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Newsletter No. 1/2019: EU Blue Card
Dear Reader,
 
                                                                    

Welcome to this new issue of the Make it in Germany newsletter. Keep up to date with the key developments in the field of immigration of skilled workers and integration in Germany. Your Make it in Germany team wishes you an enjoyable read!
This edition contains:  
  • In the spotlight: The EU Blue Card in Germany
  • Figure of the month: Issuing of EU Blue Cards in occupations where there is a skills shortage
  • Updates on Make it in Germany:
    • Discover Germany
    • Partner network
  • Guest commentary: Experiences at the immigration authority in Munich

In the spotlight

The EU Blue Card in Germany – rising numbers and diverse opportunities

EU Blue Card: popular residence permit among academic staff

On 1 August 2012, the Federal Government introduced the EU Blue Card as the residence permit for highly qualified professionals from third countries wishing to live and work in Germany. The Blue Card is issued in line with Section 19a Residence Act (AufenthG), which is based on the Highly Qualified Employment Directive of the European Union[1]. Applications for an EU Blue Card can only be granted if the applicant has a confirmed job offer for a post that carries a certain minimum salary or more.

Since the EU Blue Card came into force in Germany, the number of Cards issued has risen year-on-year (see graph below). In 2017 alone, 21,727 Blue Cards were issued – up 25% on the previous year (2016: 17,362). Blue Cards are not only issued for qualified professionals wishing to live and work in Germany, but also for persons from third countries who are already living here. For example, graduates from German universities originating from third countries and wanting to work in Germany can apply for the EU Blue Card in order to change their status. In 2017, around two thirds of EU Blue Cards were issued to persons from third countries already living in Germany. Currently, around 24% of EU Blue Card holders come from India[2]. Other countries from which large numbers of Blue Card holders originate are China, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the USA.
Germany issues the largest share of EU Blue Cards among countries in the European Union – some 84%.[3] One reason is that there are no other national immigration programmes in Germany that compete with the EU Blue Card. Another reason is Germany's prospering labour market and the lower income thresholds for which the Card is granted in occupations where there is a skills shortage.[4]
How the EU Blue Card works in Germany

The EU Blue Card scheme is aimed at persons from third countries with particular qualifications that migrate to Germany to take up gainful employment. In order to be issued with an EU Blue Card, applicants must:
  • have a qualification from a German higher education institute or a foreign higher education qualification that is recognised in Germany or is comparable with a German qualification and
  • who have a confirmed job offer for a post matching their qualification/s with a gross annual salary of at least 53,600 euros (threshold for 2019).

Graduate professionals who work in subject areas linked to occupations where there are skills shortages, such as science, technology, information technology and mathematics, as well as medical doctors, are also eligible to apply for an EU Blue card of they earn as much as domestic employees in comparable posts. The minimum gross salary that must be earned by these staff currently sits at 41,808 euros (threshold for 2019). In these cases, approval must be obtained from the Federal Employment Agency (BA – Bundesagentur für Arbeit). However, if the higher education degree was acquired in Germany, no such approval is required.

The EU Blue Card is initially issued for a limited period of a maximum of four years. If the duration of the employment contract is less than four years, the EU Blue Card is issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months. After it has expired, the EU Blue Card can under certain conditions be extended or can be converted into a permanent settlement permit, allowing the bearer to reside in Germany indefinitely.

Figure of the month

11,111 persons
were issued with a Blue Card in order to practice an occupation in which there is a skills shortage in 2017.


Source: Central Register of Foreigners (AZR, 2018)
 

EU Blue Card offers long-term perspectives

The EU Blue Card is designed to promote and facilitate permanent immigration of highly qualified professionals from third countries, especially those in occupations with a skills shortage. The criteria for the issuing of EU Blue Cards are clearly defined and can be understood both by those interested in migrating to Germany and by employers. In this way, the EU Blue Card provides planning security and legal entitlements for both sides.[5]

One of the advantages of the EU Blue Card is that holders are able to gain a long-term perspective for staying in Germany much earlier than persons in other migrant categories. After just 33 months, they are eligible to apply for a permanent settlement permit if they have been in skilled employment for the length of this period. Applicants able to prove German language skills of B1 level or higher can apply even earlier, after 21 months. In 2017 alone, around 11,000 permanent settlement permits were issued. The largest proportion of these was granted for persons who had previously been EU Blue Card holders (7,809 persons).

Family reunions are also made easier for Blue Card holders. For example, spouses coming to join their husbands or wives who are in Germany are entitled to a residence permit without having to prove their German language skills. In addition, they immediately have unrestricted access to the German labour market.


Find out more about possibilities for obtaining the EU Blue Card on Make it in Germany:

Employment visa

Permanent settlement permit

Family reunification


Sources: 

[1]Directive 2009/50/EC on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment: www.eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/ALL/?uri=celex%3A32009L0050 (15 October 2018)

[2] In total, some 43,178 persons from third countries were living in Germany on an EU Blue Card as of 31 March 2018. Source: Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF)/migration monitoring, 2018

[3] BAMF / Eurostat 2018: www.bamf.de/DE/Infothek/Statistiken/BlaueKarteEU/blaue-karte-eu-node.html

[4] Ifo Schnelldienst 6/2018.

[5] BAMF


Updates on Make it in Germany

New section "Discover Germany"   

The new section “Discover Germany” brings together a summary of information on government, the economy, society, the situation on the labour market for qualified employment, and on immigration. Here you will find facts, official statistics, graphs and further information about Germany. Read more

Make it in Germany’s network of partners

Make it in Germany also has a strong partner network. The new section on partners and important websites provides an overview of cooperation partners and supporters of Make it in Germany, their responsibilities and services, as well as other important websites. Read more.

Guest article 

German administration of the EU Blue Card – experiences at the immigration authority in Munich

A current report from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) shows that the EU Blue Card has become an attractive residence permit for immigrants from third countries. This residence permit has already enabled many highly qualified professionals from abroad to take up employment in Germany. In order to support the rapidly growing influx of migrants, many immigration authorities in Germany's major cities have established service centres for qualified professionals from abroad which are responsible for issuing residence permits – especially for posts in highly qualified employment. The city of Munich, for example, has set up the Service-Center für internationale Fach- und Führungskräfte (Service Center for international qualified professionals and managers) as a department of the Munich immigration authority, which started operating on 1 October 2013. Sabine Ufholz, a member of staff from the Service Center’s division for immigration affairs, has talked to us about her experience issuing the EU Blue Card.

1. How many EU Blue Cards were issued by the Munich immigration authority in 2017? What countries did the applicants originate from (5 largest groups) – and what professions did they work in?

The City of Munich issued a total of 2,169 EU Blue Cards in 2017. Some 1,616 of these were for persons in occupations where there is a skills shortage, and 553 EU Blue Cards were issued based on a standard salary. In the same period, extensions were granted for 580 EU Blue cards in occupations facing skills shortages, and 265 in regular occupations.

The 5 largest groups of applicants came from India, China, Russia, the USA and Ukraine. The number one professional field was IT.

2. According to a report, many EU Blue Card holders are already living in Germany when they file their application. What is your experience in Munich?

In our experience in Munich, most EU Blue Card holders file their applications from abroad. Although Munich has several universities whose graduates from third countries are often recruited as highly qualified personnel when they finish, the number of highly qualified professionals coming to Munich from abroad to take up employment here speaks for itself.
In 2017 alone, the Munich Service Center was processing a total of 4,107 visa applications. Of these, 1,061 were EU Blue Cards, 1,393 were applications for family reunions, and 1,615 were applications to take up qualified employment under Section 18 Residence Act (AufenthG) or in order to look for work.

3. How does the procedure for issuing EU Blue Cards work in Munich? What authorities are normally involved in this process?

The applications of highly qualified professionals coming to Germany for the first time undergo preliminary examination at the diplomatic missions abroad. In the case of occupations where there is a skills shortage and with a lower level of remuneration, the Federal Employment Agency (BA – Bundesagentur für Arbeit) is also involved.

Once the visa has been issued and the qualified professional has come to Germany and taken up residency in Munich, the Service Center is responsible for issuing the first EU Blue Card. Clients normally have to make an appointment at the Center, during which they receive the EU Blue Card. They can do this via email or online.

In many cases, the clients receive support from a relocation service that arranges appointments at the Center for them in advance. For qualified professionals arriving from third countries who do not require a visa, the Munich immigration authority notifies the Federal Employment Agency here in Munich whenever necessary.

Another authority that is involved – apart from the Federal Employment Agency – is the registration authority, which registers the person’s new home address. This is used to determine which immigration authority is responsible for the person and, in certain cases, which certification authority is responsible for recognising the person's foreign qualification/s or the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education in the event of problems relating to this process.

Munich has a certification authority located within the municipal administration, with which the Service Center for International Qualified Professionals is in close contact and which is therefore able to resolve most cases quickly.

4. What happens to an EU Blue Card holder who loses the job for which the Blue Card has been issued?

If the EU Blue Card holder loses his/her job, the EU Blue Card is limited in time in line with administrative law. This may also have to be approved by the Federal Employment Agency. Following this, a residence permit can be issued for a maximum of six months in order for the person to look for a job, in line with Section 18c Residence Act (AufenthG). During this time, he/she must secure a new job that matches his/her qualification/s- and in most cases he /she is able to do this successfully.

As soon as the qualified professional has been offered a job, he/she drops by the Center with the new contract and is then issued with a fresh employment permit.

5. In order for an EU Blue Card to be issued, special conditions have to be met, such as a minimum salary. What options does an EU Blue Card holder have if he/she ceases to meet the required salary threshold when changing jobs?

In cases such as these, it would still be possible for us (in consultation with the Federal Employment Agency wherever necessary) to examine and make a decision on whether the new post matches the person’s qualification/s and allows a residence permit to be issued in accordance with Section 18(4) Residence Act (AufenthG) in conjunction with the appropriate section of the Employment Ordinance. The applicant does not have to leave the country while this process takes place. Cases are examined on the spot.

Infobox: At the Service Center in Munich, there are 19 members of staff who process all cases of highly qualified employment. The Center is currently responsible for around 15,000 clients. This not only includes holders of the EU Blue Card, but also highly qualified professionals who are employed in Germany on a residence permit issued in accordance with Section 18(4) Residence Act (AufenthG), as well as the family members of both groups of persons. In addition, we also advise self-employed persons and freelancers, professional athletes, and artists, as well as providing advice in the area of staff exchanges/intercorporate transfers (ICT card). Support is provided in several languages, but mainly in English. For further information about the Service Center, please contact Ms Sabine Ufholz (email: migration.kvr@muenchen.de ).


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