What is the Blue Card?
The EU Blue Card, comparable to the American green card, is a unique residence permit for qualified employees wishing to work in Germany. Any foreign employee can apply for the Blue Card. Since November 18, 2023, some procedures and requirements for applicants have been streamlined.
High-demand professions: lowered salary limit for Blue Card
The primary requirement for obtaining an “EU Blue Card” (hereafter “Blue Card”) is achieving a specific salary threshold. Previously, a pre-tax salary limit of EUR 58,400.00 was required. The Act on the Further Development of Skilled Labor Immigration (Gesetz zur Weiterentwicklung der Fachkräfteeinwanderung) has revised this limit to EUR 39,682.80 for 2023 in high-demand occupations.
The salary limits for the Blue Card are based on the annual contribution assessment ceiling for general pension insurance, meaning they are adjusted according to income trends in Germany and incrementally increase each year. The general salary limit for a Blue Card in 2023 is two-thirds of the contribution assessment ceiling (EUR 58,400.00).
What are high-demand occupations?
Certain professions in particularly high demand have a lower salary threshold. This lower limit is particularly beneficial for academic specialists in the IT sector, pharmacists, medical practitioners (excluding dentistry), architects, engineers, mathematicians, and scientists. Recent graduates who graduated less than three years ago at the time of application will also benefit from this limit.
For employees in these sectors, a salary limit of 52 percent of the contribution assessment ceiling, i.e., EUR 39,682.80 gross per year, will apply in 2023.
Legal changes since November 18, 2023
The law enacted in early July 2023 significantly reduced the salary limits for the Blue Card. The new lower limits have been in effect since November 18, 2023.
Since this date, the limit is only 50 percent of the contribution assessment ceiling, i.e., EUR 43,800 gross. For professions in particularly high demand, the new minimum annual salary has been 45.3 percent of the contribution assessment ceiling since November 18, 2023, i.e., just EUR 39,411 gross.
Additionally, more professions will be classified as shortage occupations in the future. Since November 18, 2023, teachers, veterinarians, nurses, as well as managers in child or elderly care and logistics can now also apply via the lower salary threshold.
Family reunification with the Blue Card
Family reunification for Blue Card holders has also been enhanced. Requirements such as proof of adequate living space or securing a livelihood for newcomers have been eliminated. The group of individuals eligible for family reunification has also been expanded to include parents and parents-in-law (provided the foreigner’s spouse is permanently resident in Germany).
Skilled workers with a Blue Card from other EU countries
The following change also applies to skilled workers who have been issued a Blue Card by other EU member states: they may stay in Germany for up to 90 days for business purposes without first needing to apply for a visa or work permit. If they have stayed for less than a year with their Blue Card in the EU member state that issued it, they can then move to Germany more easily. A visa is no longer required at the diplomatic missions abroad. An application only needs to be submitted to the relevant immigration authority in Germany.
Blue Card without a university degree
For the IT sector, access to the Blue Card is also possible without a university degree. The prerequisite is at least three years of relevant professional experience in the last seven years, demonstrable theoretical knowledge at the level of an academic education, and a gross annual salary above the threshold for shortage occupations of 45.3 per cent of the annual pension contribution ceiling. Finally, the Blue Card will make it easier for IT specialists to meet the German language requirement in the future. Although this is still required for a visa for IT specialists, it is no longer necessary for Blue Card holders.
State-recognized skilled workers with a Blue Card to Germany
Although vocational training may not be recognized as equivalent in Germany, it will be more accessible for such employees. The law mandates that foreign graduates of a minimum of two years’ training, which is state-recognized in their country of training, can also come to Germany as skilled workers. This also applies to university graduates if their degree is state-recognized in their country of origin, eliminating the need for comparability with a German degree.
Recognition in the home country
Furthermore, the law amendment provides the possibility of a recognition partnership. This allows skilled workers to initiate the process of having their training recognized in Germany while they are still employed. For this to happen, the foreigner and their employer must enter into an agreement where the foreigner commits to seeking recognition promptly, and the employer pledges to facilitate participation in the necessary training measures.
A new salary threshold will be implemented in the Employment Ordinance as an extra requirement. If the threshold of 45 percent of the annual assessment limit in the general pension insurance scheme isn’t met, official recognition of training will still be necessary.
Guidance for companies on skilled workers with a Blue Card
Meeting the salary threshold is crucial. As the authorities often take several months to process the application, having a higher salary is beneficial, particularly when applying towards the year’s end. This will ensure that your company also meets the anticipated slightly higher limit in 2024. Your potential new employees will then experience less stress if the application response takes a bit longer. We are available to advise you on all matters related to the Blue Card.
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