On June 23, 2023, the German Bundestag passed the Skilled Immigration Act (in Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz), which is intended to facilitate the immigration of foreign skilled workers. This should not only lead to a boost in immigration numbers of academic professionals, but also attract non-academic professionals to Germany. This is intended to counteract the problem many German companies have in finding qualified skilled workers.
The new German skilled Immigration Act can simultaneously represent an opportunity for German companies, as well as an opportunity for foreign skilled workers who want to immigrate to Germany. Skilled workers from Africa in particular can benefit from the new opportunities offered by the Skilled Workers Immigration Act compared to the current immigration regulations.
Legal situation to date: Only a few legal routes for skilled workers from Africa to Germany
Apart from the asylum procedure, there are currently only a few legal opportunities for skilled workers from Africa to immigrate to Germany. This is also reflected in the statistics: between 2005 and 2021, German authorities issued only just under 38,000 people a residence permit to work and only 81,000 to study or start training.
This is also due to the fact that only 24 of the 55 African states have German diplomatic missions that can issue visas. In addition, in only 26 African countries is it currently possible to take a German language proficiency test, which would be necessary for the issuance of an education or work visa.
Easier immigration for foreign professionals
However, the German Skilled Immigration Act could change precisely this. In the future, there will essentially be three routes for skilled labor immigration, which will also facilitate the immigration of skilled workers from Africa:
First path: Qualification
Certain skilled workers with recognized qualifications were already able to come to Germany before the new Skilled Workers Immigration Act with the help of the EU blue card. What is new is that in the future anyone with a qualification acquired or recognized in Germany will be able to pursue any qualified occupation.
In addition, the requirements for the EU blue card will be lowered. For example, the duration of the required work experience will be shortened, the salary threshold will be lowered, and it will be particularly relevant for skilled workers from Africa: Proof of German language skills will no longer be required.
There are also further benefits for ES Blue Card holders. Family reunification and the change of employer, as well as the permanent residence permit in the EU, are to be simplified.
Second path: Experience
With the new Skilled Workers Immigration Act, people with at least two years of professional experience and a professional qualification acquired abroad can come to Germany as skilled workers.
Previously, the professional qualification had to be recognized in Germany; this is no longer necessary. The vocational qualification now only has to be recognized in the country of origin. This facilitates the recognition procedure for non-academic professions in particular, as there is no uniform global standard for vocational training.
However, the simplified recognition procedure via the country of origin only applies to skilled workers who reach a certain salary threshold. If this is not reached, the professional qualification must still be recognized by Germany. However, in order not to delay the start of work, a recognition partnership can be concluded between the employer and the skilled worker.
Third path: Potential
There will also be an opportunity for people to immigrate to Germany who do not yet have a concrete job offer but bring potential for the German labor market. This will be made possible in the form of an “opportunity card” based on a points system. The selection criteria include qualifications, knowledge of German and English, professional experience, connection to Germany, age and potential of life or marriage partners.
From when does the new German Skilled Immigration Act apply?
The ordinance on the Skilled Workers Immigration Act is expected to come before the Bundesrat on July 7, 2023. Parts of the law will come into force as early as November 2023, while other regulations will not come into force until six or nine months after promulgation.
Future Development of the Skilled Immigration Act
The German Skilled Immigration Act offers new opportunities and ways especially for African skilled workers to come to Germany. It aims to remove obstacles that made it difficult to obtain a visa before the law, such as proof of a recognized German language proficiency test or the famous German bureaucracy, and to enable faster access to a profession.
The Skilled Workers mmigration Act is a step in the right direction towards combating the shortage of skilled workers and facilitating the immigration of foreign skilled workers. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen whether the Skilled Worker Immigration Act will fulfill the promises it seems to make.