International skilled worker at the job interview

Placement agencies

Are you thinking about using a placement agency to help you find skilled workers from abroad? Read on to find out what employers need to consider.

Ethical and fair recruitment

“Make it in Germany” provides employers with all the information they need to recruit international skilled workers on their own initiative and successfully integrate them into the company. However, if you as an employer would like additional help with the process, you have the option of using public placement services or private placement agencies. Practical information on both options is provided below:

State-run placement

Government agencies engage in placing international skilled workers with employers. The Employer Service of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) provides advice and support on recruiting skilled workers from abroad. You can contact the BA’s Employer Service in person or by calling 0800 4 555520 (free of charge). For more information on the services offered, please refer to the Federal Employment Agency website
The Employer Service works closely with the BA’s International Service (ZAV), which is responsible for the immigration of skilled workers from abroad. In addition to a pool of immigration seekers who contact the ZAV on their own initiative, there are cooperation and placement agreements with partner administrations in a number of other countries. This enables the ZAV to recruit additional skilled workers from specific third countries. These bilateral agreements form the basis for coordinated projects and programmes that the BA runs with its partners for selected professional groups. German ministries also support other organisations, such as chambers of commerce. You can find an overview of publicly funded and implemented projects for recruiting skilled workers in the "Current projects for recruiting skilled workers" section and on the Federal Employment Agency website
Agencies such as the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH and DIHK Service GmbH organise application processes, language courses, intercultural training, and visa and entry procedures. Public placement projects adhere to ethical recruitment standards. For example, international applicants do not have to pay placement fees. The projects are sometimes funded by the government, but in some cases you as an employer will be asked to contribute to the cost. Check the basic conditions before you go down this route.

Private sector placement

You can also recruit international skilled workers through private placement agencies. It is common for companies to ask themselves whether private placement agencies are reputable. This is because, since 2002, recruitment agencies no longer need to be licensed – all they have to do is register their business. Since then, a large market has emerged. These agencies vary in type and in the services they offer in the field of international recruitment, ranging from simple job matching to a full package including the organisation of language courses, entry procedures and assistance in finding accommodation. The fees vary accordingly. 

Legal principles to be observed:

In the Third Book of the Social Code [SGB] (Sections 296 to 299 SGB), the German legislator sets out a number of requirements for placement agencies. For example, Section 296 of the Social Code [SGB] stipulates that a written placement contract must be concluded between the personnel service agency and the jobseeker. This contract must include transparent information about the agency’s fees and services. In addition, jobseekers only have to pay a fee if the placement results in an employment contract.

Please beware

The German Social Code [SGB] stipulates that the fee for simple placement for jobseekers may not exceed €2,000 (Section 296 (3) SGB 3). The law does not regulate placement fees for employers. Additional services such as language courses must be paid for separately. Always read the contractual services very carefully.

In the case of vocational training placements, unlike employment placements, fees can only be charged to the employer (and not the apprentice). 
According to Section 299 of the Social Code [SGB], there is an obligation to provide information in the case of cross-border placements. Recruitment agencies must inform jobseekers of ten points in writing (in a language the jobseeker understands) before concluding an employment contract:

•    The employer’s name and address
•    Start and duration of the employment relationship
•    Place(s) of work
•    Job description
•    Working hours
•    Salary information
•    Holiday entitlement
•    Notice periods
•    Information on collective agreements and internal or works agreements 
•    A reference to the advisory services provided by the social partners and government agencies, including contact details.

Ethical and fair recruitment

Recruitment processes should adhere to quality and ethical standards to ensure that recruitment is sustainable. In recent years, many international norms have been adopted that emphasise the importance of ethical and fair recruitment:

•    2014: The ILO’s Fair Recruitment Initiative, which was followed in 2016 by 13 general principles for fair recruitment
•    2015: Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the context of the 2030 Agenda, where two of the 17 SDGs explicitly refer to decent work (Goal 8) and ensuring responsible migration (Goal 10.7). 
•    2018: Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration: “Facilitate fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work” (Objective 6) 
•    2022: Fair and Ethical Recruitment Due Diligence Toolkit of the International Organization for Migration - tools for the compliance with corporate due diligence

Although these agreements do not provide a specific legal framework, they are a good indication of whether the agency you are considering offers a quality service.
In the context of ethical recruitment, the Federal Employment Agency (BA) is guided by the IRIS Standard created by the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM). Although these principles are not binding either, they set out the criteria by which recruitment can be considered “fair” and “ethical”. These criteria include transparency of terms and conditions of employment, data protection, access to remedy, and the prohibition of charging jobseekers recruitment fees (Employer Pays Principle).
Please note also the BA’s information on the ban on the recruitment and placement by private employment agencies of healthcare and nursing staff from countries on the WHO health workforce support and safeguards list.

The "Fair Recruitment Healthcare Germany" quality seal 

At present, the international placement of qualified nursing staff in the German labour market is mainly carried out by private personnel service agencies. The state-initiated “Fair Recruitment Healthcare Germany” quality seal was developed to define the requirements for good international recruitment in the nursing labour market and to establish these within the industry. The quality seal is based on the above standards of a fair, ethical and transparent recruitment process.
The owner of the “Fair Recruitment Healthcare Germany” quality seal is the Federal Ministry of Health (BMG). It is issued by the Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe Wilhelmine-Lübcke-Stiftung e.V. (KDA) and its content is further developed by the German Competence Centre for International Skilled Workers in the Health and Nursing Professions (DKF). Recruitment companies with the quality seal make a voluntary and verifiable commitment to ethical recruitment and placement practices. 
Companies, personnel service agencies and other organisations wishing to obtain the quality seal can apply to the Office of the quality association. The committees of the quality association decide on the granting and, if necessary, withdrawal of the quality seal on the basis of its quality assurance and test specifications. They also monitor compliance with the criteria. 
The requirements for obtaining the quality seal are currently divided into three quality areas:

•    1st quality area: information on labour migration in nursing professions to Germany
•    2nd quality area: corporate responsibility
•    3rd quality area: ensuring transparency of the recruitment process

The requirements are based on six guiding principles:

•    Written form for verifiability
•    Placement process free of charge for nursing specialists
•    Limitation of economic risk for nursing specialists
•    Transparency of structures, services and costs
•    Sustainability and participation
•    Overall responsibility

The Employer Pays Principle is an important part of the quality seal. It is based on the so-called ordering principle: the employer is in lack of qualified labour and “orders” a nursing specialist from abroad through an agency. This means that no placement fees may be claimed from the nursing specialist during the entire placement process. The employer must pay all costs involved in the placement. This also includes costs for language training and travelling expenses. Therefore, the quality seal is stricter than the legal minimum standard.

In addition, the KDA has published the brochure "Information for labour migration to healthcare professions in Germany". Companies that have been awarded the quality seal must demonstrate that they use this brochure in their work and make it available to potential candidates prior to the conclusion of a recruitment contract. This brochure is available free of charge in 11 languages.

Please beware

“Make it in Germany” does not engage in placement! If private recruiters or recruitment agencies advertise under this name or offer paid services, these are not services provided by the Federal Government’s official information portal.

Temporary work / loan employment

The area of temporary or agency work is currently severely restricted by the German Skilled Immigration Act [FEG]. Residence titles for employment with a temporary employment agency can only be issued if the residence title does not require approval or a work permit from the Federal Employment Agency (BA), such as the “big” EU Blue Card under Section 18g (1) of the Residence Act [AufenthG]. According to Section 40 of the Residence Act [AufenthG], residence titles or work permits subject to approval by the Federal Employment Agency (BA) are to be denied for foreigners intending to take up employment as temporary workers (Section 40 (1) No. 2 of the Residence Act [AufenthG]). This means that in these cases, immigration seekers with a work contract with a temporary employment agency will not be able to obtain an appropriate residence permit in Germany. 


✔ No cost to applicants (Employer Pays Principle)
✔ The agency is a member of an association or personnel services network, such as the Bundesarbeitgeberverband der Personaldienstleister (BAP)
✔ The agency has a Code of Good Practice in place
✔ Written contracts (in a language that the jobseeker can understand)
✔ Transparency and extensive information
✔ Easy to contact (email, phone, website) 
✔ Healthcare: the agency has the “Fair Recruitment Healthcare Germany” quality seal

More information on the web

  1. Federal Employment Agency (BA) Services of the Federal Employment Agency (BA)
  2. International Organization für Migration (IOM) IRIS Standard for ethical recruitment
  3. Kuratorium Deutsche Altershilfe Wilhelmine-Lübke-Stiftung e.V. (KDA) / German Competence Centre for International Skilled Workers in the Health and Nursing Professions (DKF) “Fair Recruitment Healthcare Germany” quality seal
  4. Quality Association for the Recruitment and Placement of Nurses from Abroad List of organisations with the “Fair Recruitment Healthcare Germany” quality seal

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