The predecessor of the current Minister of the Interior in Germany, Horst Seehofer, still found it difficult to use the term “country of immigration”. The coalition agreement of the new federal government contains an explicit declaration that Germany has long been a country of immigration. The three parties state that the goal is a “fresh start” in migration and integration policy, which should do justice to “a modern immigration country”. Migration should be designed in a forward-looking and realistic manner; regular migration should be made possible and irregular migration reduced. The new government describes this duality as a “paradigm shift”.
As far as concrete initiatives are concerned, there is a considerable difference from the previous government. Although it has taken a first step towards the so-called paradigm change, which creates permeability between the asylum system and labor migration. But the right of residence goes well beyond that. It has already been passed in the German Parliament.
The changes to the immigration of skilled workers have not yet progressed that far. Here, too, the government is going beyond the previous government’s liberalisations. The third item debated is changes in nationality law. The draft law from the Federal Ministry of the Interior is still in the draft phase, so it has not yet been submitted to the other departments for approval.
This new residence permit aims to solve the problem of “chain toleration”, so well-integrated foreigners who have been living in Germany for several years without a secure status should benefit. Anyone who has been tolerated or permitted for five years in October 2022 or lives with a residence permit and has not committed a criminal offense should, according to the government’s plans, receive a residence status for 18 months in order to meet the missing requirements for a long-term residence permit – that are, among other things, knowledge of German and securing one’s own livelihood. The prerequisite is a commitment to the democratic order. People who prevent their deportation due to repeated, intentional misrepresentation or active identity deception should be excluded. According to estimates, around 135,000 people could benefit from the new legislation.
Third-country nationals “with good potential” should come to Germany to look for a job and be able to stay here. An “opportunity card” based on a “transparent and unbureaucratic points system” is to be introduced for this purpose. The model for this are regulations in Canada. The selection criteria could include qualifications, language skills, professional experience and a connection to Germany. Immigration should also be made possible for third-country nationals who have at least two years of professional experience and a professional qualification of at least two years that is state-recognized in their country of origin. In the future, these people will no longer have to have their qualifications formally recognized in Germany in non-regulated professions. As before, foreign university graduates receive the Blue Card. In the future, skilled workers should be able to do any qualified job: A skilled worker who is recognized as an office management clerk can also be employed as a skilled worker in the field of logistics.
According to the draft law, children born in Germany to foreign parents should automatically receive German citizenship if one parent has had “the lawful habitual residence” in Germany for five years. In addition, naturalization should generally be possible after five years and not after eight years, as has been the case up to now, and even three years should suffice for special integration achievements. For members of the so-called “guest worker generation”, the language level required for naturalization is to be lowered. Multiple citizenship should continue to be possible, so that the previous citizenship no longer has to be given up with naturalization.
Opposition leader Friedrich Merz is particularly critical of the draft law. Although he does not want to shut himself off from “further modernization of immigration law and citizenship law”, he sees a dilution of citizenship law in Germany.
More explosive, however, are the concerns from the ranks of the governing coalition itself, especially among the Liberals. The deputy leader of the parliamentary group, Konstantin Kuhle, criticized the order, the FDP is urging that progress be made first on the issue of immigration of skilled workers. The parliamentary group leader Christian Duerr calls for a migration policy “from a single source”. He also mentioned that foreigners who don’t want to integrate have to leave the country again.
Duerr points out a passage from the coalition agreement that has not yet been addressed. There is talk of a “repatriation offensive” in order to implement departures more consistently, in particular the deportation of criminals and people who are dangerous. The government has also decided to speed up the asylum application process so that it is clearer who is allowed to stay and who is not. Here, too, there are no concrete plans yet.
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