For members


8 things to know about Germany’s new skilled worker immigration law

The German Bundestag has approved an immigration reform, bringing the new law a step closer to reality.

Brandenburg Gate in berlin
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonathan Penschek

The German government – made up of a coalition between the Social Democrats (SPD), Greens and the Free Democrats (FDP) – has approved a new skilled immigration law designed to cut red tape and encourage more immigration from abroad. 

The law still has to go through the Bundesrat before it can come into force. The Bundesrat, which represents governments of German states, is expected to meet in the coming weeks. If it is approved, we’ll likely see the changes later this year and next year. 

Here’s a look at 8 things you should know about the legislation. 

READ ALSO: German Bundestag passes sweeping immigration reforms bill

The law was designed with the worker shortage in mind

It’s no secret that Germany is extremely worried about not having enough workers to fill roles and pay into social security. 

A report by the Institute of German Economy (IW) released in April said employers last year were unable to fill around 630,000 job vacancies in their industries.

READ ALSO: ‘600,000 vacancies’: Why Germany’s skilled worker shortage is greater than ever

Labour Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD) fears there could be a shortage of seven million workers by 2035 if no action is taken. 

Experts say the shortage is significantly worsening because of demographic changes as the baby boomer generation retires and people live longer. Plus migrants often choose other destinations with more favourable environments for foreigners, such as the US or Canada. 

The head of Germany’s Federal Employment Agency has previously said Germany will need 400,000 skilled workers from abroad each year to help plug the gap.

There are also moves to encourage more training within Germany to foster talent.

PODCAST: How Brexit has hit Brits in Germany and immigration changes

Colleagues work together at a startup.

Colleagues work together at a startup. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/dpa-tmn | Zacharie Scheurer

The law aims to make Germany a key destination for skilled workers

The government is desperate to make Germany more attractive for people from non-EU countries. 

That involves loosening Germany’s notorious red tape and bureaucracy, widening opportunities for skilled workers as well as making the country more welcoming to foreigners. 

The reforms, which were first set out in March include relaxing Blue Card rules and introducing a points-based immigration system (more on those below!)

The coalition government is also working on reforming citizenship legislation to allow dual citizenship and remove some hurdles to naturalisation. It hopes this will also make Germany more desirable to workers from abroad as a destination to settle in. 

More people will be able to get an EU Blue Card

A key point of the new skilled worker law is that the salary requirements for getting a Blue Card, which has been on offer in Germany to non-EU residents with a university degree since 2012, will be lowered.

The salary threshold for taking up a job in Germany is to be lowered to €43,800 gross (before tax) per year, which would be €3,650 gross per month. That is down from a threshold of €58,400 per year gross (approximately €4,860 per month).

Blue Card holders will also find it easier to change employers, bring their families to Germany and obtain permission for permanent residence in the EU.

READ ALSO: Germany or Austria: Where is it easier to get an EU Blue Card?

Furthermore, according to the plans, skilled workers should be able to “pursue any qualified employment” – that means they can work in a field that is outside their original qualification.

A skilled worker recognised as a businesswoman for office management could, for example, be employed as a skilled worker in the field of logistics. Specifically for IT specialists, it is envisaged that they can obtain an “EU Blue Card” even without a university degree if they can prove other qualifications.

This is key because many developers, for instance, train in ‘bootcamps’ or other specialised training courses after doing a degree in another field. 

The changes will make it possible for those with lower earning potential, especially those starting their careers, to obtain this type of permit. 

A new points visa is being launched

As part of the reform, Germany plans to introduce a new job seekers’ visa called the “Opportunity Card”, or Chancenkarte.

This will allow for people seeking employment to come to Germany and search for a job for a year provided that their livelihood is secured. 

READ ALSO: How to apply for Germany’s new planned ‘opportunity card’ and other visas for job seekers

People stand in front of the Berlin State Office for Immigration.

People stand in front of the Berlin State Office for Immigration. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

The points will be awarded based on factors like qualifications, German language proficiency, age, and connection to Germany. To enter the country with the Chancenkarte, migrants must score at least six out of a maximum of 10 points.

The plans are to lower the minimum requirements for German language skills – the level you need to be eligible to apply for the card – from A2 to A1 level. Having B2 level English is another possible route. 

Another new addition to the law is that the card can be extended for up to two years if the applicants can present an employment contract for qualified employment and the Federal Employment Agency agrees.

If all goes to plan, this visa will be available in the first half of 2024. 

Fewer obstacles in general for non-EU workers

Skilled workers will have the opportunity to start work in Germany even while their qualifications are being certified, not only in their chosen profession but also in other similar occupations. 

Moreover, the reform allows skilled workers to obtain a permanent settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) after three years instead of the previous requirement of four years.

Under the new legislation, skilled workers will be able to come to Germany with two years of professional experience and two years of educational experience. Previously, a professional qualification in a specific field was required to obtain a working visa before entering the country.

The Residence Act will also be changed. Up to now, it has stipulated that entry into Germany must always be made with a visa for a specific purpose. This means, for example, that someone who has entered Germany on a tourist visa and is offered a job in Germany at short notice must first leave the country and apply for a new, purpose-specific visa.

In future, this will no longer be necessary, but it will be possible to change the visa accordingly during the stay in Germany.

Family reunification is to be extended

As we mentioned, the possibilities for family reunification will be expanded under the reform.

That means it not just someone’s spouse and children who will be able to join them in Germany in future, but also parents and parents-in-law.

Job opportunities for asylum seekers

Under the changes, asylum seekers whose procedures are already underway will have the opportunity to start vocational training or take up a job.

However, this “lane change” will only be possible retroactively and not for new asylum seekers, so as not to create “false incentives” for migration, the government says. The cut-off date is asylum seekers who were in Germany before March 29th 2023.

This add-on was a response to criticism from the opposition CDU/CSU and the AfD, who had accused the government factions of lowering the barriers to immigration in Germany. 

This is the second skilled worker reform in Germany in recent years

Back in 2020, Germany launched the Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz or Skilled Immigration Act in a bid to attract more immigration from abroad. 

At the time, the previous coalition made up of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Social Democrats were running the show. 

Visa procedures were eased and there was set to be targeted advertising among industries to attract talent from outside of the EU. 

However, it’s widely been viewed as not going far enough given that things have got even worse, and the current coalition government set about reforming the law as soon as they came to power in 2021. 

Member comments

  1. All this is in vain if the processing time keep rising. All major cities are way too slow to process applications and renewals

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For members


What are the next steps for Germany’s long-awaited dual nationality law?

Germany's new citizenship bill had its first reading in the Bundestag on Thursday after months of waiting. What did we learn from the key debate and what's next for the landmark reform?

What are the next steps for Germany's long-awaited dual nationality law?

After months and months of waiting, “I’ll believe it when I see it” has become many people’s response to hearing about the upcoming dual nationality law.

But on Thursday, November 30th, the bill finally made its way to the Bundestag for its first reading and entered the last furlong in its journey to becoming law. 

If you’re one of the people waiting on tenterhooks to see Germany’s citizenship rules eased up, the good news is: it’s coming. In fact, it even looks like dual nationality and shorter residence requirements could become a reality in spring next year. 

But before the law comes into force, there are a few more hurdles it needs to clear.

What happens after the Bundestag debate?

Thursday’s debate marked the first of three readings that the citizenship law will need to pass in the Bundestag.

The first is always the main opportunity politicians have to debate the law and argue for changes – or, in the case of the opposition conservatives, to say the bill is terrible and needs to be thrown out completely. (Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen!)  

After this first reading, the bill then gets passed on to various committees. Unlike the parliamentary debate, which is mainly about political grandstanding, it’s here behind closed doors that the real work starts to happen. Politicians will chew over what the bill looks like and discuss what kind of amendments need to be made – if any at all.

This means that when the bill returns to the debating chamber for its second reading, it may look different from when it arrived there the first time around.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: When will Germany push through the new dual citizenship law?

Having just cleared its first reading on Thursday, the citizenship reform bill is currently in that all-important committee stage. If we’re going to see any tweaks to the law, those will happen in these committee meetings over the coming weeks. 

So when will the citizenship bill get its next outing in public? Well, at the moment it looks like that could be next year. 

Turkish and German passport

A German and Turkish passport are held up in parliament in Kiel. Photo: picture alliance / Carsten Rehder/dpa | Carsten Rehder

With politicians jetting off to their favourite ski resorts for Christmas after December 15th, there’s only a very narrow window for any changes to made and for the bill to return to the debating chamber. That means that the next reading will probably happen once MPs return from their break on January 15th.

If that feels like a long time, the good news is that the second and third reading can often happen in very quick succession. In fact, if there are no extra amendments proposed during the second reading, the third happens directly after that. This is when the bill goes to a vote. 

Then all it takes is for the bill to be rubber-stamped in the Bundesrat and by the Chancellor and President before it finally becomes law. There’s usually a three-month delay while public officials try and get organised and implement the changes, which means we’re hopefully going to see the new citizenship law enter into force in April. 

Did we learn anything new in the first reading? 

Yes! The debate may be a bit of a formality, but some interesting things did slip out during the speeches made by MPs. 

We knew that the government has become intensely focussed on the issue of anti-Semitism with regards to the citizenship law, but we learned that it is now making some big strides in trying to tighten up this part of the legislation. 

In her speech on Thursday, Interior Minister Nancy Faeser covered many of the usual talking points, saying that the changes to citizenship the government is planning are overdue and are a crucial step in making Germany a modern country of immigration like Canada, Australia or the United States.

READ ALSO: German politicians clash over dual citizenship law at first debate

What was new this time around, however, is that the bulk of her speech was dedicated to highlighting Germany’s liberal democratic principles and underscoring that people with racist or anti-Semitic views have no chance of becoming German.

She even gave a nod to proposals to include some kind of declaration acknowledging Israel’s right to exist as part of the citizenship process – an idea put forward by both the CDU and FDP in the wake of the October 7th Hamas attacks. 

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser Bundestag

Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) presents the dual citizenship law in the Bundestag. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Melissa Erichsen

“Denying Israel’s right to exist is anti-Semitic and if there is a need to change the law in this regard, I am open to it,” Faeser said.

Justice Minister Marco Buschmann of the FDP also gave an interesting insight into the way the government is thinking.

He said that in many ways, the citizenship law was actually making naturalisation more challenging for immigrants rather than less. 

As an example, he said people who had claimed any kind of social welfare payment would not be able to naturalise as Germans – with the exception of people from the guest worker generation who had worked and paid taxes all their lives.

He also said that in the past, minor offences listed in the federal police register had pretty much no impact on applications for citizenship. 

In future, though, case workers at citizenship offices will be compelled to ask prosecutors if there was an anti-Semitic or racist motive behind even the most trivial offences. If there is, the offender is barred from becoming German.

READ ALSO: How Germany wants to toughen up dual citizenship law around anti-Semitism

Another key thing we witnessed was that the CDU remains vehemently opposed to the bill and wants to add clauses that would allow dual nationals to be stripped of their German citizenship if they are found to be anti-Semites.

In a heated speech during the debate on Thursday, the CDU’s Philipp Amthor said the party would oppose the bill “with all our might”. Though they have very little chance of stopping the process, expect to see the opposition kicking up a fuss at every possible opportunity. 

What’s this law all about anyway?

For many foreigners, the most significant change to Germany’s citizenship laws will be allowing people to hold multiple nationalities at once.

Currently, most non-EU citizens have to give up their existing passport when they become German – a painful decision that many would rather avoid.

When the new law comes in, all this will be a thing of the past, and people will no longer have to choose between different parts of their identity.

INTERVIEW: What is the biggest problem foreigners face when applying for German citizenship?

As well as dual nationality, the bill also slashes the residence time required for naturalisation to just five years as opposed to eight. For people who can prove they’re very well integrated, with C1 German and a career in public service, for instance, this can be dropped to three.

A woman shows the booklet with her naturalisation certificate at Neukölln town hall in Berlin in April 2016.

A woman shows the booklet with her naturalisation certificate at Neukölln town hall in Berlin in April 2016. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

Other key changes include automatic citizenship for the children of non-EU foreigners after the parents have lived in Germany for five years or more.

People will also have to prove they are financially stable and not dependent on state welfare such as Bürgergeld (long-term unemployment) to survive. This doesn’t include Arbeitslosengeld I, which is generally treated as insurance rather than welfare

Many of the other criteria will stay the same, but people over 67 can dispense with formal language tests and there will also be a hardship clause for people who don’t have time to learn German due to caring responsibilities, for example.

For a full breakdown of the law and what it means, check out our explainer below: 

The key points of Germany’s draft law on dual citizenship