On August 1, 2012, the German act implementing the EU directive on the conditions of entry and residence of third-country nationals for the purpose of highly qualified employment became effective in Germany. The new law facilitates the immigration of foreign personnel with advanced education and is thus an important factor in safeguarding the supply of specialized personnel in Germany. The key provision of the new law is the EU Blue Card, which, as a fundamental residence permit, complements the national arrangements regarding indefinite residence permits.

Prerequisites for Granting

The introduction of the EU Blue Card has reduced many of the previously existing barriers to the immigration into Germany of foreign specialized personnel. The complex point system previously in use has been replaced by two prerequisites:

  1. The applicant must provide proof of a university degree or comparable qualifications.

    Thus, the beneficiaries of this law are primarily graduates of foreign universities who want to work within their professions in Germany.
  2. The applicant must provide proof of an employment contract with an annual gross salary of at least €44,800.

    This represents a significant reduction from the previous salary threshold of €66,000. For members of "understaffed" professions—natural scientists,* mathematicians, engineers, physicians, and IT specialists— the salary threshold is even lower: only €34,944 per year.

No "Germans First" Examination/Check

Previously, a foreign applicant could not be hired until it was proved that the position in question could not be filled by a German citizen. Under the new law, this time-consuming process is not required if the minimum salary threshold is exceeded.

Residence Initially Permitted for Four Years

When granted for the first time, the EU Blue Card will be made out for the term of the employment contract plus three months, but for no more than four years. After the card holder has been employed for three years—provided he/she has a good command of the German language—he/ she will receive an indefinite residence permit. Any periods during which the foreigner has resided in other EU member states with the EU Blue Card will be factored into the calculation.

"Onward Migration" to Other EU Member States

After 18 months, the EU Blue Card opens the possibility of working in another member state in the European Union. In most EU member states, no visa is necessary for this "onward migration"—a clear advantage in comparison with national residence permits. However, a change of employment within the first two years of receipt of the Blue Card is subject to approval by the authorities.

Application for German Citizenship

After eight years of habitual and lawful residence in Germany, the holder of an EU Blue Card has the option of applying for German citizenship (Section 10 of the German Citizenship Act, Staatsangehörigkeitsgesetz; StAG).

Family Members and Spouses

The spouses, life partners, and children of holders of the EU Blue Card are allowed to move to Germany immediately or at a later date. No proof of knowledge of the German language is necessary. In addition, spouses and life partners may enter into employment immediately upon arrival in Germany.

Visa for the Employment Search

A graduate of a foreign university who does not have a specific job offer may be granted a visa enabling him/her to search for employment in Germany for up to six months. If the graduate finds an employer during this period, he/ she can apply for the EU Blue Card directly in Germany. In the future, foreign graduates of German universities will be allowed to search for employment in Germany for a period of 18 months—i.e., six months longer than before.


* Astronomers, biologists, chemists, Earth scientists, and physicists.

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