Advertisement

Immigration For Members

8 things to know about Germany's new skilled worker immigration law

Rachel Loxton
Rachel Loxton - [email protected]
8 things to know about Germany's new skilled worker immigration law
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonathan Penschek

The German Bundestag has approved an immigration reform, bringing the new law a step closer to reality.

Advertisement

The German government - made up of a coalition between the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) - has approved a new skilled immigration law designed to cut red tape and encourage more immigration from abroad. 

The law still has to go through the Bundesrat before it can come into force. The Bundesrat, which represents governments of German states, is expected to meet in the coming weeks. If it is approved, we'll likely see the changes later this year and next year. 

Here's a look at 8 things you should know about the legislation. 

READ ALSO: German Bundestag passes sweeping immigration reforms bill

The law was designed with the worker shortage in mind

It's no secret that Germany is extremely worried about not having enough workers to fill roles and pay into social security. 

A report by the Institute of German Economy (IW) released in April said employers last year were unable to fill around 630,000 job vacancies in their industries.

READ ALSO: '600,000 vacancies': Why Germany's skilled worker shortage is greater than ever

Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) fears there could be a shortage of seven million workers by 2035 if no action is taken. 

Experts say the shortage is significantly worsening because of demographic changes as the baby boomer generation retires and people live longer. Plus migrants often choose other destinations with more favourable environments for foreigners, such as the US or Canada. 

The head of Germany's Federal Employment Agency has previously said Germany will need 400,000 skilled workers from abroad each year to help plug the gap.

There are also moves to encourage more training within Germany to foster talent.

PODCAST: How Brexit has hit Brits in Germany and immigration changes

Colleagues work together at a startup.

Colleagues work together at a startup. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

The law aims to make Germany a key destination for skilled workers

The government is desperate to make Germany more attractive for people from non-EU countries. 

That involves loosening Germany's notorious red tape and bureaucracy, widening opportunities for skilled workers as well as making the country more welcoming to foreigners. 

The reforms, which were first set out in March include relaxing Blue Card rules and introducing a points-based immigration system (more on those below!)

The coalition government is also working on reforming citizenship legislation to allow dual citizenship and remove some hurdles to naturalisation. It hopes this will also make Germany more desirable to workers from abroad as a destination to settle in. 

Advertisement

More people will be able to get an EU Blue Card

A key point of the new skilled worker law is that the salary requirements for getting a Blue Card, which has been on offer in Germany to non-EU residents with a university degree since 2012, will be lowered.

The salary threshold for taking up a job in Germany is to be lowered to €43,800 gross (before tax) per year, which would be €3,650 gross per month. That is down from a threshold of €58,400 per year gross (approximately €4,860 per month).

Blue Card holders will also find it easier to change employers, bring their families to Germany and obtain permission for permanent residence in the EU.

READ ALSO: Germany or Austria: Where is it easier to get an EU Blue Card?

Furthermore, according to the plans, skilled workers should be able to "pursue any qualified employment" - that means they can work in a field that is outside their original qualification.

A skilled worker recognised as a businesswoman for office management could, for example, be employed as a skilled worker in the field of logistics. Specifically for IT specialists, it is envisaged that they can obtain an "EU Blue Card" even without a university degree if they can prove other qualifications.

Advertisement

This is key because many developers, for instance, train in 'bootcamps' or other specialised training courses after doing a degree in another field. 

The changes will make it possible for those with lower earning potential, especially those starting their careers, to obtain this type of permit. 

A new points visa is being launched

As part of the reform, Germany plans to introduce a new job seekers' visa called the "Opportunity Card", or Chancenkarte.

This will allow for people seeking employment to come to Germany and search for a job for a year provided that their livelihood is secured. 

READ ALSO: How to apply for Germany's new planned 'opportunity card' and other visas for job seekers

People stand in front of the Berlin State Office for Immigration.

People stand in front of the Berlin State Office for Immigration. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

The points will be awarded based on factors like qualifications, German language proficiency, age, and connection to Germany. To enter the country with the Chancenkarte, migrants must score at least six out of a maximum of 10 points.

The plans are to lower the minimum requirements for German language skills - the level you need to be eligible to apply for the card - from A2 to A1 level. Having B2 level English is another possible route. 

Another new addition to the law is that the card can be extended for up to two years if the applicants can present an employment contract for qualified employment and the Federal Employment Agency agrees.

If all goes to plan, this visa will be available in the first half of 2024. 

Advertisement

Fewer obstacles in general for non-EU workers

Skilled workers will have the opportunity to start work in Germany even while their qualifications are being certified, not only in their chosen profession but also in other similar occupations. 

Moreover, the reform allows skilled workers to obtain a permanent settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) after three years instead of the previous requirement of four years.

Under the new legislation, skilled workers will be able to come to Germany with two years of professional experience and two years of educational experience. Previously, a professional qualification in a specific field was required to obtain a working visa before entering the country.

The Residence Act will also be changed. Up to now, it has stipulated that entry into Germany must always be made with a visa for a specific purpose. This means, for example, that someone who has entered Germany on a tourist visa and is offered a job in Germany at short notice must first leave the country and apply for a new, purpose-specific visa.

In future, this will no longer be necessary, but it will be possible to change the visa accordingly during the stay in Germany.

Family reunification is to be extended

As we mentioned, the possibilities for family reunification will be expanded under the reform.

That means it not just someone's spouse and children who will be able to join them in Germany in future, but also parents and parents-in-law.

Advertisement

Job opportunities for asylum seekers

Under the changes, asylum seekers whose procedures are already underway will have the opportunity to start vocational training or take up a job.

However, this "lane change" will only be possible retroactively and not for new asylum seekers, so as not to create "false incentives" for migration, the government says. The cut-off date is asylum seekers who were in Germany before March 29th 2023.

This add-on was a response to criticism from the opposition CDU/CSU and the AfD, who had accused the government factions of lowering the barriers to immigration in Germany. 

This is the second skilled worker reform in Germany in recent years

Back in 2020, Germany launched the Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz or Skilled Immigration Act in a bid to attract more immigration from abroad. 

At the time, the previous coalition made up of Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats were running the show. 

Visa procedures were eased and there was set to be targeted advertising among industries to attract talent from outside of the EU. 

However, it's widely been viewed as not going far enough given that things have got even worse, and the current coalition government set about reforming the law as soon as they came to power in 2021. 

More

Comments (1)

Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

Shubham Jha 2023/06/25 10:06
All this is in vain if the processing time keep rising. All major cities are way too slow to process applications and renewals

See Also