Bill on the knowledge of Catalan in Andorra

On 13 September 2023, the Andorran government approved the new official language bill in the Council of Ministers, in which people with residence and work permit are obliged to demonstrate knowledge of the Catalan language.

The Andorran Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Mònica Bonell, reminded at a press conference that “our official language is everyone’s responsibility, it is a valuable tool for the identity and sovereignty of our country, and it is necessary that, as public authorities, we guarantee its survival”.

Among the regulatory changes included in this bill is that in order to obtain the first renewal of the residence and work permit, basic knowledge of the Catalan language must be accredited. This means that, as a minimum, they must be able to make the initial greeting in Catalan when attending to the public and know the basic vocabulary of the profession.

Only residents in Andorra who have a residence and work permit will have to accredit a minimum level of Catalan in order to obtain the first renewal of their residence permit.

Mònica Bonell maintains that the decision to apply this regulation to people who have a residence and work permit is because most of them work in the service sector, in shops and in the hotel and catering trade, facing customers, and the aim is for these immigrants to be able to introduce themselves initially to customers in Catalan, knowing the basic vocabulary. The minister does not believe that this requirement will reduce the hiring of foreign workers in Andorra. Rather, it will serve to encourage the use of Catalan, and is a rule that many European Union countries currently have.

Who is affected by this bill on the knowledge of Catalan in Andorra?

This new bill on knowledge of Catalan in Andorra will come into force in 2024, and the Andorran government has estimated that it will affect some 3,000 residents who will be renewing their residence permit for the first time next year. Minister Bonell announced that this obligation is only limited to people who have a residence and work permit. In other words, salaried workers of foreign origin. She also indicated that liberal or qualified professionals – self-employed workers – are already subject to the law of each professional association, which requires them to have a B2 level of Catalan in order to be able to register and work in the Principality.

On the other hand, foreigners with passive residency and residence permits without employment, those with active residency, which includes entrepreneurs and content developers such as Youtubers, and border or seasonal workers, will not be obliged to comply with this requirement to renew their residency.

How will people with a residence and work permit in Andorra have to prove their level of Catalan?

Those who have to renew their residence permit in Andorra for the first time will have to take 30 hours of Catalan language training, for which they will have a period of one year to do so. This was explained by Minister Bonell at a press conference. Residents who already have knowledge of the language will not need to take the course. If they have a level between A1 and C2, they will have to pass an exam, which will probably be oral. The details will be spelled out in the regulation implementing the law, which is expected to be ready in less than 6 months. It has been calculated that of the 3,000 green card holders who will renew their residency next year, 1,000 already have a knowledge of Catalan.

Finally, in the text approved on 13 September 2023 in the Council of Ministers, the penalties for non-compliance with the language regulations are updated. Fines will range from 1,000 euros to 60,000 euros, depending on the severity of the sanction. In any case, Bonell affirms that the intention of the regulation “is not to punish, but to encourage the use of our own language and to increase the social use of Catalan”.

The Andorran government offers free Catalan courses for foreigners living in Andorra. For more information, visit the Govern d’Andorra’s Culture website.