On Monday, the Interior Ministry submitted the draft bill to the other ministries for consultation. It is hoped the new regulations will fill positions and help fight Germany's extreme worker shortage.
According to the draft, anyone who has an employment contract and a “recognized qualification” may in principle work in Germany in future, the Süddeutsche Zeitung reported on Tuesday.
One of the most significant changes is a bid to get rid of a rule that required bosses to prove that neither a German nor an EU citizen could be found to fill a position before it was offered to an immigrant.
The new law is also set to relax restrictions that gave preference to foreign workers filling up so-called “bottleneck occupations”, jobs that have a lot of vacancies, including in the care sector, the IT industry and electrical engineering. This will open up other industries to skilled foreign workers.
Another proposed change is for skilled workers – such as cooks, metallurgy workers, builders or IT technicians – to be able to enter the country for six months in order to look for a job in Germany.
The draft states that “skilled workers can obtain both a residence permit to work and a residence permit to look for a job”. The prerequisite is that they speak German well enough and are able to earn their own living.
The three Ministries of the Interior, Employment and Economic Affairs worked closely together on the draft law.
However, there will almost certainly still be a few requests from other ministries to make comments or change parts of it before it is passed.
Many critics would prefer a points-based system, already enforced in countries such as Australia, which rates skilled workers and prioritizes who is allowed to enter the country and work.
Industry needs a relaxation of immigration rules
The draft law has come about in a bid to address the shortage of skilled workers in many regions and industries across Germany.
There are currently some 1.2 million open positions, according to Germany’s Institute for Employment Research.
The coalition hammered out a deal in October and aims to pass the law by the end of the year.
Manpower from the bloc of around 500 million people would not suffice to keep the German economy ticking, the coalition noted back in October.
“That's why we need workers from third countries,” Interior Minister Horst Seehofer had told a press conference while detailing the strategy.
However, ministers have been keen to stress the continued “separation of asylum and employment migration”, mindful that Germany has been deeply polarized by the arrival of more than a million asylum seekers since 2015.
Industry has long been calling for a relaxation of immigration regulations for qualified employees from non-EU countries. For skilled workers with a university degree, there is already a fairly liberal immigration law. Highly-qualified workers, especially in fields such as maths and engineering, can apply for a so-called Blue Card for at least four years.
For those who only have vocational training, however, it has so far been rather difficult.
The sticking point in the draft law for all those who want to work in Germany, however, is likely to remain “the determination of the equivalence of qualifications”, as the text of the law states.
This is because the recognition of foreign vocational training has so far been a laborious process, which is often difficult to achieve from the applicants' home countries.
Flexibility on issues is possible
The draft, however, contains a potential relaxation on this point: “a limited possibility” will be created to have the vocational training which was acquired abroad recognized “under certain conditions” after entry into Germany.
This means that qualified foreigners can enter the country, possibly even start a job – and have their qualifications recognized from their home country while this is ongoing.
Eventually, skilled workers can apply for permanent residence, reported Handelsblatt. But only if they hold a residence permit for four years, are working in a suitable job and have paid into the pensions system for at least 48 months.
However, if their professional certification was completed in Germany, that period is shortened to three years.
The final version of the law is to be presented for approval by the Bundestag will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on December 19th.