Germany has passed amendments to its Skilled Immigration Act, aiming to make it easier for employers to bring in talent from outside the EU. With changes expected to come into effect in March 2024, employers can start to plan ahead for their hiring and relocation strategy. Here’s everything you need to know so far.
Background of the immigration reform in Germany
Germany’s recent move is part of a broader plan of modernizing the country’s economy and sustaining the workforce against an aging population.
Employers faced a record-high labor shortage in 2022, with the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) reporting 1.74 million vacant positions across the country. While the government rolled out domestic policies for expanding and diversifying workforce members, the wide gap in Germany’s large economy still needed the increased support of foreign talent—the country aims to attract 400,000 qualified foreign workers each year.
The Skilled Immigration Act came into force in 2020 to address these concerns and make it easier for non-EU nationals to relocate for job opportunities in Germany. However, reforms which passed last week in both the Bundestag (Germany’s Federal Parliament) and the Bundesrat (Germany’s Federal Council with representatives from each state) aim to further lower bureaucratic barriers pushing away skilled foreign workers.
Three big changes, at a glance
The reforms will introduce three changes to how employers can broaden their search for international talent in 2024.
Lower requirements for the EU Blue Card
Perhaps what most consider the “classic” way to relocate talent to Germany, since 2012 the EU Blue Card has offered residence to candidates with:
- A German degree, or a comparable higher education certificate from abroad
- An employment contract or binding job offer that matches their qualifications
- A minimum annual gross salary of €58,400 gross (before tax), or €45,552 for those working in mathematics, computer science, the natural sciences, engineering, or medicine—these figures are set for 2023, and get recalculated at the end of each year
The reforms will change these requirements by lowering the salary threshold to €43,800 gross a year. IT specialists will be able to receive an EU Blue Card even if they lack a formal university degree, as long as they can demonstrate non-formal qualifications and knowledge.
Foreign talent will be able to apply even if their field of study is different from the job they’ll take on once in Germany. Card holders will also find it easier to bring their families to the country.
These changes signal that employers might not be as restricted by educational requirements when they look for talent outside the EU—recruiters could look for hires with more “unconventional” career paths that lack the academic paperwork, but bring in practical knowledge and experience.
More streamlined process for recognizing qualifications and degrees
A considerable obstacle to bringing in talent has been to have their qualifications recognized by the German authorities before they can move to the country. Reforms aim to streamline this in two ways:
- No longer requiring skilled workers who earn more than a certain salary to have their qualifications recognized. It is still unclear what that threshold would be, with more details expected over the coming months, but this could remove a considerable bureaucratic hurdle for many employers.
- Allowing hires who don’t meet that salary threshold to start working in Germany and get their qualifications recognized in parallel. Employers will have to be more involved in moving this process forward, but the good news is new hires could get settled in Germany and start working much earlier than before.
Attract more proactive migration with the Chancenkarte
Germany's amended Skilled Immigration Act will introduce a proposed Chancenkarte, or opportunity card program, where candidates can gain temporary entry into the country. The card will be available based on a points system:
- Language skills: Points will be awarded for German and other language proficiencies.
- Educational qualifications and skills: Applicants gain more points for higher levels of academic qualifications and in-demand specializations.
- Partner’s potential: Points will be awarded according to the educational qualifications and professional experience of the applicant’s partner.
- Associations with Germany: Applicants will receive points based on family members residing in the country, and history of working or studying in the country.
- Age: Younger applicants will generally receive higher points.
- Professional experience: Applicants will receive points based on the amount of relevant work experience and accolades.
It is not yet clear what impact the card will have on migration to Germany—the goal is to proactively invite talent to move to the country. For now, authorities can only guess how many will in fact take up the chance to move without a job offer, but employers may find more local expats applying for roles roughly this time next year.
What the changes can mean for your organization
Policy-makers are sending a clear message: they want to attract more talent to Germany. This is great news for those looking to widen their talent search for new positions. As the law is put into practice in early 2024, employers who come out on top are those who take advantage and look beyond borders.
But this is Germany, and some bureaucracy will still remain. The Localyze team can help— we work closely with both companies and embassies to move hundreds of people across borders for work.
We can help your organization navigate immigration law by covering all criteria and talent considerations laid out by the Foreigners' Registration Office so you can start gathering the best global talent without hassle. Our team seamlessly guides you and employees through the relocation process, identifying the necessary documents, fees, and criteria to maximize the chances of relocation success. In addition, we help new hires get settled through selected local partners who offer assistance with housing, insurance, banking, and more.
Contact the Localyze team to discover how we can simplify the immigration process for your workforce’s specific needs.