Germany must remove hurdles for foreign skilled workers, says minister

Germany has to make it easier to attract skilled workers from abroad to address the country's worker shortage, says the Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck.

People walk in Frankfurt am Main.
People walk in Frankfurt am Main. Germany has a shortage of skilled workers. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Frank Rumpenhorst

Habeck, of the Green party, slammed the difficult German bureaucracy and requirements that skilled workers from abroad face. 

“The problem is that the hurdles are so high,” Habeck told Germany’s Funke-Mediengruppe newspapers at the weekend.  “Degrees are not recognised, applications have to be processed by embassies.”

He added that it was not enough to “simply invite” skilled workers to Germany. “Otherwise, they will stand in the rain in front of Frankfurt airport and get nowhere,” he said. “We have to build a lot of infrastructure to organise this.”

READ ALSO: Germany needs 500,000 new immigrants every year, says politician

Habeck said IT professionals don’t have major problems getting to Germany, but it wasn’t an easy process for other skilled workers. 

“It is a matter of easing the immigration requirements for others as well – especially those with professional qualifications,” Vice Chancellor Habeck said.

“In Germany, we must also take care of this, and make the necessary resources available for this. And we have to change the legal requirements so that immigrants can get easier access to the German labour market.”

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks at a government press conference on February 1st

Economy and Climate Minister Robert Habeck speaks at a government press conference on February 1st. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Kay Nietfeld

Germany is desperate to fill several vacancies, including for nursers, IT specialists, scientists, doctors and engineers. There is also a shortage of cooks, metallurgy workers and builders. 

“In autumn 2021, there was a shortage of 390,000 skilled workers,” said Habeck. “Without political measures, there will be a shortage of about half a million workers by the end of the legislative period.”

The previous government, made up of a coalition between the conservatives (CDU/CSU and SPD), launched a new law aimed at making it easier for skilled workers to come to Germany, but many have said it is not enough. 


Germany’s Central Foreign and Specialist Placement Office helped 3,200 skilled workers from abroad gain a foothold in the German labour market last year – 700 more than in 2020. However, politicians say that is still too low. 

The new traffic light coalition – made up of the SPD, Greens and FDP – have said they want a huge overhaul of immigration policies in Germany. 

READ ALSO: What Germany’s coalition proposals mean for citizenship and immigration

Habeck wants to actively court skilled workers in a new initiative. He has recorded a video “aimed at skilled workers all over the world” which will be launched on the German site aimed at foreign workers called – Make it in Germany.

“We are launching an appeal to come to Germany,” said Habeck.

“Above all, we need an overall show of strength: through a better reconciliation of family and work, through further education and training and, of course, through immigration.”

READ ALSO: How Italians are filling the gap in the German job market


Skilled workers – (die) Fachkräfte

Remove hurdles – Hürden abbauen

Immigration requirements – (die) Zuwanderungsvoraussetzungen

Gain a foothold – festen fuß fassen

We’re aiming to help our readers improve their German by translating vocabulary from some of our news stories. Did you find this article useful? Let us know.

Member comments

  1. Might work once the Germans realise that they need to embrace change and stop being so conservative, bureaucratic and bloody slow!

    1. We shall see if my comments just disappear like they have done since the update.

      They have to go back to the bring your family rule thing they had with turkey. But even that doesn’t really work. Further east is the lower wages but more bang for your buck.
      To the west is less bang for your buck.

      In trucking they want drivers from beyond Poland to fill up trucks in hamburg offering 4 weeks away in the truck for 2500 a month. <-without going home even at weekends. I can earn triple that to the west. On local work. Or. I can be home more for about the same to the east. Germany is not very lucrative anymore.

  2. The red tape and archaic regulations provide many government officials job security who manage immigration policies. They will resist any changes that could threaten their job security.

    1. Maybe stop paying Germans to sit at home. Maybe stop doctors from writing sick slips for people who are not sick. I see it all the time. When the wall came down and people from the east came over a programmer was shown the work a company does. He said he could do the work in a week. The company told him that’s what they do in a day. How are you going to know if this worker is skilled or not before you let them in? Need to stop paying kinder/mutterschaftsgeld. Makes people have like 6 kids. Crime is on the rise in the bigger cities. Force the Germans to work.

  3. It’s not just a political problem – it’s a cultural problem. German firms will also need to get over their obstinate insistence on fluent German language skills for any and every position. For many workers in highly technical fields, learning a new language basically means relearning your job. Couple that with the constant low-level discrimination that foreigners (especially non-Western foreigners) face in Germany, and you have a recipe for a very unattractive environment.

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For members


‘I finally feel at home’: How Germany’s planned changes to citizenship laws affect foreigners

As Germany stands poised to permit multiple nationalities, The Local readers have aired their views about how the change will affect them. The verdict? Many feel more comfortable settling in the country and building a life here.

German citizenship
A newly naturalised German shows her citizenship documents at Rathaus Neukölln in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Klaus-Dietmar Gabbert

Ahead of the September 2021 elections, it was no secret that Germany was on the brink of a huge political shift.

Angela Merkel, who had occupied the country’s top job through 16 years of crises and coalitions, had announced her retirement from politics; both sides of the so-called ‘Grand Coalition’ of the SPD and CDU/CSU had signalled that they were done with the partnership, and the country was faced with major upheaval from the pandemic and disastrous effects of climate change. 

What many people failed to predict, however, was just how significant the election would be for foreigners in Germany, those with migrant backgrounds and Germans abroad. 

In the coalition pact unveiled in November, the SPD, Greens and FDP announced plans to slash barriers to naturalisation one by one, from lowering the residency requirement from eight years to five (or even three with “exceptional integration”) to permitting the holding of multiple citizenships.

It’s still unclear when the changes to citizenship law will come into force – though politicians have told us it’s a “priority” for this year – but what is clear is that it will make a significant difference to lives of millions of foreigners who have decided to make Germany their home. 

Speaking to The Local after the changes were announced, several readers told us they welcomed the change – but thought that it was “long overdue”. 

“It’s been a long time coming,” said 47-year-old Greg from Karlsruhe. “It was very backward to only allow single citizenship.”

READ ALSO: When will Germany relax its dual citizenship laws?

Like many other respondents, Greg said he had hired a lawyer in the hope of getting an exception to the dual nationality rules – but ultimately it would have cost too much to pursue the case in court.

“Now I can finally get German citizenship after 15 years and I’m very happy about that,” he told us.

Of the more than 300 people who responded to our survey, around 72 percent said the change would make a huge difference to their lives, while a further 25 percent said it would affect them “a little”. 

Graph showing impact of change in German citizenship rules

Source: The Local

Others pointed out that, though they were personally happy about the change, the impact went well beyond first-generation migrants alone. 

We live in a world that is more global than ever, and this decision is going to open many doors – not just for the people who want to live in Germany, but for Germany itself.” said Brendan Lies, 31, who lives in Munich.

“But the ones I’m the most happy for are the many Turkish families who, until now, have had to struggle with completely unnecessary bureaucracy even generations later. This change is convenient for me, but for them, I think it’s more a matter of justice and equality.”

‘No longer a second-class citizen’

An overwhelming proportion of respondents to our survey – 88 percent – said they didn’t yet have German citizenship.

German citizenship graph

Source: The Local
Many said they had been put off from applying by the fact that they would have had to renounce their old passport. A significant number said they feared losing the right to visit their family and care for their ageing parents back home.

Of the 37 people who said they did have a German passport, 66 percent had renounced their previous nationality already, while a lucky 34 percent had been able to get dual nationality, either through an exception or because their original nationality was an EU one.

Of the people who weren’t yet ‘German’, 78 percent said they would “definitely” apply for citizenship once the rules had changed, while 11.5 percent had been already been planning to apply – even if they had to give up their previous nationality. 

Graph showing impact of dual nationality rule change

Source: The Local

The reasons for wanting to do so were varied, though many people brought up benefits such as voting rights and freedom of movement through the EU. 

I could finally vote after living in Germany for 30 years and having no say in what is going on,” said 48-year-old Laurie Schideman who lives in Frankfurt.

David Oswald, 49, who lives in Berlin, said the right to participate in elections was important to him as well.

“As a British person I’ve felt disenfranchised as I can’t vote here in Germany,” he explained. 

“It’s amazing,” said John Hignite, 31, who lives in Rodgau in Hesse. “I’ve lived in Germany for 10 years (all of my adult life), but haven’t been able to participate in elections.”

Another respondent who gave up their previous citizenship said they were excited at the prospect of regaining the right to have a say in the place they grew up.

I shall definitely re-acquire my old citizenship back and avail myself of my rights to stay longer, to own property and also vote and be politically active in my homeland,” they said. 

Beyond the explicit benefits that come with German citizenship, however, many people pointed to the less tangible – but no less important – sense that their complex loyalties and identities would finally be recognised. 

“I can officially show that I have loyalties to both Germany and the UK and should not be treated as a third rate citizen by authorities,” said 61-year old Kim Dallas, who lives in Saxony-Anhalt. 

Alex, 65, who lives in Hamburg, was also looking forward to having a greater sense of belonging. 

“I will no longer have to feel second class by falling on the wrong side of the EU/Non-EU divide, which crops up everywhere,” he said. 

READ ALSO: In limbo: Why Germany’s reform of dual citizenship laws can’t come soon enough

‘This changes everything’

In a powerful counterpoint to the argument that dual nationality creates split allegiances, many of our readers said that gaining German citizenship would help them feel much more integrated once they gained the passport.  

Some people told us they’d found new motivation to improve their German language skills, while others said it would inspire them to commit to the country on a long-term basis.

“This really changes everything for me and my family,” said 34-year-old Berliner Mamadou. “I now really want to stay in Germany and fully integrate knowing that I will have the right to vote and live like a proper German.”

It is definitely the best way forward,” said Elini, 33, who lives in Berlin. “Becoming a national of the country you live in is absolutely something that can change how you view that country, and how accepted you feel in that society.”

Others agreed that dual nationality would help people forge stronger emotional ties to Germany. 

A migrant with citizenship documents

A newly naturalised German smiles at his citizenship ceremony in Germany. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Julian Stratenschulte

“As a matter of principle, I don’t believe that there is a real argument for forcing people to only have one citizenship,” one anonymous respondent told us.

“Doing that implies forcing some sort of weird ‘loyalty’ to only one place, while it is human to feel connected to more than one place and to want to be part of both – while totally understanding that when you’re in Germany of course the German rules and law should and will apply to you.”

“I can keep my identity, and yet fully commit and exist in the country I chose to live, pay taxes, work,” said 26-year-old Daniel C. who lives in Berlin. “I can belong to my new home while not abandoning my old one.”

Dmitry, 44, who lives in Munich, echoed this view. 

“After gaining German citizenship, I would finally feel at home in Germany, knowing that I and my children would have all rights and all protections connected with it,” he said. 

Though not everyone we surveyed was happy about the change, a large number expressed feelings of relief that their voices had finally been heard and excitement about starting a new chapter of German life. 

This feeling of finally belonging was summarised by David Oswald in Berlin.

“Dual nationality doesn’t prevent integration,” he said. “It merely strengthens the bond between citizens.”

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How I got German citizenship – and how you can too


Thanks to everyone who shared their comments with us. Keep an eye on the Local Germany for more stories on what the planned changes mean for readers.

If there’s anything you’d like to ask or tell us about our coverage, please feel free to get in touch.