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Recognition of professional qualifications acquired abroad in Germany

Opportunities through recognition

18 January 2018 - Assessing foreign qualifications to see whether they can be recognised as equivalent to German ones is key for successfully integrating professionals from abroad into the German labour market. Germany is currently home to more than 12.7 million immigrants. A large proportion of these have come to the country with a professional qualification that was acquired in their country of origin. Professions that are regulated (e.g. doctors and nurses) can only be practised if the professional qualification acquired abroad is fully equivalent to the qualification issued in Germany. However, it is also important for qualifications acquired abroad to be recognised, even if they are not officially required for practising a specific profession (as in the case of non-regulated professions, such as crafts professions). This is because these qualifications provide employers with a clear picture of the capabilities, skills and knowledge of their future workers. Having such qualifications recognised as equivalent for the corresponding occupation in Germany is also important as the administrative process reveals any areas where there is a need for skills to be upgraded. This enables further training to be better tailored. While citizens from the EU enjoy freedom of establishment, persons from so-called third countries who wish to come and work in Germany need to have their qualifications recognised as fully equivalent even to be issued a visa. This is irrespective of whether the occupation they plan to practise in Germany is classed as a regulated or non-regulated occupation.  

Advisory services – online, locally, and abroad

Whether you are an applicant or a company, information and support with the recognition of professional qualifications acquired abroad is provided by numerous institutions at home and abroad:   

  • Recognition in Germany: The Recognition Finder on the recognition website (available in 11 languages) helps qualified professionals find the precise office that is responsible for their application.
  • Network IQ: There are 100 advisory centres and more than 50 mobile units providing free advice to persons with a migrant background on having professional qualifications recognised in Germany, as well as offering help with career entry.
  • ProRecognition: Support with having qualifications recognised is also provided by special advisory offices within the German chambers of commerce and industry abroad, as well as by delegations of Germany industry and commerce. This special service is provided in the countries of  China, Egypt, India, Iran, Italy, Morocco, Poland and Vietnam.
  • BQ-Portal: This website provides support for companies and for the offices that conduct the recognition process as they assess professional qualifications obtained abroad. In addition to a current list of 84 country profiles (latest addition: Kenya), the site also provides 2,900 occupational profiles.             

Recognised as the skilled professionals of tomorrow

Between April 2012 and the end of 2016, there were a total of 86,514 applications to have foreign professional qualifications recognised for occupations – the German equivalent of which falls within the competence of the Federal Government. In this period, the annual number of new applications received rose continuously, climbing from just under 11,000 in 2012 to more than 23,000 in 2016. Of these applications, around three quarters were for regulated professions. The most common professions for which the recognition of qualifications was sought were in healthcare and nursing, with applications for nurses and doctors making up around 58 per cent. Other occupations included physiotherapists, dentists, office management clerks, and electronics technicians. The largest share of applicants had acquired their professional qualifications in Romania, Poland, Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Syria and Serbia.

In 2016, for the first time since the Federal Recognition Act entered into force, more than half (54.2 per cent) of the applications submitted came from persons who had completed their training in a third country. Some 45.7 per cent of applications came from the EU, the European Economic Area and Switzerland. Of the qualifications acquired in third countries, 55.5 per cent of qualifications for which applications were processed in 2016 were recognised as fully equivalent, 9 per cent as partially equivalent and 3 per cent were not recognised as equivalent at all. The share of qualifications obtained in the EU, the European Economic Area and Switzerland recognised as being fully equivalent was as high as 78 per cent; those recognised as partially equivalent totalled 11.2 per cent, with some 3.8 per cent not being recognised as equivalent at all. Around 32.5 per cent of applicants from third countries were issued with a decision with an attached condition – for example, that they undertake additional training to enhance their qualification by undertaking additional training. This figure was considerably higher than for qualifications obtained in the EU, the European Economic Area and Switzerland (7 per cent)1.

Current legal situation
Due to demographic change, there is an important need to use the potential offered by qualified immigration. Since the Federal Recognition Act2 entered into force on 1 April 2012, every person wishing to pursue gainful employment in Germany in line with his or her professional qualification has a legal right to have the equivalence of his or her foreign qualifications assessed vis-à-vis the corresponding training provided in Germany. This legal entitlement applies regardless of nationality and residence status and to both regulated and unregulated professions alike. The procedure must be completed within three months of the (complete set of) application documents being submitted.

In order to facilitate the immigration of skilled professionals for professions suffering from skills shortages, especially nursing care, a new section that creates an additional type of residence permit has been added to the Residence Act (AufenthG). Section 17a, which came into force in 2015, was introduced alongside new provisions in the Federal Recognition Act and the Employment Ordinance. Under this new section of the Act, third-country nationals whose formal training is not sufficient for their qualification to be assessed as equivalent may still enter Germany for a maximum of 18 months in order to bridge gaps in training by undertaking the necessary courses. The new residence permit can be issued for all training measures considered as relevant in the context of a recognition procedure, e.g. adaptation courses, preparatory courses for examinations, language courses or further training in-house at a company. Section 17a of the Residence Act also entitles the holder of the residence permit to enter Germany for the purposes of completing a proficiency test and of looking for work following the training measures.

Sources & notes:

(1): Evaluation of official statistics on the Federal Recognition Act for 2016 (Auswertung der amtlichen Statistik zum Anerkennungsgesetz des Bundes für 2016)

(2): Act to improve the procedure to assess and recognise vocational qualifications acquired abroad (Gesetz zur Verbesserung der Feststellung und Anerkennung im Ausland erworbener Berufsqualifikationen)


On 12 April, the BQ Portal will join with the “Unternehmen Berufsanerkennung” (Helping companies to recognise foreign professional qualifications) project and the chambers of commerce and industry/chambers of skilled crafts in greater Cologne to host an entrepreneurs’ breakfast in the city. This features discussions with company and chamber representatives on the possibilities and options for recognising professional qualifications acquired abroad. Anyone who would like to take part can register to do so by emailing Mr Malte Wohlers from DIHK:

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