(Apr. 9, 2009) On January 1, 2009, a Worker Migration Control Act (Gesetz zur arbeitsmarktadequaten Steuerung der Zuwanderung Hochqualifizierter und zur Änderung weiterer aufenthaltsrechtlicher Regelungen (Arbeitsmigrationssteuerungsgesetz), Dec. 20, 2008, BUNDESGESETZBLATT [BGBl] I at 2846) became effective, making it easier for German employers to hire highly qualified aliens. The Act amends section 19 of the Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz (AufenthG), Jun. 30, 2004, BGBl I at 1950, updated text available at http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/aufenthg_2004/BJNR195010004.html) which allows for the granting of a permanent residence permit to highly qualified workers when they come to Germany, instead of requiring them to work under a temporary workers' permit for five years before being eligible for permanent status.
Until December 31, 2008, one of the criteria for defining an eligible foreign worker as highly qualified was an income threshold of €86,400 (about US$116,560) (AufenthG, § 19 (2) no. 3). The reform act lowered this income threshold to €63,600 (about US$85,801). The change was made by pegging the income threshold to the maximum annual income from which social security contributions are deducted, whereas the formerly used threshold was the maximum annual income from which social health insurance contributions are deducted (Änderung des Ausländerrechts in Kraft getreten, Zeitschrift für Ausländerrecht und Ausländerpolitik 74 (2009)). Under the new provisions, an alien who is being hired by a German employer with an annual gross salary of at least €63,600 can obtain a permanent residence permit upon arrival in Germany, if the labor authorities consent.
The Worker Migration Control Act also makes it easier for refugees who live in Germany under an insecure and temporary refugee status to obtain a temporary residence permit if they have desirable qualifications. These are defined in the newly introduced article 18a of the Residence Act as having completed a higher vocational education or a university education, as having worked in a professional capacity in their field for two years, or as having worked as a skilled laborer for the past three years while having been able to support themselves and their families during the last year before applying for the residence permit.