Germany revamps immigration law to attract skilled labour

The Bundestag passed groundbreaking legislation on Friday (23 June) that will revamp Germany’s migration law to tackle an acute shortage of skilled workers. 

The new law will try to make good on the promise of the coalition agreement to transform Germany into a more immigration-friendly country by lowering restrictions and creating new opportunities, following the example of the points-based Canadian system.

“The lack of skilled labour is deemed to be one of the worst drags on growth for the German economy … [Therefore], we also need immigration. We need almost 400,000 people to come to our country,” Nancy Faeser, the interior minister, told MPs ahead of the vote.

The legislation will allow qualified foreign nationals to look for work in Germany if they score at least 6 points from a list of eligibility criteria, such as language skills and qualifications. Eligible applicants will receive a so-called Opportunity Card allowing them to search for a job in the country for at least 12 months.

New Criteria

The law will also lower eligibility criteria for Blue Card work visas and increase entitlements, such as leave to remain and family reunification. Moreover, the government will raise the number of work visas available for companies to hire workers specifically from the Western Balkans.

“There are mainly three new developments: first, an extension of the recognition of foreign qualifications, secondly, work experience will be playing a greater role; and third, the points-based system,” Hans Vorländer, a political scientist at the TU Dresden and chair of the Expert Council on Integration and Migration established by the federal government, told EURACTIV.

However, he warned that the law might create administrative bottlenecks and longer processing times, making it “doubtful if the law will actually lead to the desired figures.”

“The efficiency of the law is a question of its implementation and of administrative investment,” he said.

The law marks a recent shift in how Germany is handling migration, as the country has been sceptical to increase regular migration for decades.

“Germany is not an immigration country. And we can’t become one,” former chancellor Helmut Kohl famously proclaimed in 1989.

While the previous government, led by Angela Merkel, had already introduced the so-called Immigration Act for Skilled Personnel in Germany in 2020, the new approach will further relax the country’s migration law.


However, recent surveys have shown that resentment towards migration is resurfacing in Germany as the country has been dealing with rising numbers of refugees since 2022.

This has also caused controversy over a so-called “lane change” provision in the legislation, which would allow asylum applicants to stay in the country if they find a job – even if their asylum application is rejected. After critics pointed out that this would further incentivise irregular migration, the government limited the clause to applicants who are already residing in the country.

Nevertheless, 41% of Germans generally support an increase in skilled migration, according to a poll conducted by ARD Deutschlandtrend in May.

But the debate in parliament on Friday showed that expectations differ starkly in which areas additional labour supply is required, as did the general openness for diverse migration.

“You’re not envisaging skilled but low-skilled labour. 25,000 people from the Western Balkans, 30,000 for short-term employment, 30,000 for the Opportunity Card … That has nothing to do with qualification anymore,” argued Stephan Stracke, an MP for the CDU/CSU, the largest opposition party group.

Norbert Kleinwächter, an MP for the far-right AfD, claimed that migration in previous years had mainly come from countries such as Romania, Afghanistan, India, Bulgaria, which he took as an indication that the government’s plans were making Germany a “junk country”.

A key role in overcoming the contradictions of Germany’s attitudes to migration will fall to the state, according to Vorländer.

“It’s important to increase efforts to help people with the required linguistic education. This would be a measure that creates acceptance, which is the duty of politicians,” he said.

[Edited by Oliver Noyan/Benjamin Fox]


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