Which Purposes of Residence are Covered by the Fast-Track Procedure?
The fast-track procedure for skilled workers exclusively covers applications for a residence permit and is concerned with the following purposes of residence in Germany:
In addition, family members of the skilled worker can benefit from the accelerated skilled worker procedure (§ 81a Abs. 4 German Residence Act).
The Fast-Track Procedure for Skilled Workers in Practice
The employer, acting on behalf of the skilled worker living abroad, applies for the initiation of the fast-track procedure for skilled workers at the competent immigration authority, which is often the central immigration authority of the respective federal state. For this purpose, the relevant applications and documents are submitted. In particular, the foreign skilled worker must have previously granted the employer a power of attorney to initiate the accelerated skilled worker procedure (§ 81a (1) German Residence Act). In addition, the employer requires the other documents necessary for the procedure. These include a copy of the passport and proof of the skilled worker’s professional qualifications. In addition, a concrete job offer for an employment relationship within the meaning of § 18 (2) No. 1 German Residence Act (or an offer of a training position from a training company) must be available from the employer in Germany.
The immigration authority informs and advises the employer about the procedure and the evidence to be submitted. If the conditions for initiating the accelerated skilled worker procedure are met, an agreement is concluded between the employer and the Immigration Authority (§ 81a (2) German Residence Act). This includes, in particular, the contact details of the parties involved, the authorization of the employer by the skilled worker, an authorization of the competent immigration authority to perform the necessary procedural acts, and the evidence to be provided. In addition, the agreement contains the obligations of the employer, the skilled worker and the authorities involved in the procedure within the framework of the procedure as well as a description of the procedures with the corresponding deadlines. The agreement thus ensures a clear, transparent and binding procedure.
A fee of 411 euros is currently charged for the accelerated procedure for skilled workers in accordance with § 47 (1) No. 15 German Residence Ordinance (AufenthV), which is due upon signing of the agreement.
Procedure for Recognition of Foreign Qualifications and Professional Practice Permits
Insofar as this is necessary, the Immigration Authority initiates the procedure for recognition of the professional qualification or certificate assessment of the foreign university degree acquired abroad (§ 81a (3) German Residence Act). Whether recognition is required depends on the profession and the country of origin. If the specialist is to be employed in a profession regulated in Germany, a professional practice permit is also required to recognise the foreign professional qualification (§ 81a (3) German Residence Act). In this case, a decision on recognition is regularly made as part of the procedure for issuing the professional practice permit.
For third-country nationals, recognition of the foreign professional qualification or comparability of the foreign university degree with a German university degree is usually required even in non-regulated professions.
For the recognition procedure, the immigration authority forwards the corresponding application and the required documents to the competent recognition authority. The evidence required to establish the foreign qualification’s equivalence or issue a professional practice permit depends on the specific qualification.
The recognition body must decide on recognition within two months of receiving the complete application documents. It may be determined that the professional qualification is not equivalent, but that equivalence can be achieved through a qualification measure. In this case, the fast-track procedure for skilled workers can be continued with the aim of entry to recognise the foreign professional qualification per § 16d German Residence Act (§ 81a (3) German Residence Act).
The fees incurred for recognising the foreign qualification or the granting of a professional practice permit are not included in the fee for the accelerated skilled worker procedure.
Approval of the Federal Employment Agency
If necessary, the immigration authority must obtain the approval of the Federal Employment Agency to take up employment or training (§ 81a (3) German Residence Act). For this purpose, it forwards the required documents to the Federal Employment Agency, including the form “Declaration on Employment Relationship” (Annex 2) and, if applicable, the “Supplementary Sheet A” and a possibly required qualification plan.
If there is no response from the Federal Employment Agency within one week, then the approval is deemed to have been granted (§ 36 (2) sentence 2 BeschV).
Preliminary Approval of the Visa
According to § 81a, (3) German Residence Act, the Foreigners’ Registration Office grants its advance approval for the visa issuance if requirements are met. This means that a significant part of examining the prerequisites for the issuance of the visa by the immigration authority already takes place in Germany.
The prerequisites for the preliminary approval include:
- the recognition of the professional qualification (if required),
- the granting of a professional practice permit (if required),
- the approval of the Federal Employment Agency (if required), and
- the existence of the other residence law requirements to be finally clarified in Germany (including the general conditions for granting residence according to § 5 German Residence Act).
The preliminary approval’s original approval is sent to the employer, who in turn forwards it to the skilled worker. It is generally valid for three months from the date of issue. In individual cases, a longer period of validity may be specified.
Visa Application Abroad: Fast-Track Procedure for Skilled Workers
Once the skilled worker has received the preliminary approval of the immigration authority, they can book an appointment at the responsible German diplomatic mission abroad to apply for the visa. On the basis of the advance approval, they receive an earlier appointment than in the regular procedure. Thus, the German mission abroad will make an appointment for the visa application within three weeks after the preliminary approval has been submitted (§ 31a (1) AufenthV).
In addition to the original consent, all other documents required for the visa application must be submitted. The decision on the visa application is usually made within three weeks after the complete application has been submitted (§ 31a (2) AufenthV). There may be a delay if the mission abroad does not yet have all the necessary documents or information.
A fee of 75 euros must be paid for the issuance of the visa (§ 46 (2) no. 1 AufenthV).
Pursuant to § 81a (4) German Residence Act, the fast-track procedure for skilled workers also covers the family reunification of the spouse and minor unmarried children. In order for the immigration authority to include the family reunification in the examination and in the preliminary approval, the visa applications of the family members must be filed in temporal connection with the filing of the visa application of the skilled worker. This temporal connection is given if the entry of the family members takes place within six months of the entry of the skilled worker. However, it is not necessary to apply for a visa at the same time.
As part of the fast-track procedure for skilled workers, the examination of family reunification is already included in the fee of 411 euros.
The inclusion in the accelerated procedure only simplifies the procedure. Furthermore, the legal requirements for family reunification, which are regulated in §§ 27 ff. AufenthG must be met.