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The Skilled Immigration Act came into force on 1 March 2020. It extends and simplifies the immigration process for specialists in possession of university degrees or non-academic vocational qualifications.

1. Summary of the main reforms

The general term “specialists” covers graduates and employees with non-academic vocational training. As of March 2020, these persons may be employed by a company in Germany without that company needing to demonstrate that no German or European applicant was available. If the situation in the labour market should deteriorate, however, prioritisation may be re-introduced. Regulations that previously applied only to graduates are being extended to specialists with non-academic vocational qualifications. 

2. “Which professions are in highest demand in Germany, and what do I need to know?”

Doctors: Doctors can work as salaried employees in hospitals or group practices, or establish private practices. As a prerequisite, their qualification must be equivalent to the German qualification for doctors. More information is available here.

Engineers: With many vacancies across all sectors, there is particular demand for specialists in mechanical engineering, automotive engineering, electrical engineering and structural engineering.

Scientists and IT specialists: In the land of inventors and explorers, there are numerous companies and research institutes with a high demand for specialists in the fields of computer science informatics, mathematics, technology and the natural sciences. 

3. “As a graduate, how much will I earn in Germany?”

Graduates in Germany with up to two years’ professional experience earn €47,500 on average per year. However, there are significant differences between the various occupational groups. The starting salary for doctors is €45,000 and €50,000 for chemists. Discrepancies also exist between sectors and regions. Even just a few years after starting a career, specialists can significantly increase their earnings.

4. “How and where can I get my qualification recognised?”

In Germany there are regulated and non-regulated graduate professions. Doctors, pharmacists and lawyers must have their foreign degrees officially recognised. The responsible office will generally review your documentation within 3–4 months. For full details, click here.

In the case of degrees obtained in other disciplines, such as computer science informatics, mathematics or business, holders only need to demonstrate that their degree is comparable to a German university degree. Decisions are taken by the Zentralstelle für das ausländische Bildungswesen (Central Office for Foreign Education, ZAB).

5. “How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting my job prospects?”

Although the German economy has not been immune to the coronavirus pandemic, restrictions on restaurants and short-time work in the automotive sector (to give two examples) had been eased by May 2020. Now that the labour market is moving again, the need for specialists is back. The Federal Foreign Office provides English-language information on entering Germany.

6. “If I gained my qualification in Germany, do I have an advantage?”

Yes, that is probably the case. After all, those who gain their qualifications in Germany will have had the opportunity to familiarise themselves with the German mentality and language, and may have achieved a certain level of German language ability. For many, personal contacts established with companies and organisations over the course of work placements, involvement in student initiatives or teaching experience help get their careers off the ground.

7. “My German is not perfect. Where can I find information in my language?”

The portal of the Federal Government (Make it in Germany) provides information for international specialists in German, Albanian, Arabic, Bosnian, English, French, Indonesian, Italian, Korean, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Spanish, Turkish and Vietnamese.

8. “How do I find a job in research?”

As of 2019, more than 80,000 international academics were undertaking research in German higher education institutions. Vacancies are advertised; a position as a research assistant may be combined with work towards a doctorate. Those with a demonstrable academic track record may also apply for a position as a guest lecturer or professor. Elsewhere, many jobs are available within the research departments of German companies and on international research projects.

9. “Do I need a visa to work or undertake research in Germany?”

Citizens of EU and EFTA countries (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein) do not require a visa or residence permit to accept a job in Germany. Interested persons from Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the USA may enter Germany without a visa before applying locally for a residence permit for their employment. Nationals of all other third countries must acquire a visa in advance.

10. “Who can help me?”

Get in touch directly by starting a chat or sending an email to make-it-in-germany@arbeitsagentur.de. Advice in German and English is also available via a telephone hotline on living and working in Germany. The number for the hotline is +49 30 1815 1111.

What special regulations are in place for students and graduates?

Even before the change in the law, it was much easier for students to settle in Germany. For example, those with higher education entrance qualifications could come to Germany and apply for a university place provided they were no more than 25 years old, able to speak German to at least B2 level and were able to cover their living expenses. Since 1 March 2020, the Skilled Immigration Act has allowed students to switch subjects, transfer to a training course or even accept a job offer while still in education. The amendment of residence permits is automatic.

After completing their studies, graduates can apply to the relevant foreigners registration office for a residence permit, allowing them to remain in Germany and look for a job for up to 18 months. During this time, they may undertake any activity of their choice. As soon as the graduate finds a job, they can choose to apply for another residence permit or an EU Blue Card, both of which are subject to certain conditions.

International graduates of German universities can obtain a so-called settlement permit after just two years. 

Author: Marlene Thiele

Looking for a job in Germany? Get in touch with other alumni – they could be your future colleagues!

To the Community

August 2020

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