BERLIN (08/02/2000) - Germany's eagerly awaited "Green Card" visa scheme, intended to attract foreign computer experts to the country, has yet to draw massive interest.
The program, which took effect Tuesday, will grant 10,000 to 20,000 working visas for up to five years. It's meant to help meet Germany's shortage of skilled IT workers -- estimated at 75,000, according to the industry association BITKOM. BITKOM (Bundesverband Informationswirtschaft, Telekommunikation und neue Medien) is Germany's information technology, telecommunications and new media trade association.
Some 19,000 people have responded to a Web site advertising the visas since April, said spokeswoman Ingrid Kortmeyer-Pohl of the Federal employment office (Bundesanstalt für Arbeit) in Nuremberg, which is administering the program.
"But those are only no-obligation inquiries," she said. "It could just be someone e-mailing to say, 'What is a Green Card?'" As of early this week, she added, 5,500 potential applicants had added their names to an online database for employers and job-seekers.
The largest number of information-seekers, 3,253, came from India, said Kortmeyer-Pohl, followed by Pakistan (2,615), Algeria (1,605), Romania (1,922), Bulgaria (870) and Russia (795). Indonesian computer expert Harianto Wijaya, age 25, was the first applicant to receive a Green Card, she added. A graduate of a technical institute in Aachen, he has been hired by a mobile communications company in that city.
A few employers have moved quickly to take advantage of the Green Card.
Electronics giant Siemens AG hired two Tunisian IT experts Tuesday, said spokeswoman Sabine Metzner. "It's one program that helps, but it certainly doesn't solve all (our) problems," she said.
Some potential applicants are reluctant to come to Germany, because under the Green Card program they have to leave after a maximum of five years. "It's a problem, and it's a difference to the American Green Card, because it's not limited in the U.S., and in Germany we have these limitations," said BITKOM spokesman Werner Senger. "This was made by government, in the political room, but not by the industry. We said it will hinder this program."
Senger added that it's still too soon to make any final judgments about the success of the program. "It will take at least two weeks" for applications to wind their way through the bureaucracy, he said, "Maybe on average four weeks, or in the extreme six weeks, so it's a little bit too early to ask for the first experience."
The Bundesanstalt für Arbeit can be reached at +49-911-179-0 or online at http://www.arbeitsamt.de/.