For members


TIMELINE: When will Germany’s new immigration rules come into force?

Germany's hotly anticipated skilled worker immigration law was passed in the Bundesrat this Friday. So when will foreigners be able to take advantage of some of its benefits, from the new points-based Opportunity Card to simpler family reunification?

People go in and out of the Ausländerbehörde in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / Kay Nietfeld/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

In spite of bad tempered protest from the opposition benches, Germany’s new Skilled Worker Immigration Act is coming – and for thousands of foreigners hoping to find a route to migrate to the country, it couldn’t come a moment too soon.

As a new study revealed this month, skilled workers from non-EU countries currently face massive hurdles when attempting to move to Germany, from confusing visa regulations to lengthy waiting times. 

But with a range of new measures designed to make moving to Germany simpler and more appealing for people with qualifications, the government is hoping it can turn the country into the next big immigration destination and plug its ever-widening skills gap. 

These include introducing a special points-based permit for jobseekers that would allow them to enter the country for up to 12 months in order to look for work, lowering the salary threshold for Blue Card applicants, easing family reunification rules and making life easier for international students.

Hailed as the “most modern migration law in the world” by Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD), the changes are likely to have a significant impact on people migrating to Germany – and the majority of the new rules should be in place within the next twelve months. 

What’s happened so far?

After making a number of last-minute changes to the Skilled Workers Immigration Act – including easing language requirements for the points-based permit – the bill was passed in the Bundestag on June 23rd. 

Despite fierce opposition from the CDU, who described the bill as “false advertising”, and the far-right AfD, the bill was passed easily with support from all three governing parties: the SPD, Greens and FDP.

On July 7th – the last day before the summer recess – the bill was passed in the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house of parliament. This paves the way for it to be signed into law. 

READ ALSO: German Bundestag passes sweeping immigration reforms bill

What happens next?

Following successful votes in the Bundestag and Bundesrat, the legislation has just a few more bureaucratic hurdles to clear before it becomes a reality. 

It will first be printed in full and signed by the chancellor and responsible minister – in this case, Nancy Faeser – and then to President Walter Steinmeier to check whether it has been passed in accordance with Germany’s constitution. 

After Steinmeier signs off on the bill, it officially enters into law. 

September/October: Final sign-off 

Since parliament is currently in summer recess, the final few stages involved in signing the bill into law are likely to be pushed back until after the break. 

That means that we could see Steinmeier put his signature on the Skilled Worker Immigration Act sometime in September, which would set the ball rolling on the mammoth task of implementing it. 

November: EU Blue Card regulations 

Speaking to The Local, a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry explained that most of the changes set out in the Skilled Worker Immigration Act would be scheduled to come into force six months after it officially enters into law. This is to give stakeholders such as the Foreigners’ Offices time to implement the new systems and rules. 

However, one part of the bill arrive much sooner: the new guidelines and requirements for EU Blue Card holders. According to the spokesperson, the EU’s Blue Card Directive “stipulates that member states must have transposed the Directive by November 18th 2023 at the latest”, which means that these changes must have come into force by this deadline.

Two Blue Cards for foreign skilled workers are on a table at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Bavaria.

Two Blue Cards for foreign skilled workers are on a table at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees in Bavaria. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Daniel Karmann

That will mean that people applying for an EU Blue Card after this date can take advantage of the relaxed rules, including a drastic reduction in the salary threshold to €3,500 gross per month and special carve-outs for IT workers without a degree.

Beyond this, the Interior Ministry spokesperson confirmed that a few other changes could happen in November as well. “Other regulations that are to be implemented quickly are also to enter into force as early as this date,” they explained.

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

March: Majority of changes come into force

As mentioned, the general implementation phase of a new bill lasts for six months after it is signed into law by the president. That means that, by March next year, the bulk of the transformation to Germany’s immigration system should be complete.

This includes plans to widen family reunification to include the parents and parents-in-law of migrants, rather than just spouses and children under the age of 18, and to scrap “sufficient living space” requirements for family reunification. According to the Interior Ministry, this would come into force on March 1st, 2023. 

It also includes plans to loosen the requirements for foreigners to have professional qualifications in a specific field before moving to Germany. Instead, non-EU foreigners will be able to move to the country with two years of professional and two years of educational experience.

Switching visas will also be made much simpler for people who are already in Germany, and new routes will be available for refugees to switch to a working visa. 

READ ALSO: How foreigners will be able to bring their families to Germany under new skilled worker law

June: Opportunity Card and West Balkans Regulation 

The headline change in the Skilled Worker Immigration Law is likely to take the longest to implement, with the Interior Ministry giving itself a full nine months after the law comes into force to sketch out its Opportunity Card system.

An application for a residence permit.

An application for a residence permit. Photo: Wolfram Kastl/dpa

This is the name that’s been given to the points-based jobseekers’ visa that foreigners will be able to apply for under the new law. 

In addition, the amendments to the West Balkans Regulation, which are designed to attract more workers from countries like Albania, Kosova and Bosnia, will also be scheduled to come into force at this point. 

READ ALSO: How Germany plans to attract more workers from the Balkans

Why does Germany need a skilled worker law? 

Despite its status as an economic powerhouse in Europe, Germany has been struggling to attract enough skilled workers into the country to fill its shortages. 

Though there are likely to be numerous reasons for this – including a preference for anglophone countries like the US, UK and Canada – one key issue is the number of bureaucratic hurdles foreigners face in moving to the country. 

This was highlighted by a recent study that uncovered the struggle of thousands of skilled workers who were interested in moving to Germany from a non-EU country. 

Of the 30,000 qualified workers from abroad questioned by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last year, just four percent managed to make it to Germany within six months, despite the fact that half had firm plans to move and 80 percent had already taken the first steps.


Of the people who did manage to migrate in this time, ten percent said they had waited over six months for their application to be processed. And despite the fact that half of the workers were employed in an industry currently hit by a skilled worker shortage, a significant number said they were struggling to conduct a job search from abroad. 

The government is hoping that making the rules more flexible, speeding up the process and offering a chance for workers to come to Germany before finding a job will help solve some of these ongoing problems. 

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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.