Moving Abroad

A Short Intro to Immigration Systems

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Photo Credit © 2019-2022 Peitho Publishing / Michael Froehls
Written by Michael Froehls

Let’s assume you want to move to Germany. You don’t hold an EU passport nor are you from Switzerland, Iceland, or Norway. How do you get in? Well, it depends. As in most countries, there are countless visa categories and rules for working permits, permanent residency and passport eligibility. Moreover, rules differ by country. If you’ve seen one immigration system…you have seen one immigration system. Still, there are some similarities across countries who share common preferences.

A Country Is a Club

Let’s start with a simple question: Why do countries have visas or rules for residency? Why not allow open migration like in former times? The reasons are countless – keeping out the bad guys; protecting the populace from economic competition; safeguarding the culture, rules, religion, language, or whatever from foreign influence. Likewise, countries can use their rules to actively attract immigrants by offering certain rights or benefits to newcomers. If you consider a country like a large club, rules for visas, residencies, and passports are akin to membership rules that determine who can join the club.

Different Needs and Philosophies

The more interesting question is, why do countries differ in their rules? The short answer is that governments of different countries exhibit different philosophies (witness the current discussion about immigration in the US). In additions, they perceive different chances and risks of temporary or permanent residents, and have different political constituencies to deal with. Also, sometimes visa rules were put in place decades ago and never updated, leading to a hodgepodge of sometimes-inconsistent regulations.

When you look at how to get into a place, you might notice that each country has specific biases of whom it likes to let in. In other words, each country is a different club.


What you offer to the country should match what the country is actively looking for or has set as minimum conditions to let you in. Thus – what do you bring to the table? Money? Or great skills? Maybe you have a local spouse?

Learn about the 8 key immigration systems in our next post.

© 2019 Michael Froehls – All Rights Reserved

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