New act gives foreign students and staff more work opportunities

A new law giving foreign academics and students more job-seeking opportunities has come into effect in Germany, as the share of foreign students enrolled at German higher education institutions rose again last year.

The act, Implementing the European Union Directive on Entry and Residence of Highly Qualified Workers, goes far beyond the original European Union (EU) requirements.

On graduating, foreign students can stay in Germany for up to 18 months instead of the previous one year to seek a job, and while doing so they can take on other jobs without any time restrictions.

Graduates who have found employment in line with their qualification no longer require approval by the Federal Employment Agency, or BA. And an unlimited right of abode may be granted after two years.

Foreign students can now take on jobs for 120 days a year – up from 90 days a year previously – to cover expenses.

And, provided that they can guarantee that they have a secure livelihood, academics can receive a residence permit for up to six months. Also, academics with an employment contract earning at least €44,800 (US$54,400) a year (€35,000 in some occupations that are in short supply) can immediately start working in Germany as holders of an EU Blue Card.

As a rule, Blue Card holders can apply for permanent right of abode after 33 months, and even 21 months with a good knowledge of German. Family members may also take up employment, without BA approval.

“This new law gives foreign academics more freedom of choice as to whether they extend their stay in Germany or stay here permanently after completing their studies,” said German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) President Marget Wintermantel, welcoming the development.

“This is an important step at a time when we are urgently in need of skilled workers.”

DAAD has also welcomed the latest statistics on foreign students in Germany. Their share peaked at 11.4% of the country's 2.2 million students in 2011. Around half of the foreign students come from Europe, mostly Eastern European states such as Russia, Bulgaria and Poland.

However, numbers of Western European students are steadily growing, with Austria, France and Spain taking the lead. A third of the foreign students came from Asia, with China’s 22,828 students representing the largest contingent.

After the US, the United Kingdom and Australia, Germany is the world’s fourth most popular host country.