It appears that some progress has been made just in time for Christmas. This press release from the German Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology released earlier this month said:
The Federal Government adopted important measures in Cabinet today to improve the rules on residence, making it much easier for highly qualified and skilled workers from other countries to access the German labour market. The Government is thus taking pro-active steps to counter the impending skills shortage.
Philipp Rösler, Federal Minister of Economics and Technology, stated: "These decisions are a quantum leap in immigration policy. The new rules introduce a managed immigration policy for the first time which will also take account of the acute skills shortage in the German economy. Here, the drop in the salary thresholds is an important step. Germany needs to be an attractive location in the global competition to recruit the best brains and talents."
Everything I have seen seems to indicate that Germany really needs these highly-skilled workers - it's a combination of a decent economy, troubling demographics and predictions of severe labor shortages in certain sectors.
What is very interesting is that the press release reports that they have reduced the salary requirements: 44,000 Euros (58,000 USD) a year unless the worker is desperately needed in a sector that is really hurting for skilled labor (IT or engineering, for example) in which case the threshold drops to 33,000 Euros (43,300 USD) a year. This site is also reporting that Merkel's cabinet decided to drop the requirement that German companies first look for candidates within other EU countries before choosing third-country nationals. Blue Card workers will receive a permanent right to residence in Germany after two years.
Next step: approval from the Parliament. Could those of you watching Germany let us know when it passes?