German government approves plan to attract foreign workers

German government approves plan to attract foreign workers

The German government has announced that it has approved a plan for the biggest shakeup in worker migration law in decades. We take a look at what we know about the plan so far. 

German government approves new foreign workers plan

On Wednesday the German government approved plans for an overhaul of the country’s worker migration laws, with a formal bill due to be outlined in 2023. Perhaps the biggest change included in the plans is a reform which would allow non-EU workers to come to Germany for an extended period, likely a year, on the so-called Chancenkarte “opportunity card”, to seek work.

Under the new regulations, non-EU citizens who want to move to Germany long term would not have to demonstrate that they have been offered a contract or sponsorship. This means that where you would currently have to apply for a residence permit from abroad, which is much less welcoming to most migrant workers, applicants could now request a Chancenkarte instead.

Newcomers would be allowed to work trial periods of up to two weeks during their year-long job search in Germany. Migrants would also be permitted to move to Germany to engage in part-time work for a minimum of 20 hours per week.

Germany's take on the Canadian migrant workers' points system

The scheme would be based on a Canadian-style points system which would consider migrants' abilities in five areas: qualifications, German language skills, work experience, connections with people in Germany and age. Labour Minister Hubertus Heil has said that if applicants met three or more of the criteria, they would be considered.

It remains unclear which specific circumstances would qualify applicants for each category - for example, what level of German language skills would be required. Heil, however, has said that it could be possible that applicants who have not yet learnt German would be considered.

The reform is also looking to simplify the process by which non-EU workers have their qualifications officially recognised in Germany. Currently, not all international qualifications are recognised and, if they are, the process of having them certified can take a long time.

Now the plan has been approved, a bill must be drawn up and then passed through the Bundestag and Bundesrat. Due to opposition from the conservative CDU / CSU it may be the case that some of the policies outlined so far are changed or removed before the reform passes into law. 

Newcomers in Germany could plug worker shortage

It is estimated that Germany is currently short of half a million people to fill vacant positions. Heil is eager to reimagine Germany's image abroad, in order to encourage more migrants to make the move.

In particular, Germany’s healthcare, construction and IT sectors are in dire need of workers. In the meeting on Wednesday, cabinet members also discussed the possibility of migrant workers being allowed to seek work in sectors that are unrelated to their qualifications and in urgent need of employees. For example, people who have academic qualifications could apply for work in hospitality. Though this may lead to an overqualified workforce, it would also allow migrants to find employment quickly in Germany while they find their feet.

At the meeting Heil made the case for what Germany has to offer migrant workers, stating, “We’ve got great jobs and we need to strengthen our [image] abroad.” The SPD minister added, “The idea that all the skilled workers in the world want to come to Germany is unfortunately an illusion.”

Greens minister and vice chancellor Robert Habeck reaffirmed that the overhaul should “show the way forward [and] aggressively push for a society of the many."

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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Zejnil Zuhrapi 09:45 | 23 December 2022

At end will be more restrictions

eddieedmond2 22:41 | 23 December 2022

Truly interesting how the new coalition is moving forward. However, German society is not ready for these changes. There will be a huge discrepancy between traditions, the old ‘correct’ (according to Germans) way of doing things, and the needs of the job market. One of the many hurdles is passing through German HR’s filter, which adheres to the classic German zero risk mindset. In this sense, a foreign newcomer is always a risk to be scraped. Another is retaining international talents. Excellent foreign works are not promoted as much as German workers are. Germans usually consider other Germans first for promotions due to similarity bias in a very very conforming society that has strict rules on how everyone should think. There is therefore a real risk of loosing trained employees after they finally get their German citizenship and with it the freedom to work at jobs that fully respect their talents anywhere in the EU, where opportunities are vast. Retaining excellent talent is going to be a challenge.