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Governance of migrant integration in Germany

In the 1950s and 1960s, following the industrial boom, Germany signed bilateral agreements with countries such as Italy and Turkey to recruit foreign workforce. Large-scale family reunification began in the late 1960s and early 1970s but it was not until in 1978 that the Federal Government appointed a Commissioner for the Integration of Foreign Workers and their Family Members which led to a consensus among all major parties that Germany became a country of immigration.


On 1 January 2017, 5 759 310 Third Country nationals (TCNs) were living in Germany, according to Statistisches Bundesamt. They represented 7% of the total population. Most came from Turkey, Syria and Russia.

1 808 325 of them had valid temporary residence permits and 2 498 235 were permanent residents. The remaining TCNs had permits for specific purposes. Out of the 1 808 325 permits issued in 2016, 694 605 were for family reasons, 633 625 for international or humanitarian protection and 200 665 for education.

In addition of this foreign population, approximately 10 million German citizens have a foreign background, of which 40 421 TCNs naturalised in 2016.

Integration Strategy

By establishing a Commissioner for the Integration in 1978, the Federal Government acknowledged that an increasing number of temporary "guest-workers" had permanently settled in Germany. This laid the foundation at the start of the new millennium for the government’s first large-scale reform of the immigration system in 2005 and the establishment of a systematic integration policy.

To integrate or foster the social inclusion of populations with migrant background, German governments have so far set up 2 integration plans. The National Integration Plan of 2007 focused on education, training, employment, and cultural integration, while the National Action Plan on Integration of 2012 created instruments to render the results of the integration policy measurable. It included general objectives, timeframes, as well as indicators to verify the attainment of the set goals:

  • optimising individual support provided to young migrants
  • improving the recognition of foreign degrees
  • increasing the share of migrants in the civil service of federal and state governments
  • providing health care and care to migrants.

More recently, the Meseberg Declaration on Integration adopted by the Federal Cabinet in May 2016 outlined the Government policy (and a draft legislation – see below) based on a 2-ways principle: offering support, training and job opportunities to foreigners but also  requiring efforts in return and highlighting their duties (“Fördern und Fordern”).

Provided services are modular, target various immigrant groups and involve almost all the federal ministries from employment and education and social integration.

Integration Programme

Although the 2005 integration plan already encompassed integration courses for foreigners to be provided by the Federal Government, Germany introduced its nation-wide Integration Programme in 2010. The main goal was to standardise the large number of coexisting integration measures taken by the federal, state and local governments. The result is a needs-based orientation programme and greater coordination between integration offers.

The Programme is an entitlement and includes:

  • þ language courses
  • þ civic education
  • þ vocational training


The National Action Plan on Integration is evaluated on a regular basis but the results of such evaluation are not published. Specific measures taken in the areas of refugees’ employment and children’s integration for example are also evaluated individually. Read more here and here

In 2012, the expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration published a report examining the cooperation between different governance levels of integration policy and made recommendations for future actions.


    Foreigners Law

The German Immigration Act, enacted in 2005, contains provisions on the entry and residence of foreign nationals in the Federal territory, as well as on the asylum procedure. It was reformed in 2007 to, among other changes, translate 11 EU directives, combat fake and forced marriages, and facilitate the residence of entrepreneurs.

þ   Asylum Law

A dedicated Asylum Act was adopted in 2015 to regulate the legal status of refugees and asylum seekers. It amends and replaces the Asylum Procedure Act.

þ   Integration Law

The Integration Act of 2016 is Germany’s first integration legislation at the federal level. It aims at facilitating the integration of refugees and is therefore accompanied by the Ordinance on the Integration Course which details the implementation of the integration system based on a “support and demand” (“Fördern und Fordern”) approach.

In addition, the Recognition Act which regulates the fast recognition of qualifications and skills of Third Country Nationals entered into force on 1 April 2012. It was last amended in 2014.

þ   Nationality Law

The Nationality Act of 2000 regulates the acquisition of German citizenship and introduces the so-called “Optionspflicht” for children born in Germany to foreign nationals. They can acquire German citizenship at birth (in addition to the foreign citizenship of their parents), if at least one of their parents has lived legally in Germany for at least 8 years and had permanent residence at the time of the child's birth. But they have to choose between the German and the foreign citizenship their 21st birthday. The amendment of 20 December 2014 waves this obligation for EU and Swiss citizens.

þ   Anti-discrimination

The General Act on Equal Treatment  of 2006 regulates the fight against discrimination in employment and civil law. It incorporates four Anti-Discrimination Directives of the EU into German law.

Public authorities

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) of the Ministry of Interior leads the governance of asylum, migration and integration issues in Germany. It is in charge of the asylum procedure, the promotion and coordination of integration measures, data collection and research, while local actors are often responsible for implementing its measures.

In addition, the Federal Employment Agency, a self-administered public body, is in charge of integrating people into the labour market while the Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration assists the Federal Government in developing its integration policy as well as in promoting the coexistence of all residents of Germany and the integration of immigrants.

Civil society

The civil society plays a very important role in the integration process in Germany. Since 2006, the Federal Chancellery organises an Integration Summit (Integrationsgipfel) in which all integration stakeholders participate: from representatives of the Federal Government and media to trade unions and migrant associations. The first summit resulted in the decision to compile Germany’s first national integration plan, published a year later. The summit is since then organised on a yearly basis, usually with one central thematic focus. In 2016, 50 active migrant organisations gathered to come up with concrete proposals on how to make public institutions more diverse. These were discussed during the 9th Integration Summit which took place in November of the same year.

Many (individual) civic initiatives also assist immigrants in all areas of life, especially since the unprecedented arrivals of asylum seekers in 2015 and 2016. The Refugees Welcome housing project for example is now a cross-border platform represented in nearly half of EU Member States.


Non-profit organisations and local authorities can apply for financing through several funds. EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF) is the most important one in terms of budget. Coordinated by Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the national allocation for Germany under AMIF is € 208 417 000. 92 million EUR is allocated to integration (an additional 12 million EUR in 2017). German AMIF Programme

The federal government provides funding for integration and job-related language courses, migration counselling services, labour market integration measures, recognition of professional qualifications, as well as many other integration measures and projects. Some aspects of integration policy, such as education, fall within the responsibility of the Lander. Furthermore, the municipalities also bear a considerable amount of integration cost.

Public funding Private funding


More funders Germany

Other stakeholders

þ    Implementing Integration Programme

þ    Providing integration services

ý    Campaigning

þ    Publishing statistics