The Corporate Immigration Review: Germany
Introduction to the immigration framework
Unlike many other jurisdictions, Germany, for the time being, does not have a points-based system but a visa category-based system; for example, the grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment (equal to what is called a work permit in other countries) is subject to meeting specific requirements of the visa category in question. Accordingly, applicants must check whether the conditions for the grant of the permit to the individual in question can be met. This includes both general conditions that are a prerequisite for the grant of each permit (e.g., sufficient health insurance), as well as specific conditions that are particular to each visa category (e.g., a localised employment contract for some work visa categories or a business case for the self-employment visa category).
At a glance, the following types of visa categories, inter alia, are available:
- business visitor visa;
- director, proxy and white-collar visa;
- academics visa;
- specialist visa;
- highly skilled visa;
- EU blue card;
- Van der Elst visa;
- short-term deployment visa;
- long-term deployment visa;
- 'any employment' visa;
- intra-company transfer visa and intra-corporate transferee visa; and
- self-employment visa.
In addition, unlike some other countries, there are no quotas available in Germany (except for migrants from the Western Balkan region, where a yearly quote of no more than 25,000 per year had been recently implemented effective from 1 January 20212). Consequently, the number of visas that can be granted under each of the visa categories is unlimited as long as the labour authorities do not come to the conclusion that the position can be filled from the local job market in the case of visa categories with a labour market test requirement. Therefore, as a matter of principle, it makes no difference if one lodges the application at the beginning, during or at the end of the year (although the processing time is likely to be longer in the middle of the summer season or directly before Christmas).
i Legislation and policy
The key immigration law in Germany is the Residence Act, which regulates the granting of residence permits to foreigners. It entered into force on 1 January 2005 and contains provisions on the entry of foreigners into Germany and their residence in the country, various purposes for residence (e.g., residence for educational purposes, residence for the purpose of economic activity), as well as the termination of residence and asylum procedures. With respect to obtaining residence permits for the purpose of employment, further details are set out in the Employment Regulation. Both the Residence Act and the aforementioned Regulation have been amended many times since they came into effect. The purpose of the latest major amendments was to facilitate the immigration of specialists and highly skilled individuals, and to make arrangements easier for those already in the country, for a mid to long-term stay, and also to transpose EU directives dealing with sanctions and the implementation of the EU blue card and intra-corporate transfers into German law. Moreover, some special provisions dealing with the employment of migrants and asylum seekers have been implemented over the past couple of years.
Furthermore, the EU also has authority, to a certain extent, to create immigration laws that affect all Member States, while Member States retain rights to create other types of legislation and are, for instance, particularly entitled to set restrictions for the grant of work permits. According to Article 21 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU),3 any EU national is entitled to enter any Member State and to stay there at will. Furthermore, citizens of any EU Member State benefit from the free movement of workers, as granted by Article 45 of the TFEU,4 and do not need to file for a permit prior to engaging in employment.
Other important EU legislation includes:
- Regulation (EEC) No. 1612/68 of 15 October 1968, on freedom of movement for workers within the Community (OJ 1968 L 257/2);
- Council Regulation (EC) No. 2018/1806 of 14 November 20108, listing the countries whose nationals must be in possession of visas when crossing the external borders, and those whose nationals are exempt from that requirement (OJ 2018 L 303, 28.11);
- Directive 2008/115/EC of 16 December 2008, on common standards and procedures in Member States for returning illegally staying third-country nationals (OJ 2008 L 348/9);
- Council Directive 2009/50/EC of 25 May 2009 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment (OJ 2009 L 155/17) (EU Blue Card Directive);
- Directive 2009/52/EC of 18 June 2009, providing for minimum standards on sanctions and measures against employers of illegally staying third-country nationals (OJ 2009 L 168/24); and
- Directive 2014/66/EU of 15 May 2014 on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals in the framework of an intra-corporate transfer (OJ 2014 L 157/1) (ICT Directive).
Finally, the administration plays a major role, and this has recently become even more important in light of the covid-19 pandemic. All governmental bodies concerned have published guidelines and instructions on how to apply the laws and regulations in question:
- the visa handbook of the Federal Foreign Office (August 2020) for embassies and consulates abroad;5
- the application instructions on the Skilled Workers Immigration Act (January 2020) of the Federal Ministry of the Interior for Construction and Home Affairs for foreigners offices; and
- the Application Instructions Residence Act and Employment Regulations (July 2020) of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (for labour authorities).6
The above all deal with many more details beyond the laws and regulations that clients or counsel need to be aware of. The same goes for all the other details that had been implemented in response to the covid-19 pandemic, such as travel restrictions and quarantine obligations; these shall not be laid out in detail here since they constantly change,7 and will hopefully disappear again sooner or later during the year once the majority of inhabitants around the world are vaccinated.
ii The immigration authorities
The main immigration authorities concerned with applications for visas and work permits respectively are the German embassies or consulates abroad, the local foreigners offices in Germany, the local labour offices and the Centre for the Recruitment of Foreign and Expert Staff (ZAV).
Unless nationals of privileged states that benefit from the EU visa waiver programme are concerned, the visa is to be obtained before entering Germany. The responsible diplomatic representation abroad or the local foreigners office is solely responsible for the applicant, although it will liaise with the local labour offices through the ZAV.
Residence and work permits are granted in the form of a single permit, as a residence permit for the purpose of employment, which is granted by the foreigners office after the local labour office, through the ZAV, has given its consent to the grant, if required to do so. Therefore, unlike the previous proceeding, there is no need for the applicant to deal with two different authorities or to file two separate applications.
In practice, it is recommended to contact the German embassy or consulate (or the local foreigners office in Germany if filing in Germany is possible) directly to establish which documents will be requested for the category in question. Usually, the following documents should be submitted together with the application form:
- a curriculum vitae;
- a copy of the identification card or passport;
- two biometric photographs;
- professional credentials (e.g., copies of diplomas);
- information on the proposed employment, especially a job description;
- information on any spouse or children; and
- proof of sufficient health insurance coverage during the period of stay.
Depending on the category in question, additional documentation might be requested (such as an excerpt from the company registrar for managing directors or proxy holders, or a list of shareholders). In any case, documentary requirements for the visa category at hand should be checked with the relevant foreigners office.
Until 30 April 2011, the decision on the authorisation to work was made by the labour office competent for the area where the proposed place of employment is situated; the place of employment is either where the company is domiciled (the place where the correspondent running the payroll for the employer is located) or where its head office is situated. Since 1 May 2011, the ZAV has been granted the power to give consent; it will nevertheless liaise with the local labour offices at the place of the intended employment and ask them to carry out a job market test if required. In practice, what was meant to facilitate proceedings actually sometimes complicates matters further, especially when no feedback is given by the authority officially in charge with regard to the status quo of the matter, or the reason for a decision on the information pending with the labour authorities. On the other hand, dealing with a centralised agency that has detailed and special knowledge is surely not a disadvantage, and goes a long way towards professionalising and expediting proceedings.
Consent may in principle be given for employment of up to four years,8 although it is quite common practice to grant such consent for one year only at first, regardless of the intended duration of the employment relationship.
The approval to engage in employment can be limited with regard to the occupation, the employer, the district of the labour office and the location and distribution of working hours.
The process usually lasts between eight and 12 weeks once all documents have been submitted, but it can be shorter or even much longer, depending on how busy the authorities are in the city where the application is filed. In the case of a fast-track proceeding, the processing time can be as short as six weeks once the application has been filed completely (see below for details). If the local authorities are too busy (which is generally the case for big international cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Munich), those foreign nationals who are privileged to be able to file from within Germany might therefore consider the option of filing abroad. In light of the covid-19 pandemic the processing times are unfortunately sometimes much longer.
The fee for a national visa (the residence permit applies for Germany only if a long-term residence of more than three months is intended; for example, for studies) in the form of a residence permit, EU blue card or ICT intra-corporate transfer card amounts to €100 (regardless of whether the visa covers a period of more or less than a year). In the case of filing for an extension, the fee amounts to €96 for a period of less than three months, €83 for a period of more than three months and €98 if the purpose of the stay changes.9 In the case of the grant of a provisional permit an additional fee of €13 applies.10 All these administrative fees were lowered a couple of years ago.
iii Exemptions and favoured industries
For entry into Germany, the nationality of the foreigner seeking entry is decisive.
Citizens of the EU
EU nationals do not require a visa or the grant of a permit to enter Germany. This is applicable for all Member States of the EU, including those Member States that joined with effect from 1 May 2004,11 Bulgaria and Romania, which joined the EU on 1 January 2007, and Croatia, which joined the EU on 1 July 2013 and whose nationals have had complete access to the German job market since 1 July 2015. According to the provisions of Section 2 of Germany's EU Freedom of Movement Act, EU nationals neither require a visa for entering Germany nor a residence permit to remain in Germany. For a residence period of up to three months, a valid identity card or passport is sufficient and must be shown to the relevant authorities upon request. If the EU national is registered according to the provisions of the German Federal Act on Registration, the authorities will grant a certificate proving the existence of the right of free movement, if requested. The same applies for EU nationals' family members without EU nationality as long as they are in possession of a valid passport or any other admissible identification document, and if they are accompanying the EU national or following the latter to Germany. No fees will be charged for such nationals and their dependants.
EU citizens have the right of residence for longer than three months if they:
- are workers or self-employed persons or are seeking employment (for, in principle, no more than six months or longer if they can prove to be seriously looking for a position and to have prospects of success of finding a job);
- are not in employment or are students or trainees and have sufficient resources and comprehensive health insurance cover; or
- have the right of permanent residence (following legal residence of five years).
Family members, regardless of their citizenship, accompanying or joining an EU citizen who satisfies these conditions, also have the right of residence for more than three months.
The above did also still apply to nationals of the United Kingdom until 31 December 2020. Following very tough negotiations, EU and UK negotiators agreed, in December 2018, in the first phase of the exit negotiations concerning the rights of their nationals and then, in the withdrawal agreement,12 on a transitional arrangement until 31 December 2020 (which the UK government refers to as the 'implementation period'). This entered into force as a result of ratification by the United Kingdom and the EU and provided for the aforementioned rights of EU citizens to apply to UK citizens until 31 December 2020. The Withdrawal Agreement provided for a transitional period until 31 December 2020, but this is subject to a one-off extension of the transitional period by a maximum of one or two years, which would require unanimous agreement by 30 June 2020, pursuant to Article 132 of the Withdrawal Agreement). In the meantime, the EU and the UK agreed upon The EU–UK trade and cooperation agreement13 setting out their relationship post-Brexit in further detail.
Other European Economic Area nationals and Swiss nationals
The above regulations also apply for citizens of the European Economic Area (EEA) and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) Member States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway). As a result of Article 3 of the Switzerland–EU Freedom of Movement Act providing for visa-free entry, this also applies for Swiss nationals.
Privileged third-country nationals
In certain circumstances, nationals of certain third countries may also enter without a visa. This applies to citizens of states on the positive list of Council Regulation (EC) No. 539/2001. Such citizens are entitled to stay for a maximum of 90 days without being obliged to have previously obtained a visa. Since 1 January 2021 this also applies to UK citizens who therefore do not require a visa when travelling to the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period for either touristic or business purposes (a work permit may nevertheless be required depending on national laws in each EU Member State: see below). This is however entirely conditional upon the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel for all EU Member States, in line with the principle of visa reciprocity.
According to national law, some of the nationals listed therein are even entitled to enter German territory without a visa for a residence period that exceeds 90 days; according to Section 41 of the Ordinance Governing Residence, this applies to Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, South Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom (since 1 January 2021) and the United States. In the case of these nationals, an obligatory residence permit can be obtained after a visa-free entry into Germany but has to be requested within three months of entry. According to the instructions on how to apply the Ordinance Governing Residence, the admittance of South Korea has been established because of an obligation under international law following an exchange of letters; the other admittances are based on positive experiences with nationals from the respective states. If the application for the grant of a residence permit is filed in a timely fashion, according to Section 81(3), Sentence 1 of the Residence Act, the subsequent stay is deemed to have been granted until the foreigners office issues its final decision. Even for these privileged nationals, however, according to Section 4(3), Sentence 1 of the Residence Act, it is in principle not permissible to take up employment until the foreign national is in possession of a residence permit for the purpose of employment or unless the Employment Regulation stipulates that the short-term activities concerned do not qualify as dependent employment.
Moreover, nationals from Andorra, Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Monaco or San Marino also do not need to obtain a visa as long as they do not wish to engage in employment except for those activities where the Employment Regulation stipulates that the activities concerned do not qualify as dependent employment.
Other third-country nationals
residence.16 The German embassies or German representations in the third-country national's home country or in his or her place of residence must be contacted.
Finally, it should be noted that anyone taking residency in Germany shall register with the local registry office within two weeks of having taken residency as foreseen by the Federal Registration Act.
In principle, the German immigration law system is no more favourable to any one industry than to others since the conditions for the grant of the visa category apply regardless of the industry in question. There are, however, some categories that apply specifically to certain industries or fields: for example, the academic research and development category,17 the category for teachers of languages and specialist cooks,18 and the health care category.19 Moreover, special conditions apply to international sports people,20 e-sports players and international traffic both on rivers and seas and in the air.21 Furthermore, facilitation is also made for applicants with an academic degree or similar qualification, IT experts and other experts,22 providing an incentive for certain industries as a matter of fact. Finally, further facilitation has recently been implemented with regard to material requirements and acceleration of the processing of applications from candidates in the healthcare sector, which are now so desperately needed all over the world.
International treaty obligations
i EU nationals
EU nationals not only enjoy freedom of movement as specified above, but also a freedom of movement for workers. Article 45 of the TFEU guarantees the freedom of movement for workers within the EU and forbids any different treatment of workers from Member States regarding employment, salary and other working conditions on the basis of nationality. It states employees' rights to:
- accept offers of employment;
- freely move within the territory of the Member States for this purpose;
- reside in a Member State for the purpose of employment in accordance with the provisions laid down by the law, regulation or administrative action governing the employment of nationals of that state; and
- remain in the territory of a Member State after having been employed in that state under conditions that have been stipulated by the European Commission in directives.
This is also reflected in Germany in the national provisions of the law on the general freedom of movement of Union citizens.23
ii Other EEA nationals and Swiss nationals
Citizens of EEA and EFTA Member States are also entitled to move freely as workers, just as the nationals of EU Member States. The citizens of these states may even take up employment and work in Germany without obtaining a residence permit in advance and need only be registered.
This also applies for Swiss nationals as a consequence of the agreement on free movement of persons entered into with the EU.24
iii Turkish nationals
There are special regulations for Turkish nationals arising from the EEC–Turkey Association Agreement. According to Article 6 of this Agreement, Turkish employees belonging to the regular labour market of a Member State are entitled:
- to claim the renewal of their work permit if they have had ordinary employment for a period of one year with the same employer and a job is available for them;
- to apply for a job in their profession – subject to the preferential treatment provided for the employees of the Member States of the EU – that is offered by an employer of their choice once a period of three years of ordinary employment is completed, if such a job is offered under usual employment conditions and registered with the employment offices of this Member State; and
- after four years of ordinary employment to freely enter into any employment for remuneration.
The year in review
i Substantive law
Highly skilled migrants
In Germany, we had not seen any major material reform of the immigration laws for many years, but we have recently seen a couple of amendments and clarifications together with an active debate on the political level. In particular, as a consequence of the economic downturn and the overcoming of the recession (at least in Germany), there has been a major discussion as to whether the category-based system should be replaced by a points-based system (such as exists in Canada and Japan). For years now, a debate has taken place among politicians, trade unions and business persons on whether there is a lack of talent and highly skilled workers on the German job market, and whether there is a need to further facilitate the recruitment of foreign personnel. So far, it appears that the majority opinion is that there is no such need, and that amending the laws and regulations is enough to attract talent and to meet the needs of German companies. Against this background, it cannot yet be said whether there will be any further facilitation with regard to the recruiting of talented and highly skilled workers in the future.
Despite this debate, the employment of highly qualified staff is already subject to numerous privileges in comparison to the employment of 'normal' staff, and the relatively high former salary threshold for executives and the highly skilled (€86,400 gross until 31 December 2008) was reduced significantly (to €67,000 gross per year until 31 July 2012), and was further reduced a couple of years later. With effect from 1 August 2012, the aforementioned salary threshold for the highly skilled visa category was eliminated. In addition, the salary threshold for applicants with an academic or comparable degree has been reduced by the transposition of the EU Blue Card Directive and the implementation of the EU blue card category in Germany. The thresholds for the EU blue card visa category are set on an annual basis and, as at 1 January 2021, the salary threshold is now €56,800 gross for academic persons, and €44,304 gross for certain job categories (such as natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors or IT consultants) and applicants holding a degree from a German university. The grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment under the EU blue card visa category is now possible without the need for a job market test, which alone cuts the processing time from four to eight weeks instead of eight to 12 weeks for those visa categories that can only be granted once a job market test has been carried out. However, the conditions of employment must be at least comparable to those that would be offered for the position to a person from the local (German and EU) job market.
With effect from 1 August 2017, with a considerable delay of over one year, the EU ICT Directive25 has been transposed into national law. The Directive was adopted to enhance and facilitate the transfer of personnel between affiliated legal entities located in different EU Member States. The Directive provides for two categories: intra-corporate transfers and mobile intra-company transfers.
From 1 March 2020, the Skilled Immigration Law Act came into effect, providing further facilitation for both the procedure and material requirements for highly skilled migrants, who may now benefit from a fast-track procedure and a further loosening of the material requirements to access a job offer if they hold a recognised degree (see below for details).
Moreover, over the past few years, further incentives have been set by the implementation of new categories allowing lower-skilled migrants access to the German labour market under certain conditions, in particular, for those applicants holding a German professional qualification or a foreign one recognised as equivalent to a German one. Now, with the changes to the Skilled Immigration Law Act having come into effect on 1 March 2020, the granting of a residence title for the purpose of employment as a skilled worker with academic training requires only that:
- there is a concrete job offer;
- the Federal Employment Agency has given its approval, if required;
- a professional licence has been issued or promised, insofar as this is necessary; and
- the equivalence of the qualification has been established to the extent that this is necessary.
It should also be possible to employ skilled workers with an academic education if there is a concrete job offer, without a priority check; since 1 March 2020, the employment of skilled workers with vocational (i.e., non-academic) training is no longer limited to bottleneck occupations. As in the case of skilled workers with vocational training, the only requirement is now that the qualification acquired enables them to pursue the employment envisaged. The Federal Employment Agency examines whether the skilled worker will perform an occupation to which his or her qualification applies within the framework of the approval.
Finally, there is now a possibility of issuing a residence permit for labour migration to skilled workers with pronounced practical occupational knowledge, even independently of a formal qualification as a skilled worker, if the Employment Regulation stipulates that the foreigner can be admitted to exercise this occupation. According to the revised provision of Section 6 of the Employment Regulation, this is intended for qualified employment in occupations in the field of information and communication technology, irrespective of qualification as a skilled worker, provided that:
- the foreign national has a comparable qualification attested by at least three years' professional experience acquired over the past seven years;
- the salary is at least 60 per cent of the annual income threshold in the general pension insurance scheme; and
- the foreigner has sufficient knowledge of the language.
While the minimum salary is fixed annually (€ 51,120 as at 1 January 2021) and is mandatory, proof of German language skills may not be required in justified individual cases.
Finally, in response to the migration crisis that hit Europe, and in particular Germany, in 2015 and 2016, the laws dealing with the employment of migrants were substantially modified. The opportunities for refugees to be employed in Germany depend on their residence status at any one time. Foreign third-country nationals who have crossed the border and have sought asylum or filed for asylum, but whose asylum proceedings are ongoing, may in principle be granted a residence permit for the purpose of employment with the consent of the labour authorities once they have been in Germany for more than three months.
Applicants with permission to reside
If their consent is required, the labour authorities carry out a labour market test by examining the following criteria: the impact of the employment on the labour market; whether priority applicants are available; and the working conditions. With regard to the last, particular attention is paid to ensure that the applicant benefits from the same working conditions as applicants from the local job market (e.g., with regard to salary and working hours). However, such a test is not necessary if the application is filed under the EU blue card visa category for shortage occupations (e.g., natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors or IT consultants earning at least €44,304). The same goes for applications filed under the vocational training visa category (Section 6 of the Employment Regulation) or the recognised occupation requiring formal training visa category (Section 8 of the Employment Regulation).
Furthermore, the Foreign Office can grant a residence permit for the purpose of employment without the consent of the labour authorities in the following cases:
- employment as an introductory trainee;
- employment in a state-recognised apprenticeship occupation;
- employment under the highly skilled category, the EU blue card category or the academic person category;
- employment under the director, executive and company specialist category;
- employment of a spouse, life partner, relative or first cousin by an employer living together with the applicant in a common household; and
- any employment after four years of having been duly employed in Germany with a residence permit, permission to reside or a temporary suspension of deportation status.
Moreover, consent with regard to employees that shall be employed by temp agencies shall only be given if the applicant resides in Germany for at least 15 months with a permission to reside. In that case, the priority review is limited to a check of the working conditions being based on the specific job, and with regard to the salary and working hours.
Finally, individuals with permission to reside that are obliged to live in a reception facility (with this restriction being possible for a period of six weeks up to six months)26 shall not engage in any kind of employment at all.27
Applicants with a residence permit
Applicants granted a positive decision as a result of asylum proceedings, regardless of the type of protection (e.g., right of asylum, refugee protection, subsidiary protection), do in principle have the right to engage in any kind of employment, be it on a dependent or self-employed basis. However, in the case of a prohibition of deportation, the local foreigners office decides in the individual case whether a residence permit for the purpose of employment shall be granted. If this has been granted, it will be noted on the residence permit, as well as on any additional sheet issued.
Moreover, consent with regard to employees that shall be employed by temp agencies shall only be given if the applicant resides in Germany for at least 15 months with a residence permit. In that case, the priority review is limited to a check of the working conditions being based on the specific job, and with regard to the salary and the working hours.
Finally, the foreigners office may grant a residence permit for the purpose of employment to applicants from the Balkan states declared as safe countries of origin (e.g., Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro and Serbia) with regard to any kind of employment, if the applicant – before entering Germany – duly filed an application with the German immigration authorities abroad in the country of origin. However, that privilege is limited in time (from 2016 until 31 December 2020) and shall not apply to applicants that have received benefits under the Seekers' Benefits Act within the past 24 months. The latter shall not apply to applicants who filed for asylum between 1 January 2015 and 24 October 2015 and were residing in Germany on 24 October 2015 with temporary suspension of deportation status and immediately left the country. The aforementioned stipulation is an incentive for those refugees that were in Germany at the time to leave and come back by following the proper process so that the authorities can check the application while the applicant stays abroad. Since 1 January 2021 a quota – no more than 25,000 consents to be granted per year – applies.
Applicants with temporary suspension of deportation status
Applicants who are not or are no longer in asylum proceedings, or whose applications have been turned down but whose deportation has been suspended, are granted a certificate of suspension of deportation by the immigration authorities.
Like applicants with permission to reside, they may in principle be granted a residence permit for the purpose of employment with the consent of the labour authorities once they have been in Germany for more than three months.28
Before giving consent, the labour authorities carry out a job market test by examining the criteria described above. Individuals who entered the country to obtain benefits under the Asylum Seekers' Benefits Act are not permitted to work if they, for example, provide misleading information with regards to their identity or nationality, or if they come from a country declared a safe country of origin (e.g., Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ghana, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Senegal and Serbia) and their asylum application was filed after 31 August 2015 and was turned down.29
Intra-corporate transfer category
The intra-corporate transfer category is available for third-country nationals (non-EU, EEA or Switzerland) that are qualified managers, specialists or graduate trainees and shall be assigned from an entity outside the European Union to an entity in the same corporate group in Germany on a temporary basis for a period of more than 90 days. However, there is a requirement of having previously worked with the company assigning the employee for a period of at least six months. Moreover, the conditions of employment shall be on the same level as those that would have been offered to an applicant from the local (German) labour market, in particular with regard to the salary.
Holders of a residence title for the purpose of employment granted under the intra-company transfer category by another Member State are entitled to engage in employment in Germany for up to 90 days in any 180-day period once having complied with a notification requirement. In the case of longer stays, a national residence title for the purpose of employment in Germany is required and can be granted under the mobile intra-company transfer visa category.
The residence title for the purpose of employment under the intra-corporate transfer category can be granted for a period of up to three years (except for trainees, in which case it can be granted for up to one year), and in the case of consecutive assignments there is a cooling-off period of six months in between.
Mobile intra-corporate transfer visa category
The mobile intra-corporate transfer category is available for third-country nationals (non-EU, EEA or Swiss) that are in possession of a residence title for the purpose of employment under the intra-corporate transfer category issued by another Member State and shall be assigned by an entity outside the European Union to an entity in the same corporate group in Germany on a temporary basis for a period of more than 90 days.
Holders of a residence title for the purpose of employment granted under the intra-corporate transfer category by another Member State are entitled to engage in employment in Germany for up to 90 days in any 180-day period once they have complied with a notification requirement. In the case of longer stays, a national residence title for the purpose of employment in Germany is required and can be granted under the mobile intra-corporate transfer visa category.
Again, there is a requirement to have previously worked with the company assigning the employee for a period of at least six months, the conditions of employment (including, in particular, the salary) must be comparable to the local market and the permit may be granted for up to three years (except for trainees: up to one year) with a cooling-off period of six months in the case of consecutive assignments.
ii Procedural law
Electronic travel authorisation
Since 1 September 2011, applicants have been obliged to attend a meeting at the foreigners office in person (together with any accompanying family members), as fingerprints and biometric photographs will be taken to issue an electronic residence permit (eAT). The conventional residence permit, residence card and permanent residence card and replacement ID in paper form have been replaced by the eAT, which is issued in credit card format.
The eAT has a contact-free chip on which biometric features (photograph and two fingerprints), ancillary conditions (special requirements) and personal data are saved. The chip can be used as an electronic identity document and a qualified electronic signature (this provides eAT holders with the option of signing legally effective digital documents as desired). The photograph is saved on the body of the card and on the chip. Two fingerprints are also saved on the chip for all residents of non-Member States aged six and above. Only official bodies (such as the police) are authorised to access the photograph and fingerprints. Ancillary conditions saved on the chip are also saved on a unique supplementary sheet that comes with the eAT.
Economic and administration service suppliers (e.g., banks, official authorities) can offer electronic services when holders identify themselves electronically using the eAT. This simplifies the process of logging onto internet portals, filling out forms and verifying one's age on the internet or at machines. Only suppliers who possess state authorisation can access the holder's data. In addition, the holder must confirm the transfer of his or her personal data with a six-digit pin number. Service providers are unable to read the biometric features when using the online identification function.
As the eAT is not produced by foreigners offices, it is necessary for applicants to attend a second meeting to pick up the permit. However, unlike the first meeting, there is no need to attend the second meeting in person, and it is possible to grant a power of attorney for another person to pick up the permit.
Any permit that has been granted before 1 September 2011 will remain valid only until 30 April 2021.
Moreover, to expedite proceedings, effective 1 July 2013, the following is stipulated by Section 36 of the Employment Regulation: if the labour authorities do not respond to the query within two weeks requesting additional information or stating that the employer has not given the information requested by the authorities either sufficiently or in timely fashion, consent shall be deemed to be given. Unfortunately, this does not seem to apply if the company files a pre-approval application. Moreover, the labour authorities shall check upfront if the conditions for consent are given, if the employer has provided the information requested and if the proceedings can be expedited. Finally, to expedite matters further, a pre-approval application has been implemented whereby it is possible for the sponsoring company to file an application upfront with the labour authorities to find out whether consent is needed and, if so, whether it will be granted.
Skilled Immigration Act
The provisions of the Skilled Immigration Act retain the tried and tested system. No points system will be introduced, but further openings in the labour market will be targeted and incentives will be provided to recruit skilled workers with an academic degree or vocational training.
Establishment of central foreigners offices
At least partial centralisation of the foreigners office function has been introduced in the revised Section 71, Paragraph 1 of the Residence Act. This Section now provides for the establishment by the German states of at least one central foreigners office, which shall, however, only be responsible for the visa procedure for work and training migration (and not for the subsequent procedure for the first issue of a residence permit for employment purposes). Unfortunately, bottlenecks will be largely unavoidable in practice, especially with regard to local immigration authorities, and this is regrettable. From the point of view of labour migration law practice, it would have been desirable to have a central foreigners office with the appropriate equipment to be (at least) internally responsible for the entire procedure in technical and personnel terms, as is currently the case with the Federal Employment Agency for any necessary consent to the granting of a residence permit to pursue gainful employment. Pursuant to Section 72, Paragraph 7 of the Residence Act, the immigration authorities may, in cases of doubt, involve the Federal Employment Agency in certain circumstances even if the Agency's approval is not required, and similar provision could have been made for the participation of a central foreigners office. Moreover, it remains to be seen whether and to what extent the states will establish such a central foreigners office.30 In this respect, according to initial announcements, not all German states seem to share the legislature's assessment that the creation of a central foreigners office should take place, or else they consider the previous authority structure to be adequate.
Faster performance through more money: in many other countries there is the possibility of speeding up the procedure by paying an increased fee (fast-track procedure). The new provision of Section 81a of the Residence Act introduces a 'fast-track procedure for skilled workers' (but only for skilled workers) in response to considerable demand, in particular from industry. Pursuant to this Section, the foreigner submitting the application should be able to authorise the (future) employer to apply for a residence permit to pursue training or gainful employment within the framework of training and labour migration, and to apply for an accelerated procedure for skilled workers.31 In accordance with Section 81a, Paragraph 2 of the Residence Act, the foreigners office and the employer shall be able to conclude an agreement with the following content:
- contact details of the foreigner, the employer and the authority;
- authorisation of the employer by the foreigner;
- the employer's obligation to work towards compliance with the foreigner's obligation to cooperate;
- evidence to be provided;
- description of the processes, including participants and deadlines;
- the employer's obligation to cooperate; and
- consequences of non-compliance with the agreement.
Apart from the fact that the legal nature of such an agreement cannot be classified in the existing categories (neither civil nor administrative), many small and medium-sized enterprises would simply be overwhelmed by such an agreement and the related process. Unless it is made practicable, this procedure will probably counteract the hoped-for acceleration effect. We can only hope, therefore, that the foreigners offices will make available corresponding model agreements to be used uniformly throughout Germany.
Pursuant to Section 81a, Paragraph 3 of the Residence Act, the foreigners office (which is nonetheless ultimately responsible for the procedure) is to advise the employer on the procedure and the evidence to be submitted, and if necessary to initiate the examination for recognition of a degree, obtain any necessary approval from the Federal Employment Agency, inform the responsible diplomatic mission or consulate abroad of the imminent filing of a visa application and give its prior and immediate consent to the issue of a visa.
Finally, in accordance with Section 81a, Paragraph 5 of the Residence Act, the fast-track procedure also includes family reunification of the spouse and minor children of the skilled worker, provided that their visa applications are submitted at the same time.
According to the newly inserted provision of Section 31a of the Ordinance Governing Residence, for an application made under Section 81a of the Residence Act, under the fast-track procedure for skilled workers, the diplomatic mission or consular post abroad shall allocate a date for the submission of a visa application within three weeks of the submission of the preliminary agreement by the skilled worker and shall then issue a decision within three weeks of the submission of the complete visa application. Furthermore, the non-disclosure period – following which consent to employment is deemed to have been granted if the Federal Employment Agency has not informed the competent authority that the information submitted is insufficient for the decision on consent or that the employer has not provided the necessary information or has not provided it in good time – is shortened from two weeks to one week from the submission of the request for consent.32
The fee for the accelerated procedure for skilled workers is €41133 – approximately three times the normal procedural fees. This is still relatively favourable in an international comparison; nevertheless, the question remains as to why the employer should pay more if the employer is also to be consulted for support and ultimately is likely to incur more expenditure. This is based on a strange understanding of cooperation between public authorities and private companies.
i Work permits
Privileged third-country nationals
For the privileged third-country nationals listed in Section 41 of the Ordinance Governing Residence,34 a double privilege is applied.
They are not only entitled to enter and reside in Germany without a visa (as specified previously), but also have the privilege to apply for the grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment after having entered Germany without a visa. In this respect – as previously mentioned – the application must be filed no later than 90 days after entry into Germany; otherwise, the applicant will not benefit from the standardised provisional effect as laid down in Section 81(3), Sentence 1 of the Residence Act.35 From the 91st day until the final decision, a provisional permit permitting an extended stay may be granted, in which case an additional fee of €13 applies.36 However, engaging in employment will generally not be allowed before the grant of the final permit. Moreover, leaving the country during this period might result in a discussion (with either the border control when re-entering or the foreigners office before the grant of the permit) regarding whether the re-entry is legal. Whereas most of the commentaries available and the instructions on how to apply the law published by the Labour Office do not deal explicitly with this question, and neither favour nor disfavour it, the extended stay is likely to come to an end if the individual leaves the country and – accordingly – re-entry is then forbidden unless the reference period for the 90 days (of six months) is open again. This is also reflected in the instructions on how to apply the law that are published by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and applied by the foreigners offices. Against this background, such a permit should be applied for well ahead of time; however, once the reference period of 90 days (within any 180-day period) has expired, a visa-free entry would be possible again.
The second privilege is based on Section 26, Paragraph 1 of the Employment Regulation, which stipulates that a residence permit for taking up employment can be granted to citizens of Andorra, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, the United Kingdom and the United States. This provision must be read as follows: for citizens of these states, the approval of the Federal Employment Agency can be granted for all kinds of employment, irrespective of whether a category usually applicable to third-country nationals can be applied. Nevertheless, the requirements for obtaining a residence permit for the purpose of employment, which are explained below, must be fulfilled. Moreover, the grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment is possible regardless of whether the company sponsoring the application has entered into a localised employment relationship with the employee (on behalf of a company duly established or branched in Germany) or if the individual has been assigned to Germany by a company established abroad.
Other third-country nationals
Other third-country nationals must file an application for the grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment with a German embassy or representation abroad that is located in their home country or state of residence before entering Germany; the application is then forwarded to the responsible local foreigners office in Germany. Provided that the approval of the labour office is required, the foreigners office will then start an internal proceeding with the labour office through the ZAV. After having received the approval (see below for approval requirements), the file will be sent back electronically; in the case of a positive decision, the residence permit for the purpose of employment will be granted to the applicant by the German embassy or representation abroad before they travel to Germany. Moreover, since 5 March 2013, there has been no need for the embassy or general consulate to seek consent from the local foreigners office in the case of an application with regard to a residence permit for the purpose of (dependent) employment – in that case, the file will be directly transferred to the local labour authorities via the Federal Administration Office, and returned once the decision has been taken. The latter does not apply, however, if the applicant has previously been staying in Germany or is entitled to enter Germany visa-free and file the application in Germany (this, however, only applies to nationals from certain countries, including the United States and Australia).
General conditions of granting
The grant of a residence permit for taking up employment will only be possible if the general preconditions stipulated in Section 5 of the Residence Act are fulfilled. Accordingly, the granting of a residence permit generally presupposes:
- that the foreigner's livelihood is secure;
- that the foreigner's identity is established and also his or her nationality if he or she is not entitled to return to another state;
- that no grounds for expulsion apply;
- insofar as the foreigner has no entitlement to a residence permit, that the foreigner's residence does not compromise or jeopardise interests for any other reason; and
- that the passport obligation pursuant to Section 3 of the Residence Act is met.
Furthermore, the granting of a residence permit, a settlement permit or an EU long-term residence permit presupposes that the foreigner has entered the country with the necessary visa and has already furnished the key information required for granting of the title in his or her visa application. These requirements may be waived, however, if the prerequisites qualifying a foreigner for the granting of a residence permit are met, or if special circumstances of the case render a subsequent visa application procedure unreasonable.
Residence permit for the purpose of employment
Under Section 18(1) of the Residence Act, the admittance of foreign employees depends on the requirements of the industrial location in Germany and must be made in consideration of the labour market situation and the need to combat unemployment, although international agreements remain unaffected. The grant of a residence permit is subject to explicit requirements. Pursuant to Section 18(2) of the Residence Act, a residence permit for the purpose of employment may only be granted to foreigners if:
- there is a concrete job offer;
- the Federal Employment Agency has given its approval in accordance with Section 39 of the Residence Act;
- a professional licence has been issued or promised, insofar as this is necessary; and
- the equivalence of the qualification has been established to the extent that this is necessary.
It shall be possible to employ skilled workers with an academic education if there is a concrete job offer, without a priority check and bottleneck analysis taking place. As in the case of skilled workers with vocational training, the only requirement is that the qualification acquired enables the worker to pursue the employment envisaged. The Federal Employment Agency examines whether the skilled worker will perform an occupation to which his or her qualification applies within the framework of the approval.
In addition, the Employment Regulation and its requirements for applicable categories (governing the admittance of new foreigners entering Germany to take up employment) must be observed. This means that the labour market is basically not accessible for other third-country nationals unless the requirements of the criteria defined in the Residence Act or statutory regulations established as a result of the Residence Act are fulfilled (numerus clausus). Consequently, a residence permit for taking up employment can be granted for the following categories:
- EU blue card:37 for applicants holding a German university degree or a foreign university degree that is recognised in Germany or comparable to a German university degree, or that have a comparable qualification that is proven by at least five years' professional experience, and that should earn a salary of at least two-thirds of the social security contribution ceiling for the statutory pension scheme,38 or 52 per cent of the ceiling for certain job categories in shortage occupations (e.g., natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors or IT consultants);39
- directors, executives and specialists:40 for example, executive staff with general power of attorney or power of procuration; members of an institution of a legal entity that is authorised to legally represent it; executive staff and other persons with particular and specific corporate knowledge (specialists) for a qualified employment with a German-based company; or executives for an employment with a German–foreign joint venture founded on the basis of international agreements, without the need to check their prioritisation;
- short-term deployments:41 for example, deployment of IT specialists for the implementation of sold software for up to three months during an overall period of 12 months;
- service delivery:42 deployment of an employee who is employed in an EU or EEA Member State to temporarily render services in another Member State;
- academics and applicants with a degree from a higher educational institution:43 for taking up employment that suits the professional qualification for specialists with a recognised German graduate degree or a foreign graduate degree that is comparable to a German degree; specialists with a German graduate degree or graduates from German schools abroad with a recognised degree or a degree that is comparable to a German degree; or a professional training qualification that has been acquired in Germany in a job requiring formal training that is state-approved or comparably regulated;
- international labour exchange:44 for qualified specialists with a university or college degree or comparable qualification within the framework of labour exchange in an international company or company group for a period of up to three years without the need to check their prioritisation;
- employment of nationals of certain countries:45 for citizens of Andorra, Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino and the United States, the approval for the grant of a residence permit for taking up any employment may be given; and
- long-term deployments:46 for example, deployment of staff for a period of up to three years to set up an industrial plant.
The residence permit for the purpose of employment may generally be granted for a period of four years (plus an additional three months for the EU blue card), but in the first instance is often only granted for one year to ensure that the general conditions of granting as previously specified and the approval requirements stipulated by the labour office are still fulfilled.
ii Labour market regulation
Generally, a residence permit for the purpose of employment is subject to the approval of the Federal Employment Agency, unless such approval is not required by law, by virtue of the Employment Regulation or by provision in an intergovernmental agreement. In particular, Section 39(1) of the Residence Act provides that a residence permit enabling the foreigner to take up employment may only be granted if approval is given by the Federal Employment Agency, unless otherwise provided by a statutory regulation. In addition, the Act provides that approval can only be given if the regulation is part of international agreements, legal provisions or statutory regulations.
Unless otherwise provided by a statutory regulation, the approval of the grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment pursuant to Sections 18 and 39(2) of the Residence Act may be granted by the Federal Employment Agency if:
- the candidate is not employed under less favourable working conditions than comparable domestic workers;
- the candidate will be employed as a skilled worker in an occupation to which his or her qualifications apply;
- the candidate will perform an occupation appropriate to his or her qualifications; and
- where the Employment Regulation provides for more detailed conditions relating to the pursuit of employment, these are met.
Consent shall be given without a check if neither German employees nor foreigners who are legally equivalent to them with regard to taking up employment, or other foreigners who are entitled to priority access to the labour market under the law of the European Union, are available for employment (a priority check), unless the Employment Regulation provides otherwise. The latter is the case, for instance, for the grant of a residence permit for the purpose of employment to a foreigner irrespective of a qualification as a skilled worker if this check is stipulated by the Employment Regulation or law.
Therefore, in the event of such a priority check, prior to consenting to the grant of the residence permit, the labour authorities must check the consequences of the employment for the local labour market, carry out a job market test and compare the conditions of employment offered. In practice, a job description form as provided by the labour authorities together with a draft employment or assignment contract must be filed with the application.
However, the labour authorities' approval is not required if taking up employment is permitted pursuant to the Residence Act,47 or a statutory regulation pursuant to Section 42 of the Residence Act provides that approval by the Federal Employment Agency is not required.48
iii Rights and duties of sponsored employees
In the case of employer sponsorship, the holder of a residence permit for the purpose of employment may only work for the employer that has sponsored the application. Moreover, as a matter of principle, any permit will be limited not only with regard to the employer and the activities that are permitted, but also with regard to time and the job location. Although consent may be given for an employment period of up to four years,49 it is common practice to grant such consent for a period of one year only initially, regardless of the intended duration of the employment relationship. Furthermore, the approval to engage in employment can be limited with regard to the occupation, the employer, the district of the labour office, and the situation and allocation of the working hours. This does not apply to non-sponsored visa categories allowing their holders to engage in employment regardless of the employer and location (e.g., the highly skilled visa category; see Section V).
The same applies for the settlement permit. The settlement permit allows the holder to take up employment and may only be supplemented with a subsidiary provision in those cases that are expressly permitted by law. According to Section 9 of the Residence Act, a foreigner will be granted the settlement permit provided that:
- he or she has held a residence permit for five years;
- his or her livelihood is secure;
- he or she has paid compulsory or voluntary contributions into the statutory pension scheme for at least 60 months, or furnishes evidence of an entitlement to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension scheme or from an insurance company (time off for the purposes of childcare or nursing at home must be duly taken into account);
- the granting of the residence permit is not precluded by reason of public safety or policy, giving full consideration to the severity or the nature of the breach of public safety or policy or the danger emanating from the foreigner, with due regard to the duration of the foreigner's stay to date and the existence of ties in the federal territory;
- he or she is permitted to be in employment, insofar as he or she is in employment;
- he or she is in possession of the other permits that are required for the purpose of the permanent pursuit of his or her economic activity;
- he or she has an adequate knowledge of the German language;
- he or she possesses a basic knowledge of the legal and social system and the way of life in the federal territory; and
- he or she possesses sufficient living space for himself or herself and the members of his or her family forming part of his or her household.
Since 1 August 2012, facilitation has also been made with regard to the grant of a settlement permit to holders of a German degree. Pursuant to Section 18c(1) of the Residence Act, a settlement permit will be granted to a foreigner with a German university degree or a German degree from a comparable institution:
- if the applicant is in possession of a residence permit for the purpose of employment;
- if the applicant is adequately employed, given his or her academic background;
- if the applicant has contributed to the German pension scheme for at least 24 months; and
- if the other general conditions for the grant of a settlement permit are met.
Since 1 March 2020, pursuant to Section 18c, Paragraph 1, Sentence 1 of the Residence Act, a skilled worker must be granted a settlement permit if:
- the candidate has held a residence title for four years in accordance with Section 18a (skilled worker with vocational training), Section 18b (skilled worker with academic training) or Section 18d (skilled worker in the field of research) of the Residence Act;
- the candidate holds a job that may be filled by the candidate in accordance with the requirements of the provisions of Section 18a, 18b or 18d of the Residence Act;
- the candidate has paid compulsory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme for at least 48 months or proves that he or she is entitled to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension institution or from an insurance undertaking;
- the candidate has a satisfactory knowledge of the German language; and
- the candidate's means of subsistence are secure, there are no opposing reasons of public safety or public order, a possible professional licence exists, basic knowledge of the legal and social order and the living conditions in the federal territory are given, and adequate living space is available.
Even holders of an EU blue card are to be granted a settlement permit if they have been employed for at least 33 months in accordance with Section 18b Paragraph 2 of the Residence Act and have paid compulsory or voluntary contributions to the statutory pension insurance scheme for that period, or if they can prove that they are entitled to comparable benefits from an insurance or pension institution or an insurance undertaking. In a deviation from the other requirements to be proven, it is sufficient if simple knowledge of the German language is available; furthermore, if sufficient knowledge of the German language is available, the period is shortened to 21 months.
Employees meeting the conditions for the grant of a settlement permit may remain in the country indefinitely and apply for a permanent status. Unlike a residence permit for the purpose of employment, the settlement permit can be granted by the foreigners office without having to request the consent of the labour office, and it is not limited either in time or with regard to the activity or the employer. Whereas the latter is of course an advantage for the holder of the permit, it may be disadvantageous for the employer since it facilitates changing employers. The application for a settlement permit must be lodged with the foreigners office responsible for the applicant's place of residence. According to Section 44 of the Ordinance Governing Residence, the administrative fee for the grant of a settlement permit is €113.
Investors, skilled migrants and entrepreneurs
i Investors and entrepreneurs
Unlike in many other countries, there is no investor category available in Germany that would enable a residence permit to be granted to the applicant under the sole condition of investing money; therefore, any investor or entrepreneur needs to meet the conditions for the self-employed visa category. According to Section 21 of the Residence Act, residence permits with regard to self-employment may only be granted if:
- there is a higher economic interest or a certain local requirement;
- the activity is expected to have positive effects on the economy; and
- the foreign national holds capital or is the beneficiary of a loan that is sufficient.
Until 31 July 2012, the first two preconditions were regarded as met if at least €250,000 was invested and five jobs were created. However, since 1 August 2012, these thresholds have been abolished to attract more entrepreneurs to invest in Germany and to facilitate investment in Germany. Moreover, unlike the former stipulation, since 1 August 2012, an economic interest as opposed to a higher economic interest, and a local requirement as opposed to a particular local requirement, have sufficed. However, the following criteria still apply to the assessment of the preconditions: the carrying capacity of the business idea, the entrepreneurial experience of the foreigner and the amount of the capital investment. To assess these criteria, the foreigners office regularly asks for an expert's statement at a competent authority (e.g., the local chamber of industry and commerce).
Furthermore, a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment may also be granted by the foreigners office according to Section 21(2) of the Residence Act if there are privileges because of bilateral conventions, as is the case for Japan and the United States.
Finally, according to Section 21(2a) of the Residence Act, a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment may also be granted to a foreigner with a degree from a German university or a comparable German educational institution without the aforementioned conditions being met. This also applies to holders of residence permits for research or scientific purposes50 if the envisaged activity is connected to the educational background.
The residence permit is limited to a maximum of three years. After three years, a settlement permit may be granted if the foreigner has successfully carried out the planned activity; the livelihood of the foreigner (and that of family members living with him or her in a family community and who the foreigner maintains) is secured by sufficient income; there are no opposing reasons of public safety or order, taking into account the severity or nature of violations of public safety or order or any threat presented by the foreigner; and taking into account the duration of the foreigner's previous stay and the existence of ties within the German territory.
The application for a highly skilled settlement permit must be lodged with the foreigners office responsible for the applicant's place of residence. According to Section 44 of the Ordinance Governing Residence, the administrative fee for the grant of a settlement permit to self-employed persons is €124.
ii Highly skilled migrants
When dealing with applications of highly qualified persons, the foreigners office does not require the consent of the labour authorities before granting the permit.51 Furthermore, such persons will also be given a permanent residence permit immediately, to facilitate planning and provide an incentive for establishment in Germany. This permit is not limited with regard to any specific employer or region; nor is it limited in time.
In comparison to many other countries, the definition of a highly skilled migrant in Germany is quite a narrow one. According to the legal definition of Section 18c(3) of the Residence Act, highly qualified persons include scientists with special theoretical knowledge, and teachers, professors or scientific assistants of high standard. As a matter of fact, these high standards and requirements can seldom be met.
As there is a special economic and social interest in staffing the top positions in the fields of business and science, the employment of highly qualified persons is possible without prior permission of the labour authorities; however, the requirements of the law concerning foreigners must be complied with. In particular, integration into the standard of living in Germany and living expenses must be assured without state subsidy. The foreigners office may ultimately grant a permanent residence permit but is not obliged to do so; in fact, the foreigner is only entitled to claim a decision without abuse of discretion.
The application for a highly skilled settlement permit must be lodged with the foreigners office responsible for the applicant's place or residence. According to Section 44 of the Ordinance Governing Residence, the administrative fee for the grant of a highly skilled settlement permit is €147.
Outlook and conclusions
Following its drafting by the President on 15 August 2019 and its promulgation in the Federal Law Gazette of 20 August 2019, the Immigration of Skilled Workers Act entered into force on 1 March 2020, with this significant delay intended to allow a lead time both for the authorities involved and for applicants and employers. In addition, we have seen the implementation and ministerial instructions that provide for further details to the authorities' ordinances and procedures. Nevertheless, and this partly due to the covid-19 pandemic and the related decrease of global mobility because of travel restrictions imposed and mostly still in place, many of the new provisions of the Immigration of Skilled Workers Act cannot yet be conclusively assessed.
Ultimately, the options for the successful recruitment and employment of foreign skilled workers are further, and significantly, influenced by not only the existing regulatory framework, but also the duration of the procedure in particular. With a duration of between several weeks and more than one year, depending on the workload of the relevant immigration authorities and foreign missions, this delay is undue – and not only in terms of international comparison. In addition, because of their current heavy workload, clerks often do not necessarily give the impression of welcoming applicants. Germany is now supposed to be a country of immigration, but the path for skilled workers is still long and probably still difficult. In the context of an international comparison of skilled workers, it will be crucial for Germany to provide the authorities with the technical and personnel resources that will enable it to survive the 'global race for talent'.
1 Gunther Mävers is a partner at michels.pmks Rechtsanwälte Partnerschaft mbB.
2 Section 26 Paragraph 2 Employment Regulation.
3 Ex Article 18 of the Treaty Establishing the European Community (TEC Treaty).
4 Ex Article 39 of the TEC Treaty.
7 See the website of the Federal Foreign Office for details: https://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/en/einreiseundaufenthalt/coronavirus.
8 Section 34(2) of the Employment Regulation.
9 Section 45 of the Ordinance Governing Residence.
10 Section 47(1)(8) of the Ordinance Governing Residence.
11 Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia.
12 Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (2019 C 384 I/01).
14 Section 6 of the Residence Act.
15 Section 9 of the Residence Act.
16 Section 9a of the Residence Act, and Section 4(1), Sentences 1 and 2 of the Residence Act.
17 Section 5 of the Employment Regulation.
18 Section 11 of the Employment Regulation.
19 Sections 2, 38 Employment Regulation.
20 Section 23 of the Employment Regulation.
21 Section 24 of the Employment Regulation.
22 Section 19, 19a of the Residence Act; Section 2 of the Employment Regulation.
24 Article 4 of the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons.
25 Directive 2014/66/EU; see Section I.i.
26 Section 47, Paragraph 1 of the Asylum Act.
27 Section 61, Paragraph 1 of the Asylum Act.
28 Section 61, Paragraph 2, Sentence 1 of the Asylum Act.
29 Section 60a of the Residence Act.
30 Cp. the following website for an overview: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/de/unternehmen/unterstuetzung/wichtige-ansprechpartner.
31 Section 81a, Paragraph 1 of the Residence Act.
32 Section 36, Paragraph 2, Sentence 2 of the Employment Regulation.
33 Section 47, Paragraph 1, No. 15 of the Ordinance Governing Residence.
34 Citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
35 For example, the applicant's residence will be deemed permitted up to the time of the decision by the foreigners office.
36 Section 47(1)(8) of the Ordinance Governing Residence.
37 Section 18b of the Residence Act.
38 €56,800 as of 1 January 2021.
39 €44,304 as of 1 January 2021.
40 Section 3 of the Employment Regulation.
41 Section 19(1) of the Employment Regulation.
42 Section 21 of the Employment Regulation.
43 Section 18b(1) of the Residence Act.
44 Section 10 of the Employment Regulation.
45 Section 26(1) of the Employment Regulation.
46 Section 19(2) of the Employment Regulation.
47 See, for example, Section 4(2) of the Residence Act.
48 See, for example, Sections 2 to 16 of the Employment Regulation.
49 Section 34(2) of the Employment Regulation.
50 Sections 18 and 20 of the Residence Act.
51 Section 18c(3) of the Residence Act.