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Blue Card: Temporary employment at the highest level – Author: Nicolas Scheidtweiler

Companies are not always able to cover their personnel requirements by perceiving and image their own employer brand in their domestic markets. The market is becoming narrower, especially in the area of highly qualified specialists. The Blue Card plays a central role in attracting foreign employees.

Matthias Albrecht, Business Development Manager Germany at TCP GmbH, explains the use of the “Blue Card” in temporary employment. After studying business administration and sociology, he worked in various positions in the industry.

Mr Albrecht, who can receive an EU Blue Card in general?

The EU Blue Card was introduced to address the expected or existing shortage of skilled workers in the EU. According to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees, the “Blue Card EU” (Blue Card) is a “residence permit for foreigners with academic or equivalent qualifications”. From our point of view, the Blue Card offers various advantages: Holders can apply for an unlimited residence permit after the expiry date or after 21 months under certain conditions, they can travel within the Schengen area for up to 90 days without a visa and there is a simplified family reunion for relatives.

Applicants must submit an employment contract or a binding job offer stating that they will currently earn an annual salary of at least 53,600 €. This corresponds to two thirds of the annual income threshold in the general pension insurance. In this case, the approval of the Employment Agency is not required. For members of the understaffed professions, such as IT specialists, engineers, mathematicians, scientists and doctors, the minimum required salary is 41,808 €. However, the Federal Employment Agency must give its approval for salaries below 53,600 € and checks the comparability of the salary and working conditions in advance to rule out abuse.

Once approval has been obtained, a work permit can be obtained, but it does not entitle the holder to the Blue Card and without this, no employees from third countries may be employed within the framework of temporary employment. The validity of the EU Blue Card depends on the duration of the employment contract, but for the first time issued by the Immigration Office it may not exceed four years. In most cases, the first time the contract is issued, it is valid for the end date of the employment contract plus three months. Blue Card holders”, for example, still have a small “buffer” after their employment.

How did your company use the card in temporary employment?

TCP GmbH has already worked successfully in the past with various embassies and Immigration Offices from various countries and has employed candidates from India, Australia, Eastern Europe, the Balkans, Africa and South America for its clients in Germany. We do not recruit candidates ourselves, but rather offer a broad and specialised agency network to our clients as a multiplier. Through international agency cooperations, we are able to offer our clients a very large network for filling their vacant positions.

We currently offer several client and agency solutions in Germany and Switzerland. On the one hand, the possibility for agencies that do not hold AUG license or are not familiar with the subject matter (social security or wage tax law, occupational health and safety law, obligations under labour law, etc.) to handle all aspects of temporary employment. On the other hand, we offer staffing services, payroll solutions and tailor-made MSP (Managed Service Provider) solutions, including Vendor Management Services (VMS) for our clients. In order to offer our clients the best possible selection of highly qualified specialists and managers for their projects, we concentrate fully on their needs and coordinate them with our agencies.

What requirements do you place on local international recruiting agencies?

In our partnership-based cooperation with agencies, we pay close attention to their working methods, industry knowledge and performance. We work exclusively with specialist and experienced agencies who have suitable search channels at their disposal as well as being able to map the overall process.

We achieve this in particular by operating internationally and by being able to access agency databases and their networks in addition to the usual channels (Xing, Linkedin and other networks). For our clients, this brings a clear added value, as we can throw out the “network” much larger and more subject-specific.

As part of our internal controlling, the cooperation with our agencies is constantly monitored, controlled and further developed. By continuously measuring the performance (internally and/or with the client agreed KPIs) of the individual agencies, we can not only track them perfectly, but also react when performance is insufficient.

How long does it take until an employee from a third country can start in Germany?

It is difficult to make a binding statement on the duration of the overall process up to the 1st working day, as the processing time of the applications in the embassies takes varying amounts of time and sometimes the waiting time up to the appointment can be several weeks or months.

Our recruiting agencies talk to suitable candidates during their search and clarify in advance, whether and when they can imagine moving to Germany. It should be mentioned that in some countries, for example, there are very long notice periods of up to 90 days, so that this, as in Germany, can lead to an extension of the process.

Furthermore, the possible start depends on the date allocation by the embassy as well as processing time and travel preparation, which can be very individual. We therefore recommend our agencies to have the candidate arrange an embassy appointment as early as possible in the process.

What role does TCP play in this process?

From the time of acceptance, we contact the candidate again, obtain personnel documents and explain the further process to him. Depending on the waiting time until the appointment, we contact the responsible embassy and check whether an earlier appointment is possible. In addition, we prepare the candidates as well as possible for the appointment and send the employment contract and other necessary documents as well as checklists if required.

At the same time, the agency supports the candidates during their move to Germany and helps them to settle in quickly in their new home country. Once our employees have received their work permits, we continue to accompany them through the application process for the actual “Blue Card”. The Immigration Office in the municipality in which the employee is registered is responsible for this.

Together with our agencies, we are always supporting our employees from the first interview to onboarding at the client.

What are the challenges for the integration of foreign employees?

In addition to adapting to a new culture, employees from abroad are often confronted with language barriers. The search for accommodation usually runs smoothly, as the agencies support the search for accommodation or cooperate with relocation agencies.

However, it often becomes more challenging when dealing with authorities in Germany: Many authorities, especially in smaller communities, only have a German-language Internet presence, German-language forms and even the employees are sometimes not or not sufficiently proficient in English. We help here if necessary, mediate by telephone, book an appointment or translate forms.

Our employees do not have any problems in customer operations, as they are assigned in large international companies and their colleagues and superiors can speak English.

Through regular telephone calls, especially in the beginning, we support our new employees very much. Furthermore, we visit our employees at their workplace during the initial period, not only to carry out the prescribed workplace inspection or to check occupational safety, but also to make acclimatisation more successful. By the constant exchange with our employees we very often get the feedback to be warmly welcomed and integrated. Our customers, on the other hand, praise our high motivation, great competence and willingness to perform. Sometimes our foreign specialists even register for the German course after a short time and complete it.

What are the expectations of highly qualified migrants in temporary employment?

Some of our skilled workers come from distant countries and are sometimes in Germany for the first time. The expectations of highly qualified migrants in their new life situation are very complex. In general, we are expected to provide an all-round perfect service, which we can also offer to every new employee. This usually concerns the topics of relocation, onboarding and personal support and integration on site.

Our employees also expect a smooth process in customer operations, for example, that they are provided with all the resources they need to fulfil their project assignment according to their position or role. This includes integration and briefing on the project, with all the necessary information on process and operational topics.

It must be said at this point that working together with our clients makes a very positive contribution to providing new employees with the support they need.

What are the costs of recruiting and hiring through TCP?

Basically, the client does not incur any higher costs than with a “regular” staffing service provider. This means on the one hand that we do not have any recruiting costs as TCP, but these arise according to the agency or they get their margin from us and on the other hand we get our normal margin through the processing. This gives our clients the advantage of having a complete network of agencies with one contact person at TCP, as mentioned above. This is particularly decisive in the case of peak orders or spontaneously arising requirements from the specialist areas.

This enables us to react strategically, quickly and precisely to challenges. The advantage for the clients is also that we can react quickly and efficiently to enquiries from other departments (IT, engineering) or locations (international).

Mr. Albrecht, thank you very much for the informative interview.

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