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Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
13th Mar 2024

Germany expands in-study work opportunities for foreign students

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • International students will now be entitled to work up to 20 hours per week during their studies
  • This limit applies to those searching for a place at a German university, as well as students engaged in language training or other preparatory programmes
  • The expansion of in-study work rights is the latest in a series of measures designed to ease the transition of foreign students into the labour market, and to boost retention of foreign graduates

Germany is continuing to implement a phased series of new measures contained in newly enacted legislation, the Skilled Immigration Act.

The Act aims to increase the number of foreign workers, skilled workers in particular, in Germany and is designed to address ongoing labour market gaps in the country.

The latest measures outlined in the Act came into force on 1 March 2024, including a number of important new rules for international students.

First and foremost, international students from outside the European Union may now work up to 20 hours per week (an increase from the previous limit of 10 hours per week). Importantly, this provision also now applies to students who enter Germany but have not been admitted to a German university – that is, during an in-country search for a programme start – or for those that are engaged in German language training or other preparatory studies for higher education.

"This creates flexibility, makes it easier to secure a living and makes the transition into the labor market easier. This makes it even more attractive to come to Germany to start studying or vocational training and to stay here as a skilled worker after graduating," notes an accompanying statement from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research.

As in any other study destination where work rights have been expanded, these measures will also clearly have the effect of improving Germany's competitiveness in international student markets. An early 2023 position paper from the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) proposed increased action between higher education institutions and government to double the retention rate for foreign graduates in the country.

"In Germany, we have been heading towards an ever-increasing gap in skilled workers on the labour market for several years. At the same time, the Federal Republic is becoming increasingly popular as a place to study," DAAD President Dr Joybrato Mukherjee said at the time. "We need to think about both developments together and show international students more effectively and in greater numbers the path to a professional career in Germany. They are highly qualified and well-integrated, and we should make more strategic use of their exciting potential as skilled workers in Germany. As the DAAD, we see politics, universities and industry as having a joint responsibility in this regard."

The 1 March measures also follow close on the heels of a joint announcement between DAAD and the Federal Ministry of Education and Research in December 2023 outlining:

  • funding of up to €120 million through 2028 in order to smooth the transition to work for foreign graduates; and
  • the introduction of two new labour force integration programmes designed to boost the retention of foreign graduates.

Germany reported a record-high foreign enrolment for 2022/23. International student numbers reached 367,578 that year, up 5% over the year before, and with non-EU enrolments, particularly students from India and China, driving much of that growth.

For additional background, please see:

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