Germany looks to migrants to fight labor shortage

Fri Aug 12, 2011 7:07am EDT
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By Joseph Nasr

BERLIN (Reuters) - When Indian programer Mohan Sahadevan wanted to quit his job at engineering giant Siemens to join a Berlin software company, he was told he would have to leave Germany as his work permit could not be transferred.

The 40-year-old software engineer ultimately was able to make the move without leaving the country, but only after five idle months and much legal wrangling.

"The thing was that when I resigned, my work visa became invalid," he told Reuters, frustrated by the hoops he was forced to jump through to stay.

Germany's strict rules on employing skilled workers from outside the EU is at odds with the acute shortage of engineers and other highly skilled workers, a problem expected to worsen due partly to the aging population and low birth rates.

"Every time we decide to hire someone from outside the European Union (EU) we have to deal with so much bureaucracy and many hurdles appear along the way," said Stefan Dahlke, vice president of software engineering at Datango, who hired Mohan.

"It is very time-consuming and sometimes costly," he added.

Under current German rules, a firm wanting to hire a foreign worker has to first prove it could not find someone suitable in the EU. In addition, non-EU residents are issued a visa only if their German employer guarantees them an annual wage of at least 66,000 euros ($94,000) -- more than double the average annual salary.

The rules are stricter than in most EU states and immigration experts say this is pushing foreign skilled workers to look for employment in more welcoming places, like the United Kingdom and Ireland.   Continued...