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The Skilled Immigration Act – one year on
Despite the pandemic, 30,000 visas have been issued to skilled workers and trainees from abroad
On 1 March 2021, one year will have passed since the Skilled Immigration Act came into force. And so far the results have been positive:
From 1 March 2020 to 31 December 2020, in spite of the pandemic, German diplomatic missions abroad issued almost 30,000 visas to qualified skilled workers and trainees from third countries.
Several German federal states have set up central foreigners authorities specialising in the immigration of skilled workers.
The Federal Employment Agency has set up a service centre to recognise the professional qualifications of foreign skilled workers interested in working in Germany.
Increasing use is being made of the important new fast-track procedure for skilled workers under section 81a of the Act.
Federal Minister Seehofer said: “When the Skilled Immigration Act entered into force a year ago, I said it was a milestone in Germany’s migration policy. Today the figures speak for themselves. After only one year, the Act has allowed us to successfully compete for skilled workers by providing people with a legal pathway to the German labour market.”
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said: “The campaign to attract the best people begins before they arrive in Germany, so at the beginning of the year we established the Federal Agency for Foreign Affairs, where our experts electronically process visa applications from around the world. In view of the pandemic and the considerable restrictions it has imposed on many countries, this proved to be key to the success of the scheme. Already in 2020 it allowed us, despite all the difficulties, to recruit many skilled workers from abroad who are urgently needed by German companies.”
Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Hubertus Heil said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly shown how important skilled workers are for our country – in the health and care sectors, the IT sector, public utilities and many other areas. The demographic development of our society and the increasing use of technology in the workplace have led to a considerable, long-term need for skilled workers, also from abroad. The Skilled Immigration Act has created an excellent framework for this. It is already proving effective and will be even more effective in future. Just as important as the Act itself is its practical implementation. In this, the Federal Employment Agency is an excellent partner, bringing together employers and potential employees from abroad, both in local employment agencies and through the Central Placement Office. But we will only succeed if we can provide good working conditions and all move together towards the same goal. Working conditions are a particularly important issue to me. We are competing internationally for good skilled workers, and success cannot be taken for granted. We need to be as attractive as possible, and the Skilled Immigration Act laid the foundations for this.”
Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy Peter Altmaier said: “Meeting the demand for skilled workers is a key challenge for Germany as a business location. That was the case before the pandemic and it will continue to be the case in the future. We need skilled workers in the health sector, the skilled trades and for the digital transformation of the country. And so it was right to introduce the Skilled Immigration Act a year ago to expand immigration opportunities for skilled workers from third countries, especially those with professional qualifications. And it is good news that, despite the pandemic, the new legal framework is having the desired effect.”
The Skilled Immigration Act is a modern regulatory framework that provides for orderly, rapid procedures allowing qualified skilled workers from outside the EU to come to Germany. It thus helps to meet the German economy’s demand for skilled workers.
Skilled workers entering Germany from third countries are subject to all the usual provisions in place to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2, including the ordinance adopted by the German Bundestag on 13 January 2021 (Coronavirus-Einreiseverordnung) and the ordinances adopted by the German federal states regarding quarantine regulations.
Background information on the Skilled Immigration Act:
The Skilled Immigration Act was part of a legislative package on migration adopted by the German Bundestag in June 2019. It implements provisions made by the governing parties in their Coalition Agreement.
The Skilled Immigration Act focuses on workers who have completed quality vocational training. Under the Act, such workers can now enter Germany to find apprenticeships as well as employment.
Before access to the labour market can be granted, working conditions must still be examined and occupational qualifications obtained abroad must still be tested for equivalence with German qualifications. But the measures for recognising foreign professional qualifications have been made more attractive and practical.
IT professionals may enter Germany without formal qualifications provided they have extensive professional experience.
The new immigration rules do not apply to low-skilled workers.
Alongside the Skilled Immigration Act, the Federal Government has worked hard to develop further measures to improve administrative and recognition procedures and provide more language training. It has also developed a strategy to recruit skilled workers from abroad (including targeted campaigns in relevant countries). Detailed information for companies and foreign skilled workers can be found on the Federal Government’s website “Make it in Germany” www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/.