Germany suffers from an acute shortage of skilled workers due to demographic change and the baby boomer generation entering retirement age. As a result, the lack of qualified personnel is occurring in almost all occupational groups, thus increasingly depriving the economy of opportunities for recovery. In 2022, 72.7 % of the companies surveyed said they had shortages of skilled workers. To make Germany a more attractive location, the government is working to reduce the barriers to immigration from abroad and thus promote skilled worker immigration. Therefore, on 23 June 2023, the German Act on the Further Development of the Skilled Workers Immigration Act was passed, under which a new residence title in the form of a points-based opportunity card will be introduced.

You can contact our law office anytime if you have a particular issue or legal question concerning the Opportunity Card in Germany. Our German lawyers can be reached by phone and email and provide video conferencing options. For more legal information, please visit our immigration law homepage.

What is the “Opportunity Card”?

According to the legal definition, an “opportunity card” is a residence permit for the purpose of seeking a gainful employment qualification or measures for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications.

The introduction of the opportunity card is intended to simplify immigration for gainful employment purposes significantly. It is based on a points system,m which, according to the German Federal Government, is transparent and unbureaucratic. The opportunity card enables people to enter Germany to look for a job. During the job search, it offers the possibility of trial work and secondary employment. If the person concerned has found a permanent position, they can obtain a corresponding residence permit.

Acquiring the Opportunity Card: What Requirements Must be Met?

On the one hand, the opportunity card can be granted to a foreign skilled worker. On the other hand, which should probably have a significantly higher practical relevance, it can be granted if the applicant has at least 6 points according to the points system.

1. Livelihood Security

In any case, it is a mandatory requirement that the means of subsistence are secured. According to the law already in force in Germany, granting any residence title generally presupposes that the means of subsistence are secured, Section 5 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG). The livelihood is considered secure if it can be met without recourse to public funds, Section 2 (3) AufenthG. This mandatory requirement for receiving the opportunity card is intended to avoid new burdens on the public budget. This prerequisite is checked through a forecast decision based on the available funds concerning the intended period of validity of the temporary residence permit, i.e., a maximum of one year in the case of the opportunity card. The decisive factor is whether there is an entitlement to social benefits, not whether the person concerned is claiming social benefits.

2. Classification as a Skilled Worker

A skilled worker within the meaning of the German Residence Act is anyone who either has a professional qualification that is considered equivalent to a domestic qualified professional training (skilled worker with professional training) or has a university degree that is comparable to a German university degree (skilled worker with academic training), Section 18 (3) AufenthG. Those who fulfil this requirement no longer have to show points according to the points system but can apply directly for an opportunity card.

3. Points System

Those who are not skilled workers can generate points via criteria such as language skills or work experience. Those who can prove at least 6 points can apply for the opportunity card.

The points system provides 4 points to be awarded for a professional qualification recognised as equivalent in Germany or a permit for a regulated profession. Thus, like existing residence titles, the opportunity card relies on the qualification of the profession.

Different points are awarded depending on the language level of either German or English, so knowledge of German is desirable but not necessary to be granted a residence permit.

Several years of professional experience after acquiring a professional qualification are also rewarded, as is the age of the person concerned. Those not older than 35 receive 2 points, and those older than 35 but not older than 40 receive 1 point.

If the spouse or registered partner also applies for the opportunity card, both receive 1 point, as family ties are expected to facilitate integration, and the federal government wants to focus on long-term migration.

Skilled Workers Immigration Act: Further Innovations

In addition to introducing the opportunity card, further facilitations of labour migration will be presented. For example, the salary threshold for obtaining the EU Blue Card will be lowered, the duration of professional experience will be reduced, and proof of German language skills will no longer be required. In addition, the classification as a skilled worker and the recognition procedure will be simplified. The amendment will de-restrict the Western Balkans regulation, doubling its quota. Further adjustments will be made to family reunification.

Schlun & Elseven: Comprehensive Support in German Immigration Law

Our experts in German immigration law will be happy to assist you with any problems or questions you may have regarding immigration to Germany or naturalisation. We advise you in various languages on the legal options available in this area. Let our experts check whether you or your job candidates currently meet the requirements for a residence title. Our German lawyers will take care of all your applications to ensure the application process is quick and complications-free. Contact us now to start working with our legal experts.