On March 1, 2020, the Skilled Immigration Act came into force. The law is aimed at making it easier for qualified workers from countries that are not in the European Union (including skilled workers from occupations requiring an apprenticeship) to come to Germany.
Germany is not the only country that has a shortage of skilled labor. While there is a demand for university graduates in high demand, there is a shortage of skilled laborers in virtually every occupation requiring an apprenticeship within the German labor market. Both the private and the public sectors have been complaining that vacancies can no longer be filled with suitable applicants. There is a shortage of craftsmen, engineers, doctors, and nursing staff, to name a few.
The Skilled Immigration Act should open the German labor market to foreign skilled labor. In the future not only can skilled workers with academic training have unrestricted access to the German labor market, but they can also obtain a professional qualification in a recognized training occupation. However, a skilled worker does need to have a concrete job offer to work in Germany on a long-term basis. The authorities will also examine whether the professional qualification is equivalent to the occupational requirements necessary in Germany. A priority check as to whether the specific job could be filled by a German or European Union citizen is not currently planned.
The law aims to foster long-term integration of skilled workers into Germany. Skilled workers with a university degree or German vocational training can obtain a residence permit after two years of employment in Germany. If the applicant is a specialist with foreign qualifications, it is possible to obtain a residence permit after four years.
The Skilled Immigration Act also provides for easier job searches. People with recognized vocational training can be granted a residence permit for up to six months to look for a job, provided that they are able to support themselves during that time. This makes it possible, for example, to gain residency upon completion of an internship program, which was already possible for university graduates.
Visa procedures have also been simplified to make obtaining practical or theoretical post-qualification experience easier for vocational training. An accelerated specialist procedure has also been introduced, which involves the applicant’s employer and leads to a faster decision on the stay.
Employers may want to react flexibly to the labor market’s need for skilled workers in a wide range of private and public service sectors. Germany’s attractiveness as a business location will depend on its success in competing internationally for the best-skilled workers. The German legislature has now taken an important step towards the immigration of non-academic applicants with the Skilled Immigration Act. It remains to be seen whether these measures will be effective or not.
Written by Andre Appel of Ogletree Deakins
© 2020 Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C.