Germany stretches welcome mat for graduates

May 17, 2012

Foreign students graduating from German universities will be allowed to work for up to 18 months while they seek a graduate-level job under new legislation designed to attract global talent.

The extended job-search phase, up from 12 months, is part of a package of measures to make Germany more welcoming for students, scientists and researchers arriving from outside the European Union.

Students will also be able to work part-time for up to 120 days a year while studying, instead of the previous 90 days, while graduates will be eligible for indefinite leave to remain after two years, in contrast to the UK's 10-year requirement.

Other laws passed by the Bundes-tag on April include a six-month right of residence for foreign academics seeking employment.

Anyone with an employment contract as an academic or qualified professional with a minimum salary of €44,800 (£35,987) will also be allowed to work for up to four years. Employment restrictions on their spouses have also been eased.

The changes contrast sharply with the tougher restrictions on non-EU students introduced in the UK in the past year, including the closure of the post-study work route.

Colin Riordan, vice-chancellor of University of Essex and chair of Universities UK's international and European policy committee, said the changes sprang from Germany's Excellence Initiative, which encouraged universities to compete for top international academics.

"The German government has recognised the importance of attracting the best and brightest, as well as motivating them to stay, so they have an input into academia and the wider economy," said Professor Riordan, a German history scholar.

"It is a real challenge to the UK. Germany and other systems appear to be opening up to recruit the best talent around the world, so we face real competition for the best students."

Reiterating calls for the UK to stop regarding students as migrants, he said: "They come here, make a huge difference to academic life, and then, by and large, they leave.

"Those able to make an impact should be allowed to do so."

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