‘Germany needs 500,000 new immigrants every year’

Germany is grappling with a ticking demographic time bomb. The Local spoke with FDP politician Christian Dürr who says immigration is the key to the country's future.

'Germany needs 500,000 new immigrants every year'
A skilled worker in Bremen. Photo: DPA

As a society, we are living longer – and that's a good thing. But there is a lot of debate over how to stop Germany's welfare system buckling under the pressure of an ageing population.

The Local spoke with Christian Dürr, deputy chairman of the pro-business Free Democrats' (FDP) parliamentary group, who recently wrote a guest commentary for German daily Die Welt on the country's need for more newcomers.

The Local: How important is immigration to Germany and why?

Christian Dürr: Immigration is essential to Germany‘s future. We are the second-oldest country in the world, and soon will experience a huge retirement wave. Our birth rates are low, so without immigration the country will regress. At the same time, immigration fosters diversity, which in turn makes us a better country and a better society.

READ ALSO: Germany's future depends on immigration and integration

You mentioned the pension system being at breaking point in your commentary for Die Welt. Why do you think this?

Our pension system is pay as you go – the current working generation is paying directly into the pension fund that distributes money to pensioners. The system worked perfectly back in the 1950s, but over the years the balance of working people to pensioners has skewed dramatically toward the latter. Soon, additional subsidies were necessary to guarantee pension payments. Today, that subsidy is more than €100 billion, roughly a third of our federal budget in 2020. This is neither sustainable nor fair to the future generations.

READ ALSO: Should people without children be forced to pay more tax in Germany?

How many new immigrants do you think Germany needs every year?

In the article you mentioned earlier, I wrote that 500,000 immigrants were needed per year. That‘s roughly the amount we need to counter the demographic change. One crucial point, though: we need to make sure that people get direct access to our labour market, and we need to attract skilled labour more ambitiously. Unfortunately, our government has failed to address this issue.

You say the current immigration laws are not working. Why?

Because they‘re way too complicated! When I hear stories of people waiting for a year to have their embassy meetings, when they tell me about the mountain of paperwork they need to comb through, I get the feeling the government is actively trying to make the system as difficult as possible. We need to target skilled workers in a way that Canada does, for instance.

READ ALSO: How Germany is set to make it easier to attract non-EU skilled workers

Christian Dürr, member of the German Bundestag and deputy chairman of the FDP parliamentary group. Photo courtesy of Christian Dürr.

You mentioned that integrated workers in Germany are being deported while criminals are not. Do you have any examples of this? Why do you think this is happening?

A few months ago, a logistics company reached out to me. One of their employees, a Pakistani refugee who had started working in their Headquarters, was about to be deported. He decided to flee Pakistan due to religious persecution and knew he couldn’t go back any time soon. In Germany, he learned the language, worked his way up within the company and made friends in the town he got moved to. After two years the government deported him because his refugee status expired.

The government passed new laws recently to attract foreign skilled vocational workers with German language skills and to make it easier for rejected asylum seekers to evade an ordered deportation. Do you think this will help the situation?

That bill was a huge disappointment to anyone who wants a sensible immigration policy. All it did was tinkering with minor immigration guidelines that increase immigration by 25.000 per year – that‘s five percent of what we need. It completely ignored the way we decide who to deport and failed to address the underlying issues in our immigration system.

READ ALSO: What Germany's new controversial immigration laws mean for foreigners

What kind of immigration laws do you think Germany needs?

Sensible ones! We need to start differentiating between the different reasons for immigration – asylum, refuge, economic immigration. And it has to be transparent, so that people not only in Germany, but everywhere in the world know who gets to move here to stay, and who does not.

What do you think will happen if there is no change?

We‘ll get older as a country, and will fall behind as a society as well as an economy. The longer we don’t address the obvious issues, the stronger the far right will get – if we fail to facilitate legal immigration, illegal immigration will rise. Right-wing parties will get stronger, and we will get weaker as a country and as a European Union.

READ ALSO: Explained: How Germany plans to fight its drastic shortage of care workers

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EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

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

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected]