In the interest of safeguarding Germany's competitiveness and capacity to innovate, even in times of globalisation and an ageing population, the Federal Government has paved the way for a forward-looking immigration policy.

A new residence permit, the "EU Blue Card" was created based on Directive 2009/50/EC. The new law entered into force on 1 August 2012 and goes far beyond merely transposing the EU directive into national law: the rules governing immigration and the right for foreign nationals to seek employment in Germany were significantly improved, particularly to the benefit of international students and graduates of German higher-education establishments, of foreign nationals that have completed vocational training in Germany or are currently enrolled in vocational training in Germany, and of self-employed persons and start-up entrepreneurs. Moreover, a new residence permit was introduced to allow foreign nationals with higher-education qualifications to seek employment in Germany.

The "EU Blue Card" can be obtained by applicants who have a higher-education degree, a work contract, and a gross annual salary of at least 47,600 euros (as of 1 January 2014). A gross annual salary of at least 37,128 euros is required by graduate applicants in a profession where there is a skills shortage. Holders of an EU Blue Card are normally granted indefinite leave to remain after 33 months, provided that the work contract is ongoing. Holders of an EU Blue Card who have good German language skills are granted indefinite leave to remain after 21 months already. Family members do not have to provide proof of German language skills before coming to Germany and can take up work as soon as they arrive and without any restrictions.