International Hiring Strategies 101
All of us have been there: finding the right candidate for a certain position, after a long search – and they need a work permit in order to start working. Then, you start having all those questions: will we make it on time? Or how long will this process take? Is it worth it? Is it at all doable? I get constantly asked what the best way to tackle this issue is, and the more experience I gain in the field of global mobility and work permits, the more my answer tends to be: “depends”.
As we all know, immigration laws are complicated. Furthermore, German immigration laws are super complicated, which makes each case differ than the other. In this article I will briefly go through the key criteria, my goal being to assist you to make better international hires.
The most important criteria in making international hires is your candidates´ country of origin, or, more importantly, their nationality. The rule is super simple: everybody have to first apply for a visa in the German embassy in their home country (so, the country of which they are citizens), OR in the German embassy in their country of residence (so, for example, a Venezuelan citizen living in Colombia may also apply in the German embassy in Colombia, and does not have to go back to Venezuela in order to apply for a German visa), BUT NOT from Germany. Even if they have residency in another EU-Country (in that case, they will need to go back to their EU-country of residency and apply from the German embassy there).
Another very important parameter to consider is the waiting times for an appointment in the different German embassies around the world, which could vary from a couple of weeks throughout a couple of months, ending with “you will have your appointment sometime. In like 2-3 years”. This could lead to major problems with on-boarding-planning. Unfortunately, the waiting times in the different German embassies around the world change constantly, so that in a certain period it was complicated to book visa appointments for the Ukraine, then in West-Balkan states, and now in countries along the Refugee-route.
Even if you are not under time pressure, the parameter of embassy appointments is crucial especially if you are hiring people who have families, since in certain cases, family members need to apply only after the main applicant had already settled in Germany, which leads to an unpleasant situation of your employee not being able to land and adjust properly, since they miss their family.
As we know, each rule has some exceptions. In this case we have two main exceptions:
Citizens of Australia, Canada, Japan, Israel, New Zealand, South Korea and the USA: citizens of these countries may apply for every type of visa either from their home country/country of residence, or from within Germany.
People who already hold a Blue Card, a work visa or a job seeking visa for Germany: same as the previous group of people, those people can also apply for a visa from within the country.
The German definition of highly qualified work immigrants is (in simple words): “people with an academic degree, which is comparable to a German academic degree”. Therefore, your candidates should also have their academic degrees from recognized universities. Furthermore, they should also have their programs listed on the official German database. This is all very nice, but reality looks differently: sometimes your perfect developer never graduated from their Bachelor´s degree. Or sometimes their education is just not equivalent to German education (this is super common with education from countries around Latin America, since they have a somewhat different education system).
So, what do we do?
The good news is that we can get those people into Germany, until now have always succeeded in getting a work permit for them. The not-so-great news is that it usually takes longer in comparison to a case in which the candidate´s education is perfect (visa-system-wise). This is, however, always a parameter to consider when considering international hires.
As we all know, immigration is not an easy process, and one needs to have a super strong personality in order to make it in a foreign country. When investing all this time and efforts in making international hires, we should also try to find a good match, personality-wise. From our experience, most people are super cool and super grateful to have been given the opportunity to work abroad. However, some people also disappear right after their embassy-visa appointment, whereas others will come to Berlin and start working, but will leave the job within a very short period of time (the most extreme case we have had was of a guy who left after a week). Our goal is to try and prevent that, since we would like to both be nice to our employees, and find the best match for both company, department and position.
In that accord, I always try to put my psychology-background, and go into the mindset of getting the person with whom I am working. From our experience, people who are more likely to make it through this tough step are strong and serious. Behavior-wise, they reply to emails and messages very quickly (so, within a range of a couple of hours, considering the time differences of course), are organized with their paperwork, and keep scheduled appointments. They are realistic with their expectations towards the process of relocation and are cooperative and polite. Sounds pretty basic, but you will never believe how many people disappear right after their embassy-visa appointment.
As mentioned above, you should also consider additional parameter, such as the credibility of your candidate, how persistent they are with their story (there were already cases of fraud in the past), check their references in certain cases, but also understand that people can sometimes be stressed before doing a life-changing move such as relocation.
Interesting topic, ha?
We offer workshops on the topic of international hiring strategies, in order to support your internal recruiting and HR processes. During the workshop we will examine various scenarios, cover the main relevant points of the German immigration laws, and will provide you with practical tools to evaluate whether it makes sense for you to move forward with specific international candidates.