EU Blue Card

Blaue Karte EU
Update 23.02.2024

Can I obtain an EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card is similar to the American Green Card. It is a special form of residence permit for those who want to work as qualified professionals in Germany. You can apply for an EU Blue Card whether you are already in Germany or still abroad in another EU country or a so-called "third country". You can find out how to apply in section "Where can I apply for an EU Blue Card?" below.

The new EU Blue Card: From November 18, 2023, the immigration options with EU Blue Card are partially expanded. The requirements are regulated in Sections 18, 18b, 18c, 18g and 19g of the Residence Act, which are based on the EU Directive 2021/1883.

The EU Blue Card offers the opportunity to apply for a national residence permit in accordance with Section 18g Residence Act. It can be a great option for academic professionals, experienced IT specialists without a university degree and graduates of so-called "tertiary education programmes".

Advantages of the new EU Blue Card: More occupational groups are taken into account and the minimum salary thresholds have been lowered. German language skills no longer need to be proven in order to apply for an EU Blue Card. This also applies to the reunification of spouses. Easier access to permanent residence (Settlement Permit according to § 18c para. 2 Residence Act) is also significant: residence periods are much shorter and employment is subject to social security contributions. In addition, the language requirements for applying for permanent residence have been significantly lowered (A1 is sufficient).

Important: The new EU Blue Card regulations require quite an adjustment within German bureaucracy. Therefore, the process may be slightly delayed. 

Please note: An EU Blue Card can be applied for in all EU Member States except Denmark, and Ireland. However, the preconditions, such as the amount of the minimum annual salary, differ from country to country.

If you have any further questions, you can visit our community platform “Together in Germany”. Our community managers will be happy to help!

*The information on this page has been reviewed and verified by lawyer Astrid Meyerhöfer.

What do I need to know?

Can I obtain an EU Blue Card in Germany?

The new EU Blue Card regulations (since November 18, 2023) will make it easier for qualified skilled workers to immigrate to Germany. For example, the salary thresholds are lower than before. In addition, more professionals can apply for the EU Blue Card, including:

  • Individuals who have a German academic degree, and a binding job offer or a current job contract in their specific field,
  • Individuals who have a foreign academic degree recognised in Germany and a binding job offer or a current job contract in their specific field,
  • Individuals who have a comparable higher education qualification and a binding job offer or a current job contract in their specific field,

with a minimum annual gross salary of at least 43.800, that is, 50% of the annual contribution ceiling in the general pension insurance in Germany (“Beitragsbemessungsgrenze in der allgemeinen Rentenversicherung”). 

  • Individuals who have completed a tertiary education programme (e.g., in colleges, technical training institutes, and vocational schools) equivalent to a university degree, with a minimum duration of three years if their qualification corresponds to a level in the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED 2011) or at least level 6 of the European Qualifications Framework. This now also includes, for example, business administrators, master craftspersons, technical/industrial, agricultural or artistic professions, nursery school teachers and curative education therapists. The training programmes must be comparable to a corresponding German training programme, so an examination is usually still required. If you are unsure whether you meet the requirements, check out the section “Where can I seek counselling and support?” below.

  • Skilled workers who work in shortage occupations ("Mangelberufe") and recent graduates who obtained their university degree within the past three years can obtain a Blue Card EU with the approval of the Federal Employment Agency if they meet the salary requirement of at least 41.041,80 (As of January 2024) or %45.3 of the annual contribution ceiling in the general pension insurance.

  • University graduates who have obtained their university degree within the last three years can receive an EU Blue Card with the approval of the Federal Employment Agency if they earn a minimum income of at least %45.3 of the annual contribution ceiling for general pension insurance, i.e. 41,041.80 (as of January 2024).

  • Special regulation for IT professionals: In certain IT jobs, even if an applicant does not have academic degrees, the Blue Card EU can still be granted with the approval of the Federal Employment Agency if the salary is at least 41.041,80, that is, %45.3 of the annual contribution ceiling in the general pension insurance and the applicant can prove they have achieved certain skills, knowledge, and abilities through at least 3 years of professional experience during the past 7 years.

Important: Make sure that your future job is "qualification-appropriate“, i.e., the job must be related to the qualification you obtained during your time in a university (also University of Applied Sciences) or tertiary education. In other words, the job cannot be something for which vocational training (within the meaning of § 18b Residence Act) suffices.

Please note: When the new law is enforced, the job offer based on which you apply for an EU Blue Card must provide for a minimum employment duration of six months.

Important: In the shortage occupations (“Mangelberufenor Engpassberufen), the Federal Employment Agency has to approve the recruitment. This is to ensure that foreign workers are not employed under worse working conditions than German workers, that the job is appropriate to their qualifications and that the individual is actually employed inside Germany. You can find out more by checking this detailed list of shortage occupations in Germany.

Please note that for some professions, such as doctors, lawyers, etc., it is necessary to have a separate professional licence and to prove the equivalence of the qualification. You can learn more in our chapter "Recognition of Qualifications".

To shorten the approval procedure, your future employer can apply for approval before you enter Germany at the Central International and Specialist Placement Service (ZAV). 

Where can I apply for an EU Blue Card?

In principle, the Immigration Office is in charge of issuing EU Blue Cards.

  • If you have a residence permit in Germany, you should contact the Immigration Office responsible to obtain an EU Blue Card.

  • If you have been holding an EU Blue Card from another EU Member State for at least 18 months, you can enter Germany for the purpose of employment without an employment visa; but you must then apply at the relevant Immigration Office within one month of entering the country for the issuance of an EU Blue Card in Germany. You are not allowed to work until you receive approval from the Immigration Office.

  • If you are a third-country national who lives neither in Germany nor in another EU Member state, you usually need to obtain a visa "for the purpose of gainful employment" from the German embassy in your country of residence first. After entering Germany (and before the expiry of the visa), you can apply for an EU Blue Card at the competent Immigration Office.

  • If you are already in Germany, e.g. with a Schengen visa (Visitor Visa), and find a job during your short stay that fulfils the requirements for the EU Blue Card, you can try to apply for the EU Blue Card at the Immigration Office (see § 39 sentence 1 no. 3 Residence Ordinance & § 4 Residence Act). But beware: There is no guarantee. Even if you fulfil all the requirements, the Immigration Office may insist that you go through the visa procedure for the EU Blue Card. That means you would have to return to your country of origin and apply for a visa at the German diplomatic mission there. It is best to seek advice from a lawyer beforehand.

You can find the Immigration Office responsible for you at bamf-navi.bamf.de.

 

Where do I apply for a visa?

If you need an entry visa to come to Germany, the first step is to apply for a visa at the German embassy/consulate in your home country or (in case the German embassy in your country is closed) a neighbouring country and present the required documents. To learn more about the visa application procedure, visit our chapter “Visa for Skilled Workers”.

Please note: Your visa application can take several months to process. However, if you would like to immigrate to Germany as a skilled worker, you may be able to obtain a visa more quickly (in accordance with Section 81a Residence Act). To do so, your future employer in Germany must apply for a so-called "accelerated visa procedure" (“beschleunigtes Visumverfahren”) at the Immigration Office.

Keep in mind: Whether you need a visa depends on your country of origin. On Auswaertiges-amt.de, you will find a list of countries whose citizens need an entry visa for Germany.

Important: Citizens of Japan, Canada, Australia, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, the USA, South Korea, Israel and New Zealand may enter Germany without a visa. However, they must apply for a work permit after entering the country.

What documents do I need for the application?

In our chapter "Visa for Skilled Workers", you will find a list of documents that all third-country nationals need for a skilled worker’s visa. Depending on where you come from, you might be asked for more documents– it is best to check with the German embassy/consulate in your country.

When applying for an EU Blue Card at the Immigration Office later, you also need the following documents:

  • a recognised university degree and

  • an employment contract or a binding job offer in Germany with an annual gross salary within specific limits (Your employer will need to provide you with a signed “Declaration of Employment”)

Please note: You need to have any academic degrees you have obtained abroad recognised in Germany. To learn how, visit our chapter “Recognition of certificates”.

 

What happens after entering the country?

After entering the country, you need to register your address. Then, you must report to the Immigration Office at your new place of residence within three months and apply for an EU Blue card. To do so, you must submit the documents mentioned above (again), as well as, in principle, a police registration certificate and a rental agreement. The authorities will check your papers to make sure you meet the requirements mentioned above. If you do, you will be legally entitled to an EU Blue Card.

The EU Blue Card is usually issued for four years. If your employment contract has a shorter duration, your residence title will be issued for the duration of the employment contract plus three months. In principle, an extension will be possible with a new work contract.

 

Can I change my job?

Yes, you can change your job. Before the new EU Blue Card regulations were introduced on November 18, 2023, the responsible Immigration Office (Ausländerbehörde) had to approve the change if you decided to switch jobs within the first 2 years of holding an EU Blue Card. But now, you do not need permission from the immigration authorities to change jobs.

Although you do not require permission from the Immigration Office to change jobs, you must inform them if you switch jobs within the first twelve months of your employment.

During this period, the Immigration Office has 30 days to suspend the employment and reject the job change if the new job does not meet the requirements for holding an EU Blue Card.

This can also protect you, as a non-German workforce, from being employed under worse working conditions than German employees.

Please note: If you change your job within the first 12 months after starting employment, the Immigration Office can reject the job switch for 30 days, which means you may not start the new job for 30 days (even if the work has already started). The Immigration Office always checks whether the job fulfils the requirements for the issue of an EU Blue Card.

Important: You must inform the Immigration Office if you change jobs. If you do not do so in good time and the new job does not fulfil the requirements for the EU Blue Card, the Immigration Office can revoke the EU Blue Card and your family members (Section 52 (2b) Residence Act).

What are the main benefits of an EU Blue Card?

Family reunification is easier for holders of an EU Blue. For instance, with a Blue Card, your spouse does not need to present a German language certificate for family reunification.

If you apply for an EU Blue Card together with your application for family reunification, the applications will be processed at the same time. After entering the country, your family members must also apply for a residence permit in Germany at the Immigration Office. They do not have to prove that the flat is large enough or that they have enough money to live on. Furthermore, they will be allowed to work immediately after they come here. 

Important: Your family members who move to Germany with you must not receive any social benefits from the state (according to SGB 2 or SGB 12).

Having an EU Blue Card also enables you to obtain a permanent residence permit after only 33 months of residence in Germany, given you work, make contributions to a pension insurance scheme and can prove you have a basic knowledge of the German language (A1 certificate)– in case you have a B1 certificate, you can apply for a permanent residence permit after only 21 months of residence. 

The new EU Blue Card regulations (since Nov. 18, 2023) allow you more mobility:

  • Holders of a Blue Card EU issued by another EU member state will be able to work in Germany for 90 days within a 180-day period without requiring a residence permit or work permit if their work is directly related to the job contract based on which they obtained their Blue Card. Additional documentation may be required if your EU Blue Card is issued in a non-Schengen EU member state.

  • Holders of a Blue Card EU issued in another EU member state who have been residing there for at least twelve months with a Blue Card EU will be able to move to Germany for work. However, in principle, they must also meet the requirements for granting an EU Blue Card in Germany, except for some specific cases.

Where can I seek counselling and support?

You can visit our community platform Together in Germany if you have questions regarding the EU Blue Card. For more detailed information on the recognition process, visit www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de. Furthermore, the hotline “Working and Living in Germany”, which is established by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, can provide you with support and answer your questions in English and German on the phone and via email.

Important

As of now, holders of the EU Blue Card can receive a permanent residence permit (“Niederlassungserlaubnis”) after 33 months. From 1 March 2024, this period will be reduced to 27 months, and if you can provide proof of language proficiency at level B1, even up to 21 months. You can learn more in our chapter "Permanent Residence Permit".

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