Court rejects Germany’s language proficiency requirement

15 Jul 14

EUROPEAN UNION

IMPACT – MEDIUM

What is the change? The European Union’s Court of Justice has rejected Germany’s requirement that spouses of Turkish nationals demonstrate language proficiency.

What does the change mean? The German language regulation violates the standstill clause of the Ankara Agreement between the EU and Turkey because it makes family unification and establishment more difficult and “goes beyond what is necessary” to obtain its objective.

  • Implementation timeframe: July 10.
  • Visas/permits affected: Residency permits.
  • Who is affected: Spouses of Turkish nationals applying for residency.
  • Impact on processing times: 

Background: The case was brought by Naime Dogan, a Turkish national who applied to join her husband, a Turkish national working and residing in Germany. The German Embassy denied her family reunification visa petition on the grounds that she did not demonstrate basic knowledge of the German language. Since 2007 Germany has imposed the language requirement on certain non-EU spouses to promote integration and curb forced marriages and marriage fraud.

But EU’s highest court said in a July 10 ruling that the requirement violates the Ankara Agreement’s standstill clause, which generally prohibits EU countries from introducing new restrictions on Turkish nationals. The Agreement, which Germany joined in 1973, established the framework for an association between the European Economic Community and Turkey.

The court said the language requirement unnecessarily “makes family reunification difficult or impossible” for Turkish workers, effectively forcing them to choose between a job in the EU and their family in Turkey.

BAL Analysis: Because the court decided the case based on the Ankara Agreement, it did not reach another argument put forth by Dogan that the linguistic requirement also violates EU Council Directive 2003/86/EC on the right to family reunification of third-country nationals. However, the court ruling may lead to challenges under that directive to similar language restrictions across the EU.

This alert has been provided by the BAL Global Practice group in the United Kingdom. For additional information, please contact uk@balglobal.com.

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