On the 18th of November 2023, a series of rule changes came into place across Germany that made the EU Blue Card more accessible to skilled foreign workers.
This forms part of the Fachkräfteeinwanderungsgesetz, or Skilled Workers Immigration Act, and is the first section of reforms to come into full effect. For citizens of countries such as the USA, India, Australia, and the UK, obtaining a residence permit in the form of this Blue Card has suddenly become considerably easier.
We know that reliable information on such a new and complex topic can be really hard to find, especially when a language barrier is involved. We’ve saved you from trawling endlessly through the website of the Bundesregierung to find the latest information on the topic by summarising all the main points below. We’ll do our best to stay on top of the changes as they come to light. Sit tight and read on to discover all about how the updated Blue Card now works.
What is a Blue Card?
The Blaue Karte has existed since 2012 and gives talented foreign nationals from countries outside the EU several privileges and freedoms. The requirements are an academic degree and an employment contract from a German employer, with a salary greater than a pre-determined amount. It falls under Section 18b (2) of the Aufenthaltsgesetz (AufentG), or the Residency Act.
It has been amended periodically over the years, but these latest changes are far-reaching and particularly exciting.
Changes to the Blaue Karte income threshold
The main change to the Blaue Karte is that the yearly income threshold will be lowered. The new minimum gross salary is €39,682.80 for those working in so-called Engpassberufe (professions with a particular shortage of workers) or for applicants who graduated from university within the last 3 years, and €43,800 for all other workers. These new values are considerably lower than the previous thresholds, which at the start of 2023 was up to €58,400 a year.
In most cases, the Blue Card no longer requires approval from ZAV, the department of the Agentur für Arbeit that deals with foreign workers. Skilled workers with academic degrees and a salary of €43,800 a year or more no longer need federal employment agency approval to take up employment. However, those working in the shortage professions above, or who have graduated within the last three years and earn between €39,682.80 and €43,800 yearly will still have to obtain approval before starting work.
Look for skilled work outside your field of expertise, use vocational training
The reforms make life easier before and after you obtain a Blue Card.
From November 2023, vocational training is now more widely recognised and skilled workers with vocational training can take up any employment, not just a job tied to their field of expertise. The same applies to those with academic degrees: their right to work is now expanded across all fields of employment. You can apply for jobs in any sector, thus hopefully increasing your chances of finding a suitable placement.
Intra-European mobility for work purposes is now easier: for example, if you have a Blue Card issued by another EU member state, you can come to Germany for up to 90 days and engage in business activities related to your employment without requiring a visa or permission from the Bundesagentur für Arbeit.
What is a “shortage” profession and why are they important?
“Shortage” professions are jobs for which the German labour market has struggled to fill available positions. Germany has expanded the list of jobs that fall under this category: it now contains teaching professions, many jobs in healthcare (such as dentists, pharmacists and nurses) and childcare professions. Managers across a range of fields are also now included, such as in IT and communications technology, manufacturing and distribution. For a full list of job titles recognised as “shortage” professions, see this PDF (in German) from the government-supported website, Make It in Germany.
The most important thing to note here is that skilled workers can be employed in Engpassberufe regardless of whether they have an academic background in that particular field. This represents a widening of opportunities for foreign workers compared to the old laws.
If you’re still reading, then first of all, well done! You can now consider yourself an expert on the ins and outs of the German EU Blue Card! We hope this blog has somewhat helped to cut through the highly complex red tape of German bureaucracy without hurting your brain too much.
For help on relocating to Germany and obtaining a Blue Card, we recommend booking an online coaching session with one of our team. Clear and up-to-date guidance on the application process from wherever you are in the world.