Reform of the EU Blue Card in migration law – is the trend reversal in the shortage of skilled workers coming now?


published 26 October 2023 | reading time approx. 2 minutes

Currently, migration law is undergoing a transformation like no other area of German law. Now one of the key rules of skilled labour immigration is also being expanded. The legal requirements for academically skilled workers will be lowered by the new Blue Card (until now section 18b (2) of the German residence act (AufenthG), now section 18g AufenthG) as of 18 November 2023. Is this the turning point in the shortage of skilled workers? Find out what employers with an international team need to know in this article.


Why is the Blue Card so important?

The EU Blue Card is particularly desirable because it comes with a number of privileges that are unique to the blue card. These privileges run through the entire process of issuing a residence permit. Today, for example, the Federal Employment Agency does not have to approve a salary of 2/3 of the annual income threshold for the general pension insurance – unlike all other residence titles that permit gainful employment.
If the salary is at least 52 percent of the contribution assessment ceiling, the Blue Card can also be issued with the approval of the Federal Employment Agency, provided there is a shortage in an occupation (scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and academically comparable specialists in the field of IT). 
Furthermore, after two years a change of job no longer has to be approved by the foreigners authority (section 18b (2), sentence 4 AufenthG) and the settlement permit – for indefinite residence in Germany – can be applied for after four years, and not after five years at the earliest, as is otherwise the case. 

What has been the problem with the EU Blue Card so far?

Until now, the difficulty was that the hurdles for the academic education of the potential employee were very high. In practice, recognition is done with the help of the online database Anabin, which is operated by the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs. The aim of the query is to find out whether the foreign university degree can be equated with a German university degree. The query is complicated – especially if the degree was not acquired in an English-speaking country – and even the authorities are not always sure how to handle it. However, many foreign universities are not listed in Anabin or are not recognised, so the only alternative is to go through the lengthy process of evaluating certificates. 

What will change now?

Basically, nothing will change in the system of recognising university degrees, there will just be a backdoor. IT professionals who do not have a university degree but can demonstrate at least three years of comparable professional experience will also have the opportunity to obtain a Blue Card. Up to now, the possibilities under residence law for this group of persons were limited to section 19c (1) AufenthG in conjunction with Section 6 of the Employment Ordinance (BeschV).
Furthermore, the salary limits will be lowered in relation to the contribution assessment ceiling of the general pension insurance. In future, this will no longer be 66 percent but 50 percent, and in the case of shortage occupations only 45.3 percent instead of 52 percent will be required. This will make it easier for newcomers to the labour market in particular, because usually they cannot draw such a high salary at the beginning of their career.
In addition, the shortage occupations will be expanded to include:
  • Managers and professionals in the provision of services in the field of IT;
  • Managers in the provision of specialised services, such as childcare or healthcare;
  • veterinarians and dentists;
  • pharmacists;
  • Academic and comparable nursing and midwifery professionals;
  • and many more.
In addition, there are many other changes, such as family reunification and the short- and long-term mobility within the European Union of Blue Card holders.

What changes in the law await us in the new year 2024?

In particular, the opportunity card, which was discussed as part of the resolution on the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, awaits us in June 2024. This will create a points-based residence title limited to one year for the purpose of job-seeking, which will allow employment on a part-time basis. What this residence title has in store for legal practice is worth a separate article.
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