WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE FIDE EXAM AS A NON-SWISS RESIDENT IN GENEVA
If you’re a non-Swiss national living in Geneva, you will have heard mention of the FIDE exam or language password – possibly with a feeling of dread. As is often the case in Geneva, it’s not so easy to get your hands on official information in English, so you’ll be forgiven for still not really understanding how this may affect you.
Anouche Karaman, founder and CEO of Learn French Geneva, a local language school and accredited FIDE exam centre as of February 2020, sums up what you need to know.
DO YOU NEED A FIDE LANGUAGE PASSPORT?
Basically, all non-Swiss-nationals may be concerned and need to prove their level of local language knowledge (the aim of this is to show their level of integration).
The new Swiss-wide regulations, art. 6 of the Swiss Nationality Ordinance, which came into effect in January 2019, applies to:
- Dependents with non-EU-nationality aged at least 18 years applying for a B-permit or an extension of a B-permit
- All non-Swiss-nationals applying for a C-permit with a few exceptions or an extension of a C-permit
- All non-Swiss-national applying for Swiss citizenship
WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO?
In terms of this new federal law, dependents, who are non-EU nationals aged 18 or over who apply for a B-permit or C-Permit, must prove one of 2 things:
- Speaking and writing skills in the language spoken in the region in which they live, i.e. French in Geneva and they have to present a language certificate (Required level: at least A1 depending on the permit)
- that they are enrolled in a language course which will lead to the acquisition of the required skills.
WHAT IS THE FIDE LANGUAGE PASSPORT?
The language passport is a document that demonstrates your oral and written competence in one or more of the national languages: French, German and Italian. It can be presented: to the authorities, to register for a training course or to apply for a new job.
The new law stipulates that applicants for a C permit must provide written proof of level A2 and oral proof of level B1 in one of the national languages.
The minimum requirement for the B permit is level A1 oral of CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference for Languages).
If you pass these tests, you get a language passport, which is issued by the secretariat on behalf of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM) and is recognised in particular in the context of a naturalisation procedure or an application and renewal of a permit (B, C).
HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO GET THE FIDE LANGUAGE PASSPORT?
The new law does not say exactly how quickly the language skills must be acquired and so far the authorities have not established a consistent practice throughout all Swiss cantons. In particular, it is not clear whether individuals who already hold a valid permit may be required to show a language certificate before the expiry of their permit.
So, it is likely that for the time being regional/cantonal differences will apply. It is expected that we will get a better idea in upcoming months. It would make sense, though, for applicants and holders of B-permits, however, to obtain or at least start working towards the language certificate sooner rather than later.
WHAT DOES THE FIDE EXAM ENTAIL?
“Speaking” (oral assessment), duration: 20 minutes – introductory interview, interactive tasks
“Understanding’ (oral assessment), duration: 20 minutes – short audio texts and comprehension questions
“Reading and Writing” (written evaluation), duration: 60 minutes
If you are taking the FIDE language assessment with the aim of naturalisation, you must pass both parts and achieve at least a level of A2 in writing and B1 in speaking.
Five weeks after taking the test at Learn French Geneva (Geneva, Lausanne or Neuchatel branches), you will receive your language passport in the mail with your results. The result of the evaluation is not expressed as “passed” or “failed”. The language passport will indicate your language level as A1, A2 or B1.
NOTE If you wish to certify language skills at a higher level than B1, we recommend you to take the DELF-DALF test.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I DON’T MEET THE FIDE REQUIREMENTS?
In case of non-compliance with the new law, you may be required to conclude an “integration agreement” setting standards for the level of integration you are expected to reach and the measures you are taking to ensure you reach this level.
C-permit holders who do not meet the required language skills and/or fail to comply with an integration agreement may be relegated to a temporary residence status (B-permit).
B-permit-holders not complying with an integration agreement may lose their right to stay in Switzerland.
Foreigners with a Swiss national language as mother tongue will be considered to have adequate knowledge of a Swiss national language. The same applies for foreigners who have completed three years of compulsory schooling in a Swiss national language.
WHERE DO I GET A FIDE LANGUAGE PASSPORT?
Until 31 December 2019, the language exam to demonstrate the required language level could in theory be obtained from institutions that were not officially accredited. However, as cantonal differences may exist in practice, it is advisable to check with the competent authorities before completing a language course and test.
However, as of 1 January 2020 the language certificate must be obtained from one of the following accredited institutions: FIDE, DELF-DALF, TCF.
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