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Settlement Permit for Skilled Workers – Changes with the Skilled Immigration Act

As a skilled worker with a temporary residence title, it is possible to get a permanent residence in Germany under certain conditions per § 18c German Residence Act (AufenthG). This settlement permit for skilled workers is an unlimited residence title and grants its holder the right to work in Germany.

With the entry into force of the Skilled Immigration Act on March 1, 2020, the requirements for granting a settlement permit to skilled workers were standardized and in part simplified by § 18c (1) German Residence Act. For the first time, skilled workers with vocational training, skilled workers with a foreign university degree and researchers may be granted a permit in derogating the general provisions of § 9 German Residence Act.

The Skilled Immigration Act aims to make it easier for qualified, skilled workers from non-EU countries to immigrate to and stay in Germany. This is intended to meet the demand for skilled workers. Holders of a residence permit according to §§ 18a, 18b, and 18d German Residence Act, therefore, have privileged access to the granting of a settlement permit in Germany.

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Who is Considered a Skilled Worker in this Sense?

A skilled worker within the meaning of the German Residence Act is a foreign person who has

  • possesses a domestic qualified vocational training or a foreign vocational qualification equivalent to a domestic qualified vocational training (skilled worker with vocational training, § 18a German Residence Act ) or
  • holds a German university degree, a recognized foreign university degree or a foreign university degree comparable to a German university degree (skilled worker with academic training, § 18b German Residence Act ).

In addition, researchers (§ 18d German Residence Act ) are privileged by the regulations of § 18c German Residence Act .


What are the Requirements for the Granting of a Settlement Permit?

A skilled worker is entitled to granting a settlement permit if the general title granting prerequisites according to § 5 German Residence Act as well as the prerequisites according to § 18c (1) German Residence Act are met. However, the approval of the Federal Employment Agency is not required.

A settlement permit can only be issued according to § 18c, (1) German Residence Act if the skilled worker has been in possession of a residence permit according to §§ 18a, 18b or 18d German Residence Act for four years. Special privileges are granted to skilled workers who have completed domestic vocational training or domestic studies. In this case, the four-year period is reduced to two years (§ 18 (1) German Residence Act). This considers the period of training or study already completed in Germany and a correspondingly expected prior integration.

Besides, the applicant must be working as a skilled worker. This means that, at the time of application, he or she must hold a job that meets the requirements of §§ 18a, 18b or § 18d German Residence Act. In other words, it must be an occupation that the qualification qualifies the person to perform or that is appropriate for the qualification. If this prerequisite is not met, § 9 German Residence Act‘s requirements are decisive for the issuance of the settlement permit, and no privileged status is granted.

Furthermore, the skilled worker must have made compulsory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance for at least 48 months. Alternatively, proof of expenses for entitlement to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension institution or an insurance company is sufficient. The period is reduced from 48 to 24 months if the qualification was acquired in Germany (§ 18 (1) German Residence Act).

The skilled worker must also have sufficient German language skills. For this purpose, German language skills must be proven to be at least at level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR). This requirement must be met regardless of whether corresponding language skills were a prerequisite for the existing residence title for gainful employment or whether they are required for the specific employment.

Finally, the other requirements under § 18c (1) in conjunction with § 9 German Residence Act must be met. Accordingly, the livelihood must be secured without recourse to public funds. Besides, basic knowledge of the legal and social order and proof of sufficient living space is required.


Settlement Permit for holders of an EU Blue Card

The provisions for granting a settlement permit to holders of an EU Blue Card will essentially remain in place even after the entry into force of the Skilled Workers Immigration Act and will merely be incorporated into § 18c (2) German Residence Act. Accordingly, holders of an EU Blue Card will receive a settlement permit under simplified conditions.

The basic prerequisite for issuance is that they have been employed for at least 33 months per § 18b (2) German Residence Act. It should be noted that the salary limits regulated in § 18b (2) German Residence Act must be met. This means that the applicant must fulfil these requirements both at the time of application and since the EU Blue Card issuance to the extent that a salary has been received over the entire period that meets or exceeds the applicable minimum limit. A distinction is made between regular occupations and occupations with shortages. The Federal Ministry of the Interior (BMI) announced the respective minimum salaries by the end of the previous year for the following year.

Also, the holder of an EU Blue Card must have made contributions to the statutory pension insurance for at least 33 months or provide evidence of expenses for entitlement to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension institution or an insurance company. However, the settlement permit can already be issued after 21 months if sufficient German language knowledge is available (§ 18 (2) German Residence Act). For this, knowledge on the B1 level must be proven.

Apart from this, simple German language skills at the A1 level must be proven for the permit to be issued. Finally, reference is made to the requirements of § 9 (2) German Residence Act. Accordingly, the holder of an EU Blue Card must also prove that their livelihood is secure, that they have basic knowledge of the legal and social order, and have sufficient living space.


Settlement Permit for Highly Qualified Persons

Pursuant to § 18c (3) German Residence Act, the conditions for issuing a settlement permit to highly qualified persons are eased in special cases. Accordingly, it is possible to obtain the permit without a prior minimum stay in Germany. The background to this is the German economy’s special need for, particularly well-qualified workers.

A specialist with academic training is highly qualified if he or she has several years of professional experience. Explicitly mentioned are scientists with special technical knowledge as well as teachers and scientific employees in a prominent function. However, this list is not exhaustive, but only to be understood as exemplary.

It must be expected that the person will integrate into German living conditions and that his or her livelihood will be secured without state assistance. In addition, public safety and order must not be endangered (§§ 18c German Residence Act).

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Practice Group: German Immigration Law

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