Change happens constantly. Such transformations can occur in many ways, especially with complicated issues like population demographics and economic developments. How a country responds to such developments can determine whether it thrives or struggles.

Germany is currently undergoing a period of change. The demographic developments indicate that Germany is an ageing country. Added to this, the realities of the modern world are also playing a role in this period of change as the nature of work is transforming. An increasing number of industries are now focusing on Information Technology, which is only set to increase. Technological advancements are set to continue, as is work in that field.

The Skilled Immigration Act 2020 responds to these developments. In this piece, we will answer some questions that we have received on this development.

If you have a particular issue or legal question concerning German Immigration Law, you can contact our law office anytime. Our lawyers for German Immigration Law can be reached by phone, email and also provide video conferencing options. For more legal information, please visit our Immigration Information Germany Center.

FAQs on the Skilled Immigration Act 2020

Here, we have listed some of the main questions we have received on the Skilled Immigration Act. These questions will provide insight into the purpose of the Act, who is covered by it, and to what extent. However, this is a generalised overview of the legislation. Should there be any further questions on the Act itself or other German immigration issues, don’t hesitate to contact our firm directly.

What is the Purpose of the Skilled Immigration Act 2020?

This Act has been brought into German legislation to recognise the changing demographics of Germany and the changing face of the workplace. For the German economy to continue as one of the strongest globally, the country needs more skilled workers to take up skilled jobs. This Act focuses on workers recognised as skilled and qualified from non-EU countries with the hope of encouraging them to move to Germany.

The Act aims to bring approximately 25,000 more workers per year to Germany. Essentially, the aim is to future-proof Germany to keep the German economy strong. Many skilled positions are not being filled yearly, and the Act’s purpose is to change this. This future-proofing is especially the case in IT and engineering / STEM jobs.

According to the Act, Who is a Skilled Worker?

The Skilled Immigration Act outlines the requirements for skilled workers as follows: They are nationals of non-EU countries who:

  • Have completed vocational training in Germany or have a non-German occupational qualification which is equivalent to one acquired in Germany, or who
  • Have a German or a foreign higher education degree recognised or otherwise comparable to a German higher education degree.

This recognition of vocational training intends to find suitable candidates for jobs that may not require university degrees. It is also in place now for all professions, not those with current work shortages. The non-requirement of a university degree for the worker to be recognised as a skilled worker demonstrates a degree of difference between the new Skilled Immigration Act and the EU Blue Card requirements. To determine whether a foreign degree is equivalent to a German degree, the website provides this required information.

It should be noted that EU citizens are not included in this definition as they do not require a visa to move to Germany. On this note, the Skilled Immigration Act is designed to ensure that German and other EU workers need no longer be prioritised over non-EU applicants. The employer is not obliged to fulfil the obligations of a resident labour market test (whereby they need to confirm that no resident (German or EU citizen) could fill the role in question). This non-requirement should make the hiring of non-EU workers easier for the employer.

Is a Qualification Necessary to be Recognised as a Skilled Worker?

For most professions, it is the case that qualification is necessary; however, there are some differences in the area of IT. In this field, it will be permitted that applicants without formal qualifications but with extensive professional experience in the industry of at least three years (gained within the last seven years) may be able to gain a visa. It should be noted that they do need to earn a minimum annual salary requirement of €49,680. This demonstrates that although vocational training may not be required, applicants should be at a high standard in their work. Once again, the Act concerns skilled immigration.

Furthermore, applicants should have an equivalent of B1 level German language skills. On this note, though, the German language requirement can sometimes be waived. It is worth discussing this issue with an experienced professional to determine your chances of waiving this requirement. The non-requirement for a university degree or vocational training is only in the IT and communications sector. Applicants from other fields will require some qualifications.

Is a Job Offer Necessary to Benefit from the Skilled Immigration Act?

Of course, those with a job offer from Germany will benefit from the Skilled Immigration Act, but unnecessary. Similar to the Job Seeker Visa the skilled worker can be provided with a residence permit. Thus, given the opportunity to look for a job in Germany for a period of six months. During this time, the job seeker can work internships for 10 hours a week to get accustomed to working in Germany. To benefit from this Act, they must have B2-level German and need to support themselves financially during that time.

Once again, the difference here between the new Act and the Job Seeker Visa is that this Act extends to “skilled workers”. In other words, job seekers do not require a university degree if they fulfil the other criteria.

Are There any Exceptions for Job Seekers Under the Skilled Immigration Act?

Yes, there is an exception for those over 45 looking to apply to come to Germany. These skilled professionals must show that they have an employment contract they wish to take up. They will also have to demonstrate that they have sufficient pension requirements or earn an adequate amount to future-proof themselves. The Act does not intend for people to come to Germany to use the social benefits system.

Can Students Benefit from the Skilled Immigration Act?

Yes, students can also benefit from the provisions of the Skilled Immigration Act. Under the Act, applicants under the age of 25 who have at least a school leaving certificate and B2 standard German can apply for vocational training in Germany. In other words, they do not need to look for a job if they prefer to upskill. However, like job seekers, those applying on this ground need to show the ability to support themselves financially.

Will the Skilled Immigration Act Change the Immigration Process?

Yes, this new Act will change several features of the immigration process. Firstly, the legislation will introduce a new fast-track procedure whereby, in some instances, the application process can be speeded up. To benefit from the fast-track process, the skilled worker’s future employer would need to pay a fee of €411. This will then (hopefully) speed up the application process to a matter of a few weeks instead of dragging on for a much more extended period.

The Act also aims to have the federal states within Germany set up their own Central Immigration Office (Zentralen Ausländerbehörden – ZAB) to help process skilled immigration applicants. Whether this action will, in practice, speed up the situation or cause an extra layer of bureaucracy remains to be seen. There may be delays while the system gets up and running. Therefore, employers should consider this when looking for workers under the Act.

When can a Skilled Worker Apply for Permanent Residency?

The Skilled Immigration Act also changed this process to some degree. Under this Act, the non-resident worker will apply for permanent residence status four years after finding work. This time period bears in mind the German social insurance system’s required contribution payments arising from their employment. This is a reduction from the previous five years necessary for making such an application.

What does the Skilled Immigration Act mean for Employers?

For employers, there are many provisions to be aware of:

  • Firstly, they are no longer restricted to hiring non-EU workers for “shortage positions”. Essentially, if the candidate from a non-EU country is the best person for the job (and they fulfil the criteria), they can be hired without going through the resident market labour test.
  • Secondly, they should be aware that the new Act will change the immigration system and lead to more people applying to come to Germany. Whether that will be the 25,000 per year aimed for or significantly more (or less) remains to be seen. Essentially, the employer should be ready for delays arising from this Act’s implementation.
  • Thirdly, the Federal Employment Agency (FEA) will have extended powers regarding audits of businesses. In other words, they will be able to inspect the company to ensure that it complies with its legal requirements (following labour law, tax, social security etc.). Such inspections will aim to prevent employers from exploiting non-EU workers. Fines of up to €30,000 can be given out should a company not answer an FEA audit request in the allotted time.
  • These audits will also be in place to ensure that the business is suitable for hiring workers from abroad under the Act. If a company is non-compliant with its legal requirements, its application may be rejected.
  • Fourthly, the employer must inform the immigration authorities should a work contract have been ended prematurely. Failure to do so on the employer’s part could also lead to heavy fines.

Legal Representation in All German Immigration Issues

The Skilled Immigration Act will undoubtedly impact future immigration to Germany, and our firm is ready for any other questions you may have. At Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte, our expert immigration lawyers are prepared to provide the assistance you or your company needs regarding the changes this Act will bring. Our immigration law team represent our clients in all matters relating to immigration. In this field, our clients include private individuals and corporate clients.

At our firm, we value transparent and open communication and provide our services in English and German. If you require further assistance with the Skilled Immigration Act, please don’t hesitate to contact us directly.