and speaking skills. The special German test for immigrants consists of a written and an oral part and lasts a total of about 100 minutes, whereby the oral part usually follows directly after the written one. In order to be perfectly prepared for this exam, we recommend the free PDF practice test of TELC GmbH linked below as well as the additional practice material.

German A1, B1 or B2 – Which language certificate do I need? (3)


To prepare for the language test, language courses or practice portals are suitable (see below). In addition, exam preparation is an essential part of integration courses. It is advisable to look at and internalize the types of tasks and the procedure of an exam for the language certificate you are aiming for.

Exam date

The examination date is set by the respective examination center. You will receive your language certificate in most cases within 14 days after passing the exam.

Examination site

You can take the TELC language test at various public and private language schools. To find out which examination center is near you, you can simply enter your postal code here on the TELC GmbH website.


You can repeat the language test as often as you wish. However, it should be noted that a retake always includes the entire examination, i.e. both the oral and the written part.


The cost of the test varies greatly depending on the language level and the testing center. TELC language exam fees range from €40 to €140. For the levels German B1 to C2 the costs for the examinee are mostly between 130 and 230 €. In some cases, the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) can also cover the examination fee.

German A1, A2, B1, B2, C1 & C2 free exercises

The Internet offers a number of practice portals and websites where you can train your German skills and practice for the language test. There are both free offers and paid courses. We have exclusively compiled free practice portals & apps for learning the German language for you here.

Test PDF



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