For members


What Germany’s coalition plans mean for immigration and citizenship

Germany's SPD, Greens and FDP are going to start formal coalition talks. Here's what their initial plans set out for immigration to the country, and citizenship laws.

People walk in Hamburg near the Elbe river earlier in October.
People walk in Hamburg near the Elbe river earlier in October. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

The three parties involved – the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) – aim to enter into formal coalition negotiations in the coming weeks.

On Friday, the parties’ leadership and main election candidates unveiled their initial agreement on how they see the future of Germany. You can read an overview of the key points here:

READ ALSO: KEY POINTS: What Germany’s three parties in coalition talks have agreed

So what about how the plans could affect foreigners in Germany or those who plan to come here in future? The draft gives a flavour of what the possible future German coalition would do. 

Immigration reform

The parties come across as immigration friendly – and it looks like they will overhaul the immigration system in a bid to attract skilled workers to plug the job shortage.

“Germany is a modern immigration country,” the SPD, Greens and FDP state. “Women and men from many countries have found their home here, started families and earn their living. Therefore, we want to create a modern citizenship law.

The three parties are generally in favour of easier routes to citizenship and changes to Germany’s strict dual citizenship laws.

“Those who are well integrated in Germany and can support themselves should be able to obtain a legally secure residence status more quickly. We want to make it possible to change lanes and improve integration opportunities,” the paper states. 


According to the paper, the SPD, the Greens and the FDP want to introduce a points-based system for immigrants. This could work along the lines of similar systems in Canada, Australia or the UK.

This sees non-citizens looking for work earn points for things like education, language fluency, earnings or job offers. If they meet a certain score, they are allowed into the country.

Germany’s Skilled Immigration Act, which is aimed at easing restrictions and red tape for qualified professionals when migrating to Germany through simplified visa applications, came into force in March 2020.

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

This law will be changed in some way, because the coalition parties say they want to make it “more practical”.

“We also want to introduce a points system as a second pillar for attracting qualified skilled workers,” they said.

Citizenship and catering to a ‘diverse society’

The coalition parties say they recognise that Germany is a “modern country, with great diversity in society”. 

“We see this diversity as an opportunity and want to organise fair participation in all areas and clearly oppose discrimination,” they said. 

The Greens' Annalena Baerbock, the SPD's Olaf Scholz and the FDP's Christian Lindner talk at a press conference on Friday.
The Greens’ Annalena Baerbock, the SPD’s Olaf Scholz and the FDP’s Christian Lindner talk at a press conference on Friday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

The SPD, Greens and FDP are adamant that they want to change laws. 

“To this end, we will, among other things, adapt the law on citizenship, family law, the law on parentage and the transsexual law as well as the regulations on reproductive medicine and, for example, make shared communities of responsibility or a pact for living together possible.”

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

What else do the coalition parties say when it comes to laws and safety?

Alongside pushing for “more preventative security” to make sure everyone in Germany feels safe “whether on the street, at home or online”, the parties also mention taking a hardline against people who commit hate crimes. 

“We will take resolute action in all areas against anti-Semitism, racism, right-wing extremism, Islamism, left-wing extremism, queer hostility and every other form of hostility, so that diversity and security is possible for everyone,” says the draft paper.

The parties say they will “strengthen women’s right to self-determination and promote independent livelihoods”.

“We want women and men to be able to participate equally in social decision-making and in working life, and to be in an equal position to secure their own livelihoods and provide for their old age,” they said.

“We want to counteract the discrimination of women in the labour market and improve the compatibility of family and work. We want to effectively reduce wage inequality between women and men. We will work for more diversity in the world of work and ensure that more women get into leadership positions.”

The initial agreement also states that they want to “expand the participation of citizens with disabilities – in the labour market and by promoting accessibility in everyday life, in housing and in the digital space”.

They also want to lower the voting age from 18 to 16.

Is this set in stone?

No. This is an initial agreement but when the coalition talks go ahead, there may be changes down the line to some aspects. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members


What Germany’s plans for a points-based system mean for foreigners

To tackle its ever-widening skills gap, Germany wants to encourage talent from aboard to move to the country by introducing a points-based immigration system. Here's what foreigners need to know about the changes.

What Germany's plans for a points-based system mean for foreigners

What’s a points-based system?

A points-based system is an immigration model where foreigners have to score above a certain threshold of points in order to obtain a residence or work permit in a country. The exact scoring system is set by the government, but can 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. 

Points-based systems can also be known as “merit-based systems”, because there tends to be a pretty big emphasis on what you can offer a country in terms of education or skills. 

The model was first introduced in Canada way back in 1967 as the country tried to move past a system based on race and nationality to one that favoured language fluency, youth and educational or vocational background. A similar step was taken in Australia just a few years later in 1972 and, since Brexit, the UK has also introduced its own points-based model. 

How does this relate to Germany?

When the new ‘traffic-light’ coalition of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and Free Democrats (FDP) took office last December, the parties pledged to reform Germany’s immigration system and bring a fresh cohort of workers into the country.

“In addition to the existing immigration law, we will establish a second pillar with the introduction of an opportunity card based on a points system to enable workers to gain controlled access to the German labour market in order to find a job,” the coalition agreement read.

This would apply to third-country nationals who don’t otherwise have the right to live and work in the country. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What Germany’s new government means for citizenship and naturalisation

German language course poster

A sign advertising German courses. Language skills can count towards points in a points-based system. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Bernd Wüstneck

FDP migration specialist Dr. Ann-Veruschka Jurisch, who is working on these reforms, says the policy is driven by Germany’s desperate need for workers. 

“The Liberal Party (FDP) is convinced that we need more labour migration,” she told The Local. “We do have a lot of options for coming into Germany as a labour migrant – but it’s a bit complicated – and if you want to come to Germany to search for a job and you don’t come from an EU country, it’s much more difficult.”

That’s why the coalition is aiming to offer a second route for people who don’t have job lined up in Germany, but who otherwise have the skills or talent to find one. 

What will this look like?

The plans for the points-based system are still at an early stage, so the exact criteria haven’t been worked out yet.

What’s clear at this stage, however, is that the points-based option would run parallel to the current model, which generally permits people with a concrete job offer in a skilled profession to come and work in the country. 

“It’s about (people having) a good opportunity to come to Germany when they have either a job offer in sight or a direct job offer,” Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) said in response to parliamentary question in January. 

“Next to that, we want to achieve a further possibility for talent – for qualified men and women whose skills we need in Germany, who still don’t have a work contract but, if given access, could use that opportunity. That’s what we’re talking about with this Canadian points-based system. It shouldn’t replace our current system, but rather improve it.”

In short, that means that people with a job lined up won’t be disadvantaged – but there will be alternative routes for those without them. It also won’t affect the EU blue card scheme

READ ALSO: ‘I finally feel at home’: How Germany’s planned changes to citizenship laws affect foreigners

Will people need formal qualifications? 

Probably not – though it will obviously depend on the sector someone works in and their level of experience in their chosen field.

“I personally am convinced that you shouldn’t place too much emphasis on formal qualifications, because it’s very complicated getting your formal qualifications recognised in Germany,” said Jurisch.

“A medical doctor, for example, is one where you can’t say, ‘Okay, you’ve got some experience so we don’t need to see your papers.’ But there are a lot of other jobs which do not have this restriction and they are not formalised but rather based on practical experience.”

Carpenter wood

A carpenter sands down a block of wood in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Federico Gambarini

The issue of recognising qualifications is also a problem that the traffic-light coalition has set their sights on solving during their time in office.

At the moment, the process of getting qualifications officially recognised in Germany is done on a state-by-state basis, so somebody who gets their degree recognised in Brandenburg may have to redo the entire process again in Bavaria, for instance.

According to Jurisch, there have already been conversations between the Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs and the Ministry of Education on the issue, and Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) has also promised to take steps to solve it.

But, she said, it’s complicated: “I’ve started to dive into this issue, and the more I dive into it, the more complicated it becomes – so there are no silver bullets.” 

How many workers are needed – and where? 

In order to plug its labour shortages, Germany needs around 400,000 new workers every year, according to the Federal Employment Agency. In 2020, Germany’s net migration was just 200,000 and 150,000 people of working age entered retirement – which means the country is currently falling well short of its targets. 

“We have shortages everywhere,” Jurisch said. “We need 400,000 new workers every year, and these people won’t be born in Germany – or if they are, they won’t grow up for another 20 years.

“We haven’t managed to get more women into the labour market, or they work part time, so I don’t think this will make a big difference, and I don’t think we will close the gap by training people.”

In this sense, it seems that immigration is the only option for filling major staff shortages in almost every profession. 

“Whoever I talk to, be it nurses, nannies, IT workers, industrial workers, teachers, lawyers – everywhere we have a shortage,” Jurisch said.

staff shortages Germany

A sign outside a restaurant informs customers of a closure due to staff shortages. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Stefan Sauer

When will the points-based system be introduced?

Unlike with the plans to reform citizenship, which the SDP-led Interior Ministry wants to achieve by the end of the year, there’s no firm timeline in place for the points-based system.

However, the FDP is fighting for the policy to be given higher priority and would like to introduce the new visa system before the next federal election in 2025. 

“I hope it will be done in this legislative period,” said Jurisch. “I’m pushing to get it a little bit higher up on the agenda.” 

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: ‘Changing German citizenship laws is a priority’