German government signs off on sweeping reforms for skilled worker visas

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The legislation, long discussed in parliament, aims to both simplify and speed up the process for skilled foreign workers from outside the EU to come to Germany.

“Germany is becoming more attractive for foreign workers from all over the world, and can now measure up to classic destination countries for immigrants, such as Canada,” said MP Hakan Demir of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), and one of the principal backers of the reform.

READ ALSO: German minister vows to ‘learn from Canada’ on immigration

In light of the 1.98 million job positions which are currently open in Germany – as well as a need for 400,000 more qualified workers – such a reform is “urgently needed,” Demir wrote in a press release Wednesday. 

The legislation will need to be passed by Germany’s parliament before it can be officially signed into law.


What does the reform change for skilled workers?

Through the new legislation, skilled workers can come to Germany with two years of professional experience, and two years of educational experience.

Previously a professional qualification in a field was needed in order to receive a working visa, and before entering the country. 

Through the reform, skilled workers can start work in Germany even while their qualifications are being certified in Germany – not only in their learned profession, but also in other, similarly qualified activities. 

They will then be allowed to work up to 20 hours a week on the side or to work full-time for a fortnight on a trial basis.

Skilled workers will also be able to obtain a permanent settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) after three years instead of four.


A new opportunity card

In addition, a points system – or Chancenkarte (opportunity card) will be introduced for people who want to come to Germany and look for a job, whether or not they already have an offer on hand. 

In addition to assessing qualifications and knowledge of German, workers will receive points for factors such as age and relationship to Germany.

Those who want to enter the country with the Chancenkarte must collect at least six points out of a maximum of ten. For language skills, potential immigrants receive three points for good, and two for “sufficient”, German skills – as well as one for advanced English. 

READ ALSO: How to apply for Germany’s new ‘Chancenkarte’ and other visas for job seekers

For age, two points are awarded for those under 35, and one for those under 40. The remaining four points are distributed according to professional qualifications. 

All four are awarded if a qualification is subsequently recognised as equivalent to a German qualification.

According to Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, this is intended to facilitate the procedure in which qualifications are put on an equal footing with corresponding degrees acquired in Germany. 

Currently, this recognition procedure is “one of the biggest problems and bottlenecks” in efforts to recruit new workers, said the SPD politician.

Demir called the reform a “paradigm shift in immigration policy.”

He added that, “immigration is only one pillar of the skilled labour strategy. At the same time, we are increasing the labour force participation of women and improving education and training to utilise every potential at home in Germany.”

READ ALSO: How Germany is opening its doors to foreign job seekers amid labour shortage