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10 things you need to know about Germany’s new law to attract skilled foreign workers

On March 1st, the Skilled Immigration Act came into force, which should make it easier for people from non-EU countries to migrate to Germany for work.

10 things you need to know about Germany's new law to attract skilled foreign workers
Germany has a worker shortage. Photo: DPA

The law – called the “Fachkräfteeinmigrationgesetz” in German – extends access to the labour market in Germany for skilled workers from countries outside the EU. But how does it actually work?

We break it down for you.

Why is there a new law?

There's a shortage of skilled workers in Germany across sectors. 

In order to address this and fill the gaps in the labour market, a new package of laws were passed on June 7th last year, which aim to attract foreign skilled vocational workers with German language skills – including those from outside the EU – and promises them eased visa procedures and reduced red tape.

There are more than 1.5 million jobs that Germany will find difficult to fill in the long term, according to the Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce (DIHK).

The government estimates that the new rules should bring in an additional 25,000 skilled workers – such as craftspeople, engineers, nursers, care workers, cooks and metal workers – to Germany every year.

The law came into force on March 1st this year.

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

Planned measures

According to the government, making sure employees already in Germany can receive further training if they want it is a top priority in the strategy to gain more skilled workers.

However, as the demographics change in Germany's ageing society, experts say many more workers are needed. That's why the country wants to attract qualified skilled workers from elsewhere.

Here are some of the measures involved in the new law to address this:

Opening up the labour market

Germany is now open to anyone who has completed vocational training. 

Skilled professionals from non-EU countries have so far had unrestricted access to the labour market – but only if they have an academic qualification, like a university degree.

Now thanks to the new law the definition of a qualified professional has changed. It's now defined as a person with an education degree or a vocational training qualification who has come from a training course lasting at least two years.

The care sector in Germany needs more employees. Photo: DPA

That means those with foreign vocational qualifications in any occupation, such as electricians, will also be able to obtain a visa or residence permit for employment – not just those with university degrees.

Job seekers need to have their qualification recognised

It doesn't matter whether you have a university degree or a vocational qualification, all skilled workers first have to get their foreign qualification recognised by the relevant authority in Germany.

Before being able to apply for a visa, job seekers must be offered a contract for skilled employment in Germany.

Qualified professionals with academic degrees can also work in any occupations related to their field which require a vocational non-academic qualification. This excludes semi-skilled occupations.

This differs to the The EU Blue Card, which is only ever issued for jobs that go with the professional qualification, (normally an academic degree), and those who receive the card must earn a certain amount. 

No priority given to German workers

Employers who were previously obliged to give preference to German or EU applicants over others from different countries will no longer be able to do this under the new law. 

READ ALSO: 'Germany needs 500,000 new immigrants every year

This rule (Vorrangprüfung) is now obsolete for positions in skilled professions. However, this can be reintroduced if the labour market nosedives.

Another thing to note is that qualified professionals from outside the EU with vocational training are no longer restricted to occupations with a skills shortage. If someone has a qualification recognised in Germany they can work in all occupations covered by their qualification.

Helping with the job search and allowing internships

In order to help plug the vacancy gap, people with vocational training or a degree can be granted a stay of six months to look for a job.

To get this permit, job seekers must have a recognised qualification, be able to support themselves financially while job hunting and have German language skills (generally at B1 level).

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

During the search, trial work of up to 10 hours a week can be carried out. This makes it possible to do an internship with a potential employer.

Skilled professionals with an academic qualification, who as before were permitted to come to Germany for six months to seek employment, are also now allowed to work up to 10 hours per week on a trial basis.

They do not have to demonstrate any language skills.

Facilitating qualification recognition and easing visa procedure

The recognition of the foreign professional qualification is essential in order for a skilled worker from a non-EU country to obtain a residence permit for employment.

But if the qualification is not recognised there are other ways. In fact, opportunities to come to Germany to train have been improved.

If a qualification is not fully recognised, the job seeker can apply for a visa to come to Germany to complete training. They will need A2 level German. This 18-month residence permit can be extended to a maximum period of two years.

Furthermore, the new law aims to accelerate the procedures for skilled workers to get a visa.

READ ALSO: Explained: The best and worst paid jobs in Germany

Photo: DPA

Better prospects for skilled workers

People who come to Germany as skilled employees should be able to integrate into everyday life and secure their future, says the government.

Skilled workers who have gained a German university degree or vocational training in Germany will be able to obtain a permanent settlement permit after two years of employment.

Meanwhile, skilled workers with a recognised foreign qualification will be able to get a permit after four years (it was previously five years).

How is the government getting the word out?

As well as easing visa procedures, the government is launching targeted advertising in cooperation with the business world and industries to attract job seekers.

Meanwhile, the government hopes that accelerated recognition of foreign educational qualifications and increased language support, particularly abroad, will help attract workers.

Is everyone happy?

The new law is controversial. Some don't think it goes far enough for skilled workers, especially considering that they might have to devote time to learning German in their home country without the guarantee of a job.

Others are concerned about more immigration to Germany, particularly because the country has seen an influx in migrants and refugees in recent years.

German authorities have sought to point out that the new law is not aimed at making unskilled immigration easier.

For more information check out the government website Make it in Germany. 

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WORKING IN GERMANY

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

Lots of foreigners in Germany hope to get a job or climb the career ladder. But are there still opportunities for English speakers who don't have fluent German? We spoke to a careers expert to find out.

How easy is it to get an English-speaking job in Germany?

The pandemic turned our lives upside down. As well as having to isolate and be apart from family members, many people found themselves in need of a new job or decided they want a change in career. 

If you’re in Germany or thinking of moving here, job searching is of course easier with German language skills. But many people haven’t had the chance to learn German – or their German isn’t fluent enough to work in a German-only environment.

So how easy is it to find a job in Germany as an English speaker?

We asked Düsseldorf-based career coach Chris Pyak, managing director of Immigrant Spirit GmbH, who said he’s seen an increase in job offers. 

“The surprising thing about this pandemic is that demand for skilled labour actually got even stronger,” Pyak told The Local.

“Instead of companies being careful, they’ve hired even more than they did before. And the one thing that happened during the pandemic that didn’t happen in the last 10 years I’ve observed the job market was that the number of English offers quadrupled.”

READ ALSO: How to boost your career chances in Germany

Pyak said usually about one percent of German companies hire new starts in English. “Now it’s about four percent,” said Pyak. 

“This happened in the second half of 2021. This is a really positive development that companies are more willing than they used to be. That said it’s still only four percent.”

Pyak said he’s seen a spike in demand for data scientists and analysts as well as project managers. 

So there are some jobs available, but can foreigners do anything else?

Pyak advises non-Germans to sell themselves in a different way than they may be used to. 

A woman works on her CV in Germany.

A woman works on her CV in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Christin Klose

“In your home country you have a network, you have a company you used to work for that people know,” said Pyak. “This might be partly the case in Germany if you worked for an international company. But for most employers you are a blank sheet of paper, they know nothing about you. So unfortunately if they don’t know you or your country, they will assume you are worse (at the job) than Germans. It’s completely unjustified but it’s just how people are. 

“Get the employer to see you as the individual person you are, the professional you are. This requires that you have a conversation with somebody inside the company, ideally the decision maker, meaning the hiring manager or someone in this team.”

Pyak said it’s important to go into details. 

“Don’t think of me as a foreigner, think of me as ‘Mark who has been working in IT for 15 years’,” said Pyak. “Don’t read the job advert (to the manager), ask them what his or her biggest worry is and why is that important? And then dig deeper and offer solutions based on your work experience. Share actual examples where you proved that you can solve this problem.”

READ ALSO: 7 factors that can affect how much you’re getting paid

Pyak says foreigners in Germany can convince managers that they are right for the job – even if their German isn’t great. 

“What I advise clients at the beginning of the interview is to ask very politely if you can ask them (managers) a question. And this question should be: how will you know that I’m successful in this job, what is the most important problem I need to solve for you in order to make myself valuable? And then ask why this problem is so important. And the answer to that achieves a million things for you – first of all you’ve established a measurement by which you should be measured. 

“Then when you get into detailed discussion you can always tie your answer back to the question you can solve, which usually makes up 70 or 80 percent of the job. If you can solve this problem then what does it matter if you do the job in German or English?”

So in answer to our original question – it seems that getting an English-speaking job in Germany can’t be described as easy but it is very possible especially if you have the skills in your chosen field. Plus there are ways to increase your chances. Good luck! 

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