More often than not, companies, including startups, will reach the point where they want to go international. And this brings up the need for native speakers from abroad. However, although the EU have made it a lot easier, the process of hiring foreign workforce can still be extremely tedious and time-consuming.
Having non-natives in your team can also be a solution to other problems. In Hamburg, or anywhere in Germany, IT specialists are hard to come by. You can fill the gap by hiring an IT officer from India or China, from where you are sure to receive many applications. But how are you supposed to go about the whole bureaucratic process, from visa to working permit, their renewals and twisted rules?
Not an easy task, especially for startups that do not necessarily have an employee dedicated to HR tasks, let alone an HR department.
Business Immigration Service
The Land of Berlin has the beginning of a solution, or even a comprehensive package to help you out with your administrative predicaments. Division Manager of the Business Immigration Service (BIS), Burkhard Volbracht explains the benefits of this service. “It is a free service for companies, financed by the Land of Berlin. We help with all types of contract, from internships to full-time contracts. No matter the country of origin.” A welcome assistance when you face the hazy and complex rules of immigration. “We act as a front desk between the companies looking for foreign workforce and the various institutions that play a significant role in the process.” Apart from having the right points of contact at hand, they also advise on how to fill out the visa applications with the keywords that work best or how to draft a contract that will pass the control of the authorities.
On top of being an ideal resource for many companies, the BIS works efficiently, striving to get back to you within 48 hours.
How do Hamburg Startups feel about it?
Asking startups with international employees, we gathered their insights on the needs of such a service in Hamburg. Nadine Botzet, Human Resource Manager at the fintech startup figo, confirms the difficulties they have with applications form outside the EU. “The working permit is the most difficult part, explains Botzet, we try to take care of the paperwork in-house, however we will externalize the process in the future. It simply costs us too much time.”
Apart from the difficulty of obtaining the work permit, finding accommodation is equally challenging. Bolzet regrets the lack of support from the State of Hamburg: “The Welcome Center only answers questions personally. They do not pick up the phone and they usually need a lot of time to find out the relevant information to help us finalize the hiring process.”
Dr. Andreas Giesa, Human Resource Director at the gaming startup Innogames, confirms Bolzet’s concerns.
“As a successful international gaming company, our goal is to attract the best candidate for each job position. We understand that challenges in paperwork always depend on a case by case basis and on the nationality of the individual.” The fact that the procedures almost always differ from case to case makes it difficult to standardize the recruiting process. However, other types of problems are deplorable. “Some online tools and resources are not constantly updated. For example, the Anabin database (which you use to evaluate foreign educational qualifications and classify them into the German system), is not always current, says Dr. Giesa. “Yet, the biggest challenge is the waiting times. At embassies or even the Welcome Center we must wait very long times for appointments. This is also the case for getting e-mail answers from the Welcome Center and ZAV (Zentrale Auslands- und Fachvermittlung).
Hamburg Welcome Center and Make it in Hamburg
Confronted to these allegations, we contacted the Welcome Center to get their side of the story. Julian Sperling brings some moderation to the comparison with the BIS. “They strive to make a first contact within 48 hours. At the Hamburg Welcome Center (HWC), we follow a similar policy with an answer within three days after receipt of the request. We then inform the inquirer of the documents they need to obtain the right forms.” Sperling also draws the attention to the “Make it in Hamburg” service. Working hand in hand with the HWC, they provide a comprehensive support in many languages to accompany new-comers through the diverse steps, including integration to the job market, schooling, or the recognition of foreign qualifications and diplomas.
The WHC remains a great asset and the place to go in the first place. “Our multilingual services are performed by trained specialists. Apart from guiding to the right administrations or advising through the procedures, you can, for instance, register your place of residence and receive your blue card. All in one place,” comments Sperling.