Points system for skilled worker immigration

27 December, 2023

Model countries like Canada and Australia have long had a points system to control needed and wanted immigration. The federal government has now set up such a system itself. Daniel Thym explains how this should be assessed .

In the end it happened quickly. In June, the Bundestag passed a reform of skilled worker immigration, the last changes to which were only published two days before the vote. In contrast to the heating law, this haste led to little debate. The Federal Council approved the law on July 7th . The new rules force a system change that is necessary to achieve more immigration of skilled workers, but will still cause some discussion in the coming months and years.

At first glance, the focus of the new regulation is a points system that determines with mathematical precision who is allowed to enter the country to look for a job – and who is not. Such a points system has been a desired goal of German migration policy for 20 years because it brings us closer to classic immigration countries such as Canada or Australia. This is now being realized. However, a look behind the scenes of the points system shows that the comparison with Canada and Australia is flawed.

Central innovation: waiver of equivalent training .
Highly qualified people with a foreign university degree that meets German standards are already entitled to residency via the so-called “ EU Blue Card ”. The prerequisite is that the people have a job offer or an employment contract with a minimum salary of just under 58,000 euros (in the future 44,000 euros).

Foreign graduates of German universities are now also allowed to stay legally in the country for 18 months in order to secure a job and thus a residence permit.

Other skilled workers were previously only allowed to enter the country without a job offer or employment contract if they had acquired a university or professional qualification abroad that was equivalent to German standards. However, very few can overcome this hurdle.

The magic six points

This is exactly where the federal government comes into play. In the future, it will forego formal equivalence and measure qualifications using other indicators.

Only those who have a university degree or vocational training will be allowed into the country, even if these differ from German requirements. This opens up a potentially huge reservoir. In emerging countries such as Egypt or Brazil , many people study without being able to find a place on the job market. There are also vocational training courses worldwide. You just have to search the Internet for “professional training two years” and a country to learn something about the variety of offers (e.g. Venezuela , Uganda , Cambodia ).

Secondly, you need six points based on a catalog that was expanded during the legislative process so that more people achieve the minimum number of points. Those who are young, speak German properly and have worked with appropriate qualifications after studying or training have particularly good chances. This is potentially a wide range of applications.

Not everyone with a minimum score is allowed to enter
Some applicants could experience a surprise at the end of the process. Not everyone who achieves the six minimum points automatically receives an entry visa. The consulates decide on this at their discretion. The exercise of this is based on Section 18 Paragraph 1 of the Residence Act (AufenthG), which in future refers to economic interests, the labor market situation, social integration and public safety.

In the event of a flood of applications, the federal government is keeping another loophole open. Maximum numerical quotas can be introduced at any time by means of a legal regulation, although according to the wording of the law these may not differentiate according to country or qualifications. The law is silent on who is allowed to enter as a priority in the event of such a quota and who is not. In case of doubt, the Berlin Administrative Court (VG), which is responsible for all lawsuits against the Foreign Office, must decide.

Vague concept of “qualification-appropriate” experience
It also remains unclear how the authorities will assess professional experience that satisfies qualifications: Is self-disclosure sufficient? What exactly does qualified mean? In addition, the university or professional qualifications must first be confirmed by a German authority in accordance with the standards of the country of origin. The federal legislature is keeping quiet about which position this should be. The states should determine this, for example in the form of the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) at the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs.

These administrative uncertainties could prove to be the Achilles heel of the reform even if one recognizes that there are rarely simple solutions in German federalism. It would be embarrassing for “Germany as a location” if the government prominently sets up a points system, but then the processing takes forever or works poorly. In the medium term, the CDU/CSU proposal to establish a federal immigration agency (“work and stay” agency) should therefore be seriously examined. This is exactly what the traffic light government now wants to do.

The real gem – hidden in the employment regulations

The limited scope of application is the key difference between the German points system and those from Canada and Australia. The German points system only applies to those who do not yet have an employment contract. The entry visa is officially called “Chance Card”, which linguistically refers to the successful job search. In order to prevent “immigration into the social systems”, you have to provide funds and do not receive any citizen’s money.

You generally have 18 months to look for work, during which you can do small part-time jobs. You then have to find an appropriate job for which you could have entered the country directly. Helping activities are not enough.

The federal government is also creating a new entry option in the Employment Ordinance (BeschV) that is independent of the points system but follows a similar logic. In the future, Section 6 of the BeschV will apply to everyone who has a university or vocational qualification regardless of German standards and who finds a job in this country with an annual salary of just over €40,000 in a sector in which they have already worked for two years abroad. Knowledge of German and a connection between training and professional activity are not necessary, but could be taken into account when making discretionary decisions.

This hidden access route could prove to be much more important than the points system. Foreign education, professional experience and a German employment contract will be sufficient for immigration in the future. This will definitely be in demand in practice.

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