Hallo Ausländer ! Does Germany want Aliens to Enter and even Stay Here?

Everybody has his or her special situation, everybody would like to get in as easy and quickly as possible. Please don't expect that reading this article will even all paths to your permit. It is more complicated than that and there is no one clear-cut path to Germany! There will always be more or less red tape to overcome.

One great ease has come true: the one-stop agency. You only need to visit the foreigners office to apply for a residence and work permit. While the labor agencies (= Arbeitsagenturen) make the decision to grant or refuse the working permits. The Ausländeramt (foreigners or immigration office) will only decide on the residence. However, the foreigners office will communicate both decisions to you. Another exciting detail is that every residency permit must clearly either permit or forbid (self-)employment. Investors are so dearly needed that local chambers of commerce have started to open "Business Immigration Services". Though this is a fact, they covertly admit to be a toothless tiger in the administration process.

During the last 4 decades, Germany has been more or less in the paradox situation of wanting, if at all, to have tourists but not any workers immigrate. On the other hand, certain professions were gradually becoming more needed. A textbook case based on implementation orders was to have a millionaire come to Germany just to live off his wealth without working here. Even those persons received ignorant reception from immigration authorities when wanting to immigrate – if they had the “wrong” citizenship. But on the other hand, business (in all shades of the word) is actually needed. Such experiences and more led the politicians to adopt the Directive with one year delay and also with a big plus by European comparison. German immigration law now contains instruments of modern labor migration. Hopefully the administration will not block the needed foreign workforce by interpreting the rules too strictly or through mere bureaucratic friction.

Germany’s own workforce is unproportionally losing its young talents due to the aging of the German population in general. Not enough children are being born. These facts give foreign talents a chance. This opportunity does not at all mean that uneducated persons looking for low-scale jobs are welcome to enter the country. This country has its own share of uneducated and these persons are to be placed first. The continuing economic boom in the coming years demands skilled persons for a vast majority of professions. Some federal states expect a shortage of 20,000 or even 200,000 workers in the coming years.

As has been since 2005, the more talents you have that Germany needs, the more privileges you will be awarded. The greatest right / award will be permanent residency. Comparatively, Germany only reluctantly grants citizenship. You will surely not be naturalized just because you bring business or are extraordinarily highly skilled.

If you seriously want to immigrate to Germany, arm yourself! No, not with weapons but with documents proving your professional experience. German officials love formalities and painstakingly frown on formal sloppiness like more than two typos on a single page…

The general rule for any and all kinds of a residence permit is: The more advantage you bring to Germany the better status you shall receive from the beginning.

New Amendment in 2019

The latest significant amendment to German immigration law happened on June 28, 2019, taking step-by-step effect latest 2020. The central part of the amendment is the so-called “Skilled Workers Act “ along with the “Regular Return Act”. The Federal Government expects 25,000 new skilled workers per year as a result of the Skilled Workers Act coming into force. The overall aim is to reduce the shortage of skilled workers in Germany. The Regular Return Act aims at structuring asylum law in such manner that critics considered it as an erosion of the constitutional right of asylum for political refugees (§16a GG).

Employment Immigration

As it remains to be developed, the major amendment to immigration law will be found in employment immigration. The law on the immigration of skilled workers has resulted in a number of changes that open up new prospects for skilled workers from non-EU countries. The distinction between academics and people with vocational qualifications has been abandoned and in future only the uniform term “skilled workers” will be used by law, covering both university graduates and employees with qualified vocational training. Further details will be described in my online FAQ, with specifics listed pertinent to the relevant permit.

Priority Examination

The abolition of the “priority examination” (akaVorrangprüfung”) has in particular practical relevance. Previously, the employer had to prove that no German or EU citizen was eligible for the job by means of this priority check. Lawmakers wanted to protect the domestic labor market using the old regulation. This has now changed: if the qualified skilled worker has an employment contract and a qualification recognized in Germany, the priority check will not apply. If the candidate does not have a recognized qualification, the employee will have to apply for such. This may take up to three months’ time.

In contrary to wanting to take a full-time job, the priority examination continues to apply without restriction to access to vocational training.

Job Seeking Permit

An exception to the employment contract requirement exists for skilled workers with qualified vocational training if they enter the country with a good knowledge of German to look for a job or a training place. In this case, it is possible to look for a job in Germany for up to six months, which is especially useful to attract urgently needed IT specialists. However, it is also possible for lawmakers to react (again) to changes in the labor market and reintroduce the priority check for certain regions if necessary.

The Skilled Workers Act basically gives foreign qualified skilled workers access to all occupations - and not only to so-called bottleneck occupations, as was previously the case. The residence permit to be issued to immigrate skilled workers is initially limited to 48 months. Thereafter, it is converted into an unlimited residence permit if the skilled worker has been employed for 48 months. The introduction of an accelerated procedure for issuing is particularly important here. Within this framework, the (authorized) future employer, next to the employee, can also apply for a residence permit at the Aliens Department instead of just the foreign employee as before. The Aliens Department and the authorized employer must first conclude a separate agreement on whether or not they will do so. Waiting, sometimes for many months, for the permit to be granted should be a thing of the past. It remains to be seen, however, whether this noble goal will be achieved in official practice.

Recognition of Qualifications

There will be no significant changes in the recognition of qualifications. Professional qualifications must continue to be of a similar quality to standard to German qualifications. Each federal state is to set up a central foreigners’ authority or a clearing office for the purpose of verification. A recognition procedure will also have to take place there in the future.  IT specialists with at least three years of professional experience and a gross salary of at least 4,020 € per month are excluded from the recognition procedure.

Business Immigration

The rules and regulations for immigration on grounds of business have not changed a bit. A “golden visa”, as some other countries offer, has never been offered in Germany and is not to be expected. Though the formal requirements have been significantly decreased since 2015, when the last major amendment was issued, great insecurity still exists because all criteria are at discretion. You can never say “I meet the expectations,” but rather only hope to have done so. In my experience, if an application to run a self-owned company in Germany was ever turned down because its business line was around “sex, drugs, and R ‘N’ R or something similarly unwanted. The main concern for any applicant remains to have a business idea that will bring momentum to German economy. Though having investment capital remains important, it comes second after the business idea.

Conclusions and Consequences for Practice

From a practical point of view, the fundamental elimination of priority checks and bottleneck considerations is already a significant relief to have a  non-German candidate placed here. Nevertheless, German bureaucracy remains sophisticated. CONCEPTUALLY, the amendment serves to speed up the procedure and creates better ability to plan. HOWEVER, the amendment also created additional bureaucratic and notification obligations for employers, which lead to unnecessary administrative burdens, especially in the event of premature termination of the deployment of foreign skilled workers.

The Skilled Workers Act also opens new or simplified possibilities for employers to recruit and hire skilled workers from non-EU countries. However, the Skilled Workers Act consists of many individual amendments to the law which are unclear and sometimes opaque for those concerned. This relates to the parliament in Germany, which tends to be conservative, in all shades of any meaning. They do not tend to face the economy’s needs and only react pro forma. The result is a somewhat clear “Yes, Germany needs foreign workers but they better be abroad.”

Expert support will continue to be necessary. A uniform immigration law or at least simplified, uniform standards are still a long way off. Too often, rapid action fails because of the overload and inertia of the immigration authorities – domestically and especially abroad. Administrative practice and simplification in this area as well as increased staffing are just as urgently needed as simplified rules for the immigration of skilled workers. The Skilled Workers Act is not a big hit in this respect, although it is to be hoped that it will at least indirectly lead to an acceleration of official practice. It will also be based on the - presumably – the now to be revised technical instructions of the individual laws, which in practice are of considerable importance in this respect.

The issues of skills shortages and global mobility are increasingly coming into the focus of national and international companies, and Germany has taken at least a small step in the right direction, not only in the "war for talents". What remains to be dealt with is the slow speed of processing; the practical implementation and success of the new law remain to be seen.

Before entering Germany, you need to know if you need a visa to enter or not. Stop, for a moment please! In order to correctly understand this presentation, you must know two terms form German legalese: “Visum (= visa)” and “Aufenthaltsgenehmigung, -titel (= residence permit, residence title)”. Visa is a permission to remain in Germany for a short-term period while a residence permit (up to six months, never qualifying for permanent residency) is for an indefinite permission, which will qualify for permanent residency. It is just like the difference between “visit” and “stay”.

If you are not from a buddy country, you must have a visa prior to entering Germany! A visa legalizes your entry into and your stay in Germany for up to three months per half year. It is not really intended to be extended any further. You can only get an exception if you are hospitalized, incapable of traveling, or summoned to court or an administrative office. These exceptions are handled very strictly. This time you will have to leave — but next time apply for a national visa if a longer stay is foreseeable and reasonably explainable.

Pursuant to a visa waiver program, citizens of buddy country may enter without first applying for a visa. Some special  buddy country citizens may apply for a residence permit from inside Germany without first having to leave and apply from home. The rules for obtaining and prolonging residency depend exclusively on the reason you are here.

The new law explicitly and actually exclusively names the reasons for a residence permit: