Mark A Ivener, A Law Corporation

Update From Germany/Europe

German residence and work permit regulations are a genuinely complex matter. Therefore, regulations have to be carefully observed when conducting international transfers. Even if the German labor market is basically still affected by the so-called ban on recruitment (i.e., the categorical ban on the recruitment of foreign employees), in practice foreign workers can be employed under certain circumstances.

In particular, the employment of highly qualified staff is facilitated in numerous ways. Nevertheless, there is a considerable accumulated need against the background of intensified global competition for the most qualified labor. Therefore, for example, the earnings level for executives and the highly skilled, which has been 86.400 € per year (until December 31, 2008) and presently amounts to 66.000 € per year (as of January 1, 2010), should be reduced further to enable medium-sized companies to employ such labor to a larger extent. There is also hope because of the intended omission of the examination of the labor market for engineers from the new EU member states.

Because Germany had elections in September 2009 resulting in a new coalition government between the Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), further reforms or amendments of the existing laws on a larger scale are unlikely in the short- to midterm. Further developments remain to be seen. In the meantime, the following excerpt from the coalition agreement may give a hint of the route the government is likely to take:

We want to increase the attractiveness of Germany for highly qualified staff and steer immigration to Germany. Administrative barriers must be reduced for qualified staff. Access for highly qualified foreigners and foreign experts must be adjusted to the requirements of the German labor market and structured according to coherent, clear, transparent, and weighted criteria based on need, qualification, and integration potential. In addition, we plan to review the regulations on self-employment, jobs for students with a German university degree, jobs for artists, athletes, and seasonal workers; and to strive for simplification. [Translated, edited.]

The same applies at the European Union (EU) level, where the EU “Blue Card,” which had been put up for discussion in 2007, was recently adopted in May 2009 (Council Directive 2009/50/EC on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purposes of highly qualified employment; May 25, 2009). The EU Commission, with particular emphasis on work and residence permits for highly qualified employees from third countries (non-EU), intends to increase the competitiveness of the European economy via the Blue Card. The Blue Card is expected to attract experts to Europe instead of the U.S., Australia, or Canada. According to an analysis by the EU, the latter have been the preferred work countries until now.

The EU Commission wants to introduce a simplified, accelerated, and EU-standard admission process for persons who have special professional qualifications, an employment contract with a company based in the EU, and earnings at least triple the national minimum wage. By means of the Blue Card, highly qualified staff will be granted a residence and work permit that includes special rights; e.g., if accompanied by family members. The directive is intended to encourage further mobility within the EU of highly qualified individuals. It acknowledges labor shortages and so its provisions are intended to:

foster admission and mobility — for the purposes of highly qualified employment — of third-country nationals for stays of more than three months, in order to make the [EU] Community more attractive to such workers from around the world and sustain its competitiveness and economic growth. To reach these goals, it is necessary to facilitate the admission of highly qualified workers and their families by establishing a fast-track admission procedure and by granting them equal social and economic rights as nationals of the host Member State in a number of areas. It is also necessary to take into account the priorities, labor market needs and reception capacities of the Member States.

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About the Author

Mark A. Ivener, A Law Corporation, a nationally recognized law firm, has successfully assisted hundreds of clients in immigration matters.