Germany's new Skilled Immigration Act explained

Germany's new Skilled Immigration Act explained

Germany is hoping to plug its enormous labour shortage with its new Skilled Immigration Act, which makes it easier than ever before for qualified professionals to come from outside the EU to work in Germany

Germany needs skilled workers

The German economy is currently suffering from a major shortage of skilled workers: an estimated 1,2 million vacancies are currently unfilled and demographic changes mean that the problem is likely to only get worse. 

The new Skilled Immigration Act, therefore, is intended to lower the barriers to the German labour market for skilled workers from countries outside the EU. Here’s an overview of what’s changed.

Key changes

The new law, which comes into effect on March 1, 2020, introduces some major changes:

New definition of a “skilled worker”

The biggest revision is the definition of what is considered a “skilled worker” or a “specialist”. Up until now, that title has strictly been reserved for a person with a university or college degree. 

Now, however, someone who has completed vocational (i.e. non-academic) training will also be considered a skilled worker in the eyes of the law. 

Employment no longer restricted

Up until now, non-EU professionals with vocational qualifications could only come to Germany to work in occupations experiencing a skills shortage. 

The new law has done away with this requirement, meaning that anyone with a vocational training qualification recognised in Germany can work in any occupation covered by their qualification. 

Priority check dismantled

Moreover, the Skilled Immigration Act has also stripped away a key component of German immigration policy. Previously, non-EU citizens were only allowed to take up jobs in Germany if the employer could prove to the Federal Employment Agency that no suitable candidate from Germany or the EU was available to fill the position. 

This measure, known as the “priority check” or the “resident labour market test”, has been dropped for skilled occupations, but it could still be reintroduced if the labour market changes in the future. 

What are the requirements?

There are a few provisos that skilled workers must fulfil before being issued a visa and allowed to enter the country. 

Job offer

Irrespective of whether you have a degree from a university or a vocational qualification, you must possess an employment contract or a firm job offer before coming to Germany. 

Recognised qualifications

You must also be able to prove that you have relevant qualifications. If you took a vocational training programme, it must have lasted at least two years, and the resulting qualifications must be officially recognised as equal or similar to a German qualification. 

You can check whether your qualifications meet the requirements via an information portal set up by the German Labour Ministry. 

Special regulations for IT professionals

Since IT specialists are in particularly short supply, they benefit from a special regulation. If they can prove that they have at least five years of on-the-job experience, they can enter the country without any qualifications.

Residence permit for jobseekers

If you do not yet have an employment contract or a firm job offer, but you can still prove that you have professional training, you will now be allowed to come to Germany for up to six months to search for employment. 

Your qualifications need to be recognised by the relevant body in Germany, and you also need to be able to prove that you have good German language skills (level B1) and enough money to support yourself for the duration of your stay (with e.g. a blocked bank account). 

During this time, you can work for up 10 hours a week on a trial basis, for instance on probation or at an internship. 

Skilled workers aged above 45

Foreign skilled workers who are older than 45 have to prove that they will earn a minimum of 3.685 euros per month in their new job, or possess adequate funds or a pension to support them in old age.

How long will my residence permit be valid for?

If you have a work contract or a specific job offer, you will be granted a residence permit for four years, or the duration of your contract. After four years, skilled workers can apply for a permanent residence permit

If you are coming to Germany to look for a job or a training position, your residence permit will only be valid for up to six months. 

Can I bring my family with me? 

The new law also allows skilled workers to bring their family members with them - provided they can support them financially and provide them with sufficient living space. They are not allowed to receive state benefits such as minimum subsistence benefits

Can I come to Germany without any qualifications?

Job seekers with qualifications below the vocational training level are, however, excluded by the new law. They can nevertheless apply for immigration if they possess a work contract or a job offer from a German employer. The employer must then train the applicant and make sure they acquire a professional-level certificate within 2 years.



Abi Carter

Managing Editor at IamExpat Media. Abi studied German and History at the University of Manchester and has since lived in Berlin, Hamburg and Utrecht, working since 2017 as a writer,...

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