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Blue Card Essentials:

All you need to know about the European immigration system for highly qualified professionals

All of us have been there: if you are dealing with recruiting, hiring and working internationally, you have probably come across the idea of a Blue Card: a shiny visa, which makes things easier, but is not always easy to get. What is it? How does it work?

We have gathered some of the FAQ about Blue Cards into this article for you.

What is a Blue Card?

The Blue Card is a residence title for the purpose of employment, meaning, it is a sub-type of a work visa. The Blue Card system was introduced in the European Union in 2009, with the goal of regulating and encouraging long-term immigration of highly qualified professionals. It was introduced in Germany in August 2012.

The rationale behind the Blue Card system is to provide highly qualified professionals with a better, “improved” work visa, along with faster and easier possibilities for long-term settlement, in order to encourage immigration of such professionals.


The differences between a Blue Card and a work visa

First, it is important to say that the Blue Card is a work visa, which means: in its core, it allows one to work for a specific company and to do a specific position, just like a work visa. The Blue Card is subjected to immigration laws, just like any other visa, which means that many of the regulations Blue Card holders have to meet are identical to work visa holders. For example, both work visa holders and Blue Card holders must apply for a work permit change in their first 24 months of working in Germany, in case they want to change jobs.

This is very important to state, since many candidates think the Blue Card holds some magical “being treated better” quality, which does not exist.

So, what are the main differences between a Blue Card and a work visa?

Permanent residency:

Since the main purpose of introducing the Blue Card system is allowing long-term immigration, the main difference between a work visa and a Blue Card has to do with permanent residency applications: whereas a work visa holder can apply for a permanent residency after 60 months of working, a Blue Card holder could apply after 21 months of working. One of the main requirements for this is to prove a conversational level of German (B1 level).

Furthermore, unlike work visa holders, Blue Card holders could also apply if they only possess very basic knowledge of the German language: In that case, they could apply after 33 months of working. The possibility of applying for a permanent residency with only very basic knowledge of the German language (A1 level) does not exist for work visa holders.

We can derive the other differences between the Blue Card and the work visa from this main difference:

European system:

Since the Blue Card system is a European system, it should be easier for Blue Card holders living in other European countries to apply for a Blue Card in Germany. In parallel, their time of working in other EU countries will be counted towards the working time needed for obtaining a permanent residency in Germany.


Faster processing times:

This is maybe the most interesting parameter for recruiters and HR professionals: in case that your candidate is eligible for a Blue Card and meets the higher income threshold, decisions regarding their visas could be made in German embassies in their countries of origin, which makes the processing time shorter. This means that your candidate could join faster in comparison to a non-Blue Card-eligible candidate.


Requirements and eligibility

This whole Blue Card thing sounds great. We want it for our candidate. What do we have to do?

In order to be able to apply for a Blue Card, two criteria should be met: salary threshold and education.

NEW Due to changes in the German immigration law, a third requirement was introduced: adequate eduction. 

Salary threshold

The Blue Card system in Germany sets two salary thresholds: one for shortage professions, such as engineers or developers, and one for other professions.

Please note that the salary requirements change every year. This should be considered while strategizing the recruitment and hiring of international talent around the end of the year.

In 2020, those (annual) thresholds are:

Shortage professions: 44.304 EUR

Other professions: 56.800 EUR

Equivalent education

In Germany, one needs diplomas and certificates in order to be highly qualified. This means that only people with higher education could be eligible for a Blue Card. This also means that if your candidate does not have a diploma (so, either did not study or did not graduate from their studies), you might experience difficulties relocating them to Germany.

Moreover, if your candidate had studied abroad (like 90% of international candidates), it is not enough that they have studied. One must make sure they have studied in a recognized university, participated in a recognized program and that their education is altogether equivalent to German education. This might sometimes be tricky, since not everything is stated clearly and black on white, and since the regulations are formulated in somehow vague terms, but Anabin is a good place to start.

In case your candidate had studied, but their program or university is no listed on Anabin, they could apply for diploma recognition in order to get the Blue Card. However, from our experience, those processes could be long and tedious, so it might make more sense to apply for a work visa in the meanwhile, in order to allow your candidate to relocate to Germany and start working for you.

NEW Adequate education

Starting March 1st, 2020, due to a change of regulations, a third requirement was introduced: adequate qualification. This means, that your candidate´s qualification (aka: recognized academic degree) must fit with their field of work.

For example, if your candidate for a full stock developer position has a degree in computer science (and assuming their degree is recognized in Germany), they should be able to get a Blue Card application approved, which means that both you and them will be able to enjoy the benefits. However, your candidate for the same full stack developer position will probably not get a Blue Card if they have their degree in political science, history or English literature.



In case that your candidate is eligible for a Blue Card, you could expect the following benefits:

1.    In case your candidate meets the upper salary threshold, you could expect shorter processing times at the German embassy in their country of residence

2.    In case your candidate relocates with their spouse, the spouse will be exempt from German knowledge as a visa requirement, which usually means that the family reunification visa can be processed easier and faster.

3.    Your candidate could apply for permanent residency after 21 months of working (if they speak German in a B1 level) or after 33 months of working (if they speak German in an A1 level). From our experience, permanent residencies contribute to the employee´s sense of belonging and increase their commitment.

Blue Cards eligibility as a recruitment practice

As we established above, the relocation and visa process will be easier for candidates who are eligible for a Blue Card. For this reason, many recruiters and HR professionals think the Blue Card system is the only way of bringing international talent to Germany.

Even though the Blue Card system is one of the most efficient ways visa-process wise, it is also possible to employ international talent in cases where the Blue Cards requirements are not met. Our office has gathered a great deal of experience both in consulting, strategizing and finding solutions for situations like this as well as gathered a great deal of experience in bringing people without diplomas or higher education to Germany, on base of a work visa.

Even though such processes could take a bit longer in certain cases, your company could benefit greatly from those talented and motivated professionals.

 For further information about talent and executive immigration to Germany, please feel free to contact us.