Attention IT job hunters: Germany still wants you. Despite waves of layoffs in some parts of the industry, there's a continuing skill shortage in other areas, and the country is preparing to make available a new round of special visas for foreign technology experts.
Germany's labor minister is proposing offering up to 10,000 new visas, called "Green Cards" after the famous U.S. residence permits, starting in the next few weeks, said Elisabeth van der Linde, a spokeswoman for the Labor Ministry. So far 9,934 Green Cards have been issued since the program was first introduced in August 2000, she added, nearly exhausting the initial allotment of 10,000.
The skill shortage is particularly acute among programmers and software developers, said spokeswoman Elke Siedhoff of the IT industry association BITKOM (Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien). The country also faces a growing need for IT security specialists from abroad, she added, since only two institutions of higher education in Germany offer courses in the field.
But not everyone has greeted the Green Card with enthusiasm. Many foreign job seekers have preferred to set their sights on the U.S., where they can hope eventually to gain permanent residency and citizenship. Germany's Green Card, by contrast, offers only a stay of up to five years, and places strict limits on the rights of family members to work.
One Canadian woman whose husband has received a Green Card to work in Germany is chafing over restrictions that will prevent her from seeking a job in the country for the first two years.
"In effect, the German government is telling highly educated women that their contributions to German society and its economy don't matter. It's a policy from the dark ages," she wrote in e-mail to the IDG News Service.
Van der Linde said politicians are considering amending the Green Card regulations to loosen restrictions, but not in time for the new round of visas.
"There are no changes; this is just about allowing the second 10,000 to be issued, which was foreseen in the original Green Card law," she said.
The labor minister's proposal still has to be approved by the Cabinet, she said, which could happen as early as next week.