Reform of the Skilled Immigration Act
Germany is known as a thriving economy around the world but is currently facing a significant demographic challenge. With an aging population and a shortage of over 2 million qualified personnel in various sectors, the need to attract skilled workers from both within the European Union (EU) and beyond has become crucial. In response to this pressing issue, on Friday, 23 June 2023 the German parliament approved a reform of the Skilled Immigration Act planned by the Federal Government.
Germany’s Immigration Law: A Welcoming Approach
Germany has implemented progressive immigration policies to attract skilled workers and encourage them to contribute to its vibrant economy. The Immigration Act, which first came into effect in 2020, introduced new regulations that streamline the process for skilled workers seeking employment opportunities in Germany. This law aimed to simplify visa procedures, provide clear guidelines for entry and residence, and create a supportive environment for international professionals.
What are the approved changes?
The new bill aims to introduce new opportunities for people from countries outside the European Union to come work in Germany. They could quality for a visa either thanks to their professional qualifications or education degrees from their home country, which will now be recognised in a faster and more streamlined process.
Another way to receive a visa is based on previous relevant work experience; or through a point system for job seekers who do not yet have an employment contract in Germany.
1. Changes to the Blue Card requirements
The new changes to the law will make getting a Blue Card easier, by decreasing the annual minimum salary amount with almost 25% to €43,800 gross, equal to €3,650 gross per month.
Another update relevant for IT specialists is that their previous professional experience can be considered instead of a university degree.
Finally, internationals coming to Germany for work on a Blue Card will be less limited by the job description and will be able to change industries and work in a field outside their original qualification
2. The ‘opportunity card’
The ‘Chancenkarte’ or ‘opportunity card’ will supplement the existing job seeker visa and will use a points system to enable skilled workers to come search for a job in Germany more easily. It is aimed at people who do not yet have a work contract in Germany and will be valid for 12 months. The points-based system will consider qualifications, professional experience, age, German language skills and previous ties to Germany. Every year, quotas will be set depending on which industries need most skilled workers. Three out of the following four criteria must be met to apply for the scheme:
- A university degree or vocational training
- 3 years’ professional experience
- German (A1-A2 level) and/or English (B2+) language skills or a previous stay in Germany
- Candidates must be 35 years old or younger
To qualify for a visa to enter Germany, candidates for the ’Chancenkarte’ must score a minimum of 6 out of 10 possible points. The opportunity card will also permit casual work for up to 20 hours a week, while looking for a qualified job.
3. Easier recognition of education degrees
The new bill also foresees easing the requirements to recognise education degrees from foreign countries. In the future, skilled immigrants (above a certain salary threshold) will no longer have to have their degrees recognised in Germany if they can show they have at least two years of professional experience and a degree that is state-recognised in their country of origin.
Another improvement is that if a person already has a job offer, they can come to Germany and start working, while their degree is still being recognised.
4. Changes to the residence act
Currently, non-EU residents can only enter Germany with a visa for a specific purpose. This means that if you have arrived in Germany on a tourist visa and you get a job offer while in the country, you need to leave Germany and go back to your home country where you will have to apply for a new work visa. According to the new bill, this won’t be necessary in the future – you will be able to change the visa type directly in Germany.
5. Family reunification is also extended
The new bill also foresees making family reunification possible for more family members – not just for spouse and children, but also parents and parents-in-law.
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