Germany's new visa is aimed at foreign workers: When will it launch and who’s eligible?

There are around 1.74 million vacant job positions across Germany with skilled workers in high demand.
There are around 1.74 million vacant job positions across Germany with skilled workers in high demand.   -  Copyright  Canva
By Angela Symons

Germany is doubling down on plans to attract skilled workers from outside the EU.

The country plans to reform its immigration legislation to make it easier for third country nationals to work in Germany.

During a press conference held at the Federal Office for Foreign Affairs (BfAA) on 17 January 2023, Federal Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said modernising the visa process would mean “turning it upside down”.

Together with Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz, she emphasised removing bureaucracy and improving digitisation and efficiency of the system.

"We know that we can only guarantee our future, the efficiency of our economy and the efficiency of our social security systems if we have enough skilled workers at our disposal," said Scholz.

“From within the European Union that's not so difficult, because there is freedom of movement. With regard to the rest of the world, it is a greater challenge,” he added.

How does Germany plan to attract skilled foreign workers?

Germany is hoping to combat its shortage of skilled workers with a new ‘opportunity card’. While the bill is still in development, it was approved at the end of November 2022.

The ‘chancenkarte’ will use a points system to enable workers with required skills to come to Germany more easily.

It is part of a strategy proposed by Labour Minister Hubertus Heil to address the country’s labour shortages and is aimed at people who do not yet have a work contract in Germany. 

The points-based system will take into account qualifications, professional experience and language skills, among other things.

Every year, quotas will be set depending on which industries need workers. Three out of four of the following criteria must also be met to apply for the scheme:

  • A degree or vocational training recognised by Germany
  • Three years’ professional experience
  • Language skills or a previous stay in Germany
  • 35 years old or younger

Currently, most non-EU citizens need to have a job offer before they can relocate to Germany. A visa for job seekers already exists, but the 'chancenkarte' is expected to make it easier and faster for people looking to find work in Germany.

Citizens of certain countries with visa agreements can already enter Germany for 90 days visa-free but are only permitted to take up short-term employment.

The opportunity card will allow people to come and look for a job or apprenticeship while in the country rather than applying from abroad. Applicants must be able to prove they can afford to pay their living expenses in the mean time.

The exact details of the scheme are yet to be formalised. The chancenkarte is not expected to be available until at least the end of 2023.

Why does Germany need to attract skilled workers?

This year, the shortage of skilled workers in Germany has risen to an all time high. In 2022, the Institute for Employment Research (IAB) found 1.74 million vacant positions throughout the country.

In July last year, staff shortages affected almost half of all companies surveyed by Munich-based research institute IFO, forcing them to slow down their operations.

Which industries are worst hit by staff shortages in Germany?

An IFO survey shows the service sector is the worst hit - especially the accommodation and event industries.

This is followed by warehousing and storage, service providers, and manufacturing - particularly in the food, data processing equipment, machinery and metal manufacturing sectors. Many retail businesses, construction companies and wholesalers have also reported staff shortages.

The pharmaceutical and chemical industries report the lowest shortage of skilled workers. The automotive and mechanical engineering industries are also suffering less than other sectors.