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Germany to thoroughly revamp immigration law
Federal Cabinet agrees on key points regarding skilled immigration
Today in the Federal Cabinet, the Federal Government agreed on key points regarding the immigration of skilled workers from non-EU countries, thus sending a powerful message for the future of the German economy and labour market. The Federal Government is paving the way for Germany’s most modern immigration law to date.
Nancy Faeser, Federal Minister of the Interior and Community: "We are using this opportunity to create modern immigration law that makes it easier for foreign skilled workers to come to Germany. This update is urgently needed. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the staffing shortfall in many industries, from skilled trades to nursing care. We want skilled workers to be able to come to Germany quickly and get settled here. And we want to eliminate the hurdles of excessive bureaucracy. If people have professional experience or potential, we will enable them to acquire further qualifications in Germany and to enter the labour market."
Hubertus Heil, Federal Minister of Labour and Social Affairs: "Despite the current crises, Germany’s economy and labour market are stable. However, our economic prosperity not only depends on us ensuring a sustainable and affordable energy supply but also on how we respond to the shortage of skilled workers. Companies are already experiencing shortages in their workforces, so securing skilled workers has become crucial to their survival. We cannot allow this shortage to prevent the German economy from growing in the long term. That is why we are already placing greater emphasis on increasing the rates of higher education, vocational training and women’s employment, as well as offering more flexible ways to transition to retirement. Yet without immigration, we will not be able to overcome the labour shortage. The new Skilled Immigration Act will help us to achieve the necessary progress in securing workers. In competing for talent and a robust workforce, we are offering new and, most importantly, easier ways to come to Germany for work. Our goal is to create the most modern immigration law in Europe. We want to do this in such a way that everyone benefits from it: those who already live in Germany and those who move to Germany."
Annalena Baerbock, Federal Foreign Minister: "Skilled immigration’ is an abstract term, but personally, I don’t find it abstract at all. I associate it with the faces of the many young, well-educated people whom I have met on my trips abroad. Many of them hope to be able to further their careers in Germany. In order to make these hopes come true, Germany needs to make progress on skilled immigration."
Robert Habeck, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action: "The growing shortage in skilled workers in many industries is a major obstacle to Germany’s economic development. Not only this, but we need to make immigration for work purposes significantly easier in order to achieve the necessary transformation with regard to climate change mitigation and sustainability. The key points send a strong signal for increased skilled immigration. We want to considerably open up our immigration law. And we want to speed up administrative procedures and make them more transparent and digital. Because one thing is clear: we are competing for skilled workers with countries all across the world. So we need to make Germany an attractive destination. This also means making immigration more family-friendly."
Bettina Stark-Watzinger, Federal Minister of Education and Research: "The shortage of skilled workers is one of our greatest challenges. In order for our economy to grow and prosper, we urgently need bright people from other countries who are willing to work hard. Today represents a major step towards modern immigration law in Germany. We are making it easier to access the German labour market. In future, skilled workers who have the right qualifications and professional experience will be able to enter Germany without having to go through the process of having their qualifications officially recognised. We are expanding the possibilities for having qualifications recognised after entering Germany and we are creating incentives to do so. And we want to work with the federal states and professional chambers to speed up and simplify the recognition process. We will also increase immigration for educational purposes by making it more attractive to come to Germany for a vocational training course or university degree and to also stay here after graduation."
In future, immigration for work purposes will be based on three pillars. The skilled workers pillar will make it possible for people from non-EU countries to work in any skilled employment if they have graduated from an accredited institution of higher education in Germany or have a higher education qualification which is recognised in Germany. Now, even more skilled workers who have a higher education qualification will be able to receive the EU Blue Card, which grants favourable conditions for permanent residence, job changes and the subsequent immigration of dependents. In addition, the new law is intended to increase immigration for educational purposes by making it more attractive to come to Germany for a vocational training course or university degree and to also stay here after graduation.
The experience pillar will make it possible for a person to receive the right of residence for the purpose of employment and to pursue a (non-regulated) profession in Germany if they have gained a vocational or higher education qualification and professional experience in the same profession abroad. In such cases, applicants will not be required to have their foreign qualifications officially recognised. However, their salary will need to remain above a defined threshold or have collective bargaining coverage. This helps to ensure fair employment conditions.
Alternatively, skilled workers from non-EU countries will now have the option of submitting their foreign qualifications for recognition after they have already entered Germany and started skilled employment here. A recognition partnership with the employer will form the basis for this process. This presents advantages for both the employers, who will be able to employ skilled workers more quickly, and the employees, who can already start working in Germany and simply undergo the recognition process at a later date. This means in particular that people can start gathering work experience in Germany early on, improve their German-language skills and establish themselves as qualified employees in their company and in the labour market in the long run.
The prospects pillar is directed at qualified third-country nationals who do not yet have an employment contract in Germany. A new form of residence permit known as the "opportunity card" (Chancenkarte) will provide people with up to one year of residence to seek employment and will allow them to carry out secondary employment and work on a trial basis in the meantime. This card will be issued based on a points system. The most important selection criteria will include the person’s qualifications, language skills and professional experience, their connection to Germany and their age.
The Federal Government also intends to create an option for short-term temporary contracts with specific quotas. Under this rule, employers will be permitted to employ workers without any specific qualification requirements, while workers are protected by collective bargaining agreements and compulsory social insurance. In addition, employment with no qualification requirements will continue to be permitted under the Western Balkans regulation.
The Federal Government also intends to improve the framework for immigration for work purposes. These improvements include making administrative procedures faster and more digital, reinforcing the promotion of Germany as an attractive, innovative and diverse country of immigration and increasing the number of German language courses offered both here and abroad. Immigration will be made more family-friendly so that both skilled workers and their families feel welcome and stay in Germany.