all you need to know about the new German skilled worker immigration law
Last updated: 27.08.2020
Skilled worker immigration is very important for German economy: due to the negative birth rate, we have more jobs than people in certain fields, which leads to a need of a liberal immigration policy for work immigrants.
On the other hand, in the past years there had also been abuse cases, taking advantage of different loop halls in the law. Therefore, one of the goals of our current government was to find a way to better regulate work immigration in Germany.
The skilled worker immigration act, which came into effect on March 1st, 2020, is supposed to address those topics.
What is this law and how does it effect our lives?
Here are the main things you need to know:
What are the main changes?
Re-structuring of the German immigration law:
The new law had restructured the current German immigration laws, in order to make it easier to relocate professionals to Germany.
In parallel, the foreigners’ Registration Offices (Ausländerbehörde) in Germany will also be restructured: instead of belonging to the local government and working under its regulations, they will act as independent offices, which will work under the regulations of a central foreigners’ Registration Office (zentrale Ausländerbehörde). The later should be founded in 2020.
As part of this process of restructuring, an expedited visa process should also be founded: for 411 EUR per case, employers will be able to get faster appointments.
Education recognition is the key
The main objective of this law is to make it easier to relocate professionals to Germany, due to our reality in Germany of shortage in professionals and the difficulties in finding good candidates. Therefore, the key is professional training, which needs to be recognized.
Even though this is clear when it comes to nurses, doctors and healing practitioners, the meaning of recognition of professional training in “softer” terms is still not clear. There should be a central office for education recognition, which will be responsible for this process. Since the main purpose is to make it easier to relocate professionals to Germany, the law should make it easier to relocate in cases which are currently challenging.
As for academic education, currently we are working with the system of Anabin database and with the recognition process of KMK, which works (even though it is very bureaucratic and can take a long time). It seems that this system will stay with us and will not be replaced by any other system.
The extent of recognition is another point for clarification, since it is not clear which programs will be recognized: For example, one of the most common cases that we encounter nowadays is of professionals from Latin America, whose degree is not recognized. Since the system in many countries in Latin America is different than the system in Germany, people get degrees for things that will be recognized in Germany as professional training (Berufsausbildung). This could create difficulties in relocation, since in most cases, the agreement of the Federal Employment Agency is either not given or is dependent on the education recognition. The later is also not easy to get nowadays: I have seen cases in which the result was negative in the process of KMK. Another possibility is to have the education recognized over IHK, but this process is very tedious and expensive, and at the end of it – the result in many cases is a partial-recognition, which, until now, was not valid enough for a work permit. Additionally, obtaining the full recognition did not always work with the candidate´s plans to work in Germany full time in specific industries.
Abolishment of the priority check (Vorrangprüfung):
One of the obstacles in obtaining work permits for professionals was always the priority check: according to the current laws, in order for a foreigner to take a job in Germany, the employer must prove that there are no unemployed German candidates who can do this job. This process usually entails posting the position for several weeks, until the Federal Employment Agency comes to the conclusion that there are no local candidates for the position.
Apart from being tedious, this process is not trivial at all, which leads to cases in which employers have to run it after they have already looked for employees for a long time. Running the process leads to human resources loss, since positions were left unfilled for a longer time than necessary in a reality of professionals’ shortage, in which recruitment is a challenge.
The news law intends to change this reality, through the abolishment of this process.
Even though this is a relief, the current laws also have many exemptions, so that we only had to run a priority check in very specific cases. Since the new laws state that the priority check can be run again if the local authorities think it is necessary, only times will tell if we will actually see a change of regulations in this aspect.
Relocating without academic education:
Making the German immigration system accessible to trained professionals and to professionals who do not have a recognized academic degree:
The current immigration laws have made it relatively easy to relocate people with academic education. However, when it comes to people with professional training (Berufsausbildung), the game was completely different. In many cases, we faced challenges in obtaining work permits for them, since it was complicated to find a legal ground for getting them to Germany.
The new laws would like to change this as well and suggest several means of change: first of all, a central office for recognition of international professional training should be founded soon in order to work on the recognition of professional training and in order to allow professionals to obtain work permits.
Secondly, trained professionals (without an academic degree) will be eligible to job seeking visas in the future and will be allowed to come to Germany in order to seek for employment (as long as they can prove they speak German to a certain degree). Until now, as a point of comparison, this option was only available to people with recognized academic education. Thirdly, trained professionals will be allowed to come to Germany and work with their education being partly recognized. This will hold if their employers could commit to them finishing the needed activities towards the full recognition within two years.
Lastly, there will be a special regulations for IT-professionals who do not hold a recognized academic degree, which will allow them to get a work visa, as long as their salary will be at least 4.020 EUR (true for 2020), and as long as they could prove three years of professional experience.
Some regulations that employers should know:
In my opinion, the most important thing is to understand the rational of the law, which is to enable the relocation of qualified professionals for the purpose of working in Germany.
As part of that, there are some interesting regulations which all of us should note:
Candidates older than 45:
The German immigration laws put an emphasis on pension insurance, since one of the objectives is to try to avoid age poverty among work immigrants. Until now, this idea came into effect with permanent residencies and with applicants who are older than 45: the later needed to have pension insurance in order to be able to have a visa or residence permit issued.
The new laws take this idea one step further: until now, the only thing that applicants needed to show was that they have German pension insurance. If they were insured with the public pension insurance, such as most employees, their contributions did not matter. The new laws, however, determine that the amount of the contributions does matter: In order to obtain a work permit for employees older than 45, the offered salary will need to be higher than 55% of the max. value for pension insurance (Beitragsbemessungsgrenze).
Informing duty (Meldepflicht):
The new laws also determine that employers will be obligated to inform the Foreigners´ Registration Office when their candidates stopped working for them. The notice should come in within 4 weeks from the point of termination. This is also different than the current regulations, which do not put an obligation on employers to inform in situations of job termination.
I believe that it will be interesting to follow the implications of this law in the long term. On the one hand, it is designed to encourage immigration of skilled workers to Germany, but on the other hand - I see that many of the regulations and way of thinking about the term of skilled workers does not necessarily suit our time.
The most problematic issue in my opinion is the emphasis on compatible education: in our world today, there are many skilled workers who do not hold a recognized degree in the field in which they work, for example, software developers who studied social sciences or those who never graduated. It even becomes more complicated with talent who studied a certain field, and work in a slightly different field - I believe that we will see many of these gray area cases in the near future. With the goal of making German immigration more attractive to talent, I would expect more flexibility with this matter.
Due to Corona, we also did not gather enough experience with the new regulations as we would have in normal days, but we are slowly getting there. I look forward to hearing your thoughts!