The Skilled Immigration Act makes immigration easier for qualified skilled workers from third countries. The accelerated immigration process also makes the recognition procedure quicker.
Here you can find answers to the questions:
- What has changed with the Skilled Immigration Act?
- What does the Skilled Immigration Act say about recognition?
- What do skilled workers from third countries need to consider?
What has changed with the Skilled Immigration Act?
The Skilled Immigration Act has been in force since 1 March 2020. The aim is to act in accordance with the needs of trade and industry by making the acquisition of qualified skilled workers from third countries more straightforward. For this reason, the requirements in particular for the granting of a residence permit have been updated. Most of the changes can be found accordingly in the Residence Act (AufenthG). This act governs the awarding of residence permits for different purposes such as work, seeking work, training, seeking training or for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications.
The Skilled Immigration Act makes entry and residence easier for employment as a skilled worker. Skilled workers with vocational training or academic training may practice an occupation for which they are qualified (Section 18 to 18b AufenthG). This also means that employment in related professions is possible. In addition, skilled workers with academic training are able to practice not just those occupations which require a higher education degree. They may also work in other qualified professions which fall within the specialist context of the qualification, and for which vocational, non-academic training is normally required. With a specific job offer and with recognition of their qualification, skilled workers with vocational training from third countries are now able to access all occupations for which they are qualified. They are no longer limited to specific shortage occupations. The Federal Employment Agency (BA) shall approve the employment without priority review (Section 39 AufenthG).
In addition to academic specialists, skilled workers with vocational training are now also able to come to Germany to look for a job. In addition to recognition, this also requires knowledge of German at the level appropriate for the occupation sought. In general, knowledge of German is required at level B1 (at least) of the Common European Reference Framework for languages. The individual concerned must also be able to support themselves. The search for a qualified position also allows for employment on a trial basis for up to 10 hours a week (Section 20/1 AufenthG).
The Skilled Immigration Act also facilitates residence for qualified vocational training. This may also be used for a preparatory German language course (Section 16a AufenthG). Temporary residence to search for a training place is now also possible (Section 17 AufenthG).
What does the Skilled Immigration Act say about recognition?
The granting of a residence permit and recognition of a professional qualification will continue to be checked in separate procedures. However, the relationship between immigration and recognition has been revised at various levels.
For entry, skilled workers from third countries seeking qualified employment in Germany require recognition of their professional qualification or–in the academic non-regulated sector–a university degree recognised as comparable. The Skilled Immigration Act provides one exception: IT specialists with “highly-developed practical professional knowledge” can come to Germany without recognition and practice their occupation (Section 19c AufenthG).
Accelerated process for skilled workers
Under specific conditions, employers are able to apply for an accelerated procedure for the entry of skilled workers from third countries. The purpose of this is to shorten the duration of the recognition procedure to two months. For this, the employer concludes an agreement with the competent immigration office, often the central immigration office in the relevant federal state. This office initiates the recognition procedure and serves as a central point of contact for the employer and the competent authority. In addition, shortened deadlines apply for any approval required from the Federal Employment Agency (BA) and for the application and granting of the work visa. The additional costs of €411 for the accelerated procedure shall be covered by the employer (Section 81a AufenthG).
Residence for measures related to recognition
The scope relating to residence for qualification measures in Germany has been extended by the Skilled Immigration Act. This basically requires that substantial differences compared to the German professional qualification have been established in the ongoing recognition procedure and that these are to be compensated for with the help of training. Also required is at least sufficient knowledge of German, usually at level A2 (Section 16d AufenthG, formerly Section 17a).
Foreign skilled workers participating in such qualification measures in Germany are permitted to work here at the same time. As part of this, the necessary specialist professional context has been relaxed which, in particular, has made employment in the regulated medical sector easier. This is because the skilled worker no longer needs to be working in exactly the same occupation for which they are applying for recognition. The residence permit can also be extended by 18 months to a maximum of 24 months. This takes into account long waiting times before examinations and enables these to be resat. Residence with simultaneous employment in the profession to be recognised is also possible for non-regulated professions.
Foreign skilled workers are now able to come to Germany even before the start of the recognition procedure and to take up employment in parallel with the procedure. This means residence in Germany is possible for the entire duration of the recognition procedure. The requirement for this is a job placement agreement in advance between the Federal Employment Agency (BA) and the labour administration in the country of origin. This regulation applies explicitly to healthcare nursing professions as well as “other selected professional qualifications” (Section 16d AufenthG).
What do skilled workers from third countries need to consider?
Skilled workers from third countries wanting to come to Germany for qualified employment require recognition of their professional qualification or a university degree recognised as comparable. The only exception to this are IT specialists who, under certain conditions, are permitted to enter Germany even without recognition and to practice their occupation.
Before applying for recognition, skilled workers from abroad should first find out about the opportunities for recognition on this portal. For initial orientation guidance, they can contact the hotline “Working and Living in Germany”. The hotline passes on those interested in recognition to the recently established Central Service Agency for Professional Recognition (ZSBA). They explore the initial counselling carried out by the hotline in greater depth and support applicants during the recognition procedure.