Germany’s federal parliament, the Bundestag, has passed a bill to reform the Skilled Workers Immigration Act into law. The MPs of the federal governing coalition of SPD, Greens and FDP voted almost unanimously in favour of the draft law on Friday. The opposition parties, the CDU/CSU and the far-right AfD, voted against the bill while the left-leaning Linke abstained.
The coalition government of Chancellor Olaf Scholz wants to attract more workers from non-EU countries in order to alleviate the shortage of skilled workers and labour in Germany and has made the reform of the country’s immigration laws a top priority.
“This is a good day for the Federal Republic of Germany,” Federal Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser, a member of the SPD, said after the bill was passed into law. The country is getting “the most modern immigration law in the world”, she had said during the debate in parliament.
The minister said Germany was following the example of countries like the US, Canada and Australia in the modernisation of its immigration laws.
There were almost two million vacancies at the end of 2020, Ms Faeser said, explaining why skilled immigration has to be made easier and more attractive.
From healthcare to IT professionals, carpenters to technicians, Germany needs 400,000 foreign workers to make up the shortfall every year, according to the Federal Employment Office.
The lack of skilled workers, Minister Faeser continued, was considered one of the biggest brakes on economic growth in Germany. Therefore, the law was “a giant step for the future of our country”. It secures prosperity in this country, she emphasises.
The law seeks to open up new opportunities for people from countries outside the European Union to migrate to Germany for the purpose of employment.
One of the new features of the draft law is the ‘Chancenkarte’ (Opportunity Card) that is based on a points system. The criteria for which points are awarded include language skills, professional experience, age and connection to Germany. People who qualified for the Opportunity Card will be allowed to come to Germany to look for employment.
Also, IT specialists are to be allowed to come to the country even without a university degree, provided they can prove that they have certain qualifications.
It is also to become easier for asylum-seekers who entered Germany before 29 March 2023 and who have a qualified job or are planning to do so to obtain regular residence permit.
Moreover, the salary threshold for people entering Germany on a Blue Card has been reduced to €3,500 gross per month.
Social Affairs Minister of the state of Schleswig-Holstein, Aminata Touré, has welcomed the opportunity given to rejected asylum-seekers to regularise their residency by the law.
“The change of track finally opens up new perspectives for refugees in the asylum procedure,” the Green politician explained. “Considering the fact that we have such a massive shortage of skilled workers, it is absolutely the right step from an integration and economic policy perspective.”
Critics, including employers and prospective skilled immigrants, say however good the law may appear, its implementation will decide its success. They point to the fact that to get appointments at German embassies abroad takes many months, for example.
Minister Faeser obviously agrees with the critics when she said that procedures must be streamlined and bureaucracy reduced to make the way of foreign workers to Germany easier. It was simply unacceptable that one had to submit 17 applications if one wanted to bring a carer from abroad to Germany, she noted.