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EU Blue Card FAQs

What is the legal basis for the EU Blue Card?

The Transposition Act for the European Union’s Directive on Highly-Qualified Employment (Directive 2009/50/EC) came into force on 1 August 2012. Among other things, this Act has resulted in the introduction of the EU Blue Card as a new residence title as stipulated in section 19a of the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz – AufenthG).

In which countries is the EU Blue Card valid, and in which countries does the EU Blue Card not apply?

The EU Blue Card is a residence title that has been created for third-country nationals in the Member States of the EU. The only countries in which the Directive on Highly-Qualified Employment does not apply are the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark, and these countries do not therefore issue any EU Blue Cards.

What preconditions need to be met in order for an EU Blue Card to be issued?

Three preconditions need to be met in addition to the general admission conditions in order to receive an EU Blue Card:

  1. Applicants must provide proof of having completed higher education. If the higher education qualification was not acquired in Germany, it must either be recognised or be comparable to a German higher education qualification.
  2. Applicants must either provide proof of a specific job offer or present a pre-existing employment contract, or one that has already been signed, and
  3. This offer or contract must be for at least a specific minimum gross annual salary.

How can foreign higher education qualifications be recognised?

Should you have any questions on the recognition of foreign higher education qualifications, please refer to the information portal on the recognition of foreign educational qualifications: http://www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de

Where can I find information on whether a foreign qualification is comparable to a German qualification?

The Anabin database (see link below) lists the qualifications for which comparability has already been generally determined as well as further information on comparability.

http://anabin.kmk.org/no_cache/filter/anerkennungs-und-beratungsstellen-in-deutschland.html

Is it also possible to obtain a Blue Card without a higher education qualification but based on completed vocational training?

It is currently not possible to obtain an EU Blue Card in Germany without a higher education qualification. The Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has not adopted a statutory instrument to this effect in accordance with section 19a subs. 1 (b) of the German Residence Act.

What level of language skills needs to be proven in order to obtain the EU Blue Card?

No proof of German language skills needs to be provided in order to obtain an EU Blue Card. When applicants are applying for a settlement permit, however, the waiting period is reduced from 33 to 21 months if they provide proof of adequate knowledge of German (level B1).

How can I obtain an EU Blue Card?

If you are currently outside Germany, you should apply to the competent German mission abroad for a visa for the purpose of employment before you enter Germany. As a matter of principle, this also applies in cases in which visa-free entry would otherwise be possible. See the next paragraph for details of exceptions. Under no circumstances should you enter Germany with a tourist visa, as this type of visa can only be extended in the form of a residence title in exceptional cases. As a rule, it is otherwise necessary to leave and then re-enter the country. The visa for the purpose of employment entitles you to enter Germany and then to apply to the immigration authority that is competent for your place of residence for the EU Blue Card to be issued. You will find the contact details of the German missions abroad worldwide here:

http://www.auswaertiges-amt.de/DE/Laenderinformationen/03-WebseitenAV/Uebersicht_node.html

Exceptions apply to nationals of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the United States of America. They can enter Germany on a visa-free basis and can apply to the competent immigration authority in Germany for their future place of residence for an EU Blue Card within three months of entering Germany.

Individuals who enter the country on a visa-free basis may not as a rule work immediately after entering the country as they do not hold a visa permitting them to engage in gainful employment. This is only permitted when they have received the appropriate residence title. Since it can take several weeks for one to be issued, it is recommended to apply for a visa from the competent mission, even if no visa is required, in order to be able to take up gainful employment at a later date.

If you have already held an EU Blue Card issued by another Member State of the European Union for at least 18 months, you many also submit your application in Germany. This application must be made to the competent immigration authority for your place of residence within one month after you enter Germany.

If you are currently already resident in Germany and hold a different residence title for the purpose of studying or employment, you can change this title to an EU Blue Card by applying to your competent immigration authority, provided that you fulfil the general preconditions.

Applications for an EU Blue Card and, where applicable, for the subsequent immigration of family members are to be made in person by the persons in question to the competent German mission abroad or, if the nationals mentioned above are exempt from the visa requirement, to the competent German immigration authority.

If you have any questions regarding the duration of the procedure and the documents that need to be submitted, please contact your competent German mission abroad or immigration authority, as there may be differences in the way the process is handled and it is not therefore possible to make any generally valid statements in this respect.

How long is an EU Blue Card valid?

The EU Blue Card is initially issued for a limited period of four years at most. If the employment contract has a term of less than four years, the Blue Card is issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months. The EU Blue Card can be extended subject to specific preconditions once its validity has expired, or a settlement permit, that is an unlimited residence title, is issued on application subject to specific prerequisites.

Is it possible to change to an EU Blue Card from another residence title?

As a matter of principle, it is possible to change from another residence title to the EU Blue Card. As soon as the conditions for the EU Blue Card are met, this constitutes a legal entitlement.

Do I need to leave and then re-enter the country in order to obtain an EU Blue Card when changing from another residence title?

It is not necessary to leave and re-enter the country in order to change from another residence title to an EU Blue Card.

How high does my gross annual salary need to be in order for me to obtain an EU Blue Card?

The minimum gross salary per year for 2016 is 49.600 Euros. If this minimum salary threshold is satisfied, the issuing of an EU Blue Card does not require approval from the Federal Employment Agency (section 2 subs. 1 No. 2 (a) of the German Employment Ordinance [Beschäftigungsverordnung]). Your salary must meet the threshold regardless of your working time model. Part-time positions are not calculated on a pro rata basis, and there are no provisions for individual reviews in cases where the salary thresholds are not met.

Section 2 subs. 2 of the German Employment Ordinance stipulates a reduced minimum gross salary threshold for jobs where there is a shortage of applicants. The threshold for 2016 is 38.688 Euros. As a matter of principle, the EU Blue Card may only be issued to this group of individuals with the consent of the Federal Employment Agency. No “priority review” is performed. The only aspect that is reviewed is whether the working conditions comply with the standard for the location in question. If the foreigner has a German higher education qualification, the issuing of an EU Blue Card does not require the approval of the Federal Employment Agency, even if he or she would normally be subject to the provision on jobs where there is a shortage of applicants (section 2 subs. 1 No. 2 (b) of the German Employment Ordinance).

The minimum salaries are regulated by section 2 of the German Employment Ordinance. They are in line with the contribution assessment ceiling for the general pensions insurance, and change each year. At the end of each year, they are published for the following year in the Federal Gazette by the Federal Ministry of the Interior.

The raising of the salary thresholds at the beginning of a year does not affect the status of EU Blue Cards that have already been issued. The new salary threshold only has to be met if the Blue Card is extended or in case of a change of job that is subject to approval.

Do allowances such as Christmas bonuses count towards the minimum gross annual salary?

Some bonuses can be credited towards the gross salary. This is the case in particular if they are specified in a minimum amount in the employment contract, in other words if their payment is guaranteed and not subject to conditions. Benefits that are listed as eligible payments in the Social Insurance Compensation Ordinance (Sozialversicherungsentgeltordnung) (http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/bundesrecht/svev/gesamt.pdf) can also be included in the calculation of the gross salary. The decision as to which benefits are eligible in individual cases and their amount is a matter for the competent immigration authority.

Where can I find out which occupations are classed as jobs where there is a shortage of applicants?

Section 2 subs. 2 of the German Employment Ordinance stipulates which occupations are regarded as jobs where there is a shortage of applicants. These are occupations belonging to Groups 21, 221 and 25 of the International Standard Classification of Occupations (ISCO), and particularly include natural scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors of human medicine (excluding dentists) and skilled academic personnel in the field of information and communication technology. You can find a complete list of the groups here:

http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/documents/1978984/6037342/ISCO-08.pdf

Do the jobs where there is a shortage of applicants include assistant medical doctors undergoing further training?

Assistant doctors undergoing further training who are licensed to practice in Germany are also entitled to be issued with an EU Blue Card under the less stringent conditions applying to jobs where there is a shortage of applicants.

Do medical doctors need a licence to practice?

The licence to practice serves to confirm the comparability of the foreign higher education qualification. In case of a working permit that has been granted in accordance with section 10 of the Federal Medical Practitioners’ Code (Bundes-ärzte¬ordnung), it is assumed that the higher education qualification is comparable to a German higher education qualification when it comes to the prerequisites for granting residence.

Is the Blue Card restricted to specific occupational groups?

No occupational groups are excluded as long as the conditions for obtaining an EU Blue Card are met. However, the employment must be commensurate with the qualification.

Does the EU Blue Card entitle the holder to take up employment without any restrictions?

The EU Blue Card is tied to specific employment with a particular employer for the first two years of residence. Any highly-qualified employment can be taken up subsequent to this. Self-employment is however not permitted.

Is it necessary for the Federal Employment Agency to conduct a review?

If the minimum salary threshold, currently 49,600 Euro, is reached, no review by the Federal Employment Agency is generally stipulated.

In the case of jobs where there is a shortage of applicants, the Blue Card can be issued from a lower annual salary of 38,688 Euro, but as a matter of principle only with the approval of the Federal Employment Agency. No “priority review” is conducted to establish whether the position could be filled by privileged EU citizens. The only aspect that is reviewed is whether the working conditions are identical to those of comparable Germans.

If however the foreigner holds a German higher education qualification or earns more than (currently) 49,600 Euro, approval from the Federal Employment Agency also ceases to be necessary for jobs where there is a shortage of applicants.

Can employers do anything to accelerate the approval procedure?

Employers can have a review carried out before lodging an approval enquiry for a foreign worker as to whether the conditions apply on the labour market for subsequent approval of such employment.
A detailed job description should be provided containing information on the working conditions, as well as requirements as to the qualification of the applicant.

Employers may also take advantage of this possibility if they would like to clarify in good time whether the post that they are offering may be occupied by a foreign worker, that is prior to looking for an employee abroad, but also when a specific foreign worker is already intended for the post.
Employers can considerably shorten the decision-making process by taking these steps.

You will find a description of the advance approval procedure, including the appropriate application forms, on the Internet at www.zav.de/arbeitsmarktzulassung

Can a Blue Card also be issued to a temporary worker?

In accordance with section 40 subs. 1 sentence 2 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG), approval of the Federal Agency is to be refused if the foreigner intends to take up employment as a temporary worker (a worker in a temporary employment business). Since this provision hence only applies to employment requiring approval, and there is no opposing regulation for employment not requiring approval, the EU Blue Card can also be issued if an individual is seeking employment in a temporary employment business and approval by the Federal Employment Agency is not required. This is the case if the foreigner either holds the requisite recognised or comparable higher education qualification in accordance with section 2 subs. 1 No. 2 of the Employment Ordinance (BeschV) and a salary is paid to him or her at or above the regular salary threshold or, if he or she works in a job where there is a shortage of applicants, holds a German higher education qualification and earns the reduced gross annual salary applicable to jobs where there is a shortage of applicants.

From what point in time may I change employers?

Any change of job during the first two years of employment requires the approval of the immigration authority (section 19a subs. 4 of the German Residence Act). Approval is subject to the same preconditions as initial issuance. If the minimum gross salary threshold has been raised during the intervening period, compliance with the new threshold must be proven. Holders of an EU Blue Card are obliged to inform the competent immigration authority if the employment for which the EU Blue Card was issued is terminated prematurely

What happens if I lose my job?

In accordance with section 82 subs. 6 of the German Residence Act, persons who are resident are obliged to notify the competent immigration authority of the loss of their job where employment is subject to approval by the immigration authority. The foreigner in question initially still holds a valid residence title, but the immigration authority may stipulate a subsequent time limitation at its discretion. This time limitation may however take account of the possibility to seek employment, particularly if entitlements to unemployment benefit 1 (“ALG I”) have arisen as a result of contributions that have been made.

May my place of work be different from my place of residence?

Your place of work is permitted to differ from your place of residence within Germany. Cross-border employment in Germany coupled with a place of residence in a neighbouring state is however only possible for holders of a permit for frontier workers. The immigration authority at the place of employment is competent for issuing the permit for frontier workers

Can I also apply for an EU Blue Card in order to seek employment in Germany?

No, one of the explicit preconditions for issuing an EU Blue Card is at least a concrete job offer.

Third-country nationals who hold a German higher education qualification or a recognised or comparable foreign higher education qualification may however apply for a residence title in accordance with section 18c of the German Residence Act designed to allow skilled workers to seek employment. This entitles the holder to stay in Germany for up to six months for the purpose of seeking employment commensurate with her or her qualifications. Subsistence for this period of time must be ensured, as the residence title in accordance with section 18c of the German Residence Act does not entitle the holder to take up gainful employment. If the search for employment is successful, the residence title can be changed to a residence title for the purpose of employment.

Which EU Member States have transposed the Directive?

The EU Blue Card is to be issued in the Member States of the EU. The only countries where the Directive on Highly-Qualified Employment does not apply are the United Kingdom, Ireland and Denmark.

Can I move freely within the European Union with an EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card also entitles the holder to spend visa-free periods of up to 90 days within a 180-day period in the other Schengen States for the purpose of tourism. Holders of an EU Blue Card can enter another Member State without a visa after 18 months and apply for the EU Blue Card of that Member State within a period of one month. The same applies to family members holding a residence title for the subsequent immigration of family members.

Can I already move freely within the European Union while my application for the EU Blue Card is still pending?

If the third-country national is in Germany legally, and if an application has already been made for the EU Blue Card and accepted by the competent authority, a provisional residence document (Fiktionsbescheinigung) is generally issued in accordance with section 81 of the German Residence Act. Until a final decision has been made regarding the application, this document provisionally confers the same rights on the applicant as he or she would enjoy as the holder of an EU Blue Card.

Can I interrupt my stay in Germany during the validity period of the EU Blue Card?

Holders of an EU Blue Card are permitted to stay in a non-EU country for up to 12 consecutive months without their residence title expiring. This provision also includes family members. However, this time spent outside Germany is not credited towards any application for a settlement permit.

Are spouses who subsequently immigrate to Germany entitled to be issued with a residence permit?

The married spouse of the holder of an EU Blue Card is entitled to be issued with a residence permit. He/she doesn’t have to prove any German language skills, if both partners are at least 18 years old. Otherwise, the marriage must have existed already when the Blue Card holder had established his main ordinary residence in Germany. In case the principal spouse already held another residence title prior to the EU Blue Card, the date of his first-time entry to Germany is seen as decisive reference.

May the spouse of an applicant enter Germany at the same time as the applicant to apply for the subsequent immigration of family members on the spot?

If the applicant holds a national visa and has prospects of receiving an EU Blue Card in Germany, the "subsequently immigrating" spouse can also obtain a visa at the same time for joint entry to Germany. However, this applies in individual cases only and there is no legal entitlement for visa and entry at the same time with the main applicant.
For further information please contact the competent German mission abroad.

Do spouses who subsequently immigrate to Germany enjoy free access to the German employment market?

Yes, spouses immediately enjoy unrestricted access to dependent and independent employment (Section 27, subsection 5 of the German Residence Act).

Do subsequently immigrating spouses have to provide proof of German language skills?

Spouses who subsequently immigrate to Germany do not have to provide proof of German language skills in order to be able to apply for a first residence title after entering the country. This however does not rule out the immigration authority deciding that an obligation exists for the spouse to attend an integration course subsequent to entry. Any violations of this obligation will be taken into account when the residence permit is extended.

Can other family members apart from children and spouses also immigrate to Germany?

No, the subsequent immigration of dependents is generally limited to spouses and unmarried minor children. Exceptions are only made in “hardship cases”; for more information, please contact your competent immigration authority.

Does the application for the subsequent immigration of family members have to be made in person?

The application must be made in person at the German mission abroad by the spouse who wishes to subsequently immigrate.

From what point in time can I obtain a settlement permit?

Holders of the EU Blue Card in Germany can be issued with an unlimited national residence title (settlement permit). In order to do so, they must not only meet the general preconditions, but also have been engaged in highly-qualified employment for 33 months and have paid contributions into an old-age pension scheme for this period. The further preconditions contained in section 9 subs. 2 No. 2 and Nos. 4-6, 8 and 9 of the German Residence Act also apply. In cases falling under No. 8, EU Blue Card holders who hold a higher education qualification are assumed to have a minimal need of integration, and do not therefore need to provide proof that they have completed an orientation course. Only simple German knowledge needs to be documented (level A1). If holders of the EU Blue Card provide proof of adequate knowledge of German (level B1), they can apply for a settlement permit for Germany after only 21 months.

Can previous stays in Germany be credited towards the settlement permit?

Periods of holding an EU Blue Card are credited towards this period. Moreover, any periods of residence holding a previous residence permit are credited if the foreigner held a higher education qualification and received a gross salary that satisfied the minimum salary thresholds stipulated below during this period:

Minimum salary under section 41a subs. 1 of the Employment Ordinance (to 30 June 2013)
under section 2 subs. 1 No. 2a of the Employment Ordinance (from 1 July 2013)
Minimum salary for jobs where there is a shortage of applicants
under section 41a subs. 2 of the Employment Ordinance (shortage occupation) (to 30 June 2013)
under section 2 subs. 1 of the Employment Ordinance (from 1 July 2013) – jobs where there is a shortage of applicants
201548,400 Euro (year)
4,033 Euro (month)
37,752 Euro (year)
3,146 Euro (month)
201447,600 Euro (year)
3,967 Euro (month)
37,128 Euro (year)
3,094 Euro (month)
2013

46.400 Euro (Jahr)

3.867 Euro (Monat)

36.192 Euro (year)

3.016 Euro (month)

201244,800 euros (year)
3,734 euros (month)
34,944 euros (year)
2,912 euros (month)
201144,000 euros (year)
3,667 euros (month)
34,320 euros (year)
2,860 euros (month)
201044,000 euros (year)
3,667 euros (month)
34,320 euros (year)
2,860 euros (month)
200943,200 euros (year)
3,600 euros (month)
33,696 euros (year)
2,808 euros (month)

Under certain circumstances, residence periods under a different residence title may be eligible where the conditions for a settlement permit for EU Blue Card holders are already met. In this event, the immigration authority has discretion to decide whether it is possible to apply for a settlement permit immediately. In such cases, possession of an EU Blue Card is assumed for a “logical second”, and a settlement permit is then issued. In other cases, you must first apply for an EU Blue Card, and may only apply for a settlement permit after the Blue Card has been issued.

Can retroactive insurance payments also be allowed for the pensions insurance contributions necessary for the settlement permit?

The requirement with regard to old-age pensions is for only the insurance entitlement that would have been acquired had the mandatory contributions been made over the appropriate period. If "retroactive insurance" serves to obtain the insurance entitlement that would have been reached had appropriate payments been made continuously, the prerequisites necessary for section 19a subs. 6 of the Residence Act are satisfied.

Do applicants for a settlement permit need to be in an open-ended employment relationship?

If the minimum period of 33 months or 21 months is satisfied for a settlement permit, you can apply for a settlement permit irrespective of whether or not the employment relationship is of a temporary nature. Having said that, amongst others the prerequisites of section 9 subs. 2 sentence 1 No. 2 of the German Residence Act must be met, i.e. the subsistence must be secure. It is at the discretion of the immigration authority here whether it accepts an employment contract as permanently securing subsistence

Do people applying for a settlement permit need to have a knowledge of the legal and social system in Germany in accordance with section 9 subs. 2 No. 8 of the German Residence Act?

Since holders of an EU Blue Card are assumed to have a minimal need for integration as they possess a higher education qualification, no documentation is required as a rule. Reference can be made here to section 9 subs. 2 sentence 5 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG). The immigration authority in question may however insist in individual cases on documentation of knowledge of the German legal and social system if for instance the presumption is not justified that the foreigner will become integrated into the economic, social and cultural life of the Federal Republic of Germany without state assistance.

Am I entitled to attend an integration course?

EU Blue Card holders are not entitled to attend an integration course as only minimal need for integration is assumed to exist. In accordance with section 44 subs. 4 of the German Residence Act, a foreigner who does not possess an attendance entitlement may however be allowed to attend, depending on the available number of places on the particular course.

Additional Information

The EU Blue Card

Academics who have graduated from a German higher education institution or who have a recognised foreign higher education qualification or a foreign higher education qualification that is comparable to a German one have been able since 1 August 2012 to obtain an EU Blue Card residence title.

More: The EU Blue Card …