International Workers

The Skilled Immigration Act: opportunities for employers

22 September 2020 - The German Skilled Immigration Act gives all international qualified professionals the opportunity to carry on a profession or trade in Germany – provided that they offer particular qualifications. For employers, the new law brings greater options for recruiting urgently required international skilled workers.

New opportunities for employers

Some 12,000 skilled workers with an EU Blue Card came to Germany to work in 2018 – around a quarter more than did in 2017. The EU Blue Card is a residence permit for highly qualified workers or academics from third countries and has gained increasingly in popularity since it was introduced in 2012. It is not only academics who are urgently needed on the German labour market, however: the pool of applicants for many occupations that require vocational training is also shrinking continually. The Skilled Immigration Act, which aims primarily to meet the needs of the economy for international qualified professionals, has been in force since 1 March 2020. The law makes it easier to migrate here from third countries, both for skilled workers with vocational training and for foreign school-leavers who wish to undertake vocational training in Germany. This opens up new opportunities for employers who have been unable to fill vacant positions so far or are no longer able to secure the next generation of talent.

Recruiting international qualified professionals from abroad

The Skilled Immigration Act clearly sets out the conditions under which qualified professionals from third countries are allowed to work in Germany. An employer in Germany can thus recruit a skilled worker with vocational training from a third country. Rather than the previous restriction to shortage occupations, now access to all occupations that require a qualification is enabled. The previous priority test that determines whether privileged persons (Germans or other EU citizens) are available for a position is in principle dispensed with1.

To take up employment, the qualified professional must meet the following conditions:

  1. Present a binding job offer and
  2. have a vocational training qualification that is recognised in Germany.
  3. If the international qualified professional is older than 45 and is travelling to Germany for the purpose of employment for the first time, in the visa process they must demonstrate that they will receive a gross annual salary of at least 45,540 euros (in 2020) from the desired occupation in Germany.

A vocational training qualification will be deemed recognised if the equivalence of the international qualification with the German reference occupation has previously been assessed in the recognition procedure. In this case the procedure ends with a positive equivalence notice and the candidate satisfies the condition mentioned above. 

Employers can support their prospective qualified professional in the recognition procedure by e.g. contacting the assessment authority’s advice centre or helping the applicant compile and translate the necessary documents. Approval of the employment and the associated verification of the working conditions (e.g. pay and working hours) are still the responsibility of the Federal Employment Agency (BA). This is intended to ensure that international professionals are not employed on more unfavourable terms than their German colleagues.

Duties of the employer

When recruiting qualified professionals from abroad, businesses are in principle required to perform some duties that anchored in the German Residence Act (“Aufenthaltsgesetz”). These include the following:

  • The employer must verify that the international qualified professional has a currently valid residence permit allowing them to be gainfully employed in Germany. The skilled worker must renew a fixed-term residence permit in good time.
  • The employer has a duty to store a copy of the currently valid residence permit of the international qualified professional in electronic or paper form.
  • If the employment is terminated early, the employer must notify the competent Foreigners’ Authority of this in good time.

The fast-track procedure for skilled workers

In many countries rising numbers of applications to the relevant German embassies have led to bottlenecks in the allocation of appointments and visas. In such cases, employers with power of attorney for the qualified professional can apply for a fast-track procedure for skilled workers with the competent Foreigners’ Authority in Germany for a fee of 411 euros.

Graphic fast-track procedure for skilled workers

Graphic: The fast-track procedure for skilled workers – explained in brief

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The aim of the fast-track procedure for skilled workers is to facilitate the visa procedure and hence the immigration of qualified professionals from third countries. Nevertheless, the employers in Germany who apply have a particular role to play: the employer enters into an agreement with the competent Foreigners' Authority. This makes the employer the direct point of contact for the Foreigners' Authority and the qualified professional abroad (see graphic).

The fast-track procedure for skilled workers is thus particularly interesting for employers if they have already completed the application process and have decided on a particular international qualified professional.

Important note

Please bear in mind that there may currently be restrictions on immigration and the residence of international qualified professionals in Germany due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Information on the capacity of the visa offices and agencies can be found on the websites of the relevant authorities.

Further information on Make it in Germany

Sources and notes:

(1) When considering the admission of trainees from third countries to the German labour market, the Federal Employment Agency (BA) continues to perform the priority test in order to take appropriate account of the interests of those seeking vocational training and traineeships who are not financially assisted.

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