July 24th, 2006

The Law since 1 July 2006

The Central Council and the Progressive Jews negotiated with the interior ministers of Germany’s various states for several months before a compromise was reached on new rules for Jewish immigration:

  • There will be no age limit.
  • Families will not be split up.
  • Jewish immigrants will be allowed to earn their own living in Germany, but they will not automatically qualify for social benefits; the social prospects of applicants will be based on voluntary information.
  • A basic knowledge of German must be proven.
  • There must be a Jewish community able to accept the candidate.
  • In future the Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle will issue an “integration forecast” for every applicant, which means verifying whether the person hoping to immigrate is Jewish. This is because the purpose of preferential admission is to strengthen the Jewish communities.

The new rules on Jewish immigration come into force in July. “We want to bring Jews to Germany who intend to play an active part in Jewish life,” commented Stephan J. Kramer, Secretary General of the Central Council of Jews at a meeting in Cologne last month, given that it was almost suicidal to continue pursuing a strategy of “Let everyone come and we’ll get by somehow.” This would place an undue strain on local communities in the long term. The proposed restrictions would probably reduce the number of new arrivals from about 15,000 a year at present to 5,000-7,000.

On an optimistic note the Secretary General added that this consolidation would benefit communities and individuals alike, as less effort would be devoted to administration and more to working with people. The new rules also sent out a clear message that immigration would continue.

Michael Griesbeck of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees explained the details. Basic language skills (Level A1) would have to be acquired in the country of origin. The analysis of a candidate’s social prospects would taken into account family ties, age, qualifications and career plans. The assessment of vocational skills and the recognition of educational certificates and occupational diplomas still needed to improve.

The Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle for Jews in Germany is responsible for confirming admission to a local Jewish community and for issuing the integration forecast. The confirmation of admission is needed before an application can be accepted and according to Kramer it can also function as a recommendation that the applicant be allocated to a specific geographic location. In order to avoid the kind of error which has occurred in the past, with new arrivals sent to live in places without any Jewish infrastructure, the Secretary General hopes that distribution will be organized more intelligently in future, with greater attention paid to the situation of local Jewish communities. Michael Griesbeck recalled the need to comply with the Königstein formula, designed to ensure even allocation across all German states. However, he said more attention would be paid in future to location factors enabling the immigrant to integrate well. These included not only job prospects but also membership of a community.

Griesbeck pointed out that the Federal Office intended to resort more to what it called a resource-oriented approach, which attaches greater significance to individuals and their skills.

“None of us know how the new rules will actually function in practice,” summarized Kramer. An initial exchange of experience is planned for the autumn and will involve representatives of the German states and ministries and Jewish institutions.