Germany began testing a points-based immigration system Friday in a bid to attract more skilled foreigners and end a chronic shortage of workers plaguing Europe's biggest economy despite a record influx of asylum seekers.
The affluent south-west region of Baden Wuerttemberg, home to major automobile and machinery firms, is hosting the pilot project inspired by Canada and New Zealand's immigration systems.
“Our future quality of life depends on how many people are working in Germany and contribute to our prosperity,” said Labour Minister Andrea Nahles.
“We must mobilise all our own potential, but we already know that this is insufficient and that we will need additional well-educated workers from abroad. Therefore we are testing a new method,” she added.
From this autumn, a certain number of qualified professionals from non-EU countries would be granted work permits for three years under the points-based system in Baden-Wurttemberg, with German language skills being a key criteria.
The points system gives full points of 100 to individuals with a high level of German competency, while others with more basic levels would have to prove they also have English or French skills, as well as a link to Germany.
EU citizens are exempt from such immigration criteria as they are already authorised to work in Germany under the bloc's free movement of people agreement.
Nevertheless, some German industries struggle to find manpower, and with a fast ageing population, the country's key economic players have been urging the government to reform its immigration rules in order to attract skilled workers.
Although the country has taken in 1.1 million asylum seekers in 2015 alone, experts have warned that it would take years for them to come up to speed in terms of required language capabilities or professional skills to fill many of Germany's vacant jobs.