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IMMIGRATION

EXPLAINED: How Germany plans to make immigration easier for skilled workers

The German government has agreed on a set of reforms for the immigration of skilled workers, which was approved by the cabinet on Wednesday. Here's what they're planning.

Two light aircraft builders instal the controls on a glider.
Two light aircraft builders instal the controls on a glider. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Uli Deck

What’s happening?

Germany is currently facing a dramatic skilled worker shortage, particularly in the health sector, IT, construction, architecture, engineering and building services. The German government currently expects that, by 2026, there will be 240,000 jobs for which there will be no qualified candidates.

In order to help plug the gap in the labour market, the coalition government has been proposing changes to immigration law for months.

In September, Labour Minister Hubertus Heil presented plans for a new points-based immigration system, that will enable non-EU workers to come to Germany to look for work even without a job offer, as long as they fulfil certain criteria, under a so-called “Opportunity Card” (Chancenkarte) scheme.

READ ALSO: Explained: How to apply for Germany’s new ‘opportunity card’ and other visas for job seekers

Now, the coalition government has agreed on a wide-ranging set of initiatives to help remove hurdles for skilled workers coming to Germany. The points were approved by the cabinet on Wednesday, who should then come up with a draft law in the first quarter of 2023.

What’s in the plans?

The central aim of the government’s plans is to make it easier for people from outside the EU to find a job in Germany.

In the draft paper, ministers distinguish between three so-called pillars, the first of which concerns the requirements that foreign specialists must meet in order to be allowed to work in Germany.

Until now, they have had to have a recognized degree and an employment contract, but the government wants to lower this hurdle.

The draft states: “For specialists who are unable to present documents relating to their professional qualifications or can only do so in part, for reasons for which they themselves are not responsible, an entry and residence option should nevertheless be created.” The competencies could then be finally examined once they have arrived in Germany.

A trainee electrician practices in a training centre in Cologne. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Oliver Berg

The second pillar involves skilled workers from abroad who do not yet have a degree but already have a lot of professional experience.

For employees in the information and communications technology sector, the requirement of having sufficient German language skills would be waived, and it would then be up to the managers of the company making the job offer to decide whether or not they want to employ the skilled worker despite a lack of German language skills. 

READ ALSO: ‘More jobs in English’: How Germany could attract international workers

The third pillar is about enabling third-country nationals with good potential to stay in Germany in order to find a job. The “Opportunity Card” falls under this pillar and will involve a new points-based system, which will allow non-EU nationals to come to Germany to look for work even without a job offer as long as they fulfil at least three of the criteria of having a degree or professional qualification, having experience of at least three years, having a language skill or previous residence in Germany and are under 35.

READ ALSO: How to apply for Germany’s new opportunity card and other visas for job seekers

What other initiatives do the plans include?

The traffic light coalition also wants to do more to promote Germany as an attractive, innovative and diverse country abroad.

One initiative is to publicise job vacancies internationally and connect qualified people abroad with employers and educational institutions in Germany. 

READ ALSO: Will immigration reform be enough to combat Germany’s worker shortage?

The “Make it in Germany” portal, which has its own job exchange, will be expanded and further developed.

The government also wants to promote the German language both abroad and at home for example, by expanding digital language courses and exams.

The government also wants to simplify and accelerate the recognition procedures for foreign vocational qualifications. One of the planned measures is that the required documents can also be accepted in English or in the original language.

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For members

GERMAN CITIZENSHIP

‘Memorise grammar’: How foreigners in Germany passed the B1 language test for citizenship

News that the federal traffic light coalition will soon allow dual citizenship has more than a few long-term residents booking their language tests. So how hard is the B1 test? We asked a few people who’ve done it.

'Memorise grammar': How foreigners in Germany passed the B1 language test for citizenship

German citizenship laws are set to get a big overhaul this year, but at least one requirement will remain the same – the B1 German language test for people who want to get citizenship on a standard track.

In addition to allowing dual citizenship, the German government’s new draft nationality law is set to reduce the amount of time someone needs to have been resident in Germany from eight years to five for a standard track. Applicants on a fast track will be able to get citizenship after just three years – if they can pass a C1 German exam.

That fast track is down in time from six years but carries a higher language requirement than the current fast track ask of B2 German.

If you’ve been a resident for at least five years though, most of your requirements generally stay the same. You won’t have to renounce your other passports, but you’ll need to pass both the German citizenship test and a B1 language test – just as you do now.

READ ALSO: TIMELINE: What happens next with Germany’s plans to allow dual citizenship?

What does B1 level mean? What can a B1 speaker do?

A B1 speaker is classed as having an intermediate level of command in a language under the Common European Framework for Languages. There are six possible levels, with B1 being the third.

A B1 speaker should be able to communicate with native speakers without a lot of help, at least about everyday topics or even certain subjects they might be more familiar with, such as their hobbies or a bit about the work they do.

With this level, a B1 speaker would also be able to handle most situations that would come up on a trip, explain simple opinions, and describe events.

READ ALSO: What we know so far about the planned language requirements for German citizenship

How does the B1 exam work and how hard is it?

Like most German exams, the B1 exam is divided into four sections – speaking, reading, writing, and listening. You need to get 60 percent to pass the exam.

Most Local readers we asked said that, with a little preparation, the B1 exam is nothing to be scared of.

“I actually found it quite easy,” says Fraser Seifert, a New Zealander coming up on his fifth year in Germany. Seifert took an intensive class that gave him a lot of practice material. “Find as many practice exams as you can. If you can find a preparation class, I found it super helpful.”

Taking so many practice exams, Seifert says, will help you understand exactly what the exam is asking you to do.

“I knew that in order to pass the writing section, I had to put certain grammatical clauses in each paragraph or sentence and write them in a specific format,” he says. “It’s very formulaic.”

The B1 test is full of writing exercises that will test specific points of German grammar. Many readers recommend getting special study material. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Uwe Anspach

Local readers also suggested using several online resources to help out, especially if you haven’t really done conventional language learning, like in a class.

“I picked up my German from speaking, so had to hit the grammar books to iron out a few irregularities,” says Beth Ingham. She’s already passed her B1 test and is going for her C1 soon.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: A language teacher’s guide to passing the German tests for citizenship

Ingham recommends the VHS Lernportal.

“I would recommend memorising phrases which show off your command of grammar – ie. dative, adjective endings,” says Emma Midgley. “Find a textbook with grammar drills that you can practice.”

Midgley also recommends the Coffee Break German podcast.

“I went through the practice exams that Goethe Institute provided as well as a textbook for the exam prep,” says Jon Morris. “I also arranged a few 30-minute language exchanges with native speakers to go through the oral exam stuff.”

Another thing to prepare for is the exam environment itself.

“I remember the reading and writing elements being in one classroom laid out like an exam hall and then the speaking exam was in a much more relaxed environment,” says Charlie D., a Brit based in Bielefeld who did his exam after going to evening classes twice a week for three months.

“I ended up having a very good conversation with my examiner and getting 100 percent for that part of the exam.”

READ ALSO: How hard is the C1 language test for Germany’s upcoming fast-track citizenship?

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