What is the change? Germany’s coalition government has issued a seven-page proposal on revising the country’s immigration system to better attract high-skilled professionals from outside of Europe.

What does the change mean? Although the changes are unlikely to be enacted until next year or later—and could change during the legislative process—the proposals seek to ease procedures for recognizing foreign professional qualifications, relax labor market testing requirements especially in targeted industries, increase German language development, and improve visa and immigration procedures.  

  • Implementation time frame: Estimated 2019.
  • Who is affected: German companies recruiting and hiring high-skilled non-EU/EEA nationals.
  • Business impact: The proposed measures, if enacted, should help businesses attract and retain non-EEA high-skilled employees and facilitate work permit procedures and qualifications recognition.
  • Next steps: Legislation will be prepared for next year.

Background: The proposal finds common ground on immigration policy toward high-skilled workers outside of Europe. Immigration has been a divisive issue among the parties that make up the fragile coalition government of Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU) with the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD).

The proposals are intended to provide a legal framework for easing regulations to attract high-skilled immigration to fill labor shortages needed to strengthen the economy, especially in targeted industries where labor is in high demand.

The key business immigration measures are summarized as follows:

  • Simplify the recognition of professional qualifications. The current process for obtaining equivalency of a foreign degree to meet German criteria is complex and lengthy. The proposal aims to simplify the equivalence test for foreign academic qualifications. A clearinghouse would be established to support foreign professionals through the recognition process.
  • Ease labor market testing. Foreign university graduates and skilled workers with qualified vocational training should be able to work in any available job for which they are qualified. Employers would not, as a rule, be required to prioritize the hiring of German labor, although the government may re-impose labor market testing in regions of above-average unemployment. Professionals with vocational training from abroad would have the option of six-month temporary residence to search for a job in any field for which they have obtained qualifications, as long as they meet German language prerequisites.
  • Encourage German language skills. Recognizing that German language skills are essential to foreign integration into the domestic labor market, the government would expand German language programs both in Germany and abroad and promote the language in vocational and training programs.
  • Target recruitment of foreign professionals. The federal government will work with private industry to market Germany as a destination for specialists from targeted countries through the government’s online portals.
  • Streamline immigration procedures. The government will review procedures to make them more efficient in the area of visas, immigration, employment and interagency cooperation in recognizing professional qualifications. The government intends to leverage technology and online platforms to improve processes, in particular to digitalize visa applications and processing.

Analysis & Comments: If enacted, the proposals represent positive developments for companies needing to recruit international talent to fill job vacancies amid labor and skills shortages.

Source: Deloitte LLP. Deloitte LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC303675 and its registered office at 1 New Street Square, London EC4A 3HQ, United Kingdom.