For members


‘Appointments in English’: How Germany wants to attract talent from abroad

Germany's Free Democrats have put forward a programme to help encourage immigration and attract skilled workers. Among the proposals is for English to be introduced as an official language in German local government authorities.

'Appointments in English': How Germany wants to attract talent from abroad
People stand in front of Berlin's Office for Immigration in May 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Britta Pedersen

What’s happening?

The business-friendly FDP, which is part of the ruling coalition along with the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Greens, laid out plans this week on how they think Germany could become more immigration friendly to attract skilled workers.

“We see the economic and social challenges and that is why our country must have enough skilled workers to face these challenges,” said Education Minister Bettina Stark-Watzinger, who is also an FDP Executive Committee member.

“There is a lack of IT workers, there is a lack of ‘techies’. But there is also a shortage of care workers and a shortage of truck drivers. We are talking about a whole range here.

“So we have to fundamentally address immigration law.”

READ ALSO: Germany must remove hurdles for foreign skilled workers, says minister

As part of their proposals, the FDP said English should be introduced as an additional administrative language among German authorities.

Many people who come to Germany from abroad struggle when attending official appointments at places like the Ausländerbehörde (immigration office) because – in the vast majority of times – the only language spoken is German. People are required to bring a translator with them to appointments if they can’t speak German well enough.

A staff member at a Hamburg immigration office helps a member of the public.

A staff member at a Hamburg immigration office helps a member of the public. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Jonas Walzberg

The proposal from the FDP is part of a 10-point programme to facilitate the immigration of skilled workers, which the party presented in Berlin on Monday. The Liberals want to use the plan to push for a reform of immigration law in the coalition government. 

A lack of German language skills is “a very big hurdle” in recruiting urgently needed skilled workers, said Stark-Watzinger.

The minister proposed that Germany “introduce English as a second language in administration so that those who come to us can access it”.

Stark-Watzinger said that having all staff in authorities – known as Behörden in Germany – speak fluent English could not be implemented immediately. But it’s about “making the initial start”, she said.

Officials who already speak English could be specifically deployed to assist people from abroad, the minister said. For others, there could be opportunities for language training. 

“The signal must be: we are a country of immigration,” said Stark-Watzinger. “We want that. We want diversity.”

Bettina Stark-Watzinger of the FDP, gives an interview.

Bettina Stark-Watzinger of the FDP, gives an interview. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Carsten Koall

Germany is ‘country of immigration’

In the position paper, the FDP called for a fundamental overhaul of immigration policy to combat the shortage of skilled workers in many economic sectors.

“Labour and innovation from abroad will be indispensable for our country to successfully grow out of the current crises and to permanently meet the needs of our labour market,” it said.

“As a country of immigration, Germany is in a global competition for qualified workers, whom we urgently need in view of our demographic development and to secure our prosperity – especially with a view to the stability of our social systems, in particular the pension system.”

This makes it all the more important to shape immigration “not in a short-sighted and ideological way, but with foresight and realism”.

The party estimates the need for immigration into the German labour market at more than 400,000 people per year – and that will likely increase.

To make this possible, the existing European Blue Card scheme for the immigration of skilled workers should be expanded to include non-academic professions, the party proposes.

Furthermore, there should be a “Chancenkarte” or opportunity card to facilitate access to the German labour market for foreign workers on the basis of a points system.

The FDP’s Johannes Vogel, who also worked on the plan, tweeted: “A modern immigration policy with a real points system based on the Canadian model, better Blue Card, English as a second official language in contact with skilled workers, faster visas and recognition of degrees and more.”

READ ALSO: What Germany’s plans for a points-based system means for foreigners

Get rid of hurdles 

The FDP also says that more should be done to get rid of hurdles for people coming from abroad. 

Simpler recognition of foreign educational and professional qualifications is a “special priority”, according to the party. Visa procedures are to be accelerated and digitalised to a greater extent, too.

“Our message to skilled workers abroad must be that controlled immigration to our country is desired and welcome,” the proposal states.

The party also wants to see that the reform of German citizenship laws, which would allow non-EU nationals to hold more than one nationality, “be tackled quickly”.

READ ALSO: INTERVIEW: Changing German citizenship laws is a priority’

Here’s a summary of the most important points:

  • Further development of immigration law, including the introduction of an ‘opportunity card’ based on a points system
  • Digitise the issuing of visas
  • Remove obstacles for the recognition of professional and educational qualifications and extend the Blue Card to non-academic professions
  • Facilitate the transition from the asylum procedure to regular immigration into the labour market
  • Reduce bureaucracy in labour migration and improve networking between authorities
  • Enable transnational labour migration in practice
  • Promote immigration opportunities to Germany locally
  • Establish English as an additional administrative language
  • Modernise citizenship law
  • Coherent immigration law from a single source

In the resolution, the FDP also welcomes steps already taken by the coalition “to make working in Germany much more attractive for talented people from abroad”, such as the Skilled Workers Immigration Act, which was passed by the previous government,

The party also commends the facilitation of family reunification and the planned right of residence for people with long-term ‘tolerated stay’ permits.

Stark-Watzinger said skilled workers are in demand internationally. “We (Germany) are in competition with other countries, so the hurdles to come to us must be very low,” she said.

READ ALSO: ‘I finally feel at home’: How Germany’s planned changes to citizenship laws affect foreigners

As The Local has been reporting, German government ministers are easing red tape so that private companies can employ foreign workers during the current aviation staffing crisis that is causing disruption for travellers.

Ministers are also looking at how they can use this strategy in other sectors that are worker-starved, including hospitality. 

READ ALSO: Germany looks to foreign workers to ease ‘dramatic’ worker shortage

Other politicians are also pushing for change. Brandenburg’s state premier Dietmar Woidke (SPD) said he also saw a need for action.

“A lack of skilled workers is the greatest risk to good economic development throughout Germany,” Woidke told the Handelsblatt.

Woidke said the current immigration law was “no longer up to date”. But he said the government was currently working on improving the right of residence to allow well-integrated foreigners the right to stay. “I welcome these plans, from which Brandenburg will then also benefit,” said the head of government.

Member comments

  1. If Germany is serious about immigration and being economically competitive then it really does need to lower the barriers to gaining, not just dual citizenship, but citizenship per se. For example: demanding a language level of B1 is not necessary when the world speaks English

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For members


EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

Many Brits may be considering spending time in Germany or even moving for work or to study. Here's a look at the rules.

EXPLAINED: How can Brits visit or move to Germany post-Brexit?

The Brexit transition period ended on January 1st 2021, but it’s been a turbulent few years with Covid-related restrictions, which mean many people may not have travelled abroad since then. Here’s what you should know about the rules for travelling and moving to Germany post-Brexit. 

Can I visit Germany from the UK on holiday?

Absolutely. But you do have to stick to certain rules on how long you can stay in Germany (and other EU countries) without a visa.

“British citizens do not require a visa for the Schengen Member States, if the duration of their stay does not exceed 90 days within any 180-day period,” says the German Missions consular service in the UK. 

You can find a full explanation of the 90-day rule from our sister site, The Local France, HERE, along with the Schengen calculator that allows you to work out your allowance.

READ ALSO: Passport scans and €7 fees: What will change for EU travel in 2022 and 2023

Note that if you were living in Germany before January 1st 2021, different rules apply. People in this scenario should have received a residence permit – known as the Aufenthaltstitel-GB – from the German authorities, which proves their right to remain in Germany with the same rights as they had before Brexit. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: How can I re-enter Germany without my post-Brexit residence card?

Can I move to Germany from the UK after the Brexit transition period?

Yes. But if you are coming to Germany to live and work, you will need to apply for the right documents, like other so-called ‘third country nationals’. All foreigners from outside the EU who want to to stay in Germany for more than three months have to get a residence permit (Aufenthaltstitel). 

As we touched on above, citizens from some countries (including the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, Israel, New Zealand and Switzerland) are allowed entry into Germany without a visa and can apply for a residence permit while in the country. You can contact the Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) in your area to find out how to get a residence permit.

You’ll need various official documents, such as a valid passport, proof of health insurance and proof that you can support yourself. You usually receive your residence permit as a sticker in your passport.

Passengers wait at Hamburg airport.

Passengers at Hamburg airport. Brits coming to Germany have more things to consider after Brexit. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Markus Scholz

Germany has a well-documented skilled worker shortage at the moment so there are work permit options to consider that may suit your circumstances. 

For the work visa for qualified professionals, for instance, your qualifications have to be either recognised in Germany or comparable to those from a German higher education facility. 

You may also be able to get an EU Blue Card. This residence permit is aimed at attracting and enabling highly qualified third-country nationals to live in the EU. 

It comes with benefits, including the right to to request and bring family members to the country, and shortcuts for applying for permanent residency. 

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How German citizenship differs from permanent residency

When applying for a Blue Card in Germany this year, you have to earn a minimum gross salary (before tax) of €56,400 – down from €56,800 in 2021. 

In so-called shortage occupations (Mangelberufe), where there is a high number of unfilled positions, the minimum gross salary is €43,992 – down from €44,304 in 2021.

Shortage occupations include employees in the sectors of mathematics, IT, natural sciences, engineering and medicine.

If you want to come to Germany from the UK to study then you also need to apply for a visa. For this you may need proof of acceptance to the university or higher education institution of your choice and possibly proof of your German language skills.

Check out the useful government website Make it in Germany for more detailed information, as well as the German Missions in the UK site, which has lots of info on travel after Brexit, and on visas.  

What else should I know?

The German government plans to reform the immigration system, although it’s not clear at this stage when this will happen. 

It will move to a points-based system, inspired by countries like Canada, where foreigners will have to score above a certain threshold of points to get a residence or work permit.

This scoring system will be set by the government, but it will include factors like language skills, family connections to the country, specific qualifications or work-related skills, or the amount of money in your bank account.

Keep an eye on The Local’s home page for updates on the changes to immigration laws. 

Have you moved to Germany – or are thinking about moving – after the Brexit transition period and want to share your experiences? Please get in touch by emailing [email protected]