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


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