5 advantages to being recognized as a skilled professional (Fachkraft) in Germany
Updated: Feb 17
Last year, before Corona, the most meaningful change is relocating to Germany was the new skilled professionals' immigration act (Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz). This law introduced a new term to the world of immigration to Germany: the skilled professional, or German: the Fachkraft.
Fachkräfte are people who:
Have learned or studied a profession or a trade, whose education (either academic or professional) is equivalent to a German education in the same field.
Are working in jobs that are compatible with their education (for example, people who have studied computer science and work as software developers)
Have competitive salaries for their professional positions
Everyone else is not considered a skilled professional. Non-Fachkräfte is a vast group of people, among them:
Expats who never graduated from their degrees
Expats who have gone through professional training and never applied for education recognition or a certificate of equivalence
Expats who changed their professions (for example, people who studied business and then took a coding boot camp and are now working as software developers)
Expats who work in a different field than what they have studied (for example; humanities graduates who work as product managers)
Expats who do have an academic education, which is not equivalent to a German degree because the education system in their home countries is different than the education system in Germany (for example, people with technician degrees)
Expats who work in non-professional jobs, such as various jobs in the field of culinary, sales, or customer service (call center jobs)
Expats whose salary is too low to be competitive for skilled professionals
The German immigration law does allow approving a visa in many of those cases so that people in this massive group of non-skilled-professionals are living in Germany, obtain work visas, and have jobs. They will also become permanent residents if they choose to. Some of them have families, others founded families in Germany, and others even obtained Blue Cards in the past, before the law changed.
This vast group of people doesn't enjoy the same advantages as the group of skilled professionals.
#1: Obtaining a work permit
Germany needs work immigrants. Moreover, Germany needs skilled professionals. Therefore, skilled professionals have better chances of obtaining a work permit. The new law reformed the application process. The new process focuses on the Fachkraft-requirements, meaning: education and salary.
In parallel, non-Fachkräfte can also get a work permit, but under different conditions: only if the employment ordinance, which includes regulations regarding various scenarios depending on factors such as nationality, professional experience, and occupation, allows it. Additionally, non-Fachkräfte may obtain a work permit based on agreements between states (e.g., according to working holiday regulations), or in exceptions: based on an exceptional public interest.
In short: it might be trickier to obtain a work permit for applicants who are not recognized as skilled professionals.
#2: Obtaining a Blue Card
The Blue Card system entails further advantages to skilled professionals. I have written a detailed article on this topic, which you can find here.
Ever since the Skilled Professionals Immigration Act, Blue Cards are given only to Fachkräfte, whose salary meets the Blue Card salary threshold. Everybody else may apply for a work visa.
#3: Visa Duration
Work visas and Blue Cards are issued for the term of the employment contract of the candidate. Fachkräfte, with an unlimited work contract, will obtain a work visa/ Blue Card for 4 years. Blue Card holders with limited employment contracts will receive a visa for the term of their employment contract plus 3 months.
Non-Fachkräfte will obtain a work visa based on the local immigration officer's decision or the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit). It might also be for 4 years, but we have also seen 3 years in cases of unlimited employment contracts. In some cities in Germany, non-Fachkräfte receive visas for 1-2 years every time.
#4: Being between jobs
Until the Skilled Professionals Immigration Act, work visa holders whose employment was terminated received 6 months for job-seeking as per Berliner regulations. During this time, they usually kept their current visa - and their current work permit.
Work visa/ Blue Card holders working in Germany for longer than 2 years and already enjoyed general work permits (this is the practice in Berlin) maintained those work permits, which allowed them to receive unemployment benefits for this job-seeking transition period of 6 months.
The Skilled Professionals Immigration Act had introduced a new regulation: Skilled Professionals (Fachkräfte) whose employment was terminated will have to replace their existing work visa with a job-seeking visa for a period of up to 6 months. With this job-seeking visa, they may only work in approbatory work for up to 10 hours per week. Once they find a job, they can apply for a new work visa/ Blue Card. In case they enjoyed unrestricted access to the labor market, they will receive their general work permit again - once they get a job.
As a result, applicants might experience difficulties with receiving unemployment benefits. One of the requirements to getting unemployment benefits is that the applicant can start a new job, shall the employment agency find a job for them. If one doesn't have their work permit - they cannot take any job. Therefore, their unemployment benefits application might get rejected.
If you find this tricky, wait until you hear what happens with non-Fachkräfte in those situations: since they are not recognized as Fachkräfte, they are not eligible for a job-seeking visa. Therefore, their status depends on the local immigration office: they might get some time for job-seeking, but they might also not get any time.
#5: Permanent Residency
Many expats' goal is to obtain a permanent residency, which will allow them to live their lives in Germany in the long run.
The good news is that everyone can apply for a permanent residency (as long as they fulfill the requirements, including having a job and speaking German). The only difference is in the time requirements needed for permanent residency:
Blue Card holders may apply after 21 months of working if they speak German at a B1 level and after 33 months of working if they speak German at an A1 level.
Fachkräfte with a work visa may apply after 48 months of working in Germany.
Non-Fachkräfte may apply only after 60 months of working in Germany.
In summary, there are obvious advantages to being recognized as Fachkräfte. Not all applicants will get the Fachkräfte- recognition, but my recommendation is to apply for this status. In many cases, obtaining it goes through education recognition, which can be done via KMK for people with academic education and via IHK Foreign Skills Approval for non-academic professional training - you will find more information here.