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A Summary of the Immigration Act of July 30, 2004 (Press Report, 2004)

After years of political conflict, the red-green government succeeded in passing a reform that made it easier for well-qualified migrants to immigrate, permitted the entry of certain others on humanitarian grounds, and allowed the children of migrants to join their families in Germany. At the same time, however, the reforms encouraged integration and made it easier for criminals to be deported.

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Immigration Act

1. New Structures

• Reduction of the number of residence titles to two. In place of the residence title for exceptional circumstances, the residence title for specific purposes, the limited residence permit, the unlimited residence permit, and the right of unlimited residence, the act now provides for only two residence titles: The (limited) residence permit and the (unlimited) settlement permit. The new residence legislation is no longer based on residence titles but rather on the purpose of residence (education, gainful employment, subsequent immigration of dependents, humanitarian grounds).

• Important duties are to be allocated to the new Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, which will supersede the previous Federal Office for the Recognition of Foreign Refugees:

– The development and implementation of integration courses for foreigners and remigrants [Spätaussiedler];
– The keeping of the Central Aliens Register;
– The implementation of measures to promote voluntary return;
– The carrying out of scientific research on migration issues (accompanying research);
– The coordination of the circulation of information on labor migration between the foreigners’ authorities [Ausländerbehörden], the Federal Employment Agency, and German diplomatic missions abroad.

2. Labor Migration

• The act provides for highly qualified persons to be granted permanent residence from the outset; such persons may receive a settlement permit immediately (Residence Act, Section 19). Family members who enter Germany either with such persons or later on are entitled to take up gainful employment (Residence Act, Section 29).

• Promotion of the settlement of self-employed persons. As a general rule, self-employed persons are to receive a residence permit if they invest at least 1 million Euros and create at least 10 jobs (Residence Act, Section 21). If these conditions are not met, an individual examination of the case will follow to determine whether a general financial or specific regional interest exists, to investigate the effects on the economy, and to examine whether funding is secured.

• Possibility for students to remain in Germany for up to a year after the successful completion of their studies to seek employment (Residence Act, Section 16 (4)).

• The previous dual approval procedure (work/residence) is to be replaced by an internal approval procedure. The foreigners’ authority is to issue the work permit together with the residence permit in a single act, subject to internal approval from the labor administration; Residence Act, Section 39 (1) (one-stop government).

• The ban on the recruitment of unqualified persons and persons with low qualifications is to be upheld.

• The ban on recruitment is also to be upheld for qualified persons, subject to an exemption: A work permit may be issued in justified instances, when there is a public interest in an individual taking up employment (Residence Act, Section 18 (4)).

• Nationals of states that have acceded [to the EU] have access to the labor market for qualified employment (according to the priority principle, that is, only insofar as no German or person enjoying equal status is available); priority over nationals from third countries (Residence Act, Section 39 (6).

• The points system has been abolished.

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