Germany looks abroad to fill IT skills gap

Germany is preparing to issue a second round of 10,000 visas for foreign technology experts, despite waves of redundancies in the...

Germany is preparing to issue a second round of 10,000 visas for foreign technology experts, despite waves of redundancies in the country's IT industry.

Germany's labour minister is proposing the issue of 10,000 new visas, called Green Cards after the famous US residence permits.

Some 9,934 Green Cards have been issued since the programme was first launched in August 2000, nearly exhausting the initial allotment of 10,000, according to Elisabeth van der Linde, a spokeswoman for the Labour Ministry.

The skills shortage in Germany is particularly acute among programmers and software developers, said a spokeswoman for the IT industry association, Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien (BITKOM). The country also has a growing need for security specialists, she added. Only two higher education institutions in Germany offer courses in IT security.

However, many foreign job seekers are setting their sights on the US, where they could gain permanent residency and citizenship. Germany's Green Card offers a stay of up to five years and places strict limits on the rights of family members to work.

One Canadian woman, whose husband received a Green Card to work in Germany, is considering 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," she said. "It's a policy from the Dark Ages."

Van der Linde said the government is considering amending 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 minister's proposal has still to be approved by the German Cabinet, which could happen in early November.

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