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. German citizenship applicants in the capital face long waits - but there's ways to speed it up. 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


How much do you need to earn to qualify for citizenship in Germany?

Applicants for German citizenship need to be able to support themselves financially, but it's often unclear what that means in practice. Here's how to work out if your income is high enough for citizenship.

How much do you need to earn to qualify for citizenship in Germany?

Out of the requirements for qualifying for a German passport, supporting yourself financially is one of the most important – and one of the most confusing.

Many foreigners assume that the authorities have a magic number in mind and will often worry about whether their income is above or below this threshold.

In reality, though, the law is much more flexible. In section 10 of the nationality law, it states that applicants must show that they “can support themselves and their dependent family members without claiming benefits under the Second or Twelfth Book of the Social Code.”

In other words, that your income is healthy enough to not rely on the state for things like long-term unemployment benefits.

According to Fabian Graske, an immigration lawyer at Migrando, around €1,500 gross per month for a single person is usually considered enough to live on. 

That said, there isn’t really a one-size-fits-all approach to this quesiton. 

When it comes to working out if your income is high enough, you’ll need to take into account a number of factors that your case worker at the naturalisation office will also weigh up. 

That’s why it’s important to ask yourself a number of questions that go beyond just how much you earn: 

How high are your living costs? 

In Germany, there are huge regional differences in the cost of living, so what someone can afford to live on varies hugely from place to place.

For example, someone living in pricey Munich is likely to need much more money for rent or their mortgage than a resident of much more affordable places like Halle or Leipzig, so you should consider whether what you earn is enough to offer a basic standard of living in the city or town you live in. 

READ ALSO: Requirements, costs and permits – 6 essential articles for German citizenship

It is worth mentioning, though, that what you actually pay for rent and bills matters more than the averages. If you’re lucky enough to find an apartment with unusually low rent in Berlin, for instance, you can probably get away with earning less money as well. 

Are you single or do you have a family?

If you’re single and have no children, you’ll likely get a lot more lenience from the authorities when it comes to having a lower-than-average income.

A family sit at a lake.

A family sit at a lake in Bavaria. Image by Eva Mospanova from Pixabay

Of course, if you have dependents such as kids or a spouse who doesn’t work (or both), you’ll need to ensure not only that your own living costs are taken care of, but also that your family can survive on your income alone.

That naturally means you’ll be expected to earn a certain amount more for each dependent child or adult.

On the plus side, any income your spouse does earn will be counted alongside your own, so if you’re the one who is supported by their partner, the authorities will also take this into account. 

Is your job stable or unstable?

One key thing to think about when applying for citizenship is the security of your work contract. Someone who has a long-term contract with an employer and has passed their probationary period will be in a much better position than someone who is still on a three-month trial, for example.

This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t submit a citizenship application after just starting a new job, but be aware that the authorities may well wait to process your application until you’ve passed the initial probation and have been put onto a longer-term contract. 

A similar rule of thumb applies to people who are currently claiming Arbeitslosengeld I (ALG I), or unemployment insurance. Though this doesn’t disqualify you from citizenship, it may delay your application until you can find a stable job. 

READ ALSO: Can I still get German citizenship after claiming benefits?

Do you need to rely on welfare payments to get by?

A key aspect of German naturalisation law is working out whether you’re likely to be a financial burden on the state by relying too much on the welfare system.

The entrance to the Jobcenter in Düsseldorf,

The entrance to the Jobcenter in Düsseldorf, North Rhine-Westphalia. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

While everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, claiming benefits like long-term unemployment benefit (Bürgergeld) or housing benefit (Wohngeld) to top up your income sadly shuts you out of the naturalisation process and could also make it hard for you to qualify in the future. 

Luckily, this doesn’t apply to all types of state support – Kindergeld, ALG I and Bafög don’t count, for example – so seek advice from a lawyer or your local citizenship office if you’re unsure.

How old are you?

Though this is hard to fully quantify, age can sometimes play a role in assessments of your financial fitness in Germany.

A young person fresh out of university or vocational college may be seen as someone with high earning potential over the years, so in some cases the authorities may take a more relaxed approach to their current income.

In contrast, an older person coming to the end of their working life could be held to slightly stricter standards. 

This is also why it can be important to show that you have sufficient pension contributions or another form of security for the future, such as owning your own home or having lots of savings. 

READ ALSO: How can over 60s get German citizenship under the new nationality law?

What counts as ‘income’ under German law?

It’s important to note that income doesn’t just have to mean the salary you get at your job: income from rental properties, side hustles and freelance gigs can also be included, as well as things like alimony payments after divorce.

Once again, if you’re unsure, just ask. The citizenship offices are there to advise you and should give you clear instructions about what kind of documents count as proof of income in your application.