German immigration law will be adopted, despite disagreements

Disputes already started with the name: What label should the German leading parties, the Christian Democrats (CDU), Christian Socialists (CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD) put on the legislative package that was debated on Thursday for the first time? [EPA-EFE/CLEMENS BILAN]

Leading German parties have struggled to find a common line on immigration. For the Greens and the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the draft bill on immigration does not go far enough. EURACTIV’s media partner Der Tagesspiegel reports.

Disputes already started with the name of the legislative package that was debated for the first time on Thursday (9 May). Many of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and Christian Social Union (CSU) did not want a name that would in some way admit that Germany was a country that welcomed immigrants, contrary to the Social Democrats (SPD).

Fighting over the name is only one example of the disagreements between coalition partners. It was disputed to what extent Germany should be open or hostile towards non-EU migrants – and the extent to which bureaucratic hurdles should be removed, for example in relation to recognising foreign professional qualifications.

The compromise on which leading parties were able to agree on will slightly facilitate immigration. However, it does not go as far as what entrepreneurs, crafts and trade associations hoped for, especially given the shortage of skilled workers.

Greens say it is an “Immigration law that does not support immigration”

Essentially, the bill provides for two improvements: First, it should make it easier for non-EU immigrants with vocational training to work in Germany.

So far, professionals with a university degree can come to Germany for six months to look for a job. The condition is that they can make a living for themselves. Such a visa should now also be available to professionals with vocational training.

The second improvement provides that young people from third countries can apply for a temporary visa to find a training place.

Migration expert Daniel Thym, a member of the Expert Council of German Foundations for Integration and Migration, considers the hurdles in the law on the immigration of skilled workers to be too high.

This only applies to persons who meet German training standards, although there is often no dual training modelled on German training elsewhere. “It will therefore only be successful if the state, together with business and industry, manages to attract foreigners from outside the EU to Germany so that they can complete their training here or catch up on missing qualifications,” he said.

Green Migration expert Filiz Polat also believes the coalition’s plans do not go far enough. “This is an immigration law that does not support immigration,” she told the Tagesspiegel.

The Bundestag member pointed out that already in the past, only some highly qualified people made use of the possibility to look for a job in Germany with a visa.

In 2017, for example, only 120 people came to Germany in this manner. Even with the regulation planned on widening its scope to skilled workers with vocational qualifications, no great rush is expected.

Polat also regretted that Germany’s leading parties did not make use of the unprecedented situation, given that employers, trade unions and social associations currently support a more modern immigration law. “This is a wasted opportunity,” she said.

Instead, the Green politician called for the implementation of a “talent card” – a model developed by the Green parliamentary group.

This would provide for a permanent right of residence for those with a certain number of points (depending, for example, on qualifications, language skills, work experience, but also on the willingness to settle in rural regions and not only conurbations). Points would be awarded by an immigration committee.

German coalition expects only 25,000 immigrants

Johannes Vogel, labour market spokesperson of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), also criticised the coalition’s plans. “The parliament has now waited more than half a year for a draft – after such a long period, one could have expected a better result”, he told the Tagesspiegel.

According to predictions made by the leading parties, the planned law would not be sufficient to cover the demand for skilled workers in Germany. According to studies, there is an annual demand for 260,000 skilled workers, compared to the expected additional 25,000 skilled workers generated by the new immigration law.

The fact that CDU, CSU and SPD did not provide for a serious reform of the immigration law left a “bitter taste”, especially after the “long and tormenting debates about migration in our country”.

FDP requests a points-system for immigration

Instead, the FDP labour market expert is calling for a “major step forward”.

On the one hand, the blue card needs to be opened for non-academic specialists, and on the other, realistic salary limits are also needed.

Currently, the Blue Card is only issued in Germany if someone has a university degree and an employment contract with a minimum annual salary of €53,600 gross.

Germany also needs a points system modelled on successful immigration countries like Canada or New Zealand. “These countries are better in the global competition for talent and we should finally learn from these role models,” Vogel said.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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