January 9, 2024

Significant changes to German immigration to continue in 2024

With an aim to lower immigration barriers for skilled foreign nationals and tackle the labour force shortages in Germany, the German authorities have issued a number of amendments to the Skilled Worker Immigration Act. The first set of changes will apply to the EU Blue Card requirements, and were already implemented from the 18th November 2023. Further changes to the Act are scheduled for March 1st and June 1st 2024.


What has changed?

EU Blue Card - some of the significant changes implemented in November 2023 include:

  • Minimum duration of an employment contract has been reduced from 12 to 6 months.
  • IT specialists without a university degree are now also eligible for the permit as long as they have at least 3 years related professional experience. The same applies to applicants with a tertiary degree equivalent to the German system.
  • A new shortage occupation list has been created including skilled workers in goods production, mining, construction and logistics, various healthcare professionals, and teaching and educational professionals, whereas this was previously restricted to STEM occupations.
  • A reduced salary threshold has been introduced with the minimum for shortage occupations, young professionals and IT specialist dropping to EUR 39,683 from EUR 45,552 and the minimum for all other professionals dropping to EUR 43,800 from EUR 58,400.
  • Holders of a German EU Blue card are only required to notify the immigration authorities if they change employer within the first 12 months of employment. The German Authorities will have the right to reject the application to change employers. After working under and EU Blue Card for 12 months, the employee is permitted to change employers without notifying the authorities.
  • Holders of an EU Blue card from another EU country:
    • Can stay in Germany for up to 90 days in a 180-day period for business purposes directly related to their employment without requiring a German visa or work permit.
    • Are eligible for long-term relocation to Germany without a visa after a minimum stay of 12 months with an EU Blue Card in another EU country (previously 18 months).

Significant changes to be put into effect 1st March 2024:

Settlement Permits:

  • Skilled workers will be eligible for a settlement permit after 3 years (previously 4 years)
  • EU Blue Card holders with A1 level German can apply for settlement after 27 months (previously 33 months)
  • Spouses will be eligible for a settlement permit after holding a residence permit for 3 years and having gainful employment of at least 20 hours per week.

Foreign national students:

  • Will be permitted to work 140 full days per calendar year (previously 120 or 240 half days) or, 20 hours/2.5 days per week during term time and unrestricted hours outside of the term time period.

June 1st 2024

Changes planned for June 1st 2024 include the introduction of the “Opportunity Card”, a points-based application process for skilled workers from non-EU countries. The following conditions will apply for the opportunity card:

  • The “opportunity Card” is designed to enable foreign nationals with an equivalent foreign qualification to enter Germany for up to a year to look for work. These applicants will need to demonstrate financial independence.
  • For others, they will need to have a university degree or vocational qualification plus A1 level German or B2 level English.
  • Workers holding an opportunity card can work for up to 20 hours per week including a 2-week probationary period.
  • The opportunity card can be extended for a further 2 years for applicants who have a contract for qualified employment.
  • Quotas for the opportunity card will be implemented by the German Federal Government on an annual basis subject to industry requirements and shortages.

What to expect /impact?

As the German immigration regulations open up it is expected that the number of applications will increase. Employers should prepare for an impact on processing times and delays with the German authorities both at home and abroad.

What you need to do

For further information on German immigration changes, please contact the Sterling Lexicon immigration team at immigration@sterlinglexicon.com.


Leanne Cottrell

Leanne Cottrell

As Head of Immigration with Sterling Lexicon, Leanne leads a team of specialists who are responsible for ensuring the entire immigration process is smooth and stress-free for clients, assignees and their accompanying family members. She brings over ten years of experience in strategic immigration management, planning and consultation to her role, and has cultivated invaluable knowledge and experience in processing countless global migration applications. As a trusted partner, she consults with clients on everything from policy considerations and cost or efficiency improvements, to the impact of opening offices in new locations. Leanne is a frequent presenter and author on global immigration topics and trends.

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