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Highly Skilled Internationals: Germany’s new Skilled Immigration Act is a game-changer

Germany has gone from needing highly skilled internationals to being desperate for highly skilled internationals. So, this past summer, the Bundestag passed the Skilled Immigration Act, which includes a lot of changes regarding the rules for companies recruiting talent from across Europe, or from overseas.

For starters, this is a major liberalization of Germany’s strict employment laws. Yes, they’re still a bureaucratic nightmare (not to mention contradictory), but nothing you can’t figure out. In the long run, a number of initial changes that began rolling out 18 November will make life easier for both talent from outside the European Union, and for employers.

And remember: The bottom line is, Germany has 600,000 vacancies to fill.

Policymakers have told the Germany’s Federal Employment Agency to accelerate the approval process for qualified foreign talent. Experienced skilled workers will no longer need their qualifications recognized in Germany if they are already recognized by their country of origin and have at least two years of professional experience, according to DW.

The majority of changes in rules for highly skilled internationals will start coming online on 1 March 2024 and continue through the year. The goal is to attract tens of thousands of internationals to fill in skill shortages.

Let’s start with the Blue Card

This is the European Union long-term visa for talent with a German degree, or a foreign degree that’s comparable. OR, if you don’t have a traditional university degree, you can demonstrate that you have a tertiary-level qualification that took at least three years to complete.

Now, in some situations, IT specialists without formal qualifications but with specialized knowledge gained from three years of work experience can qualify for a Blue Card.

From the goverment website:

Additionally, joining people in possession of an EU Blue Card via the family reunification process as well as the arrival of Blue Card holders from other EU Member States to Germany will be facilitated with the newly introduced changes.Additionally, joining people in possession of an EU Blue Card via the family reunification process as well as the arrival of Blue Card holders from other EU Member States to Germany will be facilitated with the newly introduced changes.

Perhaps most importantly, the required salary levels are lowered, meaning companies can hire younger talent.

Annual salary limits are now just under 40,000 euros ($43,500) at 39,862 euros for entry-level and in-demand jobs, known as “bottleneck occupations”; the cut-off for all other occupations is 44,000 euros.

Job Search Opportunity Card

A points-based Job Search Opportunity Card will go into effect in June 2024 allowing those with foreign certifications (and financial resources) to come to Germany for a year to look for work.

Workers with an opportunity card may work up to 20 hours per week, including during a probation period. The opportunity card can be extended for up to two years for those who have a contract for qualified employment, according to DW.

This is not just about tech talent … these changes apply to everyone from doctors and computer engineers to nurses and academics. You can see the full list here.

The details

• Skilled migrants in training to obtain German qualifications to match their equivalent foreign training can stay in Germany for up to three years now and work up to 20 hours per week on the side. Part-time work will also be extended in general to students and trainees, according to DW.

• Effective 1 June 2024, foreign talent only has to prove they can support their spouse and families to bring them, but not that they have an actual place to live. Which we don’t get, but there it is. They may also bring their parents or parents-in-law.

• The possibilities for secondary employment for third-country nationals studying in Germany on a student visa are to be expanded. The previous annual working time account of 120 full days or 240 half days will be increased to 140 full days or 280 half days, according to the government website. The new rule will allow student employees to work up to 20 hours per week. The amount of the salary and the type of employment are irrelevant. In the future, secondary employment will also be possible from the outset when prospective students participate in preparatory measures for university study.

• The new legislation doubles the quota of talent from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia to 50,000 people from 25,000.

• One requirement that is NOT changing is, new talent must learn to speak German at the A2 level.

How serious are the Germans about this? There’s an actual Hotline available from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. CET, Monday through Thursday, and Friday from 9 a.m. to noon CET.

That number is +49 30 1815 – 1111.

You can see job listings here on the Make It in Germany website.

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Read more about Germany here in Dispatches archives.

Read more about opportunities for highly skilled internationals here.

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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