Fighting the shortage of skilled workers: Coalition wants to further strengthen skilled workers’ migration

Germany has difficulties obtaining skilled workers. In particular, there is a shortage of qualified workers in the “STEM – fields” (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) and in the healthcare sector. Against this background, the current federal government is trying to introduce measures to remedy the shortage of skilled workers: After two years of skilled workers immigration, the migration hurdles (especially with regard to the “EU Blue Card”) are now to be lowered once again. In the following, we present the expected reforms, which should primarily lead to a reduction in bureaucracy.

2 years of the Skilled Workers Immigration Act: BAMF draws a preliminary conclusion

Two years ago, the former German government set the first impulse to strengthen qualified immigration from abroad by passing the so-called “Skilled Workers Immigration Act” on 01.03.2020. Two years after it came into effect, critics and supporters are wondering: does the law deliver what it promised?

From a purely statistical point of view, the results are disillusioning. In 2021, 51% of the companies surveyed by the DIHK (Association of German Chambers of Industry and Commerce) reported not being able to fill positions for a longer period of time, which actually represents an increase of 19% compared to the previous year. Other investigations confirm this impression. According to various studies, Germany would need around 260,000 immigrant skilled workers per year. The BMWI (Federal Ministry of Economics and Climate Protection) even states that this number would even have to be increased up to 400,000 people per year in the long term to meet the demand for qualified workers.

These enormous immigration expectations contrast with the manageable number of just 30,000 visas issued for skilled professionals from 2020 to March 2021. The BAMF (Federal Office for Migration and Refugees) refers to this stagnation to Covid-19, but nevertheless emphasizes that visas could still be granted despite strict border controls. According to the agency’s figures, more than 100,000 written and telephone consultations had been conducted over the past two years, and the “Working and Living in Germany” hotline received more than 5,000 inquiries a month on topics related to skilled immigration. Attempts were also being made at the institutional level to enhance the immigration of skilled workers, for example by setting up central contact points in the federal states and a separate service point for professional recognition at the Federal Employment Agency. In this way, cooperation with the legal advisory professions (such as lawyers for immigration and residence law) should also be strengthened and simplified.

New approaches by the coalition

Against the backdrop of this initial situation, major challenges lie ahead for the current government: according to the coalition agreement, a “new beginning and paradigm shift” is to be pursued in migration policy in order to encourage the immigration of skilled workers from non-EU states.

One focus of the federal government is on simplifying and accelerating visa issuance procedures. In order to lower hurdles, the coalition is focusing in particular on reducing bureaucracy, digitizing the procedure, and bundling responsibilities for granting residence permits. In addition, the procedures for the recognition of foreign degrees are to be improved so that recognition procedures can be carried out without legal consultation in the future.

Furthermore, a new residence title is planned in the form of the “opportunity card”. This title is intended to enable skilled workers without a concrete job offer to enter the country and look for a job in Germany. For this purpose, a specific points system (“based on the Canadian model”) will be implemented, which will evaluate potential employees according to the criteria of educational level, work experience, and German language skills. These measures are to be flanked by general qualification and training offers.

Reform of the EU Blue Card is forthcoming

In addition, the new German government has announced its intention to extend the EU Blue Card in national law to non-academic professions. Until now, the EU Blue Card residence title was limited to highly qualified professionals who were to be recruited from non-EU countries for the German labor market. Other professions often had to first obtain a visa with the help of a lawyer. Furthermore, the required salary was reduced by 0.7% at the beginning of 2022: Specifically, this means that the required minimum annual gross salary has been reduced in principle from €56,800 to €56,400 and from €44,304 to €43,992 for the STEM fields. Germany is increasingly focusing on granting EU Blue Cards, and we are already the frontrunner in the European Union with a proportionate 84.5% of all Blue Cards issued.

The shortage of skilled workers also continues to be an issue at the European level. In line with the German government’s plans, a reform of the EU Blue Card has also been adopted in the European Union. Specifically, the acquisition is to be simplified throughout Europe by lowering the necessary employment contract periods and the required salary. How these reforms will be implemented in German law remains to be seen.