25. March 2021 - The recognition of professional qualifications is of great importance for successful integration into the German labour market. For employers as well as for skilled workers, the recognition of professional qualifications offers great advantages: Skilled workers can make their foreign qualifications transparent to employers in Germany through the equivalence assessment and thus also better open up their career prospects. Employers, in turn, can better assess the qualifications acquired abroad and have the certainty of hiring a skilled worker with the required or adequate qualifications.
Current figures from the recognition statistics show that more and more people from abroad are applying for recognition in Germany and are thus also interested in working in Germany. Scientific studies also show that professional recognition in Germany leads to increasing employment opportunities with income growth for immigrants. It is therefore also important for employers to inform themselves about the recognition and the procedure when recruiting and hiring skilled workers from abroad.
Who needs professional recognition: Regulated and non-regulated professions
As a rule, anyone wishing to take up qualified employment in Germany with a foreign professional qualification must have their qualification recognised. The recognition laws of the federal and state governments give skilled workers with foreign professional qualifications the right to have their professional qualification assessed for equivalence with the German reference profession. When recognising professional qualifications, it is important to distinguish between regulated and non-regulated professions.
Regulated professions can only be practiced if there is a corresponding degree that qualifies to practice the profession. If such a degree was obtained abroad, it must be recognised as equivalent for professional licensing. This includes many health professions such as doctors, pharmacists or nurses, but also public service professions such as teachers.
In the case of non-regulated professions, recognition is not a condition for practicing a profession, but it can increase the chances of finding employment or career advancement that is commensurate with the qualifications. Non-regulated professions include, for example, motor vehicle mechatronics technicians or office management clerks, but also academic professions such as economists or computer scientists.
According to the recognition laws of the federal and state governments, every foreign professional has a legal right to an equivalence assessment procedure - regardless of his or her nationality. A valid residence permit is not required either, as the application can even be submitted from abroad.
For third-country nationals requiring a visa who wish to come to Germany for the purpose of employment, the full equivalence of the foreign qualification is mandatory. It is in fact one of the prerequisites for issuing the residence permit. This applies regardless of whether the profession practiced in the future is one of the regulated or non-regulated professions. In the case of a professional qualification or a university degree in regulated professions, the professional must go through the recognition procedure. In the case of a university degree in non-regulated professions, it is necessary to establish the comparability of your university degree with a German university degree.
Depending on the profession, recognition procedures take place under federal or state law: The Federal professional laws and the Federal Professional Qualifications Assessment Act regulate the implementation of the assessment of foreign professional qualifications for professions for which the Federal Government is responsible. In addition, there are numerous professions that are regulated by state law. These are regulated by state laws on professions (e.g., teachers, engineers) or by the Professional Qualifications Assessment laws (BQFG) of the states. There is also the ZAB certificate assessment for non-regulated university degrees.
Recognised as tomorrow's skilled worker
Official statistics are kept on recognition procedures in Germany. From 2012 to 2019, a total of around 173,800 applications were submitted for the recognition of professional qualifications under federal law and a further 56,100 applications under state law (BMBF, 2020). In addition, there are another 122,000 applications for the Statement of Comparability for Foreign Higher Education Qualifications at the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB). This results in a total of around 351,900 applications for recognition since the launch of the federal recognition law in 2012.
For federally regulated professions, the annual number of new applications has consistently increased during this period - from just under 11,000 in 2012 to about 33,000 in 2019, with regulated professions representing about 80 percent of all applications. In 2019, the most common reference professions were once again health care and nursing professions, accounting for nearly 80 percent of all applications; led by health care and nurse practitioners, as well as doctors, physical therapists, and dentists. Other reference professions included office management assistant and electronics technician.
Overall, in almost three-quarters (71.7 percent) of the applications, the applicants' professional qualifications came from a third country, and in almost 30 percent (28.2 percent) from the EU, the EEA or Switzerland. The most common countries of training were Bosnia and Herzegovina followed by the Philippines, Serbia, Syria and Romania.
Partially recognised? Taking advantage of opportunities for post-qualification in Germany
Foreign professionals who receive full equivalence of their degree at the end of the recognition process can practice their profession in Germany. For third-country nationals subject to visa requirements, this fulfills a prerequisite for the work visa for skilled workers. In 2019, half of the procedures decided under federal law ended with a positive result, i.e., the foreign qualifications received full equivalence with a German reference profession.
In 9.5 percent of the applications for recognition, partial equivalence was granted. In these cases, it is possible to compensate for the deficits identified in the recognition notice by taking suitable qualification measures or adaptation measures in Germany.
Since the Skilled Workers Immigration Act came into force in March 2020, the options for entry for the purpose of recognising foreign professional qualifications have been expanded: Under § 16d (1) and (3) of the Residence Act, third-country nationals with an established partial equivalence can be granted a residence permit for the purpose of recognising the foreign professional qualification. This gives the skilled worker 18 months to complete appropriate qualification measures in Germany to obtain full recognition of his or her professional qualification. There is an extension option of six months if, for example, examination dates are delayed due to long waiting times. In the case of non-regulated professions, the deficits identified can also be compensated for in the context of employment as a skilled worker in the profession to be recognised (§ 16d (3) Residence Act).
Entry and residence for the purpose of recognition of foreign professional qualifications requires that the procedure for determining equivalence has already been carried out prior to entry. However, within the scope of placement agreements between the Federal Employment Agency (BA) and a foreign employment agency, recognition procedures pursuant to § 16d (4) of the Residence Act can be carried out entirely from Germany. Foreign applicants who have been recruited through a placement agreement do not have to submit a recognition notice prior to entry. Placement agreements with selected third countries currently exist for healthcare and nursing professionals. Contact your employer service for information on the BA's existing placement agreements with other countries.
Further assistance in the recruitment of skilled workers for post-qualification under § 16d AufenthG is offered by the funding program "Integration through Qualification".
Advisory services - online, in the region and outside of Germany
Applicants and companies are informed and supported in the recognition of foreign professional qualifications by numerous offices in Germany and abroad.
- The information portal "Recognition in Germany": "Recognition in Germany" offers professionals information on recognition in 11 languages. The "Recognition Finder" can be used to find the German reference profession, a counseling centre and the competent authority for the procedure.
- ZAB - Anabin database: The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) is responsible for conducting Statement of Comparability for Foreign Higher Education Qualifications. They also collect information about foreign education systems and publish it in the anabin database. An explanation of how to use the database can be found here.
- Official hotline "Working and Living in Germany": A personal initial consultation on recognition, but also on all questions of immigration and integration, is offered by the hotline "Working and Living in Germany" at +49 30 1815 111.
- ZSBA – Service Center for Professional Recognition: The ZSBA advises and supports professionals who live abroad and wish to apply for recognition from there. The ZSBA is located at the Central Foreign and Specialist Placement Office (ZAV) of the Federal Employment Agency. The office can be reached via the Working and Living in Germany Hotline.
- Counseling centres worldwide - ProRecognition: Special counseling centres in the German Chambers of Commerce Abroad and delegations of the German business community provide support in the recognition of professional qualifications abroad. This special offer exists in the countries Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, India, Iran, Italy, Poland, and Vietnam.
- The project "Unternehmen Berufsanerkennung" (UBA): Here, IHK and HWK companies in Germany receive orientation and concrete assistance on recognition practice.
- The "Integration through Qualification (IQ)" funding program: 74 permanent and another 100 or so mobile counselling centers help people with a migration background at various locations in Germany with the recognition of professional qualifications and with starting a career, free of charge.
- The BQ-Portal: Here, the competent authorities in the recognition procedure and companies receive support in assessing foreign professional qualifications. In addition to the current 97 country profiles on foreign vocational training systems, more than 4,301 professional profiles are currently stored.
 IAB report 2/2021: https://www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de/assets/content/Medien_Dokumente-Fachpublikum/IAB-Kurzbericht-2-2021.pdf
 As also explained below, entry is also possible in the case of partial equivalence pursuant to Section 16 d AufenthG for the purpose of carrying out a measure for the recognition of professional qualifications in Germany.