In order to combat the shortage of skilled workers in the labor market and make Germany more attractive and less bureaucratic as a country of immigration for skilled workers, the German Federal Parliament (Bundestag) passed the Act on the Further Development of Skilled Worker Immigration on August 16, 2023 to implement Directive (EU) 2021/1883.
The law now revises and expands the existing regulations for skilled workers. It contains numerous changes to the residence permits for skilled workers, some of which will enter into force successively on November 18 of this year.
The EU Blue Card will be regulated in a completely new way in Section 18g of the Residence Act. The EU Blue Card is a residence title for the purpose of gainful employment for qualified specialists from non-member states.
The Changes in Detail:
According to the newly enacted § 18g Residence Act, a completed university degree and a local employment contract are required for the issuance of the EU Blue Card. However, in the future, skilled workers will no longer be limited to their profession, but will be able to pursue any qualified occupation. A possible change of job will also be permitted under easier conditions. While this was previously possible in the first two years of employment with the approval of the foreign registration office, the approval requirement will no longer apply in the future. Only during the first twelve months of employment may the competent immigration authority suspend the EU Blue Card holder’s change of job for 30 days and refuse it during this period if the requirements for issuing an EU Blue Card are no longer met.
Extension of the Group of Eligible Persons
The possibility of issuing an EU Blue Card will be expanded to a larger group of persons. This means that not only newcomers to the profession who have obtained their university degree within the last three years can obtain an EU Blue Card, but also IT specialists without a university degree if they have at least three years of professional experience and have acquired knowledge and skills comparable to a university degree. The list of so-called shortage and bottleneck occupations will also be expanded to include the following occupational groups:
- Managers in production in the manufacture of goods, in mining and construction, and in logistics
- Managers in the provision of information and communication technology services
- Managers in the provision of specialized services (such as child and elder care, health care, etc.)
- Academic and comparable nursing and midwifery professionals
- Other academic and allied health professionals (such as dentists, pharmacists, nutritionists, etc.)
To date, the occupational groups of scientists, mathematicians and engineers, human health professionals, and information and communications technology professionals have been considered bottleneck occupations.
Lowering of Salary Limits
The granting of the EU Blue Card is also linked to the attainment of certain salary thresholds. These salary thresholds, which are aligned with the annual contribution assessment ceiling for general pension insurance, will now be significantly lowered. Instead of the previous two-thirds, the new limit will in future be only 50%, which corresponds to a gross income of around EUR 43,800 per year for 2023. In the bottleneck occupations and for new entrants, the limit will be lowered even further to 45.3%. In 2023, this corresponds to approximately EUR 39,680 gross annually.
If EU Blue Card holders have already lived with their family in another EU member state, family reunification in Germany will be treated privileged. In this case, it will no longer be necessary for nationals requiring a visa to go through a visa procedure beforehand. The requirements of sufficient living space and a secure livelihood will also no longer apply to the issuance of a residence permit. Simplifications also apply to the independent right of residence of spouses in the event of the dissolution of the marital partnership. If the cohabitation has legally existed in Germany for at least two years and previously in another member state of the European Union for at least one year, the residence permit will be extended by one year.
The new regulations show clear bureaucratic simplifications for the entry and residence of foreign skilled workers and represent an important step towards a modern immigration policy and a culture of welcome. It remains to be seen whether the hoped-for acceleration of application procedures will actually occur. The other planned amendments to the law will come into force in March and June 2024.
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