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Germany's 'Blue Card'

Nina Treude / crl
September 5, 2012

Academics and students from abroad are being lured to Germany with a new 'Blue Card.' Just months after it was introduced, the new visa has received huge interest from non-European migrants.

Frau, die eine Kreditkarte mit dem Eurosymbol zeigt. Symbolbild Blue Card Europa Konkurrenz zur Greencard der USA. picture-alliance/chromorange
Symbolbild Blue Card für EuropaImage: picture-alliance/chromorange

While Alaskan born Gerhard Sells may only be 19, he's long held the dream to one day live and work in Germany. “Unlike Alaska, Germany isn't isolated,” he says. “There are so many more people living in Germany, and I hope that I will meet many interesting people here.” And Sells ought to know - he's been visiting his relatives in Germany since he was a small child.

“I would like to do my masters here and then find a job at an international organization in Germany,” explains Sells, who this summer completed a language course at the University of Bonn. With Germany's new Blue Card, he now has a good chance of seeing his dreams come true.

Bild 1: Gerhard Sells Beschreibung: Student Gerhard Sells im Botanischen Garten in Bonn Rechte: Privat
Gerhard Sells wants to live and work in GermanyImage: Privat

Wanted: international skilled workers

Germany is a popular destination for students and job seekers, especially among younger people from non-European countries. Currently, of the roughly 245,000 foreign students enrolled in universities across Germany, about 100,000 of them are from outside the European Union. However, after they complete their studies, many of them have to leave the Germany deterred by the complicated bureaucratic requirements of work and residents permits.

With the Blue Card everything will be easier. Those with a university degree and a job with an average annual salary of 44,800 euros will be allowed stay in Germany for up to four years. And, for engineers and scientists, the salary requirements for a permit are even lower, as Germany is in great need of their skills and expertise.

Global interest in a German future

The Blue Card has received a great deal of interest after being introduced in early August. Deputy Secretary General Ulrich Grothus at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) says the phones have not stopped ringing since. "Many young people are calling to find out about the new residency and work requirements," Grothus says.

Bild 3: Ulrich Grothus Beschreibung: Ulrich Grothus, stellvertretender Generalsekretär des DAAD Rechte: Treude
Ulrich Grothus say there's been huge interest in the new Blue CardImage: Treude

An easier way

The new law also allows newcomers in Germany to work while they study. It is often difficult for international students to support themselves financially while in a foreign country. Students from non-EU countries are now permitted to work up to and including 120 days rather than just 90 days with a normal student visa. In addition, students can work a side job at the German university they're attending, which previously wasn't allowed.

Before, graduates wishing to remain in Germany had to find a job within one year. Now, they have 18 months and are permitted to work during that time to support themselves. Blue Card holders can even obtain a permanent residence permit after two to three years. The former so-called ‘priority checks' are no longer in place, and that benefits non-EU newcomers enormously, explains Ulrich Grothus. “Before, it was such that EU citizens who could do the job were selected.” Now, Europeans don't have priority over applicants from non-European countries.

Cosmopolitan and attractive

The Blue Card was modeled on the well-known US Green Card. Vanessa van Laanen, an American from Minnesota, is pleased Germany has introduced the Blue Card because she wants to work in Germany after she graduates. “My father was stationed in Germany for 18 years as an American soldier, and I often visited him here,” she explains.

Ulrich Grothus doesn't believe the number of foreign workers, which is currently between 10,000 and 15,000 per year, will significantly increase as a result of the Blue Card. If we want to eliminate the shortage of skilled workers, he says, we have to look at new options. Grothus says Germany is certainly more appealing to potential newcomers because of the Blue Card. "It also gives clear message that Germany is cosmopolitan and welcomes people from all backgrounds to live and work together."

Bild 4: Vanessa vanLaanen Beschreibung: Studentin Vanessa vanLaanen vor dem Hauptgebäude der Uni Bonn Rechte: Treude
American Vanessa van Laanen welcomes the new Blue CardImage: Treude
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