Immigration laws in Germany are constantly evolving and adapting to the changing needs and challenges of the country and its immigrants.
Germany is one of the most popular destinations for immigrants from all over the world. According to the Federal Statistical Office, about 11.2 million people with a foreign background lived in Germany in 2020, accounting for 13.7% of the total population. However, immigration to Germany is not always easy, as some different laws and regulations apply depending on the immigrants’ origin, qualifications, and purpose.
We will provide an overview of the main immigration laws in Germany and how they are expected to change in 2023. We will focus on the immigration of skilled workers, citizenship, and asylum laws.
Immigration of Skilled Workers to Germany
Germany has a high demand for skilled workers in various fields, such as IT, engineering, health care, and crafts. To attract more qualified professionals from non-EU countries, Germany has introduced several reforms in recent years to facilitate and speed up the immigration process.
The Skilled Workers Immigration Act, which came into force in March 2020, simplified the recognition of foreign qualifications, abolished the priority check for EU citizens, and expanded the possibilities for job seekers to enter Germany. The EU Blue Card also offers a fast-track option for highly qualified specialists with a university degree and a minimum salary.
However, the German government plans to introduce further changes in 2023 to make Germany even more attractive for skilled workers worldwide. A new law is expected to be passed by the German parliament at the beginning of 2023, based on the critical points decided by the federal government in November 2022.
The new law aims to create the “most modern immigration law” in Europe, according to Labour Minister Hubertus Heil. It will have three pillars: skilled labor, experience, and potential.
The skilled labor pillar will continue to be based on the EU Blue Card and the Skilled Workers Immigration Act but with some modifications. For example, the salary thresholds for the EU Blue Card will be lowered, and new regulations will make studies or vocational training in Germany more attractive.
The experience pillar will enable skilled workers to immigrate even if their professional qualification has not been formally recognized beforehand. The prerequisites include an employment contract and at least two years of professional experience.
The potential pillar will target people who still need a work contract in Germany but have a particular potential to contribute to the German labor market. The core element will be a new opportunity card, which will be granted based on a points system considering various criteria such as language skills and professional experience.
In addition to easing the conditions for the immigration of skilled workers, the German government also wants to promote Germany as a modern and attractive country for immigration worldwide. To this end, it plans to launch information campaigns and cooperation projects with countries of origin and international organizations.
Citizenship Law Changes
Germany’s citizenship law is also set to undergo significant changes in 2023. The government has proposed a new citizenship bill to simplify the citizenship process and promote a more inclusive society.
One of the fundamental changes in the proposed bill is the reduction of the residency requirement for naturalization. Instead of the current eight-year minimum stay in Germany, the proposed legislation suggests that five years of residency will suffice to qualify for citizenship. This reduction enables eligible residents to become citizens sooner, fostering a sense of belonging and integration. Furthermore, the proposed bill should address the citizenship rights of children born to foreign parents in Germany.
Under the current circumstances, such children are granted German citizenship if at least one parent resided in Germany for eight years before birth. This situation looks to change as the new bill aims to reduce this requirement to five years. This shift acknowledges the potential difficulties children born and raised in Germany face but does not automatically acquire German citizenship due to the protracted residency prerequisite.
Another fundamental change in the proposed bill is the acceptance of multiple citizenships. Under the current law, applicants must give up their original citizenship when obtaining a German passport unless they have EU or Swiss citizenship or cannot renounce their previous nationality due to legal or practical obstacles.
This requirement often poses a dilemma for immigrants with strong ties to their countries of origin who do not want to lose their cultural identity or inheritance rights. The new bill intends to abolish this requirement and allow applicants to retain their original citizenship when becoming German citizens.
This change is particularly significant for immigrants who came to Germany planning to return to their home countries, allowing them to receive German citizenship without relinquishing their ties to their countries of origin.
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that under the proposed changes, children who acquire German citizenship through this revised provision will also retain their parents’ citizenship.
Asylum Law Changes
Germany has also been a significant destination for asylum seekers and refugees fleeing war, persecution, and violence in their home countries. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), Germany received about 122,000 asylum applications in 2020, making it the second-largest recipient of asylum seekers in the EU after France. However, not all asylum seekers are granted protection status in under the immigration laws in Germany, and many face uncertainty and deportation.
To address this issue, Germany has implemented a new law for asylum seekers that came into force on 1 January 2023. The law is called the “Opportunity Residence Act,” and it aims to give a chance of permanent residence to tolerated persons living in Germany for more than five years. Accepted persons have not been granted asylum or refugee status but cannot be deported for various reasons, such as lack of travel documents, health problems, or humanitarian grounds.
The new law stipulates that tolerated persons who fulfill specific criteria can apply for a residence permit valid for two years and extended indefinitely if they continue to meet the requirements. The criteria include the following:
- Having a regular income that covers their living expenses
- Having sufficient knowledge of the German language
- Having no criminal record
- Cooperating with the authorities regarding their identity and nationality
- Respecting the constitutional order and values of Germany
The new law also applies to family members of tolerated persons who live with them in Germany. However, not all accepted persons will benefit from the new law, as some groups are excluded from it, such as:
- Persons who have committed serious crimes or pose a security threat
- Persons who have misled the authorities about their identity or nationality
- Persons who have traveled abroad without permission
- Persons who have received social benefits within the last two years
The new law is expected to provide more legal certainty and integration opportunities for tolerated persons living in Germany for a long time and establish social and economic ties with the country.
The year 2023 will bring some significant changes that will affect different groups of immigrants, such as skilled workers, naturalized citizens, children born in Germany, and asylum seekers. These changes aim to make Germany more attractive and inclusive for immigrants contributing to its economy, society, and culture.
Suppose you are interested in immigrating to Germany or obtaining German citizenship. In that case, you should consult an immigration lawyer who can advise you on your eligibility and guide you through the process.