Explained: How to apply for Germany's new 'opportunity card' and other visas for job seekers
Germany is planning an “opportunity card” to help make it easier to enter the workforce and attract people with key skills. Here's how to apply for it and other types of working visas.
With its aging population, Germany needs as many as 400,000 new skilled workers a year to plug its skills shortage as more and more people retire or leave the workforce.
Options certainly exist for coming to work in Germany, with many types of visas available, but each one comes with its own set of bureaucratic rules. We’ve gathered a few select visas allowing people to work in the Bundesrepublik.
How does the new Chancenkarte, or ‘opportunity card’, differ from the current work or job seeker visa?
Although many types of visas currently exist, the current traffic light government, consisting of the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens, and Free Democrats (FDP) – are working on several immigration and citizenship reforms to try and attract more skilled professionals.
One of the ruling coalition’s biggest immigration reform projects is the Chancenkarte. The ‘opportunity card’ will allow foreign nationals to come to Germany and look for work even if they don’t have a formal job offer – provided they meet at least three of these four criteria:
- A university degree of professional qualification
- Professional experience of at least three years
- A language skill or previous residence in Germany
- Under 35 years-old
This plan differs from Germany’s current work visa in a few key aspects. First, foreign specialists currently have to do the following when applying for a German work visa:
- Have a qualification recognised in Germany and a professional practice permit if practicing a regulated profession
- Have a job offer related to their qualification, which the German Federal Employment Agency must also approve
- Have an annual salary of at least €46,530 if older than 45 years of age and coming to Germany for the first time
People who fulfill these criteria and earn at least €43,992 in math, IT, natural sciences, medicine, and engineering may also be eligible for a European Union ‘Blue Card.’ This also applies to people in other professions earning at least €56,400.
The opportunity card would loosen these requirements by already allowing skilled workers to come to Germany without a job offer.
In certain cases, they also would no longer have to prove that their qualification is recognised in Germany – allowing the worker and employer to arrange this recognition later.
It also, under the right circumstances, may allow people to come to Germany to look for work even if they don’t speak German yet. The current job seeker visa allows people to come to Germany to look for work if they:
- have a qualification recognised in Germany and a practice permit for a regulated profession
- proof of German language skills (typically at least a B1 level)
- proof of ability to pay living costs
In the right circumstances, the opportunity card may end up relaxing these requirements. However, the legislation governing the new card is currently in its draft phase, with the Bundestag expected to debate and pass it next year. Until then the old rules apply.
Visas for IT Specialists
Many IT Specialists may already qualify for a German work visa, jobseeker visa, or EU Blue Card. There may be a few who slip through the cracks though – particularly skilled IT workers who have plenty of practical experience but no recognised professional qualification. These specialists can prove their eligibility with the following:
- training courses or exams which prove theoretical knowledge in lieu of a full qualification
- at least three years of IT work experience in the last seven years
- an IT sector job offer with a salary of at least €50,760 per year
- B1 German skills, unless the primary language spoken at work isn’t German
Visas for the self-employed
People looking to freelance or start a business can apply for this visa without a job offer if they:
- are able to prove they can finance the implementation of their business, either through their own money or a secured loan
- have any licenses necessary to perform the job in question
- can prove their product or service is in demand in their region and will have positive economic impact
- can provide proof of old age pension provisions if older than 45
Working holiday and youth mobility
Young people from certain countries may be eligible to come to Germany, even without a job offer, for up to a year for part-time or full-time work. Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea can apply from the time they turn 18 right up until right before their 31st birthday, under the working holiday scheme. Canadians can apply right up until just before they turn 36 under the working holiday agreement between the two countries.
These applicants have to prove that they have a certain amount of money in their account if they apply at a German mission abroad. If they’re already in Berlin, they can apply with €2,000 in their account.
Other skilled worker visas
Germany also has several visas for very specific professions with requirements that differ quite a bit to other visas. They include visas for professional drivers, athletes, coaches, language teachers, artists, interns, and researchers.
More information is available on the Make It In Germany portal.