Big visa change could make it easier for South Africans to get work in Germany

 ·26 Jun 2023

Germany has a skilled worker shortfall of around two million people, and part of its plan to address the issue is to reform immigration laws to offer streamlined visa processes and new opportunities for qualified foreign workers.

This is according to the German news platform Deutsche Welle (DW) News, which reported that lawmakers from parties in government – the centre-left Social Democrats, the Greens, and the neoliberal Free Democrats – have worked out the final details of a skilled labour immigration law.

According to the German publisher, along with its skills shortage, Germany needs as many as 400,000 foreign workers to make up the shortfall every year, and the problem is expected to worsen when the baby boomers retire en masse.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz noted that jobs in almost every sector are welcomed, from healthcare to IT, carpenters to technicians. Germany’s “help wanted” sign is blinking red, it added.

The new bill, initially drawn up by the labour and interior ministries, seeks to open up new opportunities for people from countries outside the European Union, said DW.

The changes to the bill would allow foreign workers to move to Germany through (1) their qualifications and degrees that German regulators will recognise in a faster and more streamlined process and (2) a point system for job seekers with potential but without an existing employment contract.

Recognition of degrees

A major obstacle to immigration to Germany has been the requirement to have degrees recognised by Germany – a long, bureaucratic, and often frustrating process.

However, under the proposals, skilled immigrants would no longer have to have their degrees recognised in Germany if they can show they have at least two years of professional experience and a degree that is state-recognised in their country of origin, said DW.

It added that a new arrangement under the Skilled Workers Act would allow foreigners who already have a job offer can come to Germany and start working while their degree under the process of being recognised.

It’s worth noting that, according to the proposed bill, that this will only be aimed at skilled workers above a certain salary threshold.

New ‘opportuntiy card’

Foreigners who do not have a job lined up would also be able to enter Germany and be given a year to find employment through a point system known as the “opportunity card.”

In order to be eligible, they must have a vocational qualification or a university degree.

Points will be awarded, for example, for German and/or English language skills, existing ties to Germany, and the potential of adding life partners or spouses to the German labour market – making it easier for prospective employers to bring their dependents with them, said DW.

With an opportunity card, one can engage in casual work for a maximum of 20 hours per week while searching for a suitable job. Additionally, probationary employment is also allowed.

Individuals who have applied for asylum and meet the necessary qualifications, and submitted their application before March 29, 2023, will be granted permission to enter the labour market. Additionally, they will have the opportunity to participate in vocational training.

The same rule applies to tourists holding a visa. They will no longer need to exit the country before returning for work purposes, added DW.

Skills demand

Germany joins countries like Ireland, Canada and the UK in trying to draw as many skilled workers as possible amid a global shortfall.

South Africa is also not immune to the desperate need for skills – however, the various local push factors, including load shedding, crime, and poor government policies – make the country more of a talent pool for other nations.

Notably, even South Africans who do not physically leave the country for greener pastures may end up ‘virtually emigrating‘ by working remotely for international companies.

Recent research has recorded a significant uptick in South Africans working abroad, or locally for international firms, with experts flagging young, skilled graduates as being those most likely to leave.

Read: Businesses have a big problem: job loyalty is no more

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