The EU Blue Card enables third-country nationals who are university graduates or who have a comparable qualification to receive a residence title for the purpose of employment suiting their qualification.
What is the legal basis for the EU Blue Card?
The Transposition Act for the European Union’s Directive on Highly-Qualified Employment (Directive 2009/50/EC) came into force on 1 August 2012. Among other things, this Act has resulted in the introduction of the EU Blue Card as a new residence title as stipulated in section 19a of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz – AufenthG).
In which countries is the EU Blue Card valid, and in which countries does the EU Blue Card not apply?
The EU Blue Card is a residence title that has been created for third-country nationals in the Member States of the EU. The only countries in which the Directive on Highly-Qualified Employment does not apply are the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark, and these countries do not therefore issue any EU Blue Cards.
What preconditions need to be met in order for an EU Blue Card to be issued?
Three preconditions need to be met in addition to the general admission conditions in order to receive an EU Blue Card:
Applicants must provide proof of having completed higher education. If the higher education qualification was not acquired in Germany, it must either be recognised or be comparable to a German higher education qualification.
Applicants must either provide proof of a specific job offer or present a pre-existing employment contract, or one that has already been signed, and
This offer or contract must be for at least a specific minimum gross annual salary.
How can foreign higher education qualifications be recognised?
Should you have any questions on the recognition of foreign higher education qualifications, please refer to the information portal on the recognition of foreign educational qualifications: http://www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de
Where can I find information on whether a foreign qualification is comparable to a German qualification?
The Anabin database (see link below) lists the qualifications for which comparability has already been generally determined as well as further information on comparability.
Is it also possible to obtain a Blue Card without a higher education qualification but based on completed vocational training?
It is currently not possible to obtain an EU Blue Card in Germany without a higher education qualification. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has not adopted a statutory instrument to this effect in accordance with section 19a subs. 1 (b) of the German Residence Act.
What level of language skills needs to be proven in order to obtain the EU Blue Card?
No proof of German language skills needs to be provided in order to obtain an EU Blue Card. When applicants are applying for a settlement permit, however, the waiting period is reduced from 33 to 21 months if they provide proof of adequate knowledge of German (level B1).
How can I obtain an EU Blue Card?
If you are currently outside Germany, you should apply to the competent German mission abroad for a visa for the purpose of employment before you enter Germany. As a matter of principle, this also applies in cases in which visa-free entry would otherwise be possible. See the next paragraph for details of exceptions. Under no circumstances should you enter Germany with a tourist visa, as this type of visa can only be extended in the form of a residence title in exceptional cases. As a rule, it is otherwise necessary to leave and then re-enter the country. The visa for the purpose of employment entitles you to enter Germany and then to apply to the immigration authority that is competent for your place of residence for the EU Blue Card to be issued. You will find the contact details of the German missions abroad worldwide here:
Exceptions apply to nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States of America. They can enter Germany on a visa-free basis and can apply to the competent immigration authority in Germany for their future place of residence for an EU Blue Card within three months of entering Germany.
Individuals who enter the country on a visa-free basis may not as a rule work immediately after entering the country as they do not hold a visa permitting them to engage in gainful employment. This is only permitted when they have received the appropriate residence title. Since it can take several weeks for one to be issued, it is recommended to apply for a visa from the competent mission, even if no visa is required, in order to be able to take up gainful employment at a later date.
If you have already held an EU Blue Card issued by another Member State of the European Union for at least 18 months, you many also submit your application in Germany. This application must be made to the competent immigration authority for your place of residence within one month after you enter Germany.
If you are currently already resident in Germany and hold a different residence title for the purpose of studying or employment, you can change this title to an EU Blue Card by applying to your competent immigration authority, provided that you fulfil the general preconditions.
Applications for an EU Blue Card and, where applicable, for the subsequent immigration of family members are to be made in person by the persons in question to the competent German mission abroad or, if the nationals mentioned above are exempt from the visa requirement, to the competent German immigration authority.
If you have any questions regarding the duration of the procedure and the documents that need to be submitted, please contact your competent German mission abroad or immigration authority, as there may be differences in the way the process is handled and it is not therefore possible to make any generally valid statements in this respect.
How long is an EU Blue Card valid?
The EU Blue Card is initially issued for a limited period of four years at most. If the employment contract has a term of less than four years, the Blue Card is issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months. The EU Blue Card can be extended subject to specific preconditions once its validity has expired, or a settlement permit, that is an unlimited residence title, is issued on application subject to specific prerequisites.
How high does my gross annual salary need to be in order for me to obtain an EU Blue Card?
The minimum gross salary per year for 2019 is 53,600 Euros. If this minimum salary threshold is satisfied, the issuing of an EU Blue Card does not require approval from the Federal Employment Agency (section 2 subs. 1 No. 2 (a) of the German Employment Ordinance [Beschäftigungsverordnung]). Your salary must meet the threshold regardless of your working time model. Part-time positions are not calculated on a pro rata basis, and there are no provisions for individual reviews in cases where the salary thresholds are not met.
Section 2 subs. 2 of the German Employment Ordinance stipulates a reduced minimum gross salary threshold for jobs where there is a shortage of applicants. The threshold for 2019 is 41,808 Euros. As a matter of principle, the EU Blue Card may only be issued to this group of individuals with the consent of the Federal Employment Agency. No “priority review” is performed. The only aspect that is reviewed is whether the working conditions comply with the standard for the location in question. If the foreigner has a German higher education qualification, the issuing of an EU Blue Card does not require the approval of the Federal Employment Agency, even if he or she would normally be subject to the provision on jobs where there is a shortage of applicants (section 2 subs. 1 No. 2 (b) of the German Employment Ordinance).
The minimum salaries are regulated by section 2 of the German Employment Ordinance. They are in line with the contribution assessment ceiling for the general pensions insurance, and change each year. At the end of each year, they are published for the following year in the Federal Gazette by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.
The raising of the salary thresholds at the beginning of a year does not affect the status of EU Blue Cards that have already been issued. The new salary threshold only has to be met if the Blue Card is extended or in case of a change of job that is subject to approval.
Do allowances such as Christmas bonuses count towards the minimum gross annual salary?
Some bonuses can be credited towards the gross salary. This is the case in particular if they are specified in a minimum amount in the employment contract, in other words if their payment is guaranteed and not subject to conditions. Benefits that are listed as eligible payments in the Social Insurance Compensation Ordinance (Sozialversicherungsentgeltordnung) (http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/svev/gesamt.pdf) can also be included in the calculation of the gross salary. The decision as to which benefits are eligible in individual cases and their amount is a matter for the competent immigration authority.
Where can I find out which occupations are classed as jobs where there is a shortage of applicants?
Section 2 subs. 2 of the German Employment Ordinance stipulates which occupations are regarded as jobs where there is a shortage of applicants. These are occupations belonging to Groups 21, 221 and 25 of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO), and particularly include natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors of human medicine (excluding dentists) and skilled academic personnel in the field of information and communication technology. You can find a complete list of the groups here:
Do the jobs where there is a shortage of applicants include assistant medical doctors undergoing further training?
Assistant doctors undergoing further training who are licensed to practice in Germany are also entitled to be issued with an EU Blue Card under the less stringent conditions applying to jobs where there is a shortage of applicants.
Do medical doctors need a licence to practice?
The licence to practice serves to confirm the comparability of the foreign higher education qualification. In case of a working permit that has been granted in accordance with section 10 of the Federal Medical Practitioners’ Code (Bundes-ärzte¬ordnung), it is assumed that the higher education qualification is comparable to a German higher education qualification when it comes to the prerequisites for granting residence.
Does the EU Blue Card entitle the holder to take up employment without any restrictions?
The EU Blue Card is tied to specific employment with a particular employer for the first two years of residence. Any highly-qualified employment can be taken up subsequent to this. Self-employment is however not permitted.
Holders of an EU Blue Card are to be issued with an unlimited settlement permit if they have held their employment as a highly-qualified person for more than 33 months.
Can employers do anything to accelerate the approval procedure?
Employers can have a review carried out before lodging an approval enquiry for a foreign worker as to whether the conditions apply on the labour market for subsequent approval of such employment.
A detailed job description should be provided containing information on the working conditions, as well as requirements as to the qualification of the applicant.
Employers may also take advantage of this possibility if they would like to clarify in good time whether the post that they are offering may be occupied by a foreign worker, that is prior to looking for an employee abroad, but also when a specific foreign worker is already intended for the post.
Employers can considerably shorten the decision-making process by taking these steps.
You will find a description of the advance approval procedure, including the appropriate application forms, on the Internet at www.zav.de/arbeitsmarktzulassung
Can a Blue Card also be issued to a temporary worker?
In accordance with section 40 subs. 1 sentence 2 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG), approval of the Federal Agency is to be refused if the foreigner intends to take up employment as a temporary worker (a worker in a temporary employment business). Since this provision hence only applies to employment requiring approval, and there is no opposing regulation for employment not requiring approval, the EU Blue Card can also be issued if an individual is seeking employment in a temporary employment business and approval by the Federal Employment Agency is not required. This is the case if the foreigner either holds the requisite recognised or comparable higher education qualification in accordance with section 2 subs. 1 No. 2 of the Employment Ordinance (BeschV) and a salary is paid to him or her at or above the regular salary threshold or, if he or she works in a job where there is a shortage of applicants, holds a German higher education qualification and earns the reduced gross annual salary applicable to jobs where there is a shortage of applicants.
From what point in time may I change employers?
Any change of job during the first two years of employment requires the approval of the immigration authority (section 19a subs. 4 of the German Residence Act). Approval is subject to the same preconditions as initial issuance. If the minimum gross salary threshold has been raised during the intervening period, compliance with the new threshold must be proven. Holders of an EU Blue Card are obliged to inform the competent immigration authority if the employment for which the EU Blue Card was issued is terminated prematurely
Can I also apply for an EU Blue Card in order to seek employment in Germany?
No, one of the explicit preconditions for issuing an EU Blue Card is at least a concrete job offer.
Third-country nationals who hold a German higher education qualification or a recognised or comparable foreign higher education qualification may however apply for a residence title in accordance with section 18c of the German Residence Act designed to allow skilled workers to seek employment. This entitles the holder to stay in Germany for up to six months for the purpose of seeking employment commensurate with her or her qualifications. Subsistence for this period of time must be ensured, as the residence title in accordance with section 18c of the German Residence Act does not entitle the holder to take up gainful employment. If the search for employment is successful, the residence title can be changed to a residence title for the purpose of employment.
Which EU Member States have transposed the Directive?
The EU Blue Card is to be issued in the Member States of the EU. The only countries where the Directive on Highly-Qualified Employment does not apply are the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.
Can I move freely within the European Union with an EU Blue Card?
The EU Blue Card also entitles the holder to spend visa-free periods of up to 90 days within a 180-day period in the other Schengen States for the purpose of tourism. Holders of an EU Blue Card can enter another Member State without a visa after 18 months and apply for the EU Blue Card of that Member State within a period of one month. The same applies to family members holding a residence title for the subsequent immigration of family members.
Can I already move freely within the European Union while my application for the EU Blue Card is still pending?
If the third-country national is in Germany legally, and if an application has already been made for the EU Blue Card and accepted by the competent authority, a provisional residence document (Fiktionsbescheinigung) is generally issued in accordance with section 81 of the German Residence Act. Until a final decision has been made regarding the application, this document provisionally confers the same rights on the applicant as he or she would enjoy as the holder of an EU Blue Card.
Can I interrupt my stay in Germany during the validity period of the EU Blue Card?
Holders of an EU Blue Card are permitted to stay in a non-EU country for up to 12 consecutive months without their residence title expiring. This provision also includes family members. However, this time spent outside Germany is not credited towards any application for a settlement permit.
Are spouses who subsequently immigrate to Germany entitled to be issued with a residence permit?
The married spouse of the holder of an EU Blue Card is entitled to be issued with a residence permit. He/she doesn’t have to prove any German language skills, if both partners are at least 18 years old. Otherwise, the marriage must have existed already when the Blue Card holder had established his main ordinary residence in Germany. In case the principal spouse already held another residence title prior to the EU Blue Card, the date of his first-time entry to Germany is seen as decisive reference.
May the spouse of an applicant enter Germany at the same time as the applicant to apply for the subsequent immigration of family members on the spot?
If the applicant holds a national visa and has prospects of receiving an EU Blue Card in Germany, the “subsequently immigrating” spouse can also obtain a visa at the same time for joint entry to Germany. However, this applies in individual cases only and there is no legal entitlement for visa and entry at the same time with the main applicant.
For further information please contact the competent German mission abroad.
Do spouses who subsequently immigrate to Germany enjoy free access to the German employment market?
Yes, spouses immediately enjoy unrestricted access to dependent and independent employment (Section 27, subsection 5 of the German Residence Act).
Do subsequently immigrating spouses have to provide proof of German language skills?
Spouses who subsequently immigrate to Germany do not have to provide proof of German language skills in order to be able to apply for a first residence title after entering the country. This however does not rule out the immigration authority deciding that an obligation exists for the spouse to attend an integration course subsequent to entry. Any violations of this obligation will be taken into account when the residence permit is extended.
Can other family members apart from children and spouses also immigrate to Germany?
No, the subsequent immigration of dependents is generally limited to spouses and unmarried minor children. Exceptions are only made in “hardship cases”; for more information, please contact your competent immigration authority.
Does the application for the subsequent immigration of family members have to be made in person?
The application must be made in person at the German mission abroad by the spouse who wishes to subsequently immigrate.
Is the Blue Card restricted to specific occupational groups?
No occupational groups are excluded as long as the conditions for obtaining an EU Blue Card are met. However, the employment must be commensurate with the qualification.
From what point in time can I obtain a settlement permit?
Holders of the EU Blue Card in Germany can be issued with an unlimited national residence title (settlement permit). In order to do so, they must not only meet the general preconditions, but also have been engaged in highly-qualified employment for 33 months and have paid contributions into an old-age pension scheme for this period. The further preconditions contained in section 9 subs. 2 No. 2 and Nos. 4-6, 8 and 9 of the German Residence Act also apply. In cases falling under No. 8, EU Blue Card holders who hold a higher education qualification are assumed to have a minimal need of integration, and do not therefore need to provide proof that they have completed an orientation course. Only simple German knowledge needs to be documented (level A1). If holders of the EU Blue Card provide proof of adequate knowledge of German (level B1), they can apply for a settlement permit for Germany after only 21 months.