Germany has long been a destination of choice for skilled professionals from around the world, and the country’s robust economy thrives on the contributions of foreign talent. However, like many countries around the world, Germany is currently suffering from a labour shortage. To address this, the German parliament recently made crucial reforms to skilled immigration in order to attract more skilled workers and boost economic growth.
The Bundestag passed the law on June 23, 2023 and the law was passed in the Bundesrat on July 7, 2023. Provisions will start to come into force from November 18, 2023 while others will follow from November onwards. This is to ensure that the authorities concerned have sufficient time for implementation.
The aim of these reforms is to make it easier for qualified professionals from around the world to find employment opportunities in Germany. The EU Blue Card with its favourable conditions for family reunification, permanent residence, and change of job, is to be made available to even more skilled workers with university degrees. Germany is thus implementing the regulations of the reformed Blue Card EU Directive for highly qualified immigrants.
EU Blue Card
The EU member states agreed on a reform of the Blue Card Directive in 2021. The new rules provide for a shorter duration of employment contracts and a lower minimum salary, making it easier to hire highly skilled workers from non-EU countries in the future. The Blue Card allows workers with university degrees to work in the European Union.
So far, too few academic professionals make use of it: only 36,806 Blue Cards were issued in 2019, most of them (28,858) in Germany. In order to facilitate the employment of highly qualified non-EU citizens, as well as reduce the shortage of skilled workers, the EU states have adopted innovations to the Blue Card Directive.
Changes to the EU Blue Card in Germany
Shorter duration of the employment contract
In future, a valid employment contract, or a binding job offer of six months will be sufficient. Currently, an employment contract of at least 12 months is still required.
Salary threshold decreases
The minimum salary applicants must earn to qualify will be lowered. The minimum salary threshold for issuing the EU Blue Card for regular professions will be lowered to 50% of the annual contribution assessment ceiling in the general pension insurance.
Accordingly, the salary level for major Blue Cards in Germany will be lowered to 43,800 euros for 2023 for regular jobs as of November 18, 2023. Only this salary level applies to employer of record (EOR) companies. The other salary level of 39,682.80 euros (for 2023) for defined shortage occupations (small Blue Card) requires the approval of the Federal Employment Agency – which EOR companies would not receive due to Section 40 of the German Immigration Act.
Other changes in German immigration law
In the course of the new Skilled Workers Immigration Act, there will be changes in the future regarding family reunification, residence for the recognition of a foreign professional qualification, employment of students and trainees, etc.
Flexibility on language skills
The new law recognizes that language skills are important but understands that they should not be an impossible barrier for highly skilled professionals. Therefore, the law provides flexibility on language proficiency requirements and allows applicants to demonstrate their skills in other ways, such as work experience or professional qualifications.
Simplified recognition of foreign qualifications
Recognizing the potential of skilled workers with foreign qualifications, the revised law simplifies and speeds up the recognition process. This step removes unnecessary hurdles for talented individuals who have acquired their qualifications abroad and ensures that their skills are adequately recognized in the German labor market.
Advantages for Germany
Germany’s revised Skilled Worker Immigration Act is an important step towards addressing labor shortages, promoting economic growth and strengthening global competitiveness. By simplifying entry requirements, expanding occupational categories and simplifying the recognition of foreign qualifications, Germany is sending a clear signal that it values the contributions of skilled workers from around the world. These reforms make Germany an attractive destination for talent and pave the way for sustainable economic development.
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