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IMMIGRATION

What you need to know about Germany’s points-based immigration plans

Germany wants to make it easier for non-EU citizens to enter the country to help combat the shortage of skilled workers with the so-called "opportunity card". Here’s what you need to know.

Sigudur, a native of Iceland, checks the landing gear of a Boeing 747 at the Haitec aircraft shipyard in Hahn. Germany is struggling with a skilled worker shortage.
Sigudur, a native of Iceland, checks the landing gear of a Boeing 747 at the Haitec aircraft shipyard in Hahn. Germany is struggling with a skilled worker shortage. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Thomas Frey

As The Local has been reporting, Germany is currently facing a huge gap in its labour force, with the Labour Ministry predicting a shortfall of 240,000 skilled workers by 2026.

This week, Federal Labour Minister Hubertus Heil presented the initial details of a new points-based immigration system, which is designed to make it easier for people to come to Germany to work. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German industries ‘most affected’ by skilled worker shortage

The new Chancenkarte (“opportunity card”) presented by the SPD politician is broadly similar to the Canadian points system, and will offer foreign nationals the chance to come to Germany to look for work even without a job offer, as long as they fulfil at least three of the following criteria:

1) A university degree or professional qualification

2) Professional experience of at least three years

3) Language skill or previous residence in Germany

4) Aged under 35 

Holders of this opportunity card would then have one year to look for a job and would have to finance themselves during that period. 

According to the Labour Minister, the German government will set a yearly quota for the number of people who will be able to come to Germany with an opportunity card, based on the needs of the labour market.

“It is about qualified immigration, about a non-bureaucratic procedure,” Heil told WDR radio. “That is why it is important that those who have received the opportunity card can make a living when they are here.”

Speaking about the proposals, Professor Panu Poutvaara, Director of the ifo Center for International Institutional Comparisons and Migration Research told the Local: “I welcome the government proposal. Germany needs more workers at different skill levels. What is important is that this should complement the current opportunities to come to Germany also from outside the European Union with an existing job offer, not replace these. I assume that the proposal is meant only to extend the current options, but the precise proposal is not yet circulated.”

READ ALSO:

According to a survey by the Munich-based Ifo Institute, the vast majority of companies in Germany are currently struggling with the issue of a shortage of skilled workers. The survey showed that 87 percent are facing worker shortages and more than a third of respondents see it as a threat to competitiveness. 

“The shortage of qualified employees, and meanwhile of employees in general, is the third threat to Germany as a business location, alongside shortages of raw materials and energy,” Rainer Kirchdörfer, CEO of the Family Business Foundation told die Welt. 

Changes to immigration and citizenship laws ‘high priority’

The proposed measure is part of a package of reforms to immigration law which will be presented later in autumn.

The government also wants to make it easier for people to hold multiple nationalities and make naturalisation of foreigners easier. In future, naturalisation will be possible after five years instead of eight years currently, and as little as three years in cases where people are deemed to have integrated particularly well.

“We need more immigration,” Heil told Bild am Sonntag. “To this end, the traffic light will present a modern immigration law in autumn. We are introducing an opportunity card with a transparent points system so that people our country needs can come to us more easily.”

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

A spokesperson from the Interior Ministry recently told The Local that the changes are a “high priority” but they could take time. 

They said: “The modernisation of citizenship law agreed in the coalition agreement of the governing parties is a high priority for the federal government. There are also plans to make dual and multiple citizenships generally possible.

“The careful preparation and implementation of this important reform project is underway, but will take some time because fundamental amendments to the Citizenship Act must be prepared for this purpose.”

Member comments

  1. Before moving more immigrants to Germany, fix the racism in property rental. Non-Europeans suffer extreme difficulty renting a place even with stable income. I applied for over 350 properties so far with only 5 viewings and no offer, and I was considered “lucky” I was accepted for view. Meanwhile, an Austrian could find and sign a contract within ONE week.

    This is disgraceful and I would discourage anyone wants to move to Germany.

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IMMIGRATION

German business leaders back proposed citizenship reforms

The latest proposals for reforming German citizenship law have triggered a controversial debate in Germany. But business experts are in support of the changes.

German business leaders back proposed citizenship reforms

Last Friday, new details emerged of the German coalition government’s plans to make German citizenship easier to come by.

Amongst other reforms, the proposed changes will make it possible to become a German citizen after five instead of eight years and, in the case of “special integration achievements”, this should even be possible after just three years.

The proposals have already triggered a backlash from the main opposition party in the German parliament – the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) – and from the Free Democrats (FDP), which are a member of the coalition government. Criticisms range from the measures representing a “devaluation” of the German passport to being ill-timed. 

FDP Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai said Monday that, as there had been “no progress” on combating illegal immigration to Germany, now is not the right time to relax citizenship rules.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: Could Germany’s conservatives block dual citizenship?

However, in view of the current worker shortage in Germany, employment experts and business leaders have come out in support of the proposals. Germany is in the midst of a huge worker shortage and currently needs 400,000 additional workers a year to plug the gap in the labour market and, in their view, simplifying naturalisation laws could help ease this looming crisis. 

The head of the Federal Employment Agency, Andrea Nahles, stressed the importance of immigration for the labour market as a whole and told the Süddeutsche Zeitung on Tuesday: “Because of demographic change, there is no scenario where we can get by without major immigration.” 

What are people saying?

The deputy head of the SPD parliamentary group, Dirk Wiese, told the Berliner Morgenpost that, by making naturalisation easier, the coalition government will “make Germany more attractive as a location for skilled workers”.

Similarly, the head of the German Federation of Trade Unions (DGB), Yasmin Fahimi, told Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that easier naturalisation would be a positive signal to millions of people with a migration background in Germany and, at the same time, to all interested skilled workers abroad.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How Germany plans to make immigration easier for skilled workers

According to the chairwoman of the Council of Economic Experts, making naturalisation easier would also strengthen the integration of foreigners living and working in Germany. 

“In view of demographic change and the growing shortage of skilled workers and labour, this is absolutely to be welcomed,” she said.

Federal managing director of the German Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW), Markus Jerger, also told the Redaktionsnetzwerk Deutschland that the reduction of bureaucratic hurdles in the naturalisation of software engineers and nursing staff could give Germany a longtime leg up in these fields, which are consistently in need of employees.

Coming to stay

Wido Geis-Thöne from the employer-affiliated Institute of German Economy (IW) pointed out that expeditated naturalisation would also help more immigrants stay in the country and continue working. Until now, many such workers leave Germany again after a certain time, he said. 

READ ALSO: Germany to ease citizenship rules for children of foreign parents

Andreas Jahn, Head of Policy and Foreign Trade at the German Association of Small and Medium-Sized Businesses (BVMW), said that having the German passport should encourage people to stay in agriculture in particular – as well as to integrate better – especially in rural areas.

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