Skills shortage: law aims to facilitate immigration

  • 01/09/2024
  • Reading time 6 Minutes

Many sectors are still experiencing a shortage of skilled workers. The German government wants to counteract this with an enhanced Skilled Labor Immigration Act. The Act is intended to improve the legal framework in order to facilitate the immigration of skilled workers from abroad.

From now on, immigration is to be based on a three-pillar model: “Skilled Labor” pillar, “Experience” pillar and “Potential” pillar. Skilled Labor will remain to be the most important pillar. The changes will come into force gradually.

Since November 2023: Changes to the EU Blue Card in particular

The most attractive residence permit for migrant skilled workers is the EU Blue Card, as it facilitates job changes, family reunification and permanent residence.

  • In November 2023, the minimum salary thresholds for applying for an EU Blue Card were lowered. Since then, such threshold has been 50 % of the annual income threshold for pension insurance for standard occupations and 45.3 % for shortage and “bottleneck” occupations. Since January 1, 2024, this corresponds to an annual salary of
    • EUR 45,300 for standard occupations, and
    • EUR 41,041.80 for shortage and bottleneck occupations.
  • The group of people eligible to apply for an EU Blue Card has been expanded: The list of bottleneck occupations has been significantly expanded and now also includes other professions, for example, in the healthcare and education sectors. IT specialists without a university degree but with at least three years of equivalent professional experience can now also apply for an EU Blue Card. In addition, young professionals with a university degree from the last three years before applying will be granted access to the EU Blue Card if they receive a minimum annual salary of currently EUR 41,041.80, regardless of their profession.
  • Another new feature is that holders of an EU Blue Card may travel to other EU countries for up to 90 days without an additional national visa/residence permit if this is directly related to their employment. It has also been made easier for holders of this residence permit to change employers.
  • Skilled workers with recognized qualified vocational training or a university degree are entitled to a residence permit and can now pursue any qualified employment. The training or university degree no longer has to relate to the planned employment.
  • Significant simplifications have also been introduced for foreign professional drivers.


From March 2024: Experience pillar will be strengthened

  • The procedure for recognizing foreign vocational training and qualification measures will be simplified. A new residence permit will be introduced for skilled workers in non-regulated professions with at least two years of practical professional experience and at least one professional qualification officially recognized in their country of origin with at least two years of training. However, a salary threshold of at least 45% of the annual contribution assessment ceiling for pension insurance must be met and the employer must be bound by collective agreements.
  • For IT specialists, the required professional experience is reduced to two years. Language skills are not required.
  • The introduction of a “recognition partnership” allows candidates to obtain a residence permit for qualified employment and to perform the necessary recognition procedure only after entry into Germany. Subject to restrictions under professional law, this enables the skilled workers to start their employment in Germany from day one, even though the foreign professional qualification has not yet been recognized. Recognition must be applied for immediately after entry. In addition to an employment contract and a professional qualification with at least two years of training, language skills at level A2 (CEFR) are required. There are no special salary thresholds to be met.
  • The expansion of employment opportunities for foreign students is certainly also of practical relevance: The permitted annual working time will be increased from the previous 120 full or 240 half days to 140 full or 280 half working days. The new regulation also allows students to work as a student trainee for up to 20 hours a week. The amount of the salary and the subject of the employment are irrelevant. When attending preparatory courses, students can in future take up part-time employment right from the start. A part-time job of up to 20 hours per week will also be possible with a residence permit for the purpose of seeking a place at university.
  • In sectors with high demand, employers bound by collective agreements will in future be able to apply for a residence permit for up to eight months’ work for at least 30 hours per week, regardless of qualifications. In order to do so, they must undertake to cover all travel costs.


From June 2024: Introduction of Opportunity Card for jobseekers

  • The Western Balkans regulation, which allows nationals from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia to work in non-regulated professions of any kind, was extended in 2023. The quota will now be doubled to 50,000 approvals from the German Federal Employment Agency per year.
  • The job search Opportunity Card will then be introduced in the summer as part of the “Potential” pillar. Such card will be available both for skilled workers whose foreign qualifications have been fully recognized as being equivalent without further requirements and for people with qualifications which have not yet been recognized but who can demonstrate sufficient command of the German or English language. Different points can be collected for criteria such as recognition of qualifications in Germany, language skills, professional experience, age and connection to Germany as well as the potential of accompanying spouses or partners. At least six points must be achieved in order to receive the Opportunity Card. The Opportunity Card is issued for a maximum of one year if you can make a secure living for this period. The Card allows for employment for a probationary period or part-time employment of 20 hours per week.


The new regulations create new opportunities for the employment of foreign skilled workers and facilitate their employment in Germany. The already rather confusing immigration law will be given additional facets. In future, too, the requirements and possibilities must be carefully examined in each individual case and taken into account in the context of employment. Even if the new regulations are aimed at reducing bureaucracy, employers/employees must still ensure a thorough preparation and sufficient lead times for the filing of residence permit applications.

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