The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (“Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge” or BAMF) is currently running several programmes which offer German courses for professional purposes (“vocational language promotion” or “berufsbezogene Deutschsprachförderung”) according to section 45a of the Residence Act (§45a AufenthG). All courses are free of charge and can only be attended by people with a migration background. The programme covers several levels (B1 until C2) and offers specialised classes, e.g. for nursing or other medical professions.
For example, one of the courses in this vocational language programme called ESF-BAMF includes German lessons, professional skill-building sessions and work placements. This programme is jointly run by BAMF and the European Social Fund in Germany (“Europäischer Sozialfonds” or ESF). The ESF-BAMF course can comprise up to 730 lesson units (six months full-time or 12 months part-time). Be aware that the minimum requirement for this course is an A1 certificate, so depending on the other participants, it might not be an option for you if you are an advanced learner.
In general, you can only take part in the vocational language programme if you don’t know enough German to find a job, receive unemployment benefits, have already completed an integration course and mandatory schooling requirements. To take the course, you have to apply at the Labour Agency (“Agentur für Arbeit”) or at the Jobcenter. However, if you live in Germany as a recognised refugee (“anerkannter Flüchtling”), you can take part in the programme even if you have a job, but don’t know enough German to cope with your work. In this case, you or your employer have to cover part of the course fee. To participate in the programme, you have to apply at your local BAMF office.
You can search for all courses in the vocational language programme on the KURSNET website (select “Berufsbezogene Sprachkurse gem. §45a AufenthG/DeuFöV” or “Berufsbezogene Sprachförderung (ESF-BAMF)”). Known schools certified for those courses are adult education centres (“Volkshochschulen” or VHS) and BBQ, ESO and GFBM (for residents of Berlin only). If the Jobcenter is funding your course, they will issue you an education voucher (“Bildungsgutschein”). Make sure you don’t miss the deadline to redeem this voucher and check beforehand if the school of your choice is recognised by the Jobcenter.