On Monday, the Chancellor of Germany, Olaf Scholz, affirmed his support for Interior Minister Nancy Faeser’s plan to reform Germany’s immigration system and citizenship laws. These reforms were discussed yesterday, and are expected to include a new “transparent, unbureaucratic” points-based system for the immigration of skilled workers.
There is also likely to be a slackening of the bureaucracy that currently faces young people wanting to study in Germany, a change that it is hoped will encourage more foreigners to train and subsequently work within the country.
Citizenship Reforms in Germany
At present there are only 1.3 acquisitions of citizenship per 1,000 immigrants in Germany. This places the country below the EU average of 1.6 acquisitions per 1,000 and points towards a naturalisation issue.
It is hoped that these new regulations will solve this problem and make permanent residency more easily attainable both for new people entering the country and the approximately 240,000 immigrants currently residing in Germany under “tolerated status.”
“Tolerated status,” comparable to “limbo,” is experienced by those whose deportation has been suspended, despite the rejection of their asylum application, for reasons such as conflict in their home country that prevents their safe return.
Migrants who have been living in this state of insecurity for more than five years will, under these new rules, receive a one-year “opportunity residency” that will make them more employable and provide them with time to fulfill the necessary criteria to achieve permanent residency.
The proposed reforms will also allow immigrants to gain dual citizenship and subsequently become naturalised Germans within five years of entering the country rather than eight, as is currently the case. This timeline could be further shortened to three years through “special integration achievements,” such as voluntary work.
Furthermore, under these new nationality regulations, children born in Germany can become German if one or both parents have lived in the country for five years.
Olaf #Scholz supports these plans, not least due to democratic considerations: The number of residents and the number of voters should not diverge too much.#QuoteOfTheDay #Immigration pic.twitter.com/CNBSyWVoq7
— All about Germany | deutschland.de (@en_germany) November 29, 2022
In order to promote social cohesion, plans also include the offering of integrational courses and vocational language classes to all asylum seekers, irrespective of the strength of their prospects of remaining within the country on a permanent basis.
Changes to the EU-wide blue card, which was introduced in Germany 10 years ago, have additionally been proposed. These include the extension of the cards to those in non-academic professions such as mechanics, cooks, and technicians to help address the pressing skill shortages the country is currently facing.
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To encourage more young people from outside the EU to study and then work in Germany, there are plans to eliminate the “priority check” for apprenticeships. This check determines whether there are workers from within the EU or Germany available and frequently results in the non-EU applicant losing out.
Provided the person has sufficient language skills, students from non-EU countries will also be able to do a six-week internship in Germany without the approval of the Federal Employment Agency.
🇩🇪 Germany is working on plans to make it easier for migrants to become German citizens.
Reports say the Interior Ministry is working on a draft law that would allow foreigners living in Germany to apply for citizenship after five years instead of eight.
— TLDR News EU (@TLDRNewsEU) November 28, 2022
Scholz and the ruling SPD, FDP, and Greens coalition hope that these loosened rules will prove effective in addressing the shortage of skilled workers currently being felt across all industries, with the service industry most deeply affected.
Job vacancies in Germany are at an all-time high this year, 886,724 were reported in August 2022 alone. This is an uptick of 107,758 compared to August of last year and one of 302,503 since August 2020.
The new rules aim to attract 400,000 qualified workers annually from outside Germany, a feat which, if accomplished, will prove pivotal to the strengthening of what is already the largest economy in Europe.
Since their announcement, the strength of these immigration reforms have been heavily criticised by both the oppositional parties and members of the ruling group itself.
Scholz’s own coalition partner, the neoliberal FDP party’s Secretary General Bijan Djir-Sarai, has argued that it is currently too soon to make such a significant change to Germany’s citizenship laws, and that repatriations must be sped up first.
Similarly, Alexander Dobrindt of the centre-right CSU party, who have campaigned against dual citizenship in the past, claims that these changes are equivalent to “selling off German citizenship” and “[do] not promote integration.”
Tomorrow, the German Cabinet will adopt the cornerstones of a new Skilled Immigration Act, intended to further develop and modernize the immigration law for workers coming to Germany.
It's a strong signal to secure skilled workers for the German economy. pic.twitter.com/6ajihdygNv
— German Embassy (@GermanyinUSA) November 29, 2022
The impact that these changes could have on the rest of Europe is difficult to foresee for certain.
It can be predicted though, that by making citizenship easier to attain for immigrants outside the EU, the increased competition will make it more difficult for migrants from other European countries to find work in Germany.
However, this speculated concern should not be taken as reason to criticise these reforms that could prove hugely beneficial to the many skilled non-EU workers who either already reside in Germany or will move into the country in the future, whilst also boosting Germany’s job market which is presently in dire need of some outside help.
A press release by Economy Minister Robert Habeck is expected in the near future to detail the new strategy as agreed upon yesterday.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by the authors are their own, not those of Impakter.com — In the Featured Photo: Political propaganda paper lying on Westminster Bridge, London. Featured Photo Credit: Metin Ozer.