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Germany is the second most popular migration destination in the world, after the United States. On 1 January 2005, a new immigration law came into effect. The political background to this new law was that Germany, for the first time ever, acknowledged to be an "immigration country". The practical changes[clarification needed] to immigration procedures were relatively minor. New immigration categories, such as 'highly skilled professional' and 'scientist' were introduced to attract valuable professionals to the German labour market. The development within German immigration law shows that immigration of skilled employees and academics has been eased[clarification needed] while the labour market remains closed for unskilled workers.
In April 2012, European Blue Card legislation was implemented in Germany, allowing highly skilled non-EU citizens easier access to work and live in Germany, subject to certain requirements.
According to the Federal Statistical Office of Germany in 2012, 92% of residents (73.9 million) in Germany had German citizenship, with 80% of the population were Germans (64.7 million) having no immigrant background. Of the 20% (16.3 million) people with immigrant background, 3.0 million (3.7%) had Turkish, 1.5 million (1.9%) Polish, 1.2 million (1.5%) Russian and 0.76 million (0.9%) Italian background.
In 2013, most people without German citizenship were Turkish (1.55 million), followed by Polish (0.61 million), Italian (0.55 million) and Greek citizens (0.32 million).
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A big wave of immigration to Germany started in the 1960s. Due to a shortage of laborers during the Wirtschaftswunder ("economic miracle") in the 1950s and 1960s, the West German government signed bilateral recruitment agreements with Italy in 1955, Greece in 1960, Turkey in 1961, Morocco in 1963, Portugal in 1964, Tunisia in 1965 and Yugoslavia in 1968. These agreements allowed the recruitment of so-called Gastarbeiter to work in the industrial sector in jobs that required few qualifications. Children born to Gastarbeiter received the right to reside in Germany but were not granted citizenship; this was known as the Aufenthaltsberechtigung ("right of residence"). Many of the descendants of those Gastarbeiter still live in Germany and many have acquired German citizenship.
The German Democratic Republic (GDR) recruited workers from outside its borders differently. It criticized the Gastarbeiter policy, calling it capitalist exploitation of poor foreigners, and preferred to see its foreign workers as socialist "friends" who traveled to the GDR from other communist or socialist countries in order to learn skills which could then be applied in their home countries. Most of these came from Vietnam, North Korea, Angola, Mozambique and Cuba. Following German reunification in 1990 many foreign workers in the new federal states of the former GDR had no legal status as immigrant workers under the Western system. Consequently, many faced deportation or premature discontinuation of residence and work permits, as well as open discrimination in the workplace.
During the 1980s, a small but steady stream of East Germans immigrating to the West (Übersiedler) had begun with the gradual opening of the Eastern bloc. It swelled to 389,000 in 1990. After the immigration law change in 1993, it decreased by more than half to 172,000.
During the same time, the number of ethnic Germans (Aussiedler) -Germans who had settled in German territory sometimes for centuries until WWII, i.e. in present-day Eastern Europe and Russia- began to rise in the mid-1980s to about 40,000 each year. In 1987, the number doubled, in 1988 it doubled again and in 1990 nearly 400,000 immigrated. Upon arrival, ethnic Germans became citizens at once according to Article 116 of the Basic Law, and received financial and many social benefits, including language training, as many did not speak German. Social integration was often difficult, even though ethnic Germans were entitled to German citizenship, but to many Germans they did not seem German. In 1991, restrictions went into effect, in that ethnic Germans were assigned to certain areas, losing benefits if they were moving. The German government also encouraged the estimated several million ethnic Germans living in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe to remain there. Since January 1993,no more than 220,000 ethnic Germans may immigrate per year.
And in parallel a third stream of immigration starting in the mid 1980's were war refugees, of which West Germany accepted more than any other West European country due to an unqualified right to asylum. From 1986 to 1989, about 380,000 refugees sought asylum, mostly from Iran and Lebanon. Between 1990 and 1992 nearly 900,000 people from former Yugoslavia, Romania, or Turkey sought asylum in a united Germany. In 1992, 438,000 applied, and Germany admitted almost 70 percent of all asylum seekers registered in the European Community. By comparison, in 1992 only about 100,000 people sought asylum in the U.S. The growing numbers of asylum seekers lead to a constitutional change severely restricting the previously unqualified right of asylum, that former "refugees [had] held sacred because of their reliance on it to escape the Nazi regime".:159 In December 1992, the Bundestag passed legislation amending the Basic Law, in which article 16 was changed to 16a. Persons entering Germany save from third countries were no longer granted asylum, and applications from nationals of so-called safe third countries of origin were refused. As of 2008[update], the numbers of asylum seekers had dropped significantly.:16
In the mid nineties, only about 5 percent of the asylum applications were approved and processing and appeals were so slow, that many refugees spent years in Germany awaiting the outcome. As of 2013, the approval rate was about 30 percent, and 127,000 people sought asylum. As of 30 November 2014[update] more than 180,000 people have applied, with an expected 2014 total of 200,000. This equals to 0.4 percent of the 51.2 million global refugees. Germany's percentage of refugees per capita is lower than that of Sweden and Malta.
According to Eurostat 47.3 million people lived in the European Union in 2010 who were born outside their resident country. This corresponds to 9.4% of the total EU population. Of these, 31.4 million (6.3%) were born outside the EU and 16.0 million (3.2%) were born in another EU member state. The largest absolute numbers of people born outside the EU were in Germany (6.4 million), France (5.1 million), the United Kingdom (4.7 million), Spain (4.1 million), Italy (3.2 million), and the Netherlands (1.4 million).
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European Union free movement of workers principles require that all Member State citizens have the right to solicit and obtain work in Germany free from discrimination on the basis of citizenship. Treaty on European Union Article 39 (providing basic rules for Freedom of movement for workers). However, citizens of Croatia are exempt from the free movement of workers principle for a transition period of 5 years, after the country's EU Accession in 2013.
Immigration to Germany as a non-EU-citizen is still limited to skilled workers (individuals with either a university or polytechnic degree or at least 3 years of training together with job experience), students and their immediate family members. Germany has 3 types of immigration titles: Visas (validity of up to 90 days), (temporary) residence permits, and settlement permits (permanent residence permits). Work permits, if granted, are no longer issued independently but included within the immigration title and are available for foreigners that either fall into one of the several available permit categories (IT specialists, company trained specialist within a group of companies, managing personnel, scientists, highly skilled workers with exceptional income, etc.) or can prove a public interest in the employment. The categories and all requirements are listed in the ordinance on employment.
The formerly well known IT-Greencard program has been followed by the introduction of a specific category within the ordinance on employment that allows IT specialists with a university or polytechnic degree to migrate to Germany for employment purposes. Self-employment is also possible but requires either an initial investment of EUR 250,000 and the creation of a minimum 5 jobs  or the support of the local chambers of commerce or similar organizations that confirm the socioeconomic value of the business plan for the region.
As Germany does not allow immigration without cause, it is necessary to be either enrolled with a school or university, have a specific job offer that fits the requirements of one of the work permit categories or intend to reunify with close family (spouse or minors) already within Germany (family reunification visa).
After obtaining a university degree, foreign students may stay for one year to find a job that matches their qualifications.
Plans are discussed to open the labour market in 2009 for all foreigners holding a university degree that have a specific job offer as well as for all graduates of German schools (including those located abroad).
Any person married to a German person or is a parent of a minor German child may immigrate to Germany.
Business visas are available for 90 days within every 6 months. Although it is possible to act as managing director, teacher, university scientist, sportsperson, actor, model or journalist on the basis of a business visa, businesspersons may only attend contract negotiations and buy or sell goods for an employer abroad. All other economic activity is considered work and must not be performed on the basis of a business visa.
In accordance with the Geneva Convention on Refugees, Germany grants refugee status to persons that are facing prosecution because of their race, religion, nationality or belonging to a special group. Since 2005, recognized refugees enjoy the same rights as people who were granted asylum.
Distribution of refugees within the federal states is accomplished by the annually recalculated "Königsteiner Schlüssel".
A person who has immigrated to Germany may choose to become a German citizen. A right to become a German citizen (Anspruchseinbürgerung) arises when a person::19
A person who does not have a right to naturalisation may nonetheless acquire German nationality by discretionary naturalisation (Ermessenseinbürgerung). The applicant must fulfill certain minimum requirements.:38
Spouses and same-sex civil partners of German citizens may also be naturalised after only 3 years of residence (and two years of marriage).:42
Under certain conditions children born on German soil after the year 1990 are automatically granted German citizenship and, in most cases, also hold the citizenship of their parents' home country.
Applications for naturalisation made outside Germany are possible under certain circumstances, but are relatively rare.
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