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Foreign-born population – 2018

13.2 million, 49% women

16% of the population

Evolution since 2007: +25%

Main countries of birth:

Poland (13%), Turkey (10%), Russia (8%)

For the second year in a row, the number of arrivals decreased significantly in 2017. A total of 1.55 million arrivals (including temporary stays) and 1.13 million departures were recorded in 2017, resulting in a net immigration of around 416 000 persons (-84 000 compared to 2016). The decline in migration to Germany can mainly be attributed to a decrease in humanitarian migrants arriving in Germany.

In 2017, Germany received 860 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), -18.3% compared to 2016. This figure comprises 48% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 7.2% labour migrants, 13.4% family members (including accompanying family) and 30.7% humanitarian migrants.

Around 40 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 27 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants and trainees (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 427 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2017, a decrease of 3% compared to 2016. These posted workers were generally on short-term contracts.

Romania, Poland and Bulgaria were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2017. Among the top 15 countries of origin, Romania registered the biggest increase (8 300) and Syria the largest decrease (-103 000) in flows to Germany, compared to the previous year.

In 2018, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by 18.3%, to reach around 162 000. The majority of applicants come from Syria (44 000), Iraq (16 000) and Iran (11 000). The largest increase since 2017 concerned nationals of Nigeria (2 400) and the largest decrease, nationals of Afghanistan (-6 500). Of the 179 000 decisions taken in 2018, 42.4% were positive.

Emigration of Germans to OECD countries increased by 3.3%, to 112 000. Approximately 16.3% of this group migrated to Switzerland, 13.5% to Austria and 10.0% to the United Kingdom.

In March 2018, the German government adopted its coalition agreement, which lays out the priorities and objectives until 2021 and includes a number of commitments in the area of migration and integration. The agreement seeks to improve the quality of language courses (“Integration Courses”) through better targeting, while rebalancing the use of incentives and sanctions. In addition, regulations on the 3+2 rule are supposed to be harmonised across German regions. This rule, which has not been implemented consistently across the country, allows persons with a toleration status, i.e. a temporary suspension of deportation, to enter vocational training (three years) and work in Germany (two years) upon finishing their training.

The government is also planning to roll out centralised reception facilities for asylum seekers. These facilities will be in charge of processing applications, decision-making and return. Asylum seekers will be obliged to live in these facilities for the duration of the procedure, which should not exceed 18 months. By the end of 2018, these centralised facilities had been rolled out only in Bavaria. The coalition agreement also foresees stricter enforcement of deportation orders and plans to designate Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and other countries with a recognition rate below five per cent as safe countries of origin. Family reunification has been curtailed for humanitarian migrants with a subsidiary protection status by introducing a maximum number of 1 000 persons per month (plus cases of hardship) being allowed to join as family members.

In December 2018, the German government adopted a legislative draft on skilled labour migration. It proposes an overhaul of the German labour migration system and also includes medium-skilled and vocational occupations as a part of skilled labour migration. Labour migration for skilled migrants who have completed tertiary or vocational education will be facilitated. Migrants with these qualifications will have access to the German labour market if they have a job offer. Previous restrictions that limited labour migration to shortage occupations will be removed. Migrants with vocational qualifications or tertiary education and German language skills will be allowed to come to Germany on a job search visa. This specific policy will be tested for five years with the government being able to introduce restrictions on certain occupational groups by decree. In addition, the draft legislation proposes to speed up recognition procedures of foreign qualifications and generally to render administrative procedures more efficient and transparent. The government also proposes a targeted strategy to recruit skilled labour migrants from non-EU countries and to expand language training in Germany as well as abroad. The draft still needs to pass parliament and, if adopted, will enter into force early 2020.

In January 2019, the German government announced the official establishment of a federal commission of experts to assess how, and under which conditions, integration may be strengthened.

For further information:

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Key figures on immigration and emigration - Germany
Key figures on immigration and emigration - Germany

Notes and sources are at the end of the chapter.


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