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EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card - a residence permit for highly qualified workers

Since August 1, 2012, employees and university graduates have had the opportunity to acquire a special residence permit, the so-called EU Blue Card. The aim of this residence permit is to promote and facilitate the permanent immigration of highly qualified workers from outside the EU to Germany. The legal basis for who can live and work in Germany with a Blue Card is regulated in Section 18g of the Residence Act.

The requirements for obtaining an EU Blue Card

In order to apply for an EU Blue Card, you must meet the following requirements:

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To obtain an EU Blue Card and be able to work in Germany, you must meet the following requirements:

However, there is one important exception to this: IT specialists can obtain an EU Blue Card even without a degree. However, they must have gained at least three years of relevant professional experience in the past seven years and be able to demonstrate theoretical knowledge at the level of university graduates. We explain more about this special regulation here.

University degrees

In principle, both German and foreign degrees can be sufficient for applying for an EU Blue Card.

  1. German university degree
    A university degree completed in Germany is generally sufficient.
  2. Foreign university degree
    A foreign degree may also be sufficient for the application, provided it is either recognized or comparable to a German university degree.
    The extent to which a foreign university degree is recognized in Germany can be checked in the online database of the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB).

In the event that the online database does not contain sufficient information, the applicant must apply to the ZAB for an individual evaluation of the degree, which is subject to a fee (so-called comparability with German university degree).

Further information on the recognition and equivalence of foreign university degrees can be found at www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de. Unfortunately, problems can often arise when determining the equivalence or recognition of a university degree obtained abroad, which may delay or prevent the process of applying for this residence permit.

Completed training in a specific profession is generally not sufficient to obtain an EU Blue Card. Only IT specialists can obtain a Blue Card under the exception mentioned above if they have the necessary professional experience in addition to their training. Nevertheless, even people who have completed training are generally considered to be skilled workers. You can find out which residence permit is suitable for you here.

Employment contract or concrete contract offer

You can only apply for an EU Blue Card if you have a domestic employment contract or a concrete offer of such a contract. In practice, this point can be proven either by presenting your employment contract or, if you only have a concrete offer of a job, by a confirmation from the company. It is important to note that the employment must take place in Germany. In addition, the offer of an employment contract must provide for a period of employment of at least six months.

Minimum salary EU Blue Card

In order to obtain an EU Blue Card, the annual gross salary of your job in 2024 must be at least 45,300 euros. You can find more information on this salary limit here.

For certain professions that are in particularly high demand in Germany (shortage occupations), a lower limit of currently (2024) at least 41,041.80 euros applies. The same limit also applies to young professionals who have obtained their university degree within the last three years before applying for the EU Blue Card. This is intended to make it easier for them to enter working life.

In the past, the qualification obtained with the degree also had to correspond to the desired employment. However, the legislator has now abolished this linking of employment to the degree in order to do justice to the flexibility of modern working life. Skilled workers can now work in any job.

List of shortage occupations

  • Specialists in information and communication technology
  • Architects
  • Designer
  • Doctors (incl. dentists and veterinarians)
  • Physiotherapists
  • Engineers and engineering scientists
  • Mathematician
  • Scientist
  • Teacher
  • Spatial, urban and traffic planners
  • Managers in production, construction and logistics
  • Managers in the healthcare sector

Professional practice

If a permit is required for practicing a profession under German law (e.g. medicine, engineering), the applicant must provide evidence of the existence of this permit or its approval before the EU Blue Card is issued.

General conditions for granting

In addition to all these special requirements, you must also be able to provide evidence of some general requirements that must always be met in order to be issued a residence permit. This includes, for example, that you can prove your identity, for example with a valid passport or other documents if necessary. You must also be able to prove that you have health insurance in Germany.

Authority competence

The EU Blue Card can be applied for within Germany at the local immigration office. Depending on which country you come from, you may need a visa to enter Germany. Once you have entered the country, you can apply for the EU Blue Card at the relevant immigration office.

A visa is not required for entry to the following countries: USA, Japan, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Canada, Australia, South Korea, Israel and New Zealand. Citizens from these countries can enter the country without a visa.

If you live outside the EU and do not come from the above countries, you usually need a visa for the purpose of gainful employment. This is issued to you by the relevant German mission abroad. With this visa you can enter Germany and apply for the EU Blue Card at the foreigners authority responsible for you. It is important to note that you must apply for the EU Blue Card before your visa expires.

Skilled workers who have held an EU Blue Card in another EU member state for at least 12 months can also enter Germany without a visa in order to apply for an EU Blue Card. In this case, the EU Blue Card must be applied for within one month of entering Germany.

People who already have a valid residence permit can also apply for an EU Blue Card. Of course, they do not need a visa either, as they are already in Germany.

Advantage of the accelerated skilled worker procedure

You can apply for an EU Blue Card using the so-called accelerated procedure for skilled workers. The accelerated procedure for skilled workers ensures that appointments are made more quickly at the German diplomatic mission abroad so that you receive your visa more quickly and, if necessary, includes the recognition procedure for a foreign qualification.

Advantages of the EU Blue Card

The EU Blue Card opens up many opportunities. Holders of this residence permit have very easy access to the German labor market, with the same rights and obligations as German employees, and can live in Germany without any further requirements. While they are working in Germany, they can travel freely within the EU in their free time.

With the EU Blue Card, it is possible to apply for a permanent work and residence permit, the so-called settlement permit, after just 21 months of residence, provided you can prove that you have German language level B1. And even if you only have a basic knowledge of German (level A1), you can still apply for a settlement permit after 27 months.

In addition to working, you can also bring your close family (children, spouse, parents of both you and your spouse) to join you as part of family reunification.

No approval from the Federal Employment Agency

The Federal Employment Agency must carry out a labor market check, which basically consists of the so-called priority check (checking whether German employees or employees with equivalent status - e.g. from EU member states - are available for the job) and checking the employment conditions.

However, if the annual gross income is at least 45,300 euros, i.e. the general salary limit for the EU Blue Card, approval from the Federal Employment Agency is not required. This means that only employees in shortage occupations or career starters require the agency's approval.

What documents are needed for the application?

  • Copy of passport
  • Biometric passport photo
  • Copy of your original university degree
  • Copy of the English translation of your university degree
  • Resume
  • Letter of intent or employment contract from a company in Germany (incl. detailed job description)

If applicable, you will also need:

  • Copy of your spouse's passport
  • Biometric passport photo of your spouse
  • Copy of the marriage certificate
  • Translated version of the marriage certificate
  • Copy of your child's passport
  • Copy of your child's birth certificate

Regional differences in the application for the EU Blue Card

The formal requirements for applying for an EU Blue Card vary in practice, depending on where in Germany the EU Blue Card is applied for. The legal requirements are the same, but the forms, the required documents and the method of submitting the application may differ.

In our overview, you will find the practical requirements for the cities of Berlin, Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Essen, Frankfurt, Cologne, Leipzig, Munich, and Stuttgart with further notes.

You can find all the information about applying abroad and the country-specific practical requirements for the United Kingdom, South Africa, India and China here.

The EU Blue Card after Brexit

British professionals will also have the opportunity to apply for an EU Blue Card for Germany after January 01, 2021. Learn more about the possibilities and potential of the EU Blue Card for British nationals here.

Frequently Asked Questions on the (FAQ)

If you are a national of a so-called privileged country, you do not need an entry visa to apply for an EU Blue Card in Germany. These privileged countries that do not require an entry visa include: Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America. Citizens of other countries generally require a visa for the purpose of gainful employment, which is issued by the responsible German diplomatic mission abroad.

In case you are dismissed by your employer, you have three months to find a new job. If you do not succeed, there is a risk that your Blue Card will be revoked and you will have to leave Germany again. Get more information about the EU Blue Card and termination here.

No, unlike other residence permits, no German language skills are required to obtain an EU Blue Card. This applies to both the applicant and their family.

If you can demonstrate language skills at level B1 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), you can apply for a permanent work and residence permit after just 21 months with an EU Blue Card. However, language skills are not mandatory. Without language skills, the waiting period for the possibility of applying for a permanent work and residence permit is extended to 27 months.

The EU Blue Card is usually issued for four years, unless the employment contract is shorter than four years. In this case, the EU Blue Card is valid for the duration of the employment contract plus three months, but never longer than four years. The EU Blue Card can be extended before it expires, provided you still meet all the requirements for an EU Blue Card.

In principle, certain additional payments can be included in the gross basic salary. These payments count towards the minimum salary if the supplements are agreed in the employment contract and are not dependent on the occurrence of certain conditions. Not every salary component is clear from the outset and requires individual examination in case of doubt.

Yes, holders of an EU Blue Card are permitted to travel to other Schengen states within the EU for tourism purposes without a visa. You can travel to Austria, Belgium, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland for 90 days within a 180-day period. As a rule, it is not possible to take up employment outside Germany without a corresponding residence permit.

Yes, your (nuclear) family can accompany you. Spouses, children and, more recently, parents and possibly even parents-in-law (i.e. the parents of your spouse) can apply for and receive a work and residence permit at the same time as you as part of the so-called family reunification procedure. Family reunification can also be applied for as part of the accelerated procedure for skilled workers, which has the advantage that the processing time for the application is identical for you and your family. You can enter Germany together. The family members of an EU Blue Card holder are immediately permitted to work or be self-employed without restriction.

You can leave Germany for up to 12 months without losing your EU Blue Card. The 12-month period also applies to your family members.

If the job offer you have received only meets the lower salary threshold for shortage occupations and young professionals, you must first obtain approval for your EU Blue Card from the Federal Employment Agency. No approval is required for all employees whose salary is also above the general (higher) salary threshold, even if they work in a shortage occupation or are career starters. Here you can find the salary limits for the Blue Card for 2024.

It is generally possible for holders of an EU Blue Card to change jobs. However, in the first year of your employment, you must report any change of employer to the immigration authority. The authority then has the option of suspending the change and checking within 30 days whether it is permissible. If the authority allows this period to elapse or does not respond to your notification at all, the change is automatically deemed permissible. After one year, you can change your job without the approval of the immigration authority. However, the basic requirements, such as the minimum salary, must still be met.

There are two minimum salary thresholds for the EU Blue Card that must be met in order to obtain an EU Blue Card. The basic salary limit for 2024 is an annual gross salary of 45,300 euros. For so-called shortage occupations, the lower salary limit in 2024 is 41,041.80 euros. Find out more about minimum salary limits here.