By Moustafa Daly
To address a critical labor shortage, Germany’s parliament just passed a new labor law set to make it easier for foreign labor to move to the country.
“The lack of skilled labor is deemed to be one of the worst drags on growth for the German economy,” said Germany’s interior minister Nancy Faeser to MPs ahead of the vote. “It’s unacceptable that you have to fill in 17 different applications to bring a new care worker into the country.”
Europe’s biggest economy has been suffering its worst labor crisis in decades, with the government and experts estimating that its economy needs at least 400,000 new immigrants yearly to fill in the gap. The new bill is expected to streamline visa application processes for skilled labor, and would boost skilled-labor migration by at least 60,000 a year, as estimated by the government.
What are the features of Germany’s new immigration law?
The new law introduces what is to be known as the Opportunity Card which gives foreigners with special skills the chance to legally move to the country and pursue employment - given applicants have vocational or university qualifications.
Previously, such qualifications had to be recognized in Germany, which created many hurdles for holders of degrees issued in other countries. The law, however, removes this condition as long as applicants can showcase two years of professional experience.
The Opportunity Card will follow a point-based system to determine eligibility of applicants – with metrics including English or German language skills, ties to Germany, and marital status, among other things.
While seeking employment in their fields, Opportunity Card holders will also be allowed to work for 20 or less hours per week so they can sustain themselves until their employment pursuit is concluded.
Those awaiting asylum in the country will also benefit from the new law. If an asylum seeker has the right qualifications and a job offer, they will be able to cut through the asylum process and can legally work in the country – regardless of the status of their asylum applications.
Also, foreigners visiting Germany on a tourist visa can now simply upgrade their visas to long-term ones if they have a job offer in the country – previously they had to leave the country first and apply for a new visa at their home-country’s German consulates.
The new law also creates a streamlined and easier path to citizenship for skilled migrants who take up employment in the country.
Opposition to Germany’s new immigration law
The law, introduced by the center-left ruling coalition government, passed the parliament with 388 votes, while 234 MPs voted against the bill and 31 abstained.
Right-wing parties have voiced their opposition to the bill, saying it fails to make a distinction between skilled and unskilled labor as it alleviates the need for German-language proficiency – and could also incentivize more refugees to move to the country.
Also, right-wing leaders have said the law fails to address long processing procedures at foreign consulates – viewed as one of the main obstacles facing skilled foreign migrants, as per media reports.
Downplaying criticism, Green Party MP Lamya Kaddor told media: "This is finally really good news for this country. In the competition with other successful countries of immigration like the US or Canada, we have made some crucial steps forward."
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