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Is immigration to Germany too complicated?


Many sectors in Germany complain that there are not enough young people. They hope for workers from abroad. But the application process for a work permit is lengthy and complicated.

By Thomas Denzel and Lukas Föhr, SWR

He had been in Europe for a long time, but for a job in Germany, Madhusudhanan Manavalan first had to return to his home country of India and wait there for months for a work permit. In Poland, the trained hotel specialist has already worked in gastronomy. At an event there, he met Kristin Vogel, who, as HR manager at the Mariott Hotel in Sindelfingen, Germany, was urgently looking for workers and offered him a job. “They chose me, so I thought the rest would be easy,” says the 35-year-old.

But then he found out that he could not apply for a visa at the German embassy in Warsaw, but only at the German representation in his home country. He traveled back hoping for a quick decision. In fact, it took him six months to get a response. “I always wanted to go to Germany,” says Manavalan. “But at some point I asked myself: ‘Why am I doing all this?'” When he had just decided to simply go back to Poland, the green light came from Germany.

According to a study, Germany is falling behind in the international competition for highly qualified specialists and start-up founders.

Hardly any applications from the region

Kristin Vogel is happy that it worked out in the end. She hardly ever gets any applications from the region around Sindelfingen. And the lack of staff is already noticeable during ongoing operations. “Then there are only two employees at the reception instead of three,” she reports. “And there are waiting times in the restaurant because the kitchen is not fully occupied and the food cannot be prepared quickly enough.”

The hotel would therefore like to hire more workers from abroad. But the bureaucratic hurdles are often high in other cases as well. “We see a great application coming in, where we already know that the work permit won’t work,” says the HR manager. “Then we’ll say very clearly that we’re not even trying to tread that path.”

Agencies recruit workers from abroad

Some employers therefore rely on the support of personnel agencies that have specialized in the placement of foreign skilled workers. The “Talent Orange” agency in Frankfurt am Main, for example, recruits educators, nurses and medical assistants abroad. Latin America, Asia and Africa are the preferred regions.

Mediated by the agency, Fernando Rico Clavijo came to Karlsruhe from Colombia last November, where he now works as a nurse at the municipal clinic. But the change was not easy for him. In Colombia, nursing staff are even trained and deployed for more medical activities than in Germany. Nevertheless, Clavijo has to go through a recognition process, at the end of which there is a knowledge test in German. “The regulations are a bit complicated and the immigration authorities are very slow,” he says.

According to research by Report Mainz, care facilities do not occupy beds, although there is great demand.

Letter mail instead of digital applications

However, Clavijo has received support from “Talent Orange”. Language course, visa application, communication with the German authorities: the agency organized all of this for him. “We are dealing with a total of four authorities,” explains Uta Rasche from “Talent Orange”. “With the local regional council, with the Federal Employment Agency, with the German embassy in the country of origin and with the immigration authorities at the future place of residence.”

Many agencies are understaffed. When providing evidence of training, individual partial certificates are usually required instead of generally checking courses of study and then recognizing them across the board. Copies of original documents are often requested by post. All of this prolongs and discourages the process. Instead, a streamlined, fully digital process would be desirable.

He sees “great potential” in the country, he said after a meeting with President Ruto.

Germany is in hard international competition

“The USA, for example, manages this much better than we do,” Rasche points out. “We’re up against stiff competition and we can’t count on there always being enough people willing to do it all to come to us.” The bureaucracy is just one of many competitive disadvantages. Then there was the language barrier. German is a comparatively difficult language. English-speaking countries have an advantage because English is mostly taught in schools. What makes Germany attractive are other aspects. “Germany is considered to be economically stable, we score points with a stable democracy and equal rights for men and women, we have safety on the streets,” explains Rasche.

The agency tries to compensate for the difficulties in the bureaucratic process with its service. It runs its own training campus in Germany, which also provides living space. According to the company, over the past ten years it has brought more than 1,700 workers to Germany. The future employers pay around 9,000 euros placement fee per worker – plus the costs for visa and language course.

federal government wants to improve

The federal government has recognized the problem and now wants to make it easier to recruit foreign workers. The Bundestag has been dealing with the draft law since the end of April. In some professional fields there are minimum salaries that foreign applicants must earn in order to obtain a work permit. These thresholds are to be significantly lowered. Changing employers within the EU should also be simplified. In the future, a points system will be used to assess whether entry is permitted for trial work. Language skills, professional experience and a connection to Germany should play a role.

There is a massive shortage of skilled workers in Germany – in almost all areas.

More trust in German employers?

Uta Rasche warns that such a point system could end up making the authorities even more work. “We would like the authorities to trust employers more to find the right people and, if necessary, to organize the necessary training.”

In any case, nurse Fernando Rico Clavijo is happy to have arrived in Germany – in the country of Ludwig van Beethoven. He loves the composer’s music. One of the reasons why he wanted to go to Germany of all places. And after all the bureaucratic hurdles, hotel specialist Madhusudhanan Manavalan still understands the German authorities: In the end, it’s about Germany’s national security – but it should be a little quicker.