Entering and working in Germany – dealing with the legal formalities

Legal and administrative regulations apply to the recruitment of international qualified professionals. In this section, you can find out more about these requirements to allow your new recruits to enter Germany and start their new job. We provide advice and support on issues such as visas, the provisions that apply to the different types of occupation and the authorities involved in the process.

Entering and working in Germany – dealing with the legal formalities © istockphoto / MauritsVink

Entering Germany

Entering Germany © fotolia / Taiga

One important point which you need to take into account as an employer recruiting international qualified professionals concerns the visa requirements. Whether or not your future foreign employee needs a visa to enter and work in Germany depends on their country of origin.

Nationals of EU/EFTA states:

Anyone from EU member states and the states known as EFTA (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) is entitled to enter Germany and work here without a visa.

Nationals of non-EU/EFTA states:

People from non-EU and non-EFTA states, referred to as Third country, generally need a visa or Residence permit to enter and take up employment in Germany.

Nationals of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand and the USA are excepted. They may enter Germany without a visa and apply for a Residence permit once in the country.

Visa to work

Visa to work © istockphoto / RoBeDeRo

Before entering Germany

Visas to work usually have limited validity and must be applied for from the German mission abroad in the applicant’s country of origin before entering Germany. One important requirement that your international qualified professional must satisfy when applying for the visa is to submit a signed work contract. They must have this at the time they apply.


Tip: An applicant from a non-EU country is entitled (subject to certain conditions) to sign a work contract before they obtain a visa. Often, a work contract is a prerequisite for obtaining a work visa and must generally be submitted to the respective German embassy or foreigners’ authority. You can note in your work contract that it only takes effect once a valid visa has been obtained. You will find more information in “Regulations for admission to the labour market”.

You can find out what kinds of visa there are and what requirements have to be met, as well as further information about the subject of visas on the Make it in Germany page for qualified professionals in the section “Visa”.

Visas – explainer video

Does your international qualified professional need a visa to enter Germany? Our video explains the main steps and provides valuable tips from application to arrival in Germany taking the example of the Blue Card.


After entering Germany

Once in Germany, the foreign recruit must then apply for a Residence permit. This is issued by the foreigners’ authority together with the permit to work in Germany. You will find more information about work permits in “Regulations for admission to the labour market”.

Regulations on admission to the labour market

Regulations on admission to the labour market © istockphoto / Garsya

Nationals of EU member states and the EFTA states are entitled to work in Germany under the “right to freedom of movement”. The same rules apply to them as to employees who are German nationals. Access to the German labour market for international qualified professionals from third countries usually requires the approval of the Federal Employment Agency (BA).

Approval will usually be given if

  • a legal provision (Residence Act) or employment ordinance guarantees access to the German labour market,
  • the person has an actual job offer and
  • no applicants with priority rights – German nationals – are available for that actual post (Vorrangprüfung – priority check) and the work conditions are comparable with those of German employees.

People who do not need approval from the Federal Employment Agency

In certain cases, work permits can be granted without the approval of the BA:

  • Highly qualified individuals with a settlement permit
  • Holders of an EU Blue Card (in the case of occupations with a shortage of applicants, BA approval is necessary)
  • Graduates of German universities
  • Graduates of German Schools Abroad
  • Managers with full or limited representational powers and partners in Handelsgesellschaften (general partnerships), as well as the managerial staff of companies which also operate outside Germany, at executive, senior and middle management levels.

The fact sheet issued by the Federal Employment Agency, “Beschäftigung ausländischer Arbeitnehmerinnen und Arbeitnehmer in Deutschland” (“Employing foreign workers in Germany”) contains detailed information on the issue of employment of foreign qualified professionals.

Applying for admission to the labour market

The Federal Employment Agency is responsible for applications for admission to the labour market. The work permit is issued by the Foreigners authority together with the Residence permit if the Federal Employment Agency gives its approval. This approval is granted through an internal procedure.

The work permit teams at the Federal Employment Agency have branches in a number of regions across Germany. Their different responsibilities and contact data can be found on the Federal Employment Agency website.


Tip: The Federal Employment Agency’s Migration Check provides a first indication of whether your new recruit requires a work permit and whether or not this can be granted. Click here to go to the Migration Check.

Admission to the labour market by group

Admission to the labour market by group © istockphoto / AleksandarGeorgiev

Non-academic qualified professionals from abroad:

Does your new recruit have a non-academic vocational qualification obtained outside Germany? If so, he or she will be able to work in Germany on the strength of their foreign qualification if the following requirements are met:

  • There is a shortage of qualified staff for the occupation they wish to exercise in Germany. You can see which occupations are concerned from the Federal Employment Agency’s White List.
  • You have offered your potential recruit an actual job.
  • Their qualification must be recognised as being equivalent to a German qualification. New recruits must apply for recognition while still in their country of origin. You will find more information about this in the “Acknowledgement and recognition of qualifications” section.

For employers in Baden-Württemberg, the Points-Based Model Project for Foreign Skilled Workers (German abbreviation PuMa) provides an additional possibility for employing foreign skilled workers from third countries in occupations which do not figure on the Federal Employment Agency’s White List if they meet certain criteria. You will find further information about PuMa here.

Nationals of third countries and adaptation measures for recognition of qualifications:

If the respective authority in charge of recognising qualifications concludes that further training is required before full recognition can be granted, recruits may, pursuant to Section 17a (1) of the Residence Act, receive a permit allowing them to reside for up to 18 months in Germany. For example, further training might consist of a period of work within a company, or a language course. During this time, the new recruit can take up employment in line with their professional profile without any time restrictions.

You can find further information on adaptation measures to gain admission to the labour market for nationals of third countries from the fact sheet “Beschäftigung von drittstaatsangehörigen Ausländerinnen und Ausländern im Anerkennungsverfahren nach § 17a Aufenthaltsgesetz” (“Employment of foreigners from third states in the recognition procedure pursuant to Section 17a of the Residence Act”) issued by the Federal Employment Agency.

Nursing and care professionals from abroad:

If you wish to recruit a nursing or care professional from abroad, you should first of all make precise enquiries to decide in which country to recruit. As nursing and care requires an academic qualification in many countries unlike in Germany, the issue of recognition is important here. You can find more information on recognition in “Acknowledgement and recognition of qualifications”.

You will find information on admission to the labour market for nursing and care professionals on the Federal Employment Agency website.

In the Triple Win project, the International and Specialised Services in collaboration with the German Agency for International Cooperation finds work placements for nursing and care workers from the partner countries of Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Philippines in nursing or geriatric institutions in Germany. Both the employers and employees are guided throughout the entire migration process. You can find more information on the Triple Win website.

You can find further information about the current legal requirements for access to the labour market for foreign skilled workers in Germany on the portal of the International and Specialised Services (ZAV).


Tip: The Federal Employment Agency’s “Migration Check” provides a first indication of whether your new recruit requires a work permit and whether or not this can be granted. Click here to go to the Migration Check.

Information on this portal

Further information about the visa process

Information about the recognition of professional qualifications