GERMANY – Introduction of Blue Card; Changes to Student Work Permissions; Jobseeker Permit Introduced; End of Indefinite Permit Privilege for Senior Managers
Germany has announced that it will begin accepting Blue Card applications from 2 August 2012, and has also made other changes to immigration processes, including increasing the number of hours students are permitted tow rok without obtaining additional work permits, and closing the work permit exemption route for highly skilled individuals or senior managers.
Blue Card (Blaue Karte)
The Blue Card, brought in by Council Directive 2009/50/EC, is a measure brought in to attract highly skilled individuals into the EU. The Blue Card either has already been or will be implemented in all EU member states other than Denmark, the UK and Ireland (which have all opted out). Blue Cards offer some benefits over standard work authorisation applications.
Blue Card Benefits
- Blue Cards can be issued for an initial period of up to four years, provided the employment contract is valid for this period
- After the first two years, the Blue Card holder may change employer within the original host country without needing to seek prior authorisation, and need only notify the authorities;
- Improved mobility across the EU – after a minimum period of 18 months in the first host country (the country which granted the Blue Card), Blue Card holders will have the right to work as highly skilled employees in another EU member state – subject to that state’s approval;
- The Blue Card will lead to permanent residency (EC long-term resident status) after five years, provided the Blue Card holder has spent the two years immediately prior to the application continuously residing in one EU member state (which would be the state where the permanent residency application would be submitted);
- If the Blue Card holder has children aged 17, they will qualify more easily as dependents than 17 year old children of standard residence permit holders
- Adult dependents (spouses) of a Blue Card holder should be granted work permission.
Blue Card Qualifying Criteria
Blue card applicants must meet certain qualifying criteria, as follows:
- The applicant must have a valid employment offer or contact for at least one year (although this criterion is not specifically stated in the German legislation; it is noted in the EU directive);
- The applicant must hold higher professional or five years of high level professional, relevant work experience plus any specific qualifications needed for the specific profession;
- Salary must be at least 2/3 (two thirds) of the German pension fund contribution ceiling ("Beitragsbemessungsgrenze der deutschen Rentenversicherung"), which changes slightly every year. This currently amounts to EUR44,760 for the western part of Germany.
Blue Card Notes
It is important to note that the Blue Card is not yet a “magic bullet”. Processing time for the Blue Card in Germany is the same as for the electronic residence permit card ("eAT") and amounts to 5-8 weeks. Additionally, since the minimum salary level is subject to annual change, note that Blue Cards may be invalidated if the contribution ceiling is raised, but the card holder’s salary remains the same and falls under the new limit.
The card also loses its validity if the salary is lowered and falls under the contribution ceiling.
It is also important to note that, although the Blue Card is being presented as a solution to the problem of highly skilled applicants wanting work permission throughout the EU rather than just for one member state, it does not automatically grant permission in other member states. If the holder wishes to move country, he/she must apply for additional approval.
Student Working Hours
The German authorities have also increased the number of hours a student visa holder may work without needing t0 apply for additional work permission. Previously, this was set at 90 full says (pr 180 half days) per year, but has now been increased, with effect from 2 August, to 120 full days or 240 half days per year.
Students wishing to work more days than this must apply for work permission, which will only be granted if the job is directly connected with the subject the applicant is studying and a requirement for the studies, for example an internship.
In an additional bid to attract highly qualified individuals, Germany has introduced a new permit category, for highly qualified jobseekers: Aufenthaltstitel zur Arbeitsplatzsuche für qualifizierte Fachkräfte.
This permit can be granted for up to six months for people who have a university degree and who can finance their stay in Germany for that period. This residence permit does not allow work; it is merely given for people to apply for a job or to evaluate the German market and conditions in case they want to start a business. Once the permit holder has found a job or made the decision to establish a business, he/she must transform the residence permit into a regular one for employment purposes.
The jobseeker permit cannot be extended after the initial six months' period.
Note also that an existing German residence permit cannot be converted into a jobseeker permit.
End of Indefinite Permit Privilege for Senior Managers
Effective 2 August 2012, § 19, Abs. 2, Nr. 3 of the German immigration law has been deleted. This sub- paragraph applied to specialists and employees in leading positions with specialised work experience and allowed such individuals to obtain an indefinite German residence & work permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis) from first entry to Germany, without the need to obtain a standard residence permit for employment purposes initially. This is no longer possible.
Notification of End of Employment
Finally, and also effective 2 August 2012, employees are now formally required to notify the immigration office if they lose their job in Germany. If individuals can demonstrate that they can support themselves and any dependents financially, and are highly qualified and likely to be able to find a new job, the immigration office is likely to allow them a grace period to remain in Germany and search for new employment. However, the immigration office will then review each case on its own merits.
- Note the introduction of the Blue Card route and consider using this route for upcoming transfers to Germany
- Note that students are now permitted to work more hours/year than previously
- Note that a jobseeker permit has been introduced and will be valid for up to six months for new entrants to Germany
- Note that the section of German legislation relating to indefinite work and residence permits for senior managers or highly qualified applicants has been deleted, and that such applications will no longer be accepted
- Ensure that your offices know that employees who are made redundant or lose their jobs in Germany are now formally required to notify the immigration office.