Employers considering recruiting staff from abroad often face new challenges and open questions: How can you reach the foreign professionals abroad? Is a visa required? How can the integration be ensured? In the following, an overview of the most important steps in recruiting professionals from abroad is outlined – from publishing the job advertisement to the legal regulations and the arrival of the foreign professional in Germany.
In many fields the lack of professionals is coming to head. In the 1st quarter of 2021, the business activities of a good 24% of SMEs in Germany were hampered by skills shortages, according to the KfW-ifo Skilled Labour Barometer1. Against this background, many companies are considering looking for staff abroad. However, many do not know how to proceed.
Approaching the target groups appropriately is the first step
Employers who want to hire foreign professionals should keep a few things in mind right from the start. This begins with addressing and recruiting applicants. A company that is open to employing foreign staff should also reflect this outwardly.
The employer services and the Virtual Welcome Center of the Federal Employment Agency advise employers on the recruitment of foreign professionals. Furthermore, at the beginning of the process employers can inquire whether there are current placement projects for their sector and region that support the placement, preparation and integration of the professionals. A selection of current projects can be found here on the portal.
If a company is looking for employees on its own, it should adapt its job offers to the target group and formulate it in several languages, especially in English. This way, interested parties can find out about the requirements at an early stage, even if they do not speak perfect German yet. The company thus signals a cosmopolitan orientation and can present itself as an attractive employer.
Employers can publish vacancies on the "Make it in Germany" job listings, for example. The advantage of the platform is that the job offers are made directly accessible to an international audience. This guide explains how the publishing works.
If an interesting application has been received and the employer would like to get to know the professional, video interviews are a good option, owing to the possible great distance. To be able to better assess the qualifications when getting to know each other, employers can inform themselves about country and occupational profiles and prepare a list of questions.
Taking the legal framework into account
Before recruiting staff from abroad, employers should inform themselves about the regulations on employment and professional recognition.
Recognition of foreign qualifications:
For persons from abroad, access to the German labour market depends on their acquired qualification. If the qualification was obtained abroad, it must generally be recognised in Germany or be comparable with a German qualification. Particularly for persons from third countries (i.e. who do not come from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein or Iceland), a recognition of the professional or university degree is usually required in order to obtain the entry visa. Certain occupational groups, e.g. in the medical field, require a licence to practise the profession.
Good to know: For the specific case that the professional needs to acquire additional skills in Germany so that their foreign qualification can be fully recognised, there is a special visa for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications.
Visa and residence regulations:
EU and EFTA nationals do not need a visa or special permit to enter, stay or work in Germany. According to the Freedom of Movement Act/EU, professionals from these countries are given the same rights as Germans. Persons from all other countries2 generally need a visa or residence permit to enter and work in Germany.
In order to obtain a visa for the purpose of employment, the professional must usually provide evidence of a written employment contract or a concrete job commitment when applying for a visa.
In the visa procedure, the approval of the Federal Employment Agency (BA) for employment must be obtained, which is an internal procedure between the authorities. This approval is granted
- if the qualification of the skilled worker matches the job requirements.
- if the working conditions (working hours, salary, etc.) are comparable to those of German employees.
Tip: The employer can ask the Federal Employment Agency in advance to check whether the requirements for approval are met before the visa or residence permit is applied for. The agency does the examination based on the form "Declaration of Employment", which has been completed in full and signed by the employer.
Foreign students already living in Germany as well as university graduates enjoy easier access to the labour market: they can switch between studies and employment with few hurdles.
Fast-track procedure for skilled workers:
If the skilled worker and the company have found each other and do not want to wait long, or if there are appointment bottlenecks at the competent German embassy, the fast-track procedure for skilled workers can be a solution. The employer requests the procedure at the competent Foreigners Authority for a fee of 411 euros. You can find an overview of the points of contact for the fast-track procedure in the federal states on our portal.
Arrival and onboarding
Once the new employees have arrived in Germany or are about to arrive, it is time for employers to deal with the questions of integration.
Integration into the company:
Possible support needs – linguistic and technical – should be clarified at the latest at the time of arrival of the qualified professional. Companies can appoint a contact person for newcomers, compile a welcome brochure and should sensitise the staff through intercultural trainings, if necessary. Such measures not only benefit the qualified professional directly, but also bind them to the company, create a good working atmosphere and make the employer attractive to other prospective employees from abroad.
Promote integration into society:
In addition to in-company integration measures, employers can help their newly hired skilled workers get started by supporting them in their everyday lives – for example, in finding a place to live and dealing with the authorities. The continued active promotion of language skills is also crucial for successful integration. If the foreign employees are supported in language acquisition, it will be noticeable in their everyday work. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees provides financial support for vocational language courses if there is a need for it.
Further information on the portal
- Make it in Germany - For employers
- At a glance: Attracting professionals from abroad
- Guide “How can I recruit a qualified professional from abroad? What employers need to know”
 KfW-ifo-Skilled Labour Barometer
 Nationals of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the USA do not require a visa to enter Germany. The required residence permit can be applied for in Germany. If employment is to be taken up immediately after entry, it is nevertheless advisable to apply for an entry visa for the purpose of employment at the competent mission abroad.