In the German Residence Act (Gesetz über den Aufenthalt, die Erwerbstätigkeit und die Integration von Ausländern im Bundesgebiet), it is stated in Section 9 that to obtain a permanent settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis), the foreigner should have a sufficient command of the German language. Also, in Section 19, it is stated that the time required for holders of an EU Blue Card are to be issued with a permanent settlement permit can be reduced from 33 months to 21 months, if the foreigner has a sufficient command of the German language.

The Act further defines "sufficient command" to mean B1 level in terms of CEFR.

However, I am not sure what would practically serve as a proof of this "sufficient command of German". The Nationality Act (Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz) refers to exams leading to the Zertifikat Deutsch, which seems to basically be the B1 certificate issued by Goethe-Institut. However, there also exist other types of German exams, such as TestDaF and DSH, commonly used for university applications. I wonder whether results from those exams could also be used as a proof, and if so, what would the conversion scale be between their scores and B1 level. Also, I'm not sure if certificates issued from other organizations, such as the foreign language center from a German university, would count.

This issue was a bit confusing for me since many German universities apparently prefer TestDaF or DSH to Goethe-Institut certificates. For example, University of Stuttgart requires Goethe C2 certificate... which sounds practically impossible. If this is the case, does that mean students who initially came to Germany with TestDaF would need to obtain the Zertifikat Deutsch again, just for the purpose of permanent settlement application? Could the reason for universities' aversion towards Goethe certificates be that they are easier to obtain than the other two exams (which I doubt)?

If a certificate from Goethe-Institut is required for the permanent residence permit/blue card application, then I guess I should start preparing towards them instead of TestDaF. I'm already studying in a German university in a program taught in English, so I didn't need those exams in the beginning.

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    Why are you asking abour blue card/permament residency being a student? As a student you are not eligible for both of them and student residence permission does not demand demonstrating command of the language. – Ex Patriot Jul 25 '17 at 10:42
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    @ExPatriot, I had this question because it's officially stipulated in those laws, though I guess indeed if you speak German well then they would likely not stick to the letters. Thank you for the information. – xji Jul 28 '17 at 10:36

I'm afraid the only valid answer is to see your Ausländerbehörde and ask them.

From my experience, they will accept all kinds of certificates, because they will run their own simple test even if you have a certificate. To quote them: "Yes, well, certificates can be bought."

Your best bet is to go ask them, and then don't focus too much on the certificate, but instead on actually learning the language. In theory, you don't need a certificate at all, if you can speak German well enough at the Amt.

Again (and I cannot stress this enough) go ask them. Don't rely on information online. You cannot find any? That's because there is none. You found all there is to find. There's no official, final regulations. The person at the Amt can chose to accept your certificate or not. So ask them, before you spend money and time for the wrong thing.

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  • Makes sense. Actually I also found the information from my Landkreis here kreis-tuebingen.de/site/LRA-Tuebingen-Internet-Root/get/…, which simply states that holding a diploma from a German university would suffice. However it didn't state the language of the study. I have a B2 certificate from my university's language center. Anyways to make sure I shall go and ask them. I even suspect this varies from place to place as apparently local officials hold quite some power of discretion on these matters. – xji Jul 24 '17 at 17:35
  • Addition: In some places the officials do follow a relatively firmer standard. For example, for reducing the number of years for obtaining nationality from 8 years to 6 years, a C1 certificate is all that is required for some places in Baden-Württemburg. So there might still be some point in obtaining such a certificate. And it does seem that Goethe certificates are more useful than TestDaF for such purposes. – xji Dec 10 '18 at 6:47

2019 Update: The Bundestag made a clarification in August 2018, in which they explicitly stated that a level of B1 suffices for the "ausreichende Kenntnisse derdeutschen Sprache" specified in § 10 Abs. 1 S. 1 Nr. 6 Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz (StAG).

It also mentioned that this requirement doesn't necessarily explicitly refer to the Goethe Institut B1 certificate, but rather to a general competence. In some cases, the Ausländerbehörde employee might even determine just based on conversation with the applicant, whether they fulfill the requirement or not, as mentioned by nvoigt.

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    In the past (before such certificates were required) you were invited to the city hall and spoke with an employee. You were incouraged to talk about a topic that interests you. Counter questions will be asked which you answer. If the employee in the end has the impression the the conversation was successful (i. e. both sides understood each other) then the language condition is considered fulfilled. So engaging native speakers in everyday topics is a good way to prepare oneself for such tests. – Mark Johnson Oct 10 '19 at 8:09

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