The German government has initiated the consultation process for the introduction of the new Skilled Workers Immigration Act. The planned regulations are based on the key issues paper (German version) already published by the federal government on November 30, 2022. The aim of the new draft law (German version) is to strengthen skilled labor immigration in Germany across all sectors. Educational opportunities are to be improved, and training and continuing education are to be promoted. In addition, low-threshold and transparent immigration requirements and integration offers are intended to help to offer skilled workers from third countries a future in Germany and thus contribute to securing a skilled workforce.
In the future, the foundations of the Skilled Worker Immigration Act of 2020 will be based on three pillars: the skilled worker pillar, the experience pillar, and the potential pillar.
1. Pillar – The Skilled Worker Pillar
The Skilled Worker Pillar will remain the central element of immigration – as it has been up to now. The classic “immigration route” via a vocational certificate or university degree recognized in Germany will continue to exist. This also includes the EU Blue Card for foreign university graduates. In the future, the EU Blue Card will be recognized for even more degrees and existing salary limits for regular occupations and occupations in which there is a shortage of skilled labor will be significantly lowered. The minimum salary threshold for the EU Blue Card (except for occupations in which there is a shortage of skilled labor) for 2023 has been raised to EUR 58,400 gross (for 2022 this was still EUR 56,400 gross). In addition, a lower minimum salary threshold is to be introduced for young professionals with an academic degree in order to make it easier for newcomers to take up work in Germany.
Additionally, a recognized qualification is to entitle the holder to any qualified employment in non-regulated occupations in the future. The employer’s assessment of whether an individual’s expertise qualifies for skilled labor employment will thus be given more weight. In addition, even partial equivalence shall be enough to certify the basic comparability of a foreign qualification with a domestic qualification.
2. Pillar – The Experience Pillar
In addition to skilled workers, qualified third-country nationals without prior formal recognition of their qualifications are to be allowed to migrate to Germany for gainful employment under certain conditions.
Immigration in non-regulated professions is to be facilitated. At least two years of proven professional experience in the occupation that an individual intends to practice in Germany will suffice as a requirement for residence for the purpose of employment. It would also be necessary for the vocational certificate or university degree to be state-recognized in the country in which it was obtained. It will however not be necessary anymore to establish the equivalence of the qualification with a reference occupation in Germany.
Another innovation is that IT specialists can obtain an EU Blue Card even without a recognized university degree if they can prove certain non-formal qualifications.
Qualified third-country nationals will be given the opportunity, on the basis of a recognition partnership, to be employed in Germany in the occupational context of the anticipated target occupation even before a recognition procedure is initiated.
3. Pillar – The Potential Pillar
Third-country nationals who do not yet have an employer in Germany will be given new opportunities to find a job with the so-called Opportunity Card. The Opportunity Card is awarded on the basis of a points system for a maximum period of one year. The selection criteria for points include language skills, work experience, any connection to Germany, and age. Third-country nationals who have a recognized qualification receive the Opportunity Card without further requirements. In the case of partial recognition of the qualification, easier access is to be made possible.
Also, a two-week trial period of full-time employment as well as part-time employment that does not exceed twenty hours per week will be allowed during the job search.
The draft law also provides for the abolition of the time limit and an increase in the quota system for the Western Balkans. In addition, the national visa (§ 6 (3) AufenthG (German Residence Act)) will be issued for a period of one year (instead of the current three or six months) for the purpose of qualified employment.
In certain cases, employers have only temporary needs, regardless of special qualification requirements. For this purpose, short-term temporary employment will be permitted. The number will be contingent and the protection of employees will be ensured by collective agreements and a social security obligation.
There is currently no fixed date for the new law to enter into force. We will of course keep you informed of all further developments.
Photo: Shutterstock – Mark Agnor