“Germany does not have the image of an attractive country for immigrants. Politics has a duty to send clear signals here,” the expert commission's report released on Thursday said.
The ban on non-European Union workers, which has a host of complicated exceptions which Americans and others have to exploit if they want to work in Germany, should be ditched in favour of targeted and managed immigration, the report said.
An action plan laid out by the cross-party, independent commission said immigrants should no longer have to present a work contract to enter Germany, but that criteria should be set according to what kind of experts are needed in the country.
The government has already said it intends to reduce the minimum income necessary to get a permanent residency from €66,000 to €48,000 a year, while the report said foreign students should also be given greater opportunity to stay after finishing their degrees.
Around 60 percent of Germans would welcome such changes, the report said. “It is increasingly recognised that managed immigration has positive effects,” it said.
Experts have been warning of Germany's growing labour crisis for years. According to one study this year, there could be 3.5 million unfilled jobs in the country by 2025.
It was hoped that skilled immigrants from other countries would help close the gap. But many are choosing to go to countries like the United States, Canada or Great Britain instead of Germany.
Government figures released earlier this summer showed that few immigrants from places like Eastern Europe were coming to Germany to work, even as labour barriers fell. Experts believe 60,000 to 70,000 Eastern Europeans may end up living and working in Germany instead of the hundreds of thousands that were once expected.
The expert commission, led by former North Rhine-Westphalia integration minister Armin Laschet and former defence minister Peter Struck echoed those concerns.
It said politicians could lower barriers to immigration while ensuring Germany doesn't become overrun with those seeking to profit from the country's generous social services. In concert with lowering income requirements for people seeking settlement visas, for instance, Germany could also implement restrictions on immigrants receiving social funds for their first few years in country, the report said.
But concurrently, the government should make sure education and work opportunities for German citizens improve while offering more generous inducements to people like students studying at universities here to stay for longer.
The commission said that it should be easier for them to get residency permits after graduation. “They must be reassured that they are welcome in Germany,” it said.