What are the options for British nationals post-Brexit in Germany?
Nov 06, 2023
Since the culmination of Brexit, British nationals have faced a transformed landscape when it comes to residing in and doing business with Germany. All British citizens after January 1st, 2021, who are not in possession of a Residence Permit in Germany can enter Germany only for a maximum of 90 days within the 180-day period. These short stays are meant only for the purpose of travel or business trips. No other economic activities are permitted.
If, however, British citizens are willing to relocate to Germany for work purposes or residency, they are in need of a residence permit that might be applied for directly from Germany or through a German consulate abroad. In case the latter option is preferred, a D-type visa for long-term residency is required. Demand for entry visas is high post-Brexit, and pre-approval must usually be obtained from the Employment Agency in Germany prior to applying for the entry visa at the Embassy. Candidates must meet various criteria and provide substantiating documents.
The rules outlined by the Federal Republic of Germany state that acceptance of foreign nationals in general employment depends on Germany’s economic needs. Both a vocational qualification and a detailed offer of employment are required. British citizens can also make the most of the Skilled Immigration Act, which came into force in March 2020 and simplifies the immigration procedure for specialists that are in short supply in Germany. These include mathematicians, scientists, engineers, and doctors, and many other vocations where demand exceeds supply.
This article delves into the latest immigration policies, compliance issues, and business options, providing clarity and actionable insights for UK businesses and individuals looking to engage with the German market. Understand the implications of post-Brexit changes on Germany’s immigration laws, the steps for company formation, and the pathways to work permits and visas. This guide is an essential read for those considering Germany for their global expansion ambitions.
Understanding Post-Brexit Immigration Policies
It is crucial that companies are well-informed of various compliance issues and keep them in mind at all times. One common issue results from the fact that UK and US citizens, amongst several other nationalities that are considered best friends to Germany, are allowed to enter Germany and then apply for a residence or work permit from within Germany. While this is the case, these citizens are not permitted to commence work until the permit has been issued. Some companies may not be aware that it is not permissible to start work immediately after application. The employer has to wait until the employee actually receives their respective permit or visa before beginning work.
The Germany Skilled Immigration Act
On March 1st, 2020, a new immigration law came into force in Germany, simplifying the procedure for people coming from outside the EU to work in Germany. This Skilled Immigration Act evolved as a result of a lack of qualified candidates such as engineers and nurses and opened the labour market, meaning that visas that were previously reserved for EU members are now available for employees from outside the EU with recognised vocational training. It has also made searching for employment easier, as potential applicants can live in Germany for up to six months while exploring, as long as they have the necessary professional qualifications, basic knowledge of German, and a secure livelihood.
The visa procedure has also been simplified, with accessible communication between local immigration authorities and employers, considerably speeding up the entire process. This new immigration law ensures that persons who have obtained a German university degree or vocational training in Germany have the possibility of permanent residence after two years, as well as the possibility of residence after four years for qualified workers with a foreign degree.
Furthermore, there are some special deals for British citizens. For one, there are special arrangements that make it easier for British citizens to live in Germany post-Brexit. The United Kingdom is also given special privileges along with other countries, including the United States, Israel, South Korea, Canada, and Japan. These privileges include the option of moving to Germany for residence purposes without having to obtain an entry immigrant visa. Citizens from these countries also profit from the fact that priority is no longer given to EU member countries regarding approving positions. Each of these rules can benefit people in the immigration process.
Understanding the Germany Skilled Immigration Act
Post-Brexit, British nationals seeking work opportunities in Germany can take advantage of the recent amendments to the Germany Skilled Immigration Act. The law, designed to attract skilled professionals from non-EU countries, now includes updated provisions to streamline immigration for those with vocational training and introduces the Germany Job Seeker Visa. The Act broadens the definition of qualified professionals, thereby easing access to the German job market.
Recent Amendments and Expanded Opportunities
As of November 2023, the Act has undergone significant changes. These include a reduction in the gross annual salary requirement for a Blue Card to €43,800, with certain in-demand occupations requiring an even lower salary. The list of high-demand professions has expanded, and IT specialists can now qualify for a Blue Card based on work experience and knowledge, regardless of university degrees. Additionally, the Blue Card holders are no longer required to seek approval for changing employers in the first two years. Furthermore, the Act has introduced the Opportunity Card, based on a points system, to enable skilled workers from third countries to look for work in Germany.
Facilitating Entry and Residence
The German government’s reforms to the Skilled Immigration Act aim to address the shortage of skilled workers in key sectors by facilitating entry and residence for qualified workers. Significant changes include the relaxation of rules around qualifications and the introduction of the Opportunity Card, allowing skilled workers to spend up to a year in Germany seeking work under a points system. These changes also enable asylum seekers with relevant qualifications and a job offer to seek work or undertake vocational training while their application is in progress. Additionally, tourist visa holders are no longer required to leave Germany before returning for work, and the quota for nationals from Western Balkan countries has been doubled.
Compliance and Legal Considerations for Businesses
Compliance is paramount for UK companies operating in Germany. Missteps can lead to legal pitfalls, especially in the realm of work permits and visa regulations. British and US citizens, among others, may enter Germany without a visa but cannot work until their permits are approved—a distinction often overlooked, risking unauthorised employment penalties.
Intra-company transfers can also present compliance risks for companies. For one thing, it is critical that the visa is applied for before the transferee moves to Germany. This even applies to those countries that are usually given preferential treatment, such as the UK and the US, amongst others. For intra-company transfers, it is also important that the branch in Germany belongs to the same company or group of companies as the branch where the employee is coming from. Additionally, the employee needs to be employed by the entity abroad at least six months prior to the assignment to Germany.
Leveraging the EU Blue Card and Global Mobility
“Labour migration into Europe boosts our competitiveness and, therefore, our economic growth. It also helps tackle demographic problems resulting from our ageing population.”- José Manuel Barroso, who served as European Commission President between 2004 and 2014, explains the motivation behind the EU Blue Card scheme.
The EU Blue Card remains a crucial instrument for non-EU nationals, facilitating access to German and EU labour markets for highly qualified individuals. Not only does it offer a streamlined path to permanent residency and potentially EU citizenship, but it also guarantees equal work conditions and free movement within the Schengen Area.
It must be applied for before entering Germany and requires both a high level of education or professional experience and an employment contract or a binding offer of employment. There is a minimum earning threshold, which is lowered for jobs for which there is a shortage of workers, such as doctors, scientists, and mathematicians.
The EU Blue Card not only provides a path towards permanent residence and EU citizenship, but its benefits also include working and salary conditions equal to nationals, access to certain rights such as unemployment benefits, good prospects for family reunifications, and free movement within the Schengen area (unless issued in Romania, Bulgaria, Cyprus or Croatia).
British nationals holding an EU Blue Card can leverage their status for global mobility, transferring to another EU country after 18 months without a new visa. However, a work permit is still a requirement. This mobility is a significant advantage for professionals and companies seeking a broader European presence.
Reduced Salary Thresholds: For the remainder of 2023, Germany has lowered the gross annual salary requirements for the EU Blue Card. The standard threshold has been reduced from €58,400 to €43,800. Moreover, for certain in-demand occupations (“Mangelberufe”), an even lower threshold of €39,682.80 has been set, down from around €43,800. This makes it more feasible for a wider range of professionals, including those from the UK, to qualify for the Blue Card based on their income
Expanded Eligibility and Visa-Free Work Trips: The eligibility for the EU Blue Card has been broadened to include foreign nationals working in specific fields such as healthcare, recent graduates, and information technology professionals. This expansion is a significant move, potentially accommodating a diverse range of British professionals. Additionally, holders of the EU Blue Card from other EU countries are now permitted to come to Germany for work-related trips for up to 90 days without requiring a visa, offering greater flexibility for intra-EU mobility.
Relaxed Framework from November 2023: Effective November 18, 2023, Germany has introduced a more relaxed framework for the EU Blue Card. This indicates a shift towards a more accommodating policy, likely aimed at attracting skilled professionals from outside the EU, including British nationals who are no longer EU citizens post-Brexit.
The landscape for British nationals doing business in Germany post-Brexit presents new challenges and opportunities. With the proper knowledge and preparation, the hurdles can be navigated effectively. For those looking to expand their business or career horizons in Germany, staying informed and compliant with the current immigration and business regulations is essential. To streamline your expansion process, sign up for the Centuro Connect platform, which offers comprehensive resources on market entry, HR, immigration, legal requirements, and much more!