Ministerial bill promoting immigration by skilled workers


Plans to make immigration of skilled workers from countries outside the EU easier

It is common knowledge that the demand for skilled personnel on the German labour market cannot be met by using skilled workers from the European Union. There are now plans to simplify and broaden the options for recruiting third-country nationals in the newly published draft bill on immigration by skilled workers. Germany’s Federal Ministry of the Interior and Community and Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs have started consultations in the various committees by submitting this draft bill for an Act to promote immigration by skilled workers (Gesetz zur Weiterentwicklung der Fachkräfteeinwanderung).

Objectives and need for the provisions

The draft bill is designed to further develop the legal framework for promoting the targeted and controlled migration of skilled workers from non-EU states so as to strengthen Germany’s labour market and its standing as a business location. The intention is to contribute towards sustained social prosperity and safeguard the social security systems. At the same time, the draft intends to implement the requirements in Directive (EU) 2021/1883 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2021 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment.

Skilled-worker pillar as a supporting element

The draft bill is based on three pillars – the skilled-worker pillar, experience pillar and potential pillar.

The skilled-worker pillar continues to be the central element for migration. As was previously the case, it also encompasses the EU Blue Card for foreign graduates of higher education institutions and the national residence permit for foreign skilled workers with German vocational training or vocational training recognised in Germany, or alternatively an equivalent higher education qualification. The draft now extends the range of employment options for skilled workers. In contrast to the present current situation, a skilled worker with eligible vocational training will be able to carry out any eligible employment. The contents of the vocational qualification will then no longer have to match the planned employment. This is intended to also apply to skilled workers with an academic degree. Being classified as a skilled worker enables them to then take part in any type of employment. Foreign skilled workers with a German degree can obtain a residence permit even without the approval of the Federal Employment Agency. The requirement that the employment has to match the qualification will only continue to apply when issuing the EU Blue Card.

Summary of the most important points

The draft bill provides for a range of changes to the EU Blue Card:

The minimum annual salary required for issuing the regular (“big”) EU Blue Card is to be reduced from around €58,400.00 gross (2/3 of the earnings ceiling used for assessment of contributions in Germany’s statutory pension scheme for 2023) to approximately €49,581.60 gross (56.6% of the contribution assessment ceiling). If the employee’s minimum salary reaches this threshold, it is not necessary to obtain the Federal Employment Agency’s approval for the EU Blue Card to be issued, which considerably speeds up the application procedure.

The minimum annual salary for issuing a “small” EU Blue Card (which is subject to approval) is also to be reduced from some €45,552.00 gross (52% of the contribution assessment ceiling) to €39,682.80 gross (45.3% of the contribution assessment ceiling) for STEM professions, where there are shortages and bottlenecks. If the skilled worker concerned holds a qualification from a German higher education institution, it will additionally also be possible for the small EU Blue Card to be issued without the approval of the Federal Employment Agency.

A completely new arrangement is the small EU Blue Card for those taking up their first job: in future, a skilled worker will be able to obtain the small EU Blue Card regardless of what professional group they belong to when they reach the lower income threshold for contribution assessments (45.3%) if they obtained their higher education qualifications no more than three years before making the application.

Besides this, there is a new possibility for skilled workers who have completed a tertiary education programme (university of applied sciences/technical college, vocational college, etc.) that is equivalent to a qualification from a higher education institution, requires a training period of at least three years and is classified in at least level 6 of the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED 2011) or level 6 of the European Qualifications Framework in Germany to obtain the EU Blue Card. Consequently, applicants no longer have to be trained at a university in order to be issued with an EU Blue Card.

To tackle the severe shortage of skilled personnel especially in the German IT sector, the draft bill also contains an exception from the skilled-worker requirement for IT specialists who have at least three years’ relevant professional experience. The plan is that such people should also be able to get an EU Blue Card without higher education qualifications provided that they have abilities, knowledge and skills at a level comparable to higher education qualifications.

The government also intends to make it easier for holders of EU Blue Cards to change jobs and to create arrangements enabling long- and short-term mobility within the EU in order to keep skilled employees in Germany in the long term. In addition, the draft provides that the employment in Germany for which the EU Blue Card is to be issued only has to have minimum term of six months. Up to now, a minimum term of employment of one year was an (unwritten) requirement.

Apart from the changes for the EU Blue Card, the draft also contains further simplifications:

Taking on students is to be made easier by introducing a workday account and topping up the maximum duration of employment to 140 workdays a year. This will make the opportunities for deploying foreign work students more flexible. Besides this, foreign trainees and students will be able to obtain a residence permit to engage in eligible employment even before they have completed their training or studies if they already satisfy the requirements. Now that the prohibitions on changing the purpose will cease to apply, the barrier between stays for educational purposes and work that has existed to date will become easier to cross.

new residence permit is also to be introduced for third-country nationals who are already qualified and hold a vocational qualification requiring a training period of at least two years that is state-recognised in their home country or higher education qualifications. Unlike the current situation, they will be able to start the German process for recognition of the vocational qualification obtained abroad and will already be able to engage in eligible employment in Germany during the recognition process. The condition for this is that they have a specific job offer and that the employer undertakes to allow the employee to take part in any necessary additional qualification measures within the employment relationship.

The government also plans to open up the German labour market even further for skilled foreign workers by allowing people with foreign vocational training lasting at least two years or higher education qualifications by launching a “Chancenkarte” (opportunity card) enabling them to look for a job on the basis of a points system. Points will be awarded for language skills, work experience, age and connections to Germany. The Chancenkarte will entitle them to work on a trial basis for up to two weeks, but also to take on secondary employment for up to twenty hours a week.

These arrangements are also to be accompanied by procedural changes aiming to speed up issuing of visas.


These legislative changes aim to increase immigration by skilled workers and to make Germany a more attractive country for migrants. The new provisions are intended to help overcome the “weaknesses” in the German Skilled Workers’ Immigration Act (Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz) from 2020, one of these being the long application and visa processes. It is to be hoped that these welcome simplifications will be implemented and actually put into practice in such a way that they allow companies to plan their HR affairs even at short notice. Dismantling procedural obstacles would lead to a real reduction in workloads at the application authorities (which are generally understaffed) and ultimately lead to the entire process being speeded up. This would be a great help to all those involved.