Berlin: Worker-starved Germany decided on Wednesday to ease immigration rules to attract foreign job-seekers and replenish its ageing workforce, despite mounting public resistance against new arrivals.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cabinet approved a new immigration law which still has to be formally approved by parliament next year, possibly with some amendments.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier hailed as a “historic day” the cabinet’s decision on Germany’s first immigration law, which had been eagerly anticipated by business groups.
The new law aims to attract foreign skilled vocational workers with German language skills, including those from outside the European Union, and promises them eased visa procedures and reduced red tape.
“We need manpower from third countries to safeguard our prosperity and be able to fill the job vacancies,” said Interior Minister Horst Seehofer.
Job-seekers such as cooks, metallurgy workers or IT technicians would be allowed to come to the EU’s biggest economy for six months to try and find employment, provided they can financially support themselves.
A separate provision, which sparked much controversy, will allow permanent residency for some of the rejected asylum seekers in Germany who have been granted stays of deportation because their home country is considered unsafe.
To qualify, they must have held a full-time job for 18 months, speak at least intermediate-level German, be socially well-integrated with no criminal offences, and be able to prove their identity.
“We must not deport the wrong people,” said Labour Minister Hubertus Heil, who stressed that many of the recent arrivals now “speak German, work, are industrious and are useful for Germany”.