The EU Blue Card / Blaue Karte EU was originally introduced by Germany in 2012 to make up for the shortfall of skilled workers in selected professions by cutting red tape and making immigration easier for non-EU citizens. It is often compared to the US Green Card, which serves a similar purpose in the United States of America. However, since the EU Blue Card / EU Blue Card requires a university degree, professionals who, for example, have undergone an intensive course or have a degree in an unrelated subject cannot apply for it. To counteract this problem, Germany offers a similar option to those affected, which does not require a degree, but still offers the benefits of a Blue Card: The German Work Permit.
Learn everything you need to know about the EU Blue Card / Blaue Karte EU and the German work permit in our guide!
The EU Blue Card / Blaue Karte EU is a work and residence permit and visa that is valid for all EU member states. Qualified non-EU citizens who hold a blue card have the right to reside and work in any EU member state.
- A Blue Card costs 100 euros, with a renewal fee ranging from 93 to 96 euros depending on the time period.
- It is initially granted for the duration of the employment contract plus three months, or a maximum of 4 years if the contract is indefinite.
- Blue Card is valid in all European member states except Denmark, Ireland and Great Britain.
- The main benefit of the Blue Card is access to the same social programs as citizens of the country, including education, health care and travel.
Who can apply for a Blue Card?
There are 7 categories to apply for: Highly skilled or qualified workers, researchers, students, apprentices, seasonal workers, intracompany transfers, self-employed/entrepreneurs. The requirements vary depending on the category, as students, for example, do not have to meet the same criteria as business owners. However, there are basic requirements that are generally applicable:
Requirements for an EU Blue Card / Blaue Karte EU:
- A college degree (The Central Office of Foreign Education offers the database “Anabin”) which can be used to verify that a degree meets the appropriate higher occupational qualifications)
- A valid employment contract or a binding job offer for highly skilled employment of at least 1 year’s duration
- For regulated professions: Documents proving that national legal requirements have been met (z.B. licenses, certificates or registration)
- For non-regulated occupations: Documents showing that the appropriate higher professional qualifications have been met (z.B. Experience, training or skills)
- A minimum level that is higher than the threshold in the Member State concerned (more information below)
- Proof of health insurance or proof of application for health insurance
- A valid passport
How much you have to earn?
The gross annual salary must be equal to or higher than the relevant minimum threshold set by the relevant member state. In general, it must be 1.5 times the average salary in the respective state. For Germany, the fixed minimum salary in 2021 is 56.800 EUR (gross). Lower thresholds can be set for professions with many vacancies.
Professions in Germany with a lower threshold (44.304 EUR)
- Professionals in the fields of physics, mathematics and engineering sciences
- Information and communication technology professionals
- Database and network experts
What about the family?
Non-EU citizens living in Germany with an EU Blue Card / Blaue Karte EU can bring their spouse or registered partner and unmarried minor children without further restrictions. In some cases, however, the spouse or registered partner must attend an integration course.
Travel and relocation with a Blue-Card
People holding an EU Blue Card / Blaue Karte EU are allowed to travel to countries outside the EU for up to one year without losing their permit. Within the EU (including countries within the Schengen Agreement), they can travel freely as a tourist for 90 days within a period of 180 days.
Holders who have been in the country from which they received the card for more than 18 months can move to other countries within the EU and apply for a new Blue Card there.
Note : Periods of time spent outside Germany (for travel reasons of any kind) are not taken into account when applying for a permanent residence permit.
Conversion of the EU Blue Card into a permanent residence permit
After a period of 33 months, persons holding an EU Blue Card / EU Blue Card can obtain a permanent residence permit. If they can prove German language skills on level B1 or higher, the time limit can be shortened to 21 months.
Note : Periods of time spent outside Germany (for travel reasons of any kind) are not counted when applying for a permanent residence permit.
Most people know about the above EU Blue Card / Blue Card EU. However, as the EU Blue Card / Blaue Karte EU requires a university degree, professionals who, for example, have undergone an intensive course or have a degree in an unrelated subject cannot apply for it. To counter this problem, Germany offers a similar option to those affected, which does not require a degree but still offers the benefits of a blue card: The German Work Permit.
- It is usually granted for the duration of the employment contract or for a maximum of about 4 years if the contract is indefinite.
- Work permits from other EU countries are not valid in Germany and vice versa.
Who can apply for a work permit?
The German work permit offers the same work rights as a Blue Card, without the requirement of a university degree. If the salary is within the average range of the position in question and the employer can justify why he/she would prefer that candidate over a privileged applicant (d.h. Germans, EU citizens, citizens of EEA countries), you are eligible for a work visa.
The visa of category D (entry visa)
Professionals from countries outside the EU (as well as nationals of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States of America) must apply for an entry visa before entering Germany. This is usually issued by the German embassy in the country of origin/residence. It allows to start work immediately after arrival in Germany and is valid for 3 to 6 months. Upon arrival, the type D visa can be converted into a permanent work permit.
Requirements for a category D visa (entry visa):
- A valid employment contract or a binding job offer
- There are no privileged employees (d.h. Germans, EU citizens, citizens of EEA countries) for the job available
- No adverse effects on the labor market due to the employment of foreign personnel
- The foreign worker is not employed under less favorable conditions than those applied to comparable German workers
- Costs: 75 EUR
The residence permit
When arriving in Germany, it is important to register the address with the German authorities and to take out German health insurance. Both must be proven in order to apply for a residence permit and subsequently a work permit , before the D-type visa expires. The residence permit is issued for the duration of the employment contract or for a maximum of about 4 years if the contract is indefinite.
Note : The residence permit is usually tied to the employer, d.h. When changing jobs, permission must be obtained from the Federal Employment Agency.
The Central Placement Office (ZAV) is responsible for issuing residence permits. It is part of the Federal Employment Agency, which helps employers in Germany fill their vacancies and integrates immigrant workers into the German labor market. In some cases, you have to go through a pre-approval process before the appointment at the embassy, which is also monitored by the ZAV.
Required documents for pre-authorization:
- Signed employment contract
- Completed form: Job Description
- Proof of qualification in the form of a university degree or relevant work experience
- Letter of motivation from the company explaining why you are the best candidate for the position
- Completed form: Application for permission to engage in employment
What about the family?
Non-EU citizens living in Germany with a German work permit can bring their spouse or registered partner as well as unmarried minor children , if the following conditions are met:
Conditions for taking family members with you:
- The spouse or registered partner must prove German language skills on at least A1 level (except for citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States of America)
- The holder of the original work permit must prove sufficient income and registration in an apartment large enough to accommodate all immigrant family members.
Conversion of the work permit into a Blue Card or a permanent residence permit
If since receiving your German work permit your salary has increased, your university degree has been officially recognized or you have completed your university studies there is a chance that you are now eligible for an EU Blue Card / Karte Blau EU.
Note: The two main advantages of a Blue Card over a work permit are easier family reunification and a faster path to permanent residence. If your family is already with you (or you do not plan to bring more family to Germany) and you have held the work permit for more than 2 years, the benefits of a Blue Card do not justify the bureaucratic process.
After 5 uninterrupted years in possession of a residence permit in Germany (including a work permit) you can apply for a permanent residence permit. If one is in possession of a German university degree or the EU Blue Card, this period can also be shorter.
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