The Act implementing the European Union’s Highly Qualified Directive introduces the EU Blue Card as a relatively new residence permit under § 19a Residence Act (AufenthG). The EU Blue Card is a residence permit in the Member States of the EU for third-country nationals, which gives highly qualified persons a right of residence which, in simplified terms, is more comfortable than other residence permits. Great Britain, Ireland and Denmark do not know this regulation.
A completed university degree must be proven. Degrees not acquired in Germany must be recognized or comparable to a German university degree. A job search is not provided for with the title. Therefore, there must be a job offer referring to the specific income level or even a valid employment contract. Otherwise, no gross annual salary could be specified, which is indispensable for the granting of such permits. The issue of a Blue Card EU does not require proof of German language proficiency, which is one of the major facilitations for making this residence permit attractive.
If a permanent residence permit is desired, the waiting period from 33 months to 21 months will be shortened if proof of sufficient knowledge of the German language is provided (see below for details). If the applicant is abroad, an application for a specific visa must be submitted to the German mission abroad before entering Germany. Entry with a tourist visa is not recommended. This will necessitate regular departure and re-entry. After entry, the competent immigration authority issues the EU Blue Card. In the case of a visa-free entry, the EU Blue Card can be obtained from the immigration office within three months of entry.
Another advantage of this card is the possibility to change titles. If the applicant is on another residence permit for study or gainful employment in Germany, the EU Blue Card can be converted, provided the other requirements are met. The EU Blue Card is initially issued for a limited period of four years. If the duration of the employment contract is less than four years, the Blue Card will be issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months. An extension of the EU Blue Card is possible after expiry of the period of validity or, under certain conditions, upon request, a settlement permit (permanent residence permit) will be issued. In principle, a change from another residence permit to the EU Blue Card is possible without leaving and reentering. For the year 2018, the minimum gross income per year is 52,000 €. If this minimum salary threshold is met, the granting of the Blue Card requires no further approval from the Federal Employment Agency.
For so-called shortage occupations, a reduced minimum gross salary limit was regulated in § 2 Abs. 2 Employment Ordinance. For the year 2018, this limit is 40,560 €. The issuing of the EU Blue Card to such applicants can in principle only be carried out with the approval of the Federal Employment Agency. However, it is only checked whether the working conditions meet the local standard. As far as the foreigner has a domestic university degree, the issuing of the Blue Card does not require the approval of the Federal Employment Agency, even if the applicant were covered by the shortage occupation regulation. The minimum salaries are regulated in the Employment Ordinance. The income level changes annually. Changing the salary limits at the beginning of the year does not affect the validity of a Blue Card already granted.
When renewing or changing jobs, however, the new salary limit must be met. The salary limit is not always easy to determine. In addition, surcharges to the gross salary are also credited, if their payment is guaranteed and not dependent on further conditions. The decision as to which grants can be made in an individual case and in what amount, lies with the Immigration Office. Here it may be necessary to deal with the authority and to make it clear why the salary limit has been reached. Which professions are regarded as shortages occupies the employment ordinance. Classically, this includes scientists, mathematicians, engineers, human physicians (not dentists) and academic specialists in information and communication technology.
During the first two years of residence, the EU Blue Card is tied to specific employment with a particular employer. In the case of so-called shortage occupations, the blue card can already be issued with an annual salary of 40,560 €. This requires the approval of the Federal Employment Agency on a regular basis. A priority check as to whether the position would be filled by privileged EU citizens does not take place. If the applicant has a domestic university degree or, alternatively, earns more than 52,000 €, the agreement of the Federal Employment Agency is also waived for shortage occupations.
Holders of a Blue Card EU are required to notify the immigration authorities if the employment for which the EU Blue Card has been issued is prematurely terminated.According to § 82 (6) AufenthG the detainees are obliged to inform the immigration office about their loss of the job, as long as a consent obligation on the part of the foreigners authority exists. However, the possibility of finding a job can be taken into account, especially if claims to ALG I have arisen through contributions.
In addition, the Blue Card EU also entitles visa-free stays of up to 90 days within 180 days for tourist purposes in the Schengen-area. Blue Card holders can enter the EU without a visa after 18 months and apply for the Card within one month, provided the other conditions are met. Generally, residence permits expire regularly after more than six months abroad, if there are no explicit permits issued by the Immigration Office. EU Blue Card holders, on the other hand, have the option of staying in non-EU countries for up to 12 consecutive months without the residence permit being canceled. This scheme also includes family members. However, this time outside the Federal Republic is not counted in case of an application for a settlement permit. The spouses of a Blue Card holder are entitled to a residence permit without the assigning spouse having to prove their German language skills if both spouses are at least 18 years old. Otherwise, the marriage must have already existed when the holder of the EU Blue Card moved his center of life to Germany. If he already had another residence permit in front of the EU Blue Card, the date of his first trip to Germany is decisive. If the applicant is in possession of a national visa and is in the prospect of being granted a Blue Card EU in Germany, a spousal visa may be issued to the spouse in individual cases at that time. Spouses of cardholders are immediately granted full access to paid employment and self-employment. For holders of the EU Blue Card in Germany, there is also the option to grant a permanent residence permit, a so-called settlement permit. In addition to the general requirements, a highly qualified employment must have been exercised for 33 months and contributions to a pension plan must have been made during this period. Incidentally, no proof of a completed orientation course is necessary. Only simple German skills – level A1 – have to be proven. If the holder of the Blue Card proves the higher German language proficiency level B1, he can already obtain a settlement permit for Germany after 21 months. Periods of possession of an earlier residence permit may also be counted if the alien has a university degree and received a gross salary that meets certain minimum salary thresholds. In terms of old-age insurance, only what has been acquired in the case of a compulsory contribution over the corresponding insurance claim period is required. Insofar as the insurance claim is acquired with the „after-insurance“, which would have been achieved in the event of a corresponding universal payment, the prerequisites for § 19a Abs. 6 AufenthG are also fulfilled.
We are frequently approached to these issues and are happy to help you as well. If you have any questions or need advice, we can explain the details of the Blue Card in English and of course in German language.
Rechtsanwalt Dr. Palm