1.11.2005 | Von:
Dr. Holger Kolb

Cornerstone of the Green Card regulation

The Green Card regulation was intended to attract foreign experts from third states (i.e. non-EU nationals) to Germany. It has frequently been confused with its American namesake.
Der deutsche Botschafter in Tschechien, Hagen Graf Lambsdorff (l) überreicht am 15.8.2000 in Prag dem tschechischen Computerexperten Marian König (25) aus Brünn eine deutsche Green Card.August 2008: A Czech computer expert is given a German Green Card by the German ambassador. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

The American green card allows for an indefinite work and residence permit and offers the possibility for naturalisation. In contrast, the German version merely granted a limited work permit up to a period of five years, assuming the foreign expert was offered a position by a German company. It was, therefore, more akin to the American H-1B visa, which provides for immigration of highly qualified individuals within certain professions for a limited period of time.

A few months after its introduction, the original quota of 10,000 German Green Cards was increased to 20,000. A university or technical college degree or a guaranteed gross annual salary of at least € 51,000 was required. Likewise, the Green Card could be obtained by international ICT students, allowing them to sign a labour contract in Germany directly following the culmination of their studies. In doing so, they would be spared a lengthy process to obtain a residence permit. The regulation also allowed Green Card holders to change jobs.

Working conditions and salary reflected German standards. The foreign experts were on equal legal terms with German employees with respect to taxes and social security. Consequently, German companies were required to pay health, unemployment and retirement benefits to their foreign experts as well. Furthermore, the experts could bring their families with them. Following an initial waiting period of one year, a spouse was also eligible for a work permit. In 2003 the waiting period was shortened to six months.

One particular aspect of the Green Card provision was the extremely quick approval process. The entire procedure, from filing the application to the approval of a work permit, took no more than a week in most cases. The Green Card had an obvious advantage over earlier approval procedures for highly trained foreign nationals, which could last several months.



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