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IMMIGRATION

EXPLAINED: The 2022 salary requirements for Germany’s EU Blue Card

The salary requirements for EU Blue Card visa holders in Germany have fallen slightly this year. Here's a look at what you need to know.

People walk in Cologne.
People walk in Cologne. Many third country nationals want to join the EU Blue Card scheme to live and work in Germany. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

Many third country nationals want to apply for the EU Blue Card visa to work in Germany, or another EU country. 

The residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. Authorities in Germany also want to plug the shortage of skilled workers in many employment sectors.

It comes with lots of benefits, including options to move around more freely within the EU, the right to to request and bring family members to the country they live in, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

But there are high salary thresholds that can make it difficult for people to get their hands on this visa. 

This year, the new salary requirements mean a few more people may be able to take advantage of the Blue Card scheme. 

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany in 2022, the applicant has 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 in Germany, 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.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to get a ‘Blue Card’ to live and work in Germany

Britt Posey-Thomas, co-founder of Munich-based site Jetztpat, which helps foreigners settle into life in Germany, told The Local that the lower salary requirements were a sign that the new government is trying to attract more talent from around the world. 

“While expats – and their employers – can usually expect a 1-5 percent annual increase in the minimum salary for a German EU Blue Card, this year the threshold decreased by 0.7 percent.

“Part of the decrease reflects the national salary changes due to the pandemic, but it can also be seen as proof that the new administration is working hard to attract talent from around the world to come to Germany.”

Posey-Thomas said the decrease may seem small, “but we believe the impact will be felt by companies and individuals”.

“Out of the residence title options, Blue Cards give expats the most agency – accelerating the process towards permanent residency,” she said.

“What we’ve seen at Jetztpat, from both our personal and client experiences, is that this transition from visa to permanent settlement helps expats feel not only empowered but more invested in their life in Germany.

“Without the worry of having a visa, they are freer to live on their own terms, switching jobs, moving cities, or even founding their own companies. These benefits are invaluable to individuals who want to make Germany their home for the long term.”

In 2020, the salary requirement for EU Blue Card holders was €43,056 for those in shortage occupations, and €55,200 for workers in other industries and occupations. 

In 2020, the average income in Germany was €47,700 before tax, which corresponds to a monthly gross salary of €3,975 for a full-time job (35 to 40 hours a week is common for full-time in most companies). But there are large differences in earnings between different regions of the country.

REVEALED: How much do employees really earn across Germany? 

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READER INSIGHTS

‘Lack of transparency’: What it’s like to apply for permanent residence in Germany

Getting permanent residency can be a great way to secure your rights in Germany - but what's it like going through the application process? The Local spoke to readers about their experiences.

'Lack of transparency': What it's like to apply for permanent residence in Germany

For non-EU citizens living in Germany, permanent residence is often the go-to status when they decide to build a life here. For years, there have been strict rules that make it difficult to obtain dual nationality, so those who aren’t keen on losing their old citizenship can secure their rights by becoming permanent residents instead.

On the Make it in Germany website – set up by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) – information in English states that most applicants simply need to fulfil a short list of requirements. They need to prove they know German, are well integrated, have a secure livelihood, and have held another residence permit for at least five years.

But how are these rules applied in practice, and how long does it take to switch from a temporary visa to permanent residence?

When The Local spoke to readers about their applications, we found hugely varied experiences for people on different types of visa and in different parts of the country.

“The requirements for permanent residency are clearly defined in the law,” said 27-year-old Manpreet J., who’s originally from India. “What is not defined is how to prove that they are met. This is where the problem begins.”

According to Manpreet, there are even different definitions of a secure livelihood in different regions. In Aachen, for example, a temporary work contract wouldn’t be enough to fulfil this requirement, while just 30km away in Heinsberg, it would.

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

‘Bring everything you can think of’

Jaton’ West, a 77-year-old retiree who lives in Berlin, found the criteria for accepting applications similarly inscrutable.

“We applied twice,” She told The Local. “The first time they only renewed our visa – no explanation as to why. We reapplied when it expired and were granted it. Seems like it’s a crapshoot and just depends on the whim of the person processing your application.”

For Jonathan in Nuremberg, the whole process was marked by a “lack of transparency” – starting with the fact that there was no available information, in English or German, about what documents would be needed during the process.

Forms for visa applications at the Foreigners' Office.

Forms for visa applications at the Foreigners’ Office. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

Six weeks after sending in his application for permanent residency, his local Foreigner’s Office emailed him to inform him that he would need 10 additional documents – including a German language test and integration test that he didn’t know he’d have to take.

With his residence permit due to expire in a matter of weeks, he was left with no time at all to find hard copies of all the other documents, let alone manage the 14-week turnaround for booking and receiving results for the tests. 

“The frustration is that I could have taken these tests anytime in the past year, if I had known that I needed them,” he said.

Düsseldorf resident Dmitry, 33, also received incomplete information about the documents he needed to provide – both on the website of his local Foreigner’s Office and in an email he was sent.

“As far as I recall, no list mentioned bringing the work contract, and the contract for the flat was also required. Finally, I had to provide them translations of my degrees, despite already having provided them for my Blue Card,” he said. “In the end, it’s worth bringing everything a person can think of.”

READ ALSO: Reader question: Is my British residency title the same as permanent residency in Germany?

‘Smoother than expected’ 

For the vast majority of respondents, the sheer amount of paperwork involved in the application was the hardest thing about securing permanent residency.

Others said they had found it tricky to brush up their German skills to meet the B1 language requirement.

However, a number of people said they been pleasantly surprised by how relaxed their case workers had been and how simple the process was.

This was the case for 32 year-old Angela, who moved to Berlin from Colombia. 

“I prepared a lot of documents, but in the end all they checked was my salary and that I had contributed to the pension fund and Krankenkasse (health insurance),” she told us. “I don’t know why it was so easy for me – my intuition tells me higher income people have it easier.” 

Folders filled with documents sit on a windowsill.

Folders filled with documents sit on a windowsill. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | arifoto UG

For 39 year-old Shila, who lives in Mainz, the experience of applying for permanent residency was similarly hassle-free. After emailing the Landesamt and her local case worker, she was given an appointment and a list of documents to bring with her. 

Despite the fact that she wasn’t able to supply a language certificate, the application was a success – and her case worker even offered to talk to her in English.

“It was in 2021 in the middle of lockdown, but it was a very positive surprise to me after hearing all the bad experiences on Facebook groups,” Shila said.

The huge variation in experiences even extended to the amount of time it took for permanent residence to be granted.

While some lucky applicants managed to complete the whole thing within a month, others have waited as long as a year and a half – and in some cases are still waiting for an outcome. 

Easier with a Blue Card

Among those respondents who had an easier time, many told us they had originally come to Germany on a Blue Card – a special EU visa for skilled workers on high incomes.

Blue Card holders with basic German language skills are able to receive permanent residency after living in the country for just 33 months. Meanwhile, those with slightly more advanced skills (B1) can secure their permanent status after just 21 months.

Berlin resident Steven, 50, told us he was pleasantly surprised to find out that he’d only need an A1 language certificate, thanks to the fact that he’d been living in Germany on a Blue Card.

Others took advantage of the fast-tracked option and secured their B1 certificate in order to get a permanent residence permit after less than two years.

Adi Singh, 33, said getting a hold of permanent residence in Munich had been an incredibly smooth process – largely because he’d applied through his employer.

READ ALSO: TEST: Is your German good enough for citizenship or permanent residency?

With his B1 language skills, Adi was able to apply after just 21 months, and he received his card within just six months.

“I had one in-person appointment at the KVR close to the approval stage, but that was quick and short,” he said. “But they make it a point to speak to you in German, likely to establish that B1 level.”

Compared to the experience of applying for his Blue Card himself, Adi said applying via his employer had helped him avoid bureaucratic issues.

“I was fortunate to do it through my firm, and I would recommend that if your company does not apply for it for you, it is a good idea to hire an immigration firm that will do the process,” he advised. “It’s worth the time and energy saved.”

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