Both Chambers of the German Parliament have passed a Bill which will come into force on 1 August 2012, implementing the provisions of the EU’s Directive for Highly Skilled Migrants. This EU Directive contains the terms and conditions under which citizens of non- EU Member States are entitled to enter and reside in the EU in order to exercise a highly skilled occupation. By utilising the scope of this Directive, the new German legislation makes it easier for highly-skilled workers to live and work in Germany in the long term.  

The key feature of the Bill is the so-called EU Blue Card. In order to qualify for a Blue Card, migrants must have a university degree as well as an employment contract stipulating a gross annual salary of at least €44,800. Priority reviews (assessing whether preferential applicants are available) as well as reviews of comparable working conditions by the German Employment Authorities will no longer be required in the future, which should significantly speed up the processing of permit applications. In the case of highly-skilled workers in occupations with shortages of skilled labour, the required gross annual salary will be €34,944. This is particularly relevant for engineers, professionals in the field of information and communications technology and medical doctors. A priority review will also no longer be necessary in such cases, but working conditions will be reviewed to ensure they are comparable to those of other employees. If a Blue Card holder is still employed after three years, a settlement permit will be issued. A settlement permit may be issued after only two years if the Blue Card holder can provide evidence that they possess the necessary German language skills.  

In addition to implementing the EU Directive, prior restrictions will also be eased in the future. Foreign students studying at German universities will be permitted to work for 120 full days or 240 half days alongside their course of study. In the past, they were only permitted to work 90 full days or 180 half days. University graduates will be entitled to a six-month residence permit if they can secure their livelihood during this time period. Furthermore, foreign graduates of German universities will have 18 months instead of 12 months to find a job that corresponds to their academic qualifications and will be permitted to work without restrictions during this period.