Even if we can sometimes blame the EU for creating complexity in administrative matters, it also creates opportunities in others. the EU blue card for Germany is one of them. In this post, we laid out all the information you need to get started.
It’s concise. It’s plain. It’s clear. Make sure to have a cup of tea ready: this guide is long read!
The EU Blue card, what is it and who is it for?
Europe wants to have more specialists, so this process was created for persons that are well-educated and have skills beneficial to the regional labor market. In exchange, you get to enjoy a privileged status during the visa process and special benefits if you’re approved. That’s why it’s considered the “golden ticket” for migrating to Europe!
With the EU Blue Card Germany provides an easier path to the long-term residence permit for in-demand specialists. Your alternative is the normal work visa, which isn’t as strict about financial and education requirements, but also provides less benefits. So, if you have a higher education degree and can secure a well-paying job contract in Germany, this is your best bet.
Once approved, your EU Blue Card for Germany is valid for up to four years, unless you have a limited job contract. In that case your work visa is valid for the length of your job contract, plus three months. Once your initial contract ends, you will get 3 months to find a new one that meets the requirements. Also, after 2 years you are no longer tied to the initial contract and can change to any “highly-qualified employment” instead. As an added bonus, the EU Blue Card for Germany lets your family members live and work in the country with less restrictions than with a normal work visa.
After 33 months living in Germany, you can qualify for a permanent residence permit. Get your German language skills certified at a B1 or higher level and you could qualify for that permanent residence permit after just 21 months. That’s a big improvement on the usual conditions for permanent residency and one of the biggest benefits!
What are the basic requirements?
A high paying job
You qualify if you have a German higher education qualification or a higher education degree that is recognized in Germany or comparable to local degrees. In addition, you need to have a job contract lined up with an annual gross income that exceeds €56.400/year. If you can’t meet that financial minimum, you still qualify if your annual gross income is at least €44.992/year and you are employed in a so-called “shortage occupation”.
A shortage occupation currently refers to positions in the natural science, mathematics, architecture, urban and traffic planners, designers, engineers, medical and IT fields with a full list provided by the EU (see groups 21, 221, and 25). Also note that if you take this route your application will need approval from the German Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit), unless you have a German higher education degree. The agency will review whether everything checks out with your position, employer, and working conditions.
When you apply for the EU Blue Card Germany will want proof that you have the right qualifications and permits to work in your profession. You can find all the necessary information for this process on the information portal of the German government for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications. I recommend you filter by vocational sector and review similar items to make sure you have the right one. Let’s say you’re a software developer, that means you filter for “natural science, geography, computer science” and “computer science and other ICT occupations”. This helps you find various options, the competent authority, as well as a pdf that explains the process for recognition.
If your occupation requires official recognition, check the database of the Central Office for Foreign Education Affairs (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen, ZaB) which lists foreign degrees and institutions that have already been recognized in Germany. If you find yours, check if it has a “H+”, “H-“, or “H+/-“ status. The first means the institution has been recognized and a comparison of your degree with German equivalents is possible. The second means it is not recognized and the third means further review is needed. If you can’t find your degree, you may need to get a Certificate of Equivalence for Foreign Vocational Qualifications(Gleichwertigkeitsbescheid or Anerkennungsbescheid).
In a nutshell, eligibility = recognized higher education degree + well paid job or shortage occupation job offer.
What is the Blue Card Germany application process?
For the EU Blue Card Germany requires that you apply in-person. Unless you already live in Germany, you’ll probably need a temporary visa for entry, such as a work visa, job search visa, or a visa for the purpose of visiting a language class. But, if you’re a member of these countries, you don’t need to apply for an entry visa and can stay for up to 90 days while applying: Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States of America.
Step 1: Arrive in Germany! Find an apartment, register your new address, and open a bank account. I know, easier said than done. But once that’s done and you’ve started your new job, it’s time to apply for the EU Blue Card for Germany.
Step 2: Make an appointment with the Foreign Registration Office (Ausländerbehörde) about 6-8 weeks before the end of your temporary visa. I highly recommend you have a German native speaker escort you, to help with any questions during the appointment. Bring these documents:
To be provided by you:
- “Antrag auf Erteilung eines Aufenthaltstitels” (Application for Issuance of a Residence Permit)
- “Antrag auf Erlaubnis einer Beschäftigung” (Application to perform an Occupation)*
- Valid passport (original + copy)
- Biometric photo
- Stellenbeschreibung (position description from your employer)*
- Proof of professional qualifications (originals + copy of each), including the statement from the ZaB if needed
- Rental contract and Wohnungsgeberbestätigung (landlord confirmation) or proof of homeownership (original + copy)
- Proof of health insurance
- Application fee of €100
To be provided by your employer:
- Job contract (original + copy)
- Filled and signed form “Declaration regarding a contract of employment” (in German: Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis)
- Occupational practice permits (if required)
- If possible, pre-approval of Federal Employment Agency (see below for more details)
* only required for “shortage occupation” applicants
Step 3: Wait. The approval process can take as little as a week or several months if you need approval from the Federal Employment Agency.
Fast tracking your application with the help of your future employer
The section 81a of the German residence act (81a AufenthG) introduces the concept of an accelerated procedure for skilled workers. It’s often referred as pre-approval or “ZAV” by the Federal Employement Agency. See this as another application method that involves your prospective employer a lot more. With their help, a lot of the clearance work is done, increasing your chances greatly. It also speeds up the process a lot. This is how it looks:
- You give powers of attorney to your prospective employer. This is needed so they can communicate with different German public bodies on your behalf (Immigration office, employment agency, etc).
- Your prospective employer coordinates with the immigration office to initiate a fast-track application. To initiate the process, your employer needs to fill out the “Declaration of Employment” form (“Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis”) and proof of degree/qualification recognition, as detailed above).
- If this is successful, the Immigration office will issue a pre-approval certificate. This document is to be used by you, when carrying out your application at your local German mission. Include it with the rest of the documents.
- Within 3 weeks, a decision should be communicated.
- Your future employer pays a 411€ fee for this.
Please note that this fast-track procedure is also taking spouses and children into account too. It can be used if those family members’ applications are submitted at the same time.
More info on this whole process on the official portal here.
How can I get help/guidance?
You can of course decide to talk to immigration specialist. For more general questions, you can also call a dedicated hotline setup by in cooperation with many different administrations. They can answer your questions in English. More info about this hotline this way.
If you want to go the self-help crowd sourced way, you can also turn to this Facebook group: Problems and Challenges with Ausländerbehorde and Einbürgerungsamt (Berlin). Even if it may not replace professional advice, it’s good place to ask for pointers and feedback during the process.
Which events could cause the termination of blue card permit?
Once you have acquired your residence permit in Germany, it’s also useful to be aware of how it can be terminated. As mentioned by the German residence act, this is how it can happen:
- Your visa has reached expiration date, and it hasn’t been renewed.
- Your visa has been revoked by the German authorities or if you have been deported from the country, in case of criminal behavior for example.
- If you leave the country indefinitely. This means officially setting residence somewhere else or leaving for longer than 12 months in the case of blue card holders. It’s usually 12 months, but sometimes can be more if you happen to leave because you serve Germany’s interests, in the case of humanitarian campaigns for example. Always consult with the German authorities to make sure they are aware of your extended leave and if necessary, obtain an additional certificate to facilitate re-entry.
What are the most common rejection causes?
Incomplete or missing documentation
The most common reason that any application process in Germany gets delayed or results in a rejection is missing or faulty documents. This is true across all visa types, but especially with the EU Blue Card Germany’s government officials will want to see every document related to your work and educational background!
Solution: Make sure all your documents check out. Don’t try to slide some extra numbers into the forms or exaggerate things. Stick to the full truth and state everything as clearly as possible. If it’s only a case of missing documents, ask if you can submit those later.
Employer didn’t do their homework
Another problem can arise if your employer didn’t make sure in advance that they can hire foreign workers. They might not have any experience hiring from abroad, but they should still do their research.
Solution: Employers should check through the job market entry requirements (Zulassung zum Arbeitsmarkt) before offering a contract and may need to adjust your job description and/or salary to meet the requirements.
The employment agency doesn’t play ball
But the biggest headache comes with a rejection from the Federal Employment Agency when it comes to blue card Germany being denied.
That’s because each local Federal Employment Agency has its own guidelines based on the law and local economic conditions. After all, it costs much more to live in Munich than in Berlin, so your salary should show that difference. Some articles have said you need to be earning 1,5 times the national average salary (or more ), while most other sources are vaguer. This seems to be related to the job market entry requirements as well, as the Federal Employment Agency wants to make sure you’re earning enough for this profession compared to regional/national standards. The goal is to ensure that your employer isn’t purposefully paying you less because you are a foreigner, called “loan-dumping”.
Solution: Talk to your employer and get some legal help to argue your case. Check that your salary meets local conditions and national standards for the type of work you will be doing.
OK I know that all sounded pretty scary.
But know that a rejection letter isn’t the end of the road. No matter the reason they gave you, there is usually an appeal process. Take a deep breath, write down the deadline, and talk to an immigration lawyer. They’ll be able to help you with the next steps of your blue card Germany application.
Good luck with your application and let me know in the comments if you have questions, if it’s unclear or needs more details. Good luck with it all!