German government reveals draft law to attract foreign workers
Germany is desperately looking for an answer to its increasing dearth of workers. Now, the Federal Interior Ministry and Ministry for Labour and Social Affairs have released a draft law which will significantly loosen requirements for non-EU jobseekers, hoping to pull in an urgently-needed migrant workforce.
Half of German companies suffering staff shortages
Across all industries, teaching, childcare, construction, tech, hospitals and public services alike, Germany’s worker shortage is only worsening. In 2022 half of German companies grappled with staff shortages, according to the Ifo economics institute in Munich.
With an ever-ageing population, and in need of a quick fix, the German government has now drafted a law which will open the country’s immigration policy and hopefully attract 65.000 new migrant workers to fill jobs each year. Though significant, the goal of welcoming 65.000 foreign workers is insufficient for the experts who estimate that 400.000 new workers are needed in Germany each year to plug the current deficit.
The new Skilled Workers Immigration Act will be based on three pillars: skilled labour, work experience and the ‘potential’ pillar, meaning residence permits could be granted to people who the Ausländerbehörde (Foreigners' Office) believes have the potential to contribute to the German economy.
According to the recently released draft, these are the changes included in the Skilled Workers Immigration Act so far:
A new visa for jobseekers in Germany
For people looking to move to Germany to work, this is perhaps the most significant and exciting change. Currently, only people with a concrete job offer from an employer in Germany are granted a visa to work.
With the new Chancenkarte, or Opportunity Card, jobseekers who can financially support themselves will be able to live in Germany for up to a year while they look for work.
However, there are some further requirements. Chancenkarten will be issued to people who have studied in higher education for at least two years. Applications will also be scored using a points system, where candidates are awarded points based on age, their connection to Germany, work experience and German language skills.
Unlike current work visas, which bind applicants to certain positions, the Chancenkarte will also allow holders to switch jobs and engage in temporary or part-time work.
EU Blue Card eligibility to open up
An EU Blue Card is a typical route that many people without an EU or German passport take when starting their life in Germany. In the draft law, the German government outlines how it will shake up Blue Card regulations in Germany to make working life more flexible for cardholders.
Currently, eligible Blue Card holders must earn an annual salary of 58.400 euros. Under the new law, this figure will be reduced, though it is not yet known by how much.
Blue Card holders must also be university graduates. With the new law, however, this requirement will no longer apply to IT workers, who can instead prove their previous work experience in the field. Like with the jobseekers visa, Blue Card holders will be granted more flexibility in changing jobs.
Another group, refugees granted asylum in EU states, will also be able to apply for a Blue Card in Germany.
Recognition of non-German qualifications
Many people who come to the country, particularly from non-EU nations and countries where official qualifications are not issued in English or German, face bureaucratic difficulties when trying to get their qualifications officially recognised in Germany. What’s more, the qualification recognition requirements differ between federal states, meaning foreign jobseekers sometimes have to go through the onerous recognition process multiple times.
According to the draft law, these requirements will be scrapped for jobseekers with high potential or those who have considerable work experience. Jobseekers who are not considered to have “high potential” will be able to begin the qualification recognition process once they are already in Germany, meaning they can start living and working in Germany sooner.
Working rules for international students
With the new draft law, people who study in Germany on a student visa will have more opportunities to work alongside their studies. Since only EU students are eligible for BAföG student loans in Germany, this change will make a big difference to international students who are not financially supported by their parents.
The government plans mean that international students will be able to work more hours and have the opportunity to do other kinds of training, such as German language courses, alongside their main studies.
In a statement announcing the draft law, SPD Labour Minister Hubertus Heil pressed that Germany’s “economic prosperity is also determined by our answers to securing skilled labour. That is why we are focusing on more education and training, more women in employment and flexible transitions into retirement.”
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