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How can I hire employees from outside Europe?

We are often asked about the prerequisites companies must have in mind when it comes to “bring that new co-worker from Africa to Germany”. This is why we list the most important questions and answers concerning (future) employees from so-called third countries here.

By Jörg Kleis

How does the process work and are there legal requirements the employee should take into consideration?

Non-EU citizens who are not yet in Germany will need two (residence) permits: One is the actual visa that allows the entrance into and the stay within Germany. The other refers to the actual employment.

Your new employee will have to personally apply at the German diplomatic mission in their home country where he or she will be informed about all requirements, such as handing in a professional CV or a certificate of good conduct from the police. The German Federal Employment Agency is also involved in this process. It has offices abroad that are affiliated with the diplomatic mission (ZAV – Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung) and whose approval is required.

Those two titles will result in the final residence permit which is essentially the permission by the receiving state (Germany) for a person to enter its territory and to carry out certain activities there. In Germany, the most common residence permit is the visa mentioned mentioned above, which is typically issued to tourists or students. For employment purposes one therefore needs the second one, typically issued in form of the residence permit, the settlement permit and the EU Blue Card. After having entered Germany, your new employee must immediately go to the responsible immigration office and apply for the final, long-term residence permit.

Are there any requirements my company has to fulfill and can I support the process?

As mentioned above, the Federal Employment Agency abroad (ZAV) plays a key role. It will check various criteria before issuing any documents. They include working conditions such as salary and working hours as well as a priority examination, i.e. whether the position can be filled by job seekers with unrestricted access to the German labor market (Germans or EU citizens). It will also check the so-called “Positivliste” (positive list), so whether the job belongs to a group of jobs where there exists an acute shortage of skilled workforce in Germany. There exists a lists of those jobs which the Employment Agency regularly publishes online, which in particular includes jobs related to mathematics, engineering, natural sciences and technology. For more information, see here.

In order to speed up the visa process and to be sure that your new employee is actually able to start the new job, you as an employer can obtain the consent of ZAV before the visa application has been submitted. You can apply for this pre-approval even at the local ZAV office where your company is located while your employee is still in his or her home country. In order to do this you can submit a job description with details of working conditions and requirements for the candidate’s qualifications. If they issue their a preliminary consent, the new employee can submit that decision to the German mission abroad in his or her home country. Depending on the workload at the embassies abroad this step may constitute a preferable measure to speed up the process. Further information can be found here.

What role does the EU Blue Card play in all of this?

Out of the three residence permits mentioned above, the settlement permit and the Blue Card include a permit to work. The residence permit, however, must expressly contain it. Since the settlement permit is usually granted only after several years, the Blue Card is most likely to be the best choice of a residence permit for newcomers from Africa. It was introduced in 2012 for highly qualified foreign skilled workers and also entitles African nationals (without a German passport) to stay and work in Germany. It will initially be issued for a limited period of up to four years.

What requirements does the employee have to fulfill for a Blue Card?

The following evidence must be provided for to receive the Blue Card: (Usually) an academic degree, an employment contract corresponding with the qualification or containing the corresponding job offer, a minimum gross annual salary of 52,000 EUR (2018). This figure is subject to change and is being adapted annually.

Yet, when it comes to occupations where there exists an acute shortage of skilled workers (scientists, mathematicians, engineers, doctors and IT professionals for example), a minimum gross salary of 40,560 EUR per year does suffice. Blue Card holders may, under certain conditions, be granted a permanent settlement permit. Furthermore, family members are allowed to work without restriction after their arrival in Germany. Important: For citizens of third countries whose home countries have an intergovernmental agreement governing the exercise of employment, the granting of consent is determined by that agreement.

The new employee is already in Germany. What legal steps does he have to take?

For foreigners who are already in Germany, the local immigration authority at the first place of residence (most likely where your company is located) is responsible. This means that the previous path via the ZAV described above is no longer necessary. Permits to work are then based on the already issued residence permits and depend on the case at hand.

Can family members from abroad also come to Germany?

Yes, the residence permit associated with the work permit also includes family reunification (spouse and children) within the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany. The residence permit will usually be issued for the same period that your employee’s residence permit is valid.

If you or your company are looking to hire international professionals to work in Germany, please contact us at or We will be glad to assist you.

Note that on February 17, 2020 the German Parliament passed a new law that changes the procedures described in this article, especially the ones relating to the above-mentioned priority examination and the positive list.
This information does not constitute any legal advice, but merely an overview of general and publicly available information on the old laws. Accordingly, no liability is accepted for any possible damages resulting therefrom. Sources: Chamber of Commerce (IHK) Leipzig / Chamber of Commerce (IHK) Mainz / Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit)

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