Part 3-March Updates to the New Skilled Immigration Act

This week’s post rounds up our three-part series on the March changes to the new Skilled Immigration Act. The Act, passed in the summer of 2023, was designed to go in effect in three phases: November 2023, March 2024 and June 2024. The post will include updates for permanent residency and future family reunification applicants, additional information on changes for students and trainees and how the act should support the job market when there is pressing need for short term employment.

Permanent Residency Changes

In certain circumstances, there will also be changes to the permanent residency or settlements statutes (in German referred to as Niederlassungserlaubnis) for those who do not have a professional training or a university degree. These skilled workers can now apply for a permanent residency permit after 3 years rather than 5 years. EU Blue Card holders may be able to apply as soon as 21 months with a B1 level of German proficiency and after 27 months with a lower-level proficiency. There will be no changes for the two-year special provision for those who are considered qualified professionals.

Family Reunification

Positive changes will also take place under the umbrella of family reunification. For applicants, who receive their residence permit for the first time on or after 1 March 2024, and wish to be joined by a spouse or minor children, they will no longer be required provide proof of sufficient living space. These applicants will also be allowed to bring their parents to Germany and, if their spouse is also a permanent resident, this will apply to their parents-in-law as well.

Students & Trainees

The revised act has benefits for international students and internship applicants. The current law allows for students to work up to 120 full days or 240 half days. This will be increased to 140 full days or 280 half days, allowing students to work up to 20 hours a week, regardless of the salary and type of employment. Students will now also be able to begin a secondary employment right away even if they are not currently enrolled, but are actively engaged in applying for a university placement or other preparatory measures for university study.

Much like university students, those seeking additional job training will also see changes. The residency permit time frame and age limits have been amended and language requirements have been lowered for those traveling to Germany with the goal of pursuing additional professional or vocational training. The age limit will be raised to 35 (from 25). Residency permits will now have a maximum residency period of nine months, previously six months. During this time, permit holders may also work up to 20 hours weekly in terms of secondary employment and have a trial work period for up to two weeks. Applicants will now only need to demonstrate a B1 level of German language proficiency.

Short-term employment needs

The new immigration law is already set to help meet the high demand for bottleneck professionals. The law is also constructed in such a way that it may also address an immediate, short-term employment need for up to an 8-month period in a calendar year. The Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit) would set the need-based quota, which will vary across specific segments of an economic sector or professional field. The contract would need to meet industry standards and the employment terms need to include at least 30 hours of work per week. Employers would be required to pay all travel expenses.

Startup Grantees

In the future, some provisions of this act may enable startup grantees to seek residency permits.

Stay tuned here for more on how we are seeing the November and March changes implement with our clients and we will be sure to keep you updated in the coming months on the anticipated June changes.

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