‘Historic day’ as Germany takes step forward in relaxing rules for foreign workers

Worker-starved Germany plans to ease immigration rules to attract foreign jobseekers and replenish its fast ageing workforce, despite mounting public resistance against new arrivals.

'Historic day' as Germany takes step forward in relaxing rules for foreign workers
File photo of a worker welding in a dry dock in Hamburg. Photo: DPA

Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet approved a new immigration law which still has to be formally approved by parliament next year, possibly with some amendments.

Economy Minister Peter Altmaier hailed as a “historic day” the cabinet's decision on Germany's first immigration law, which had been eagerly anticipated by business groups.

SEE ALSO: How Germany plans to fight worker shortage with new immigration law

The new law aims to attract foreign skilled vocational workers with German language skills, including those from outside the European Union, and promises them eased visa procedures and reduced red tape.

“We need manpower from third countries to safeguard our prosperity and be able to fill the job vacancies,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.

Job-seekers such as cooks, metallurgy workers or IT technicians would be allowed to come to the EU's biggest economy for six months to try and find employment, provided they can financially support themselves.

A separate provision, which sparked much controversy, will allow permanent residency for some of the rejected asylum seekers in Germany who have been granted stays of deportation because their home country is considered unsafe.

To qualify, they must have held a full-time job for 18 months, speak at least intermediate-level German, be socially well-integrated with no criminal offences, and be able to prove their identity.

“We must not deport the wrong people,” said Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, who stressed that many of the recent arrivals now “speak German, work, are industrious and are useful for Germany”.

 'Pragmatic solution'

Nonetheless, the provision for asylum seekers had been criticized for potentially sending the wrong signal and encouraging human traffickers to bring illegal migrants to Germany on the promise they will eventually be allowed to stay.

Immigration has been a hot-button political issue since Germany has absorbed more than one million mostly Muslim refugees and migrants from 2015.

The large influx sparked a xenophobic backlash that saw the far-right, anti-immigration and anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) enter parliament a year ago as the biggest opposition party.

Germany is struggling to fill positions across the board, including in the metal industry. Photo: DPA

But Germany has also been anxious not to leave thousands of migrants idle and susceptible to taking on jobs on the black labour market while they spend years awaiting a final decision on their asylum claims.

The ministers stressed that the new rules aim to find a “pragmatic solution” for rejected asylum seekers who cannot be sent back because, for instance, they face the risk of torture in their country of origin.

Sounding an optimistic note, the head of the Confederation of German Employers' Associations, Ingo Kramer, last week said that, of those who arrived since 2015, “more than 400,000 are in employment or training… even I
am surprised at how quickly it's progressing”.

With unemployment at 5.0 percent, a record low since Germany's 1990 reunification, companies in Europe's most populous economy have long complained that a chronic shortage of workers is threatening growth.

In the areas of mathematics, computing, natural sciences and technology, a record 338,200 jobs went unfilled in September, according to data from the Cologne-based German Economic Institute.

Altmaier said the new rules will especially help Germany's small-and-medium-sized companies “which in the past have suffered as they are in competition with big companies that have poached the well-trained people”.

To attract qualified professionals from abroad, the German government has opened the information website

FIND A JOB: Browse thousands of English-language jobs in Germany

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What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

Third-country nationals with the right to live and work in Germany are generally issued a residence permit in their passport or in the form of an ID card. But what do you if you happen to lose this vital document - or if it gets stolen? Here's a step-by-step guide.

What to do if you lose your residence permit in Germany

Losing an important document can be a nightmare scenario for foreigners in Germany – especially if it’s the one you rely on to live and work in the country. So if you search for your residence permit one day and suddenly realise it’s missing, you may feel the urge to panic. 

Luckily, there’s a process to follow to get a replacement and ensure nobody else can misuse your residence permit in the meantime. This being Germany, it may take a little time, but rest assured you will be able to replace the document. 

Here’s what you need to know. 

Different types of permit

If you’re a non-EU national in Germany, you’re likely to have one of two documents proving your rights and status in the country: 

  • a residence permit that’s placed on a page in your passport (Zusatzblatt zum Aufenthaltstitel), or
  • an electronic ID, or eID, card (electronischer Aufenthaltstitel) for permanent residents. 

Some third-country nationals who’ve been in Germany for less than five years on a visa will have their residence permit in their passport, while others will have been issued an eID card. Permanent residents will generally have an eID card. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to prove you’re a resident in Germany

Brits who lived in Germany before the Brexit cut-off date are likely to have a special type of electronic ID card known as an Aufenthaltstitel-GB. This looks pretty similar to a permanent residence card and basically signifies that the holder is entitled to the same rights as EU citizens living in Germany. 

You’ll need to do things slightly differently depending on which type of residence permit you have, so we’ll cover each in turn. 

In either case, if you suspect you’ve been a victim of theft, it’s a good idea to file a police report so they can be on the lookout for any potential fraud. 

What to do you if you lose your electronic ID card

1. Call the cancellation hotline 

If you’ve mislaid your eID card or it’s been stolen, the first thing to do is call up a national hotline on 01801 33 33 33 and put a block on the card.

To do this, you’ll need to have your Sperrkennwort (blocking passport) handy. The way you’ll have received this can differ from state to state, but usually it is sent out in a letter along with the PIN and PUK for your electronic ID card around the time that the eID was issued. 

This will block anyone from using your eID function. If you find your card again, you can unblock it by visiting the Ausländerbehörde. 

If you haven’t activated the eID function or happen to have mislaid your blocking password as well, then move straight to the second step below. 

READ ALSO: What is Germany’s electronic ID card and how do you use it?

2. Get in touch with the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigner’s Office)

Once you’ve put a block on your card, you’ll need to get in touch with the Ausländerbehörde to let them know what’s happened and arrange a replacement card.

You can do this via email or telephone but may also have to book an in-person appointment if they need to see certain documents for issuing the replacement. If you need to block the eID function and don’t have your Sperrkennwort, you’ll need to take your passport to the Ausländerbehörde to do this.

Bear in mind that you won’t get your new ID card straight away. Depending on the state, it can take a up to three months to be issued. You’ll also need to pay a fee for the replacement card, which can vary from state to state and is normally paid with cash or EC card at the Ausländerbehörde. 

Also, once an order for a new card has been sent off, you’ll no longer be able to reactivate your old card should you find it again. 

Ausländerbehörde Berlin

People go in and out of the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / Kay Nietfeld/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

What to do if you lose your passport and visa 

1. Order a new passport 

It probably goes without saying, but if you lose your passport with your residence permit in it, the first thing you’ll need to do is get hold of a new passport. This should be done via the government of your home country. 

2. Book an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde

Once you’ve got your new passport, make an appointment at the Ausländerbehörde to get a replacement printed out. If you’re unsure what documentation to bring with you to the appointment, check on their website or send them an email beforehand.

Once again, you’ll need to pay a fee for the replacement, which is normally done on-site with cash or an EC card. 

What if I’m travelling out of the country soon? 

If you’re leaving Germany and don’t have time to get a replacement eID card or residence permit, contact the Ausländerbehörde straight away. They should be able to assist you with emergency proof of residence, which is normally done in the form of a Fiktionsbescheinigung (a certificate confirming your status and rights before the official proof has been issued).

Obviously, if you’ve lost your passport, your first port of call will be your home country’s embassy, who can normally issue emergency travel documents within a matter of days. 

For Brits covered by the Withdrawal Agreement, bringing other proof of residence in Germany such as your registration (Anmeldung) with you or a work contract should suffice to avoid getting a stamp in your passport when you re-enter. But even if you do, it won’t affect your rights.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that there are no hard borders in Schengen, so if you’re travelling around the EU, you’ll generally be fine without your visa. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?