Germany to pass immigration reform law making it easier for foreign workers to move there

Germany is set to pass immigration law reforms this week to attract skilled non-EU workers.

Germany is set to pass a law that will make it easier for skilled workers from outside the EU to move to the country.

The German cabinet approved plans to attract skilled foreign workers and combat labor shortages last year, and unveiled draft legislation at the end of March this year.

On Monday (19 June), Germany’s coalition government said the law would be passed this week.

The plans to modernise the country’s immigration legislation are expected tomake it easier for third country nationals to work in Germany. It could increase the number of non-EU workers in Germany by 60,000 per year.

The reforms to the Skilled Immigration Act particularly focus on workers with vocational, non-academic training. Existing rules for qualified professionals with university degrees will also be relaxed.

Why is Germany changing its immigration policies?

Like many countries in Europe, Germany is facing a shortage of skilled workers.

In 2022, the country’s labour shortage rose to an all time high: the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) found 1.74 million vacant positions throughout Germany.

In July last year, staff shortages affected almost half of all companies surveyed by Munich-based research institute IFO, forcing them to slow down their operations.

It hopes to fill this gap with qualified professionals from outside the EU. But currently the country’s immigration process is slowed down by red tape.

During a press conference held at the Federal Office for Foreign Affairs (BfAA) on 17 January 2023, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said modernising the visa process would mean “turning it upside down”.

Together with Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, she emphasised removing bureaucracy and improving digitisation and efficiency of the system.

“We know that we can only guarantee our future, the efficiency of our economy and the efficiency of our social security systems if we have enough skilled workers at our disposal,” said Scholz.

“From within the European Union that’s not so difficult, because there is freedom of movement. With regard to the rest of the world, it is a greater challenge,” he added.

How does Germany plan to attract skilled foreign workers?

Germany is hoping to combat its shortage of skilled workers with a new ‘opportunity card’.

The ‘chancenkarte’ will use a points system to enable workers with required skills to come to Germany more easily.

It is part of a strategy proposed by Labour Minister Hubertus Heil to address the country’s labour shortages and is aimed at people who do not yet have a work contract in Germany.

The points-based system will take into account qualifications, professional experience, age, German language skills and ties to Germany.

Every year, quotas will be set depending on which industries need workers. Three out of four of the following criteria must also be met to apply for the scheme:

  • A degree or vocational training
  • Three years’ professional experience
  • Language skills or a previous stay in Germany
  • 35 years old or younger

Currently, most non-EU citizens need to have a job offer before they can relocate to Germany. A visa for job seekers already exists, but the ‘chancenkarte’ is expected to make it easier and faster for people looking to find work in Germany.

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