The future of Germany as a business location crucially depends on how well it succeeds in securing and expanding the skilled labour base of companies and businesses. There is a consensus on this in political and business circles alike. In order to achieve this goal, the Federal Cabinet adopted the so-called Skilled Labour Immigration Act (FEG) in December 2018.
The new regulations contained therein regulate the immigration of workers to Germany. The Skilled Labour Immigration Act is scheduled to enter into force six months after its promulgation. This should probably happen in early 2020.
The Skilled Labour Immigration Act primarily makes modifications to the Residence Act (AufenthG), the Regulation on the Employment of Foreigners (BeschV), and the Residence Ordinance (AufenthV).
The residence permits issued on the basis of this act are limited in time: initially four years for skilled employees with recognised professional or academic training and initially less than four years for the other cases described in the act.
EU citizens can currently make use of their right of free movement in accordance with Article 45 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union when looking for jobs in Germany. However, non-EU citizens (third-country nationals) generally require entry, residence and work permits. Many regulations need to be considered for this. The legislation on the law concerning foreigners is determined by a variety of different factors based on different conceptual and political considerations. Thus, large parts of the legal regulation are based on EU directives, while other parts result from political compromises at the national level.
The most important points at a glance
Definition of skilled labour
According to the Skilled Labour Immigration Act, skilled employees are “third-country nationals, who
- have received a qualified professional training in Germany or a foreign professional training equivalent to a qualified professional training in Germany; or
- hold a German university degree, a recognised foreign university degree or a foreign university degree equivalent to a university degree from Germany.”
Not limited to “bottleneck professions”
Unlike in the past, skilled labour immigration is no longer limited to so-called “bottleneck professions” (professions where there is a shortage of skilled workers). According to the new draft, every foreign skilled employee and university graduate, who can secure a job, can now work in any profession for which he or she is qualified. However, there are some exceptions and special regulations.
Waiver of priority review
Until now, skilled labour immigration was necessarily preceded by the review of whether or not a native candidate had priority. This has now been abolished in principle, albeit with exceptions, for example in the case “that the labour market situation in a certain region necessitates a priority review”.
Facilitation in case of foreign qualifications
Many professional qualifications are not recognised in Germany. In addition to the existing possibility of acquiring a corresponding degree recognised in Germany, there should now be a limited possibility (under specific and very limited conditions) of having foreign professional training recognised in Germany only after entry into Germany. If there is a concrete job offer and the prospective candidate only lacks secondary skills, the employer should be allowed to make it possible for the candidate to acquire these skills later.
Six-month job search
A regulation similar to the “Blue Card” for academics should now be available for skilled employees as well. Professionally qualified skilled employees and academics should be allowed to come to Germany to look for work for six months, even without a concrete job offer but without being entitled to social security benefits. Similarly, those under the age of 25 should be able to stay in Germany for six to nine months to find a training position or a place at university. Other prerequisites include language skills, that must be at least as good as required for practising a profession, and proof of means of subsistence.
Employment tolerance for refugees
The draft provides for a two-year “employment tolerance” for refugees. However, this is associated with strict prerequisites. Employed refugees need to be able to self-finance their livelihoods, have sufficient German language skills, have no criminal record and be well integrated. Plus for a certain period of time, they must be employed in jobs where social security contributions are mandatory and be tolerated for at least twelve months.
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