Language Policy Unit
Policy Instruments

Dedicated websites

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This project aims to help member states to develop inclusive language policies based on Council of Europe shared values: respect for human rights and the dignity of the person, democracy and the rule of law. Effective respect for these fundamental principles requires a coordinated and principled approach to language policy which cuts across different domains of integration policy (social, employment, health...), and an awareness of the mutual rights and responsibilities of migrants and societies. The Council of Europe has elaborated standard setting instruments and recommendations which set out the principles governing actions in the migration field. These are complemented by language policy guidelines and reference tools developed to support their effective implementation in an inclusive approach based on shared values and principles.



Please visit the dedicated website on the Linguistic integration of adult migrants (ILMA)


An increasing number of countries now require adult migrants to demonstrate proficiency in the language of the host country before granting residence or work permits or citizenship.
The level of proficiency required is usually based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) and a language test may be obligatory. The approach to testing varies and there is a considerable difference in the levels of proficiency required – ranging from A1 to B1 or even B2 (oral) of the CEFR [see Key terms]

The Language Policy Unit, in partnership with appropriate Council of Europe sectors and INGOs with participatory status is developing policy guidelines and tools for language education and certification where this is required.

The aim is to support all directly concerned in developing a needs-based approach and in following best professional practice so as to ensure transparency and fairness, in particular concerning ‘high stake’ situations concerning language requirements for citizenship, work or long term residency purposes.

Council of Europe priorities

The Council of Europe is centrally concerned with human rights, democracy and the rule of law. These fundamental values, and its constant concern with respect for diversity and social cohesion, are guiding principles in its actions. [See: Guiding Principles]

The Third Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Council of Europe’s 46 member states took place in Warsaw in May 2005, and in the Summit Declaration, Europe’s leaders committed themselves, inter alia, to ensuring that our cultural diversity becomes a source of mutual enrichment, to the protection of the rights of national minorities and the free movement of persons.

Conventions, Recommendations and Resolutions of the Council of Europe

The Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has developed Conventions for ratification by member states. The Committee also addressed a number of recommendations and resolutions to the Council of Europe member states, related to the integration and status of migrants. The Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) also developed a number of recommendations and resolutions.

A compilation of relevant extracts of official texts was realised by the Language Policy Unit (revised in 2012).

Project aims

Surveys among Council of Europe member states in 2008, 2010 and 2013 show significant differences in approach among the states surveyed
The ‘Report on the 3rd survey’ (2014) provides an analysis of trends in 42 out of 47 Council of Europe member states which participated in at least one of the 3 surveys.

While a number of countries provide language training for migrants without attaching specific language conditions to residence, others require adult migrants to demonstrate proficiency in the official language of the host country before granting long-term residence permits or citizenship. Some countries recommend or require attendance at language courses while others require an examination. In those countries where evidence of language proficiency is required, many examination and certification bodies responsible for language assessment of non nationals applying for a residence permit or citizenship use the levels of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). These countries establish various levels (varying from A1 to B1/B2) and use and a range of practices for assessing the level of candidates.

The objective of the project is not to promote any specific approach nor obligatory testing, but to facilitate wider discussion on policies and to share best practices at European level. Where tests are obligatory, the aim is to facilitate transparency and equity according to internationally accepted codes of practice.

Instruments and guidelines were produced by the Council of Europe to concretely assist member states. Specific instruments were developed, such as a European Language Portfolio for adult migrants learning the language of the host country, based on models already produced and validated by the Council of Europe for migrants