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Migration and integration in Germany - statistics & facts

Migration and integration are topics that have accompanied the human race for centuries, with people moving between countries and continents due to various reasons as time went on: discovering and occupying new territories, looking for a new life, fleeing persecution and war, moving because of work and family.
On the one hand, ongoing trends such as increased and varied mobility, means of transport, easy access to international information on living abroad contribute to migration being an expected part of modern life, a valid option. Free or easier movement between countries in some cases, with the EU single market being a prime example, makes migration and integration as such less difficult for citizens of EU member states, Germany included, with a large list of choices on where to work and live at any time of life.
On the other hand, migration occurring due to people arriving in a country to claim asylum is an entirely different process from a political and bureaucratic standpoint, subject to different laws than general regulations for foreigners. Germany is the largest economy in Europe, having successfully rebuilt and emerged on the world stage after World War II, with a diverse international population, and therefore an attractive residence country for migrants.

Foreign population

One of the most represented nationalities in Germany is Turkey, with over 1.46 million Turks calling the country home as of 2020. These figures date back to the 1960s, when a bilateral labor agreement was signed between the two nations. This agreement led to larger numbers of Turkish immigrants settling in Germany and increasing the German workforce in various industries. Subsequently, the next generations continued to live and work in the country as their parents and grandparents had. Other largely represented origin countries among foreigners living in Germany include Poland and Syria. When looking at the 16 German federal states, North Rhine-Westphalia, Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg had the highest foreign populations, respectively. In 2020, over 5 million foreigners living in Germany did not need a residency status at all, as they were allowed to move freely within the EU. Almost 2.5 million had an unlimited residence permit. It is not uncommon for a foreign resident to decide on naturalization, which routinely takes place in Germany. As of 2020, residents with Turkish, Syrina and Romanian citizenship were those who most frequently became officially German.


Integration is a many-layered, long-term process, going far beyond learning rules, laws and the local language(s), though these elements are often the starting point for new arrivals. Germany offers so-called integration courses, supported by the government. General courses cover German language classes, as well as an introduction to German history, culture and legal system. There are also integration courses aimed specifically at young adults. Participation in these courses can be both obligatory and voluntary. General integration courses recorded the highest participant numbers, followed by literacy and parents and women integration courses. Most of those who sat a German language test achieved a B1 level (intermediate).
The integration process is not without stumbling blocks. Many issues were discussed during the migrant crisis of 2015, when German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced Germany's readiness to receive large numbers of refugees. In some cases participants may withdraw from a course or be discouraged by initial difficulties. Xenophobic attitudes among locals may also hinder settling in a new country. However, encouraging facts include the decreasing unemployment rate for foreigners in Germany in recent years.


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