Interview with the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB)

Correct as of: 23.03.2021

Throughout Germany, various institutions and authorities carry out recognition procedures of foreign professional qualifications. One of them is the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB). In a short interview, Ms. Elisabeth Sonnenschein, deputy head of department, reports on the tasks of the ZAB.

In order to take up employment in Germany, skilled workers usually need full recognition of their foreign qualifications. What role does the ZAB play in the recognition process?

The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) is the competence center of the federal states for the recognition of foreign certificates and qualifications and thus plays an important role in the recognition procedure. The ZAB currently employs about 150 people who speak more than 40 languages. They

  • collect information on foreign education systems, evaluate it and publish it in the anabin database;
  • answer questions from private individuals about recognition in Germany, under a central telephone number (+49-228-501-664) or by e-mail (zabservice(at);
  • issue statements of comparability for foreign higher education qualifications or certificate of equivalence for foreign school-based vocational qualifications at the request of private individuals;
  • write expert opinions on foreign qualifications for recognition authorities at their request.

Which target groups do you address with your services?

The services and products of the ZAB address both private individuals as well as recognition authorities.  

Private individuals can apply online for a Statement of Comparability for foreign university degrees from all countries of origin in the world. This official certificate makes it easier for employers to assess a foreign degree, since state recognition is not required for every profession. The ZAB issues certificates of equivalence for the federal states of Baden-Württemberg, Berlin, Lower Saxony and Saarland. This means that private individuals who want to work in one of these federal states can apply for an equivalence assessment of their vocational qualification. The vocational qualification must correspond to a non-regulated German profession that is regulated by state law. The recognition authorities of the federal states can request an expert opinion, as needed, that compares a foreign qualification with a German qualification in an individual case.

Info box: Database anabin

The database anabin of the ZAB offers a knowledge management system. Here, individuals and recognition authorities can find out

- whether the foreign university is recognized in Germany;
- how a foreign university degree is assessed in Germany.

The database contains information on 32,000 institutions, around 29,000 university degrees and around 1,700 school-leaving qualifications with access to higher education from around 180 countries of origin.

For which professions are the most applications for equivalence assessment requested and from which country of training do they come?

The statistical recording of vocational recognition for 2020 is currently underway, so only figures for 2019 are available so far. The Federal Statistical Office reports that the front-runner for the recognition of professions that are not regulated by state law is the state-certified commercial assistant. This is followed by the state-certified electrotechnical assistant and the state-certified electrotechnical assistant as well as the state-certified information technology assistant. 

The most common countries of origin for the recognition of non-regulated professions regulated by national law are Syria, Poland and the Russian Federation. 

How do I apply for an equivalence assessment at the ZAB and what does it cost?

Information on the certificate of equivalence can be found on the ZAB homepage. The application for an equivalence assessment is made using the application form provided there. This form must be filled out and signed and then sent to the ZAB by mail together with the foreign certificates and all other necessary documents, e.g. a copy of your passport.

The fee for a certificate of equivalence is 485 euros. Normally, it has to be paid by the student. However, it is possible to receive funding, e.g. a recognition grant or the employment agency pays the fees.

How does the cooperation work with other recognition authorities in the federal states in Germany?

For many decades, the ZAB has worked together with the recognition authorities in a proven and reliable manner. As the competence center of the federal states for the recognition of foreign higher education qualifications, it contributes to ensuring that the recognition procedures in the 16 federal states can be carried out in a uniform, transparent and quality-assured manner. With its knowledge of foreign education systems, the ZAB supports the recognition authorities especially when special expert knowledge about an education system or a specific certificate is needed to evaluate a qualification.

Thank you for the interview!

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