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GERMANY: Germany has Become the World's Top Migration Spot after the United States

According to recently published OECD statistics from 2012, Germany has seen significant growth in migration and has skyrocketed to second place on the list of the world's top migration spots after the United States:

Germany became the second-largest immigration country, after the United States, in the OECD in 2012, receiving more than 10% of all permanent immigration to the OECD area.  In 2009, it was only the eighth largest.  This spectacular increase has been fueled mainly by inflows from central and eastern European countries and, to a lesser degree, southern Europe.

Based on official statistics published by Germany's Federal Statistic Office for 2013, an additional 146,000 foreigners (a surplus of 13% in comparison to 2012) have migrated to Germany.  The total number of foreign migrants for 2013 was 1,108,000.  Since during the same period 649,000 foreigners have left the country, there is a significant migration surplus of 459,000 foreigners (387,000 in 2012).  That is the highest growth to report since 1993.

The spike in migration to Germany is partly a result of the economies of southern European countries not doing well (e.g., Greece, Italy, Portugal, and to a lesser extent Spain), and others are also struggling to a certain extent (e.g., France, Netherlands), whereas Germany has a very strong economy despite the global economic crisis.  Germany therefore is in a position to add a lot of fuel to the European Union engine to keep it running.  The fact that Germany is attracting more foreigners is, however, mainly due to the stable political situation and the reliable legal system that together create an environment that seems friendly to investors and new arrivals.  With regard to the latter, securing a "residence title for the purpose of gainful employment" (the official name of the work permit) is still highly regulated and complex.  The conditions for establishing a business in Germany, for entering into business relationships by way of contracts with business partners and customers, and also for litigation, if needed, are generally seen as advantageous.

The mix of all these aspects makes migration to Germany even more attractive than it was over the last several years.  There is nevertheless still room for improvement of the regulations that currently apply.  For example, the fact that for many visa categories a local employment contract is a must poses as many problems as the requirement to have health insurance at least equivalent to German standards (which is difficult to prove when there is no local coverage).  Moreover, processing times are still very slow, and lack of communication by some authorities remains an issue.  Finally, some commentators argue in favor of access to a fast-track procedure and to special authorities or competence centers for corporate immigration.

Federal President Joachim Gauck has welcomed immigration to Germany by stressing that immigration is key to Germany, whereas Chancellor Angela Merkel has been making the point that Germany is not in favor of any misuse of the EU social union's rights.  This is, however, no contradiction because the issues do differ.  President Gauck has been addressing the issue from a more general standpoint, such as in a speech on the 65th anniversary of the Federal Constitution, whereas Merkel has been commenting on the opinion of the Advocate General in preparing the upcoming decision of the European Court of Justice that any member state can limit the social rights of EU nationals that have not sought employment during their stay while receiving social welfare benefits after a period of 6 months.  To a certain extent, her comment may also be influenced by elections on both the local and EU levels, so she may have been trying to entice some votes away from EU-skeptical right-wing parties (which have a lot of influence, notably in the United Kingdom and France).  Despite all this, it appears that both of them are in favor overall of migration to Germany.

It will be interesting to see if in 2014 Germany can keep up this pace and continue or even increase migration to the country.  Stay tuned.

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