Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications

Germany’s Recognition Act entitles foreign skilled professionals to a review of their vocational qualifications for equivalence with the corresponding German professions. Experience has shown that the Recognition Act is a success.

Fares Schammas had to leave his home country Syria in 2001 and sought asylum in Germany, where one of his brothers had already moved. But he was also motivated by his professional ambition: “Germany is famous for its skilled crafts and trades system,” he says. Fares gained the full recognition of his qualifications as a joiner in February 2015. “Now I also have an official German certificate proving that I can do the same work as any German-trained joiner”. © Portal „Anerkennung in Deutschland“/ BIBB

Many companies, craft businesses, hospitals and care facilities depend on experts from abroad. This is why the Federal Government introduced the Recognition Act as a new instrument to secure the availability of skilled workers in Germany. The Act has proven effective: Nine out of ten skilled professionals with foreign vocational qualifications find gainful employment after a successful recognition procedure. This is the conclusion reached in a comprehensive impact analysis published by the Federal Government in June 2017.

Before the Recognition Act entered into force, only very few skilled professionals who had come to Germany were given the opportunity to have their vocational qualifications assessed. The Recognition Act has changed this and introduced a standardized and transparent procedure for all federally regulated professions. This provides the basis for establishing the equivalence of a foreign qualification with a corresponding German qualification.

The “Hotline Working and Living in Germany” provides guidance in German or English to interested professionals from Germany and abroad. The hotline is available from 9.00 am to 3.00 pm CET, Monday through Friday, under the telephone number +49 (0)30 1815-1111.

In many cases equivalence is a prerequisite to work in one's profession or to start a business in Germany. This is especially true for “regulated professions” such as trades that require authorization, for medical doctors, and for nurses or pharmacists. The Recognition Act improves opportunities for individuals who have gained professional qualifications abroad to practice their learned professions in Germany and thereby assures that these individuals can be better integrated into the labour market.

Federal Law and Länder Responsibilities

The Recognition Act includes the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act (Berufsqualifikationsfeststellungsgesetz - BQFG) under the responsibility of the BMBF as well as provisions for the recognition of vocational qualifications in around 60 federal laws and regulations governing professions, such as healthcare professions (Medical Practitioners' Code, Nursing Act) and master craftsmen (Craft Trades Law).

The Länder have also adopted their own legislation concerning the professions for which they are responsible (for example teachers, engineers, architects, occupations in social services). All of the Länder legislation on recognition became effective on 1 July 2014. In the interest of providing a standardized national procedure to people with foreign qualifications, further efforts will be made to open up the recognition procedure to individuals with third country qualifications in all professions – in particular in shortage occupations such as teachers and engineers.

Procedure meets with great appeal

Experience has shown that there is a great interest in the new procedure. There have been a great number of counselling sessions, thousands of applications for recognition have been made, and the majority have been granted equivalence.

A first evaluation published by the Federal Government in its 2017 Report on the Recognition Act revealed that the new law is a success: Nine out of ten skilled professionals with foreign vocational qualifications find gainful employment after the successful recognition of their qualifications. This means a robust increase in the employment rate by over 50 percent. Gross earnings go up by an average 1,000 euros per month after successful recognition - an increase of 40 percent. The Recognition Act is also having a positive impact on skilled immigration: About one in ten recognition requests is being submitted from abroad. This is a new feature of the Recognition Act that had not been possible before its enactment.

Clear interest is also evident in the statistics for the online portal “Recognition in Germany”: About half of the website visitor traffic comes from locations outside of Germany. The information centres and the hotline of the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees have reported a massive surge in the number of requests for counselling. Not every counselling session automatically leads to an application for recognition. Counselling can help many individuals in other ways which include measures to gain qualifications or retraining.

Further Information and Advisory Services

The online portal “Recognition in Germany” and its online tool “Recognition Finder” point the way to the appropriate competent authority and provide important information about the recognition procedure in English, German, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Spanish and Turkish.

Interested parties can get in touch with the central funding agency:
Research Institute for Vocational Education and Training (f-bb) gGmbH

The IQ Drop-In Centres offer initial advice at the regional level to individuals seeking recognition. The Federal Government supports this service through its funding programme “Integration through Qualification (IQ)” with funds from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs and the Federal Employment Agency.

Reimbursable Costs

Persons in low-income brackets can apply for the partial reimbursement of their expenses.  Reimbursement is possible for all costs incurred during the recognition procedure, that is mostly fees and translation costs, up to a maximum of 600 euros per person. Costs must not be a barrier to the recognition of professional qualifications.

Dmitry Gladchenko left Kazakhstan to come to Germany in 2011. After a frustrating experience with a dead-end job, Dmitry decided to go for the recognition procedure in May 2013. Today, he is working in his dream job as an electrical fitter. © Portal „Anerkennung in Deutschland“/ BIBB
Margareta Marek completed her training as an environmental engineer in Poland. When she came to Germany, she was an unemployed single mother with no recognized qualifications. Today, the 34-year-old is back in employment - thanks to the Recognition Act. © BIBB
In 2013, Jigar Hasso fled Syria to come to Germany. The trained chef’s vocational degree was recognized after a qualifications analysis in 2015. His new aim is to take the instructor aptitude examination to become a master chef. © BIBB