Finding Employment in Germany: Navigating the Legal Path for Migrants

In Germany, the new law on immigration for qualified specialists has been hailed as the “legal gateway to the German labor market” by the Federal Minister of the Interior, Horst Seehofer, a year after its adoption. The provisions outlined in this legislation have contributed to a notable increase in the influx of qualified professionals to Germany, with authorities reporting 30,000 new specialists immigrating to the country in February 2021.

This article explores the tangible job-seeking opportunities created by this law and sheds light on the remaining challenges in securing employment. Previously, we discussed about salaries in Germany.

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For the past few decades, Germany has pursued a consistent migration policy aimed at attracting highly skilled professionals, particularly in mathematics, information technology, natural sciences, and engineering (MINT).

The introduction of the “Blue Card” in 2012 within the EU further facilitated the recruitment of highly qualified specialists from non-EU countries. Holders of the Blue Card not only became eligible for well-paid employment in Germany with the ability to bring their families but also had expedited access to permanent residency (Niederlassungserlaubnis) and, subsequently, citizenship.

Blue Card for work in Germany: How to Obtain It

First of all, let’s understand what the EU Blue Card is. EU Blue card is a residence permit issued by an EU member state for the purpose of employment in the respective member state for third-country nationals.

The Blue Card is based on EU Directive 2009/50/EU and is designed to allow highly skilled third-country nationals to stay in the EU to counter anticipated future or existing shortages of skilled workers in many employment sectors.

Since August 1, 2012, the Blue Card has been the main residence permit for academic professionals from abroad in Germany. It is issued in a simplified procedure without the involvement of the Federal Employment Agency.

Requirements:

  • The applicant must provide proof of higher education.
  • The minimum gross annual salary must adhere to the threshold of €56,400 (indexed in 2022). In professions facing shortages, the lower salary limit is €43,992 (indexed in 2022).

According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) statistics, the number of foreigners obtaining residence in Germany with the Blue Card has steadily increased each year:

  • 2018: 51,130
  • 2019: 61,506
  • 2020: 65,929
  • 2021: 69,869

In 2021, individuals from India received the highest number of Blue Cards from Germany, followed by citizens from Turkey, China, Russia, and Iran. Typically, the Blue Card is granted to academics, but IT professionals can also qualify if a German company expresses interest in hiring such a specialist.

Prospective Blue Card holders from third countries are advised to contact the embassies in their country of residence for the latest information and document requirements, available on the official portal for foreign qualified specialists at make-it-in-germany.com/de.

Despite actively attracting highly qualified specialists, by the end of the 2010s, it became evident that Germany’s demand for migrants was significantly higher. The need extended beyond scientists to encompass professionals in various fields such as doctors, developers, engineers, as well as skilled workers like plumbers, drivers, service industry personnel, technicians, and more.

To address these needs, a new law on the immigration of qualified specialists came into effect on March 1, 2020.

The key innovations of this law included:

  • The right to residence for gainful employment, unless excluded by law.
  • The elimination of the assessment of shortages related to specific professions, and the abandonment of priority checks.
  • The introduction of an expanded definition of qualified workers, now including individuals with professional education in addition to those with academic qualifications.
  • Facilitated access for qualified workers with professional qualifications to the German labor market through new rules for entry to search for work and apprenticeships.
  • Implementation of an accelerated process for the admission of qualified workers, with the determination of professional qualifications and training aimed at making the selection of skilled workers more efficient in the future.

Now, finding employment in Germany doesn’t necessarily require being a recognized academic or a top-notch IT professional. It’s sufficient to have a sought-after profession and knowledge of German at the B1 level. Additionally, some employers may hire professionals with English proficiency if other skills match the vacant position.

To realize plans for attracting specialists, German representations abroad have increased the number of staff dedicated to reviewing applicant documents.

Recognition of Diplomas and Education in Germany

In addition to German language proficiency, immigrants wishing to work in their professions need to verify the equivalence of their education to German standards. For this, the diploma is assessed on the government’s information portal for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications — Anerkennung-in-deutschland.

Certain professions, including doctors, teachers, engineers, and others, require mandatory recognition for working in Germany. Recognition can only be obtained through the recognition procedure. Doctors may also need additional supervised practice under the guidance of local physicians.

The cost of the recognition procedure can be up to €600 or more in some cases. This sum may also include expenses for document translations, certified copies, compensatory educational events, or adaptive qualification enhancement courses. There might be additional costs for travel if it’s necessary to personally deliver documents.

However, applicants may receive financial support in the form of subsidies for undergoing the recognition procedure. For details, refer to anerkennung-in-deutschland.de.

The job search visa in Germany is designed for foreign professionals willing to come to Germany and search for employment in their field on-site. The maximum duration for this visa is six months. If a job is secured within this period, there is no need to leave the country. All necessary documents are processed at immigration offices in the place of residence. In case employment is not found, the applicant will have to leave the country.

Job searches can only be conducted within the declared specialty, and education and qualification documents must be recognized in Germany (see above). Commencing work is prohibited on this visa, with the exception of trial/test employment for up to 10 hours per week.

List of Documents for Entry to Search for Work in Germany

  • Two handwritten applications in German.
  • Three biometric passport-sized photos (attach two to the applications, and bring one with you).
  • Passport with two copies of the personal data page.
  • National ID with two copies of the personal data page and two copies of all pages with entered information.
  • Bank statement (preferably from a German bank) or other proof of financial means for the entire duration, based on €947 per month (2022) with two copies.
  • Curriculum vitae presented in a table format, without gaps between time periods, including a complete address and contact information in German, with two copies.
  • Substantial motivation letter in German specifying the field of activity for job search and reasoning for relocation.
  • For Professionals with Intermediate Vocational Education:
  • Education documents and notification of qualification recognition with two copies.
  • Language certificate with a German proficiency level not lower than B1, with two copies.
  • For Professionals with a degree:
  • Higher education diploma, including the supplement listing subjects studied, with two copies.
  • Language certificate demonstrating proficiency in German or English, with two copies.

The previously mentioned federal portal “Make it in Germany” provides the most comprehensive information on available positions for foreigners. For instance, in September 2022, it featured vacancies for migrants in the following sectors:

  • Medicine, education, social assistance — 5,241 positions
  • Construction, architecture, surveying — 1,650 positions
  • Transportation, logistics, security — 2,244 positions
  • Agriculture, horticulture — 472 positions
  • Accounting, law, administration — 2,906 positions
  • HoReCa, services — 5,010 positions
  • Industry — 7,756 positions
  • Media, design, arts — 982 positions
  • MINT (Mathematics, Information Technology, Natural Sciences, and Technology) — 1,177 positions

Applicants can explore specific job listings and submit their resumes through the portal.

In addition to official government resources, job seekers can explore employment opportunities in Germany on popular job search websites. The following is a list and brief description of some of them.

Comparative Table of Job Search Websites in Germany

NameCharacteristicsDescription
AdzunaJob aggregatorA popular aggregator with 1.2 million vacancies not only in Germany but also in a dozen other countries. Collects and displays job listings from various HR resources in the country of residence. Cannot publish resumes.
CareerjetJob aggregatorAn aggregator of “average level” vacancies. It is better to look for top management vacancies on other resources. More than 10 million vacancies from different countries. Allows resume publishing. More popular with employers than job seekers.
Job AnzeigeJob aggregatorConvenient for viewing vacancies by cities, subscribing to job postings.
JobscannerJob aggregator for work in GermanyCollects vacancies from direct employers, specializing in working with job seekers. Works only with offers from German companies.
StepstoneJob search websiteWorks with both job seekers and employers. Better for finding/placing information for top specialists.
MonsterJob search websiteAmong the top three HR resources in Germany. Publishes a lot of useful information for job seekers.
StaufenbielJob exchange for young professionalsSpecializes in the employment of professionals with up to 3 years of experience. Collaborates with colleges and universities.
JobleadsWebsite for top vacanciesSpecializes in vacancies/offers with an annual salary of €50,000 or more.
IctjobWebsite for IT job searchProfile focuses on information technology jobs. Offers from direct employers.

Some of the mentioned job search sites may be unavailable for Russian citizens at present.

As we have mentioned, specialists wishing to work in Germany must demonstrate proficiency in the German language at the B1 level (independent communication). Without this, relocating on a work visa is practically impossible, except for positions requiring English.

However, there are situations where migrants from the CIS seek employment without knowing the language. For example, ethnic resettlers (descendants of Germans or Jews) may not face this requirement upon moving, but eventually, they still need to find employment. Family members of a professional who moved together may also seek work in Germany without knowing German.

In such cases, it is recommended to actively establish connections with the local national (Belarusian, Kazakh, Uzbek, Moldovan) or language (Russian-speaking, Turkic-speaking) community and explore employment opportunities among fellow countrymen. Suitable job opportunities are usually found after some time.

It’s worth noting that all immigrants legally residing in Germany can attend German language courses for free. Over time, this can increase chances of employment.

Foreigners from Russia, Belarus, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, etc. can also find jobs in Germany in advance by using job offers from employment agencies. In such cases, it often involves shift or seasonal work. Some vacancies for workers in manufacturing, construction, and other sectors in Germany are published on subdomains of popular resources, e.g. germany.hh.ru.

Migrants also find social media groups popular, where fresh job listings and work conditions are posted. We recommend searching for “work in Germany” in your native language and subscribing to relevant accounts or registering on the Xing social network, which is focused on job hunting in Germany.

Working Conditions in Germany

German employers are obligated to pay their employees a minimum wage, which, as of July 1, 2022, is no less than €10.45 gross (before tax) per hour.

Certain types of activities carried out temporarily in Germany are exempt from the provisions of the minimum wage. Exceptions include:

  • Workers hired in Germany by foreign employers who perform assembly or installation work. The duration of work should not exceed eight days within one year.
  • Hired employees and contract workers who are temporarily engaged in Germany by employers or contractors located abroad. Employment is considered temporary if the worker works in the country for no more than 14 consecutive days and no more than 30 days within twelve months.

The highest salaries in the country are found in the southern states: Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. Major companies such as Siemens, Volkswagen Group, and IBM are located here.

The number of working days in Germany varies depending on the vacation laws adopted in each state. In 2022, the highest number of working days, 253, was approved in 8 states, including Berlin, Hamburg, Lower Saxony, and others, while the lowest was 249 in Augsburg (Bavaria).

A standard working day in Germany is 8 hours but can be extended to 10 hours (40-48 hours per week). Overtime work is possible and is either paid at a higher rate or compensated with additional time off. Mandatory paid leave typically amounts to an average of 20 days.

Over the last few years, citizens of Central Asian countries have become more active in seeking employment in European countries than before. On the other hand, European countries themselves are interested in labor migrants from Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

In February 2021, the online portal “New Uzbekistan” published an article describing an agreement to invite about 500 Uzbek citizens to work in Germany.

The requirements for the applicants were as follows:

  • 18-27 years of age,
  • complete secondary or specialized secondary education,
  • knowledge of German language not lower than B1,
  • readiness to work in Germany for at least 3 years,
  • openness, tolerance, willingness to comply with the laws and traditions of the country,
  • working conditions: 3 shifts of 8 hours + probation period of 6 months.

It was suggested to apply for details to the regional offices of the Agency for Foreign Labor Migration.

Similar visa centers that help to find a job in Germany without knowledge of German also exist in other countries of the Central Asian region. For example, Kazakh and Kyrgyz websites olx.kz, ivs-llp.kz, migrant.kg, as well as international resources such as zagranis.com, publish vacancies for warehouse and production workers at German enterprises. Among the mandatory requirements is knowledge of the Russian language. Some employers provide work with accommodation.

Companies that publish these ads are often willing to take on the preparation of documents. But be vigilant not to fall victim to scammers. Look for reviews of the agency you plan to apply to, find those who have already been employed, and with their help find out the answers to your questions.

So, what kind of work in Germany can citizens of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, and other migrants with minimal knowledge of the German language apply for:

  • drivers,
  • warehouse workers,
  • production workers,
  • construction workers,
  • agricultural workers,
  • cleaners, etc.

Among the job opportunities for women in Germany, the Au Pair program is frequently mentioned. This program involves hiring female immigrants to assist with household chores and childcare in German families. Both female and male applicants may be considered for these positions, and there are specific requirements for both the applicants and the host families.

Requirements for non-EU domestic helpers:

  • Age: 18-26 years old
  • Basic knowledge of the German language (A1 level certificate)
  • Valid passport for the duration of the stay
  • Coverage of travel expenses
  • Invitation letter (required for some nationalities)
  • Motivational letter (required for some nationalities)
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Requirements for host families:

  • At least one child under 18 years old
  • German-speaking household
  • One or both parents hold German (or EU) citizenship
  • Coverage of the domestic helper’s expenses: pocket money, insurance, and meals
  • Separate room for the domestic helper (at least 8 sq.m, window, lockable door)
  • Motivation for participating in cultural exchange

It’s worth noting that German legislators view the au pair program primarily as a cultural exchange and an opportunity for applicants to practice the German language. Typically, students from language universities come to Germany to work within the au pair framework.

Migration to Germany for families with children often involves two stages: initially, an adult family member (husband or wife) moves to the country, and once employment is secured and basic living arrangements are established, the rest of the family follows. Alternatively, the husband and wife may move first, followed by the children, who were left with grandparents or other caregivers.

However, there are cases where family reunification may pose difficulties. To minimize risks, it’s recommended to use the KoronaPay service. This mobile application for international money transfers not only allows sending money to relatives remaining in the home country but also provides documentary evidence of these transactions.

According to legislation, a resident of an EU member country can reunite with their family in Germany by demonstrating that their relatives (including elderly parents, as well as brothers and sisters) are financially dependent on them. Cheques for regular money transfers serve as sufficient evidence.

In conclusion, let’s summarize some key points from the information above. Germany is not only a country that is welcoming to migrants but also offers ample opportunities for employment. The primary requirements for those who wish to live and work in the country include adherence to its laws and traditions, basic knowledge of the German language, and a willingness to integrate into German society.

Both highly skilled professionals and individuals in practical fields can find their place in Germany. While securing a job in Germany may require effort, such as improving language skills, preparing documents, and navigating bureaucratic processes, many find these efforts to be a reasonable investment for the opportunity to build a new life in the country.

In our blog, we extensively cover topics related to work and life in European countries. You can explore all the topics here.