The new German Skilled Labour Immigration Act [Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz]: What does it mean, and how can you benefit from it?

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About a month ago, Germany adopted a new law that makes it easier for foreign skilled workers to immigrate to Germany to find work here: the Skilled Labour Immigration Act [Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz]. The new law permits both university graduates and skilled workers who have completed professional training in non-EU countries to immigrate to Germany for work without major bureaucratic obstacles. In a nutshell, this means that the visa application process has become considerably easier and more predictable – a great advantage for people who are keen to work here as well as for employers on the lookout for qualified, skilled workers.

What has become easier under the new law:

  • The new law eliminates the need for proof of precedence. Before the new law entered into force, employing someone from outside of the EU always required the employer to demonstrate that there was no suitable German applicant for the position.
  • Likewise, the requirement that workers from non-EU countries could only work in Germany in certain occupations listed in a ‘positive list’ has been eliminated. This list specifies occupations where there is a shortage of skilled workers in Germany. From now on, immigrants may also work in occupations that are not included in this list.

What requirements do skilled workers have to satisfy?

How is the term ‘skilled worker’ defined? In other words, which criteria do you have to meet to benefit from the Skilled Labour Immigration Act? You should have a completed degree from a university or equivalent accredited institution which is recognised in Germany, or – and this is new – have completed qualified professional training. If your degree or qualified professional training is identical or comparable to a German qualification, you are now accepted in Germany as a skilled worker on the same level as university graduates. Hence, the Act expands the definition of ‘skilled worker’ so as to make the employment market accessible to non-university graduates as well. An assessment of whether your vocational qualification is sufficient will be made before you enter Germany in the form of a recognition process. If recognition is granted, the applicant will be granted a residence permit for a period of six months. During this period, jobseekers can look for employment, become accustomed to working life in Germany and in the best case scenario gain a foothold here. In addition, you must fulfil other requirements to be able to live and work in Germany as a non-EU citizen:

  • German language proficiency, at least at level B1 (skilled workers with a university degree can work for a trial period of ten weeks in their chosen profession without having to show any special language proficiency).
  • Candidates must be able to support themselves financially while looking for work and must be able to provide proof of that.
  • Candidates must have medical insurance.
  • Candidates should have permanent accommodation and be able to provide proof of that.

An exception is made for IT specialists, who are working in professions for which there is no vocational training (as yet), as these professions are in the process of evolving in the course of the digital transformation. These candidates are merely required to show relevant professional experience over a period of at least three years and a certain minimum income. By adopting the Skilled Labour Immigration Act, the German Government seeks to create a positive impulse for employment and close the economic gaps caused by the lack of skilled professionals.

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