In 2019, Germany received 609 000 new immigrants on a long-term or permanent basis (including changes of status and free mobility), -3.9% compared to 2018. This figure comprises 59% immigrants benefitting from free mobility, 11.8% labour migrants, 15.9% family members (including accompanying family) and 12.2% humanitarian migrants. Around 49 000 permits were issued to tertiary-level international students and 12 000 to temporary and seasonal labour migrants (excluding intra-EU migration). In addition, 506 000 intra-EU postings were recorded in 2019, an increase of 18% compared to 2018. These posted workers are generally on short-term contracts.

Romania, Poland and Bulgaria were the top three nationalities of newcomers in 2019. Among the top 15 countries of origin, India registered the strongest increase (5 400) and Poland the largest decrease (-15 000) in flows to Germany compared to the previous year.

In 2020, the number of first asylum applicants decreased by -28%, to reach around 103 000. The majority of applicants came from Syria (36 000), Afghanistan (9 900) and Iraq (9 800). The largest increase since 2019 concerned nationals of Afghanistan (400) and the largest decrease nationals of Nigeria (-5 800). Of the 129 000 decisions taken in 2020, 48.6% were positive.

Germany created new facilities and changed regulations to ease labour migration processes through the Skilled Immigration Act implemented in 2020. The previous limitation to occupations experiencing skills shortage is suspended and measures have been implemented to accelerate the recognition process of foreign professional qualifications. Skilled workers with a concrete job offer and employers hiring foreign skilled workers can use the “accelerated procedure for skilled workers” to speed up administrative procedures.

Furthermore, “Regional Co-ordination Centres for Skilled Worker Immigration” were set up to support employer services and advise enterprises in the respective regions on recruitment procedures for foreign workers under the Skilled Immigration Act.

In addition to the existing counselling structures, a Service Centre for Professional Recognition (ZSBA) was established as the central point of contact in the recognition process for skilled workers living and applying for professional recognition from abroad. The new centre is also intended to increase the transparency of the recognition process for applicants.

In recent years, Germany has launched several initiatives to enhance integration in addition to the existing wide range of measures. In March 2021, Germany finalised the Federal Government’s National Action Plan on Integration (NAP-I) co-ordinated by the Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration which covers five phases: (I) Prior to Migration, (II) Upon Arrival, (III) Incorporation, (IV) Growing together, (V) Cohesion. More than 300 actors at all state levels and civil society, including migrant organisations, succeeded to launch more than 110 key projects to support migrants and strengthen social cohesion. In this context, the federal government also set up a cabinet committee to combat right-wing extremism and racism, which met for the first time in May 2020. Accordingly Germany plans to provide more than 1 billion euros to combat right-wing extremism, racism, anti-semitism and other forms of intolerance between 2021 and 2024.

Furthermore, the federal governments’ Expert Commission on the framework conditions for integration capability handed over its final report to Parliament in January 2021. The report analyses, inter alia, the economic, labour market, social and demographic conditions for integration in Germany and provides impulses and recommendations both for the state and civic sector on how to improve integration of newly arrived immigrants, of people with migration background living in Germany and the society as a whole.

COVID-related changes and investments were necessary to ensure continuation of integration courses and other integration measures. The “pandemic allowance”, an additional lump-sum transfer granted to course providers since July 2020, supports conversion of language courses to hygiene-compliant course formats, such as virtual lessons. Additionally, the Integration Qualification Program transferred its support services (counselling, training, qualification courses for people with a migration background and for multipliers) to virtual formats and used available personnel capacities for crisis-related counselling needs.

In March 2020 the German Ministry of Interior, Building and Community decided to reduce the burden on immigration authorities caused by the COVID-19 Crisis by allowing immigrants with an expiring Schengen Visa to stay in Germany temporarily without a renewed residence permit in Germany. The regulation expired after an extension at the end of September 2020.

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