Brought to you by Swiss French School.
On 1 January 2019, Switzerland’s federal government tightened and harmonised the rules on language requirements to qualify for some residence permits, B and C permits in particular, and naturalisation.
Before 2019, formal testing of language ability was not typical. Since then it has been formalised and standardised across cantons by Switzerland’s State Secretariat for Migration.
In addition, fide, a new Swiss language test, has been created. Certain fide language assessment levels need to be reached to qualify for certain visas and citizenship.
What level do I need?
For the issuance or renewal of a residence B permit you’ll need to reach oral A1.
For issuance or renewal of a settlement C permit you’ll need to reach oral A2 and written A1. Early issuance (after 5 years) of a settlement C permit requires oral B1 and written A1.
What do the language levels mean?
The language levels, which range from A1 to C2, are defined by the Council of Europe. They are known as Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) levels. They exist for spoken and written language. Level A is defined as a basic user, B as an independent user and C as a proficient user.
A1 means an individual can understand and use familiar everyday expressions and very basic phrases aimed at the satisfaction of needs of a concrete type and can:
- Introduce him/herself and others and can ask and answer questions about personal details such as where he/she lives, people he/she knows and things he/she has.
- Interact in a simple way provided the other person talks slowly and clearly and is prepared to help.
A2 means an individual can understand sentences and frequently used expressions related to areas of most immediate relevance (e.g. very basic personal and family information, shopping, local geography, employment) and can:
- Communicate in simple and routine tasks requiring a simple and direct exchange of information on familiar and routine matters.
- Describe in simple terms aspects of his/her background, immediate environment and matters in areas of immediate need.
B1 means an individual can understand the main points of clear standard input on familiar matters regularly encountered in work, school, leisure, etc, and can:
- Deal with most situations likely to arise whilst travelling in an area where the language is spoken.
- Produce simple connected text on topics which are familiar or of personal interest.
- Describe experiences and events, dreams, hopes & ambitions and briefly give reasons and explanations for opinions and plans.
More information on CEFR levels can be found here.
How do I know my current level?
You will need to have your language ability assessed. Fide assessments are not pass or fail tests. They are assessments. Upon completion you will be given an assessment of your level. Swiss French School offers assessments.
What does the fide test look like?
The fide test assesses your language skills on a range from A1 to B1 in both spoken and written language. It is taken in two parts: oral and written.
The assessment aims to test competence in various everyday situations in Switzerland, such as work, a medical appointment or a visit to the local commune office.
The fide test was developed on behalf of the State Secretariat for Migration (SEM), a part of Switzerland’s federal government. The oral part of the test includes both speaking and comprehension, while the written part, tests reading and writing.
The oral test lasts 40 minutes and the written test 60 minutes.
The results are posted to you around 4 weeks after testing.
The fide test is for anyone over 16. People with a disability can also take the test under special rules.
What does the fide test cost?
The costs of the fide test have been standardised, so the cost is the same wherever you take it.
The oral and written tests can be taken separately or at the same time. The oral part costs CHF 170 and the written part CHF 120. Taken together they cost CHF 250, which is CHF 40 cheaper than sitting them separately.
How can I prepare for the fide test?
The best way to prepare is to take lessons and practice. Swiss French School offers assessments and lessons.
There are also model tests you can use to give yourself an idea of the required level and how it compares to your current level.
Click on the links below to download model tests. They include PDFs and audio clips. Clicking automatically downloads the files.
How can I register for the fide test?
You can contact an examination institution directly from our list (see below) to register (at the latest 15 days before the examination date). When registering, you can also choose whether you want to take the entire fide test, or only one of the two parts (written/oral).
Where can I get certified?
You can only have your fide language ability assessed in a fide certified centre, which includes fide and any language schools that have been certified, like Swiss French School. Register for a fide test here.
Does everyone need a fide certificate for naturalisation and visa applications?
Native speakers of French, German or Italian are exempt.
If you have attended compulsory school in a national language for at least 3 years, for B and C permits, and for at least 5 years for naturalisation. The administration offices of Swiss schools will typically provide an attestation of school attendance.
If you have attended upper secondary or tertiary education in a national language you are also exempt.
Finally, if you have another officially recognised certificate of language competence. For French, DELF or DALF certification can be a substitute for fide. For naturalisation DELF levels B1 oral and A2 written are required. DALF is more advanced and exceeds the levels required for Swiss citizenship so it can be used too.
What else do I need to consider?
Getting the language certification to qualify for a residence permit or Swiss citizenship has many elements. It typically involves assessment, courses to lift ability, test registration, certification and help with the authorities.
Swiss French School can help you though the whole process. It is a certified fide centre (you can only take the test in a certified centre) and can prepare you to reach the level you need. The test is not a pass/fail test. It’s a level evaluation test.
This article was brought to you by Swiss French School.