How Germany plans to attract
more workers by reforming the
Skilled Immigration Act

On 23 June 2023, the German parliament approved a new law which reforms the Skilled Immigration Act. The Act facilitates entry and residence for qualified skilled workers from third countries.

Like many countries in Europe, Germany is currently facing a shortage of skilled workers in key sectors. As a result, unfilled job vacancies are on the rise and the government is looking at ways to make it easier for workers from outside the EU to enter Germany.

The new Skilled Immigration Act aims to attract more skilled workers from overseas to combat shortages by introducing the following major changes.

Changes to the EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card is a European Union-wide work and residence permit which provides the holder with a pathway towards permanent residence and citizenship in an EU country. The application for an EU Blue Card is made to the competent national authorities in the country where the applicant wishes to work.

Under Germany’s new rules, highly skilled workers will qualify for an EU Blue Card with a lower minimum salary of EUR 49,581.60 (or EUR 39,682.80 in shortage occupations). The reduced-salary Blue Card will be available to a broader range of occupations, including:

  • Manufacturing and distribution managers
  • Professional services managers, such as childcare professionals
  • Teaching professionals
  • Various health professionals (e.g., nurses, veterinarians, dentists, pharmacists, etc.)
  • All academics who have graduated within the last three years
  • IT specialists who have vocational qualifications instead of a university degree
  • Those with protected status.

The EU Blue Card will also allow a change of employer with only a declaration instead of an application and will require employment of at least 12 months (rather than 24 as currently).

Changes to the rules around qualifications

The new Skilled Immigration Act will also relax the rules around qualifications, introducing the following changes:

  • Highly skilled workers will no longer require their degree to be in a subject relevant to their job. Workers with vocational training in any field will be able to take a job in any qualified field.
  • Certain Skilled foreign workers (earning above a certain salary threshold and with at least two years of professional experience) will no longer be required to have their qualifications and experience recognised in Germany if they are recognised in their home country.
  • If qualifications need to be recognised in Germany, a foreign worker with a job offer can go to Germany and start working during the recognition process.
  • In industries experiencing acute labour shortages, workers will be able to enter Germany and work for up to 8 months regardless of their qualifications, with a collective bargaining agreement.

New ‘Opportunity Card’

Qualified foreign nationals who do not have a job offer will be able to spend up to a year in Germany seeking work if they qualify under a points system for a new “Opportunity Card”.

Points will be awarded for German and/or English language skills, existing ties to Germany and age.

An opportunity card allows part-time work of up to 20 hours a week while looking for a skilled job, and trial employment is also permitted.

Other changes

Finally, the following changes are being introduced as part of the reformed Skilled Immigration Act:

  • Students will more easily be able to take on secondary work while completing their studies.
  • Asylum seekers with pending applications submitted by 29 March 2023, who have the relevant qualifications and a job offer, will also be allowed to seek work or undertake vocational training while their asylum application is in progress.
  • Tourist visa holders will no longer be required to leave Germany before returning for work.
  • The quota for nationals of Western Balkans countries is to be doubled. Up to 50,000 nationals from the six Western Balkan states of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia will be allowed to migrate to Germany every year.
  • The parents of a specialist foreign worker will also be eligible for a residence permit for family reunification. The same applies to the in-laws of the foreign worker if their spouse is permanently resident in Germany.

Support with German immigration

As a result of continued growth and development, Smith Stone Walters is delighted to announce that we are expanding our international reach and opening a new operation in Germany.

Our Frankfurt based team will enable us to meet the growing needs of our European clients even more efficiently and locally facilitate all German inbound immigration work with the highest level of service.

SSW has over 30 years’ experience in German immigration. Our new team in Germany upholds the same service standard our clients have become accustomed to at SSW. To find out more about the services we can offer, please call 0208 461 6660 or email


Disclaimer: In accordance with the German law governing legal advice and services (RDG, section 2 subsection 1) our services do not include any legal advice.

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