Recognition of foreign professional qualifications
In the professional recognition process, you can check your qualifications acquired abroad and have their equivalence determined with the qualifications in the target country. In some professions, such recognition is mandatory for the practice of the profession.
1. Why professional recognition?
Skilled workers with a foreign professional or academic qualification have the legal right to have their qualifications compared and assessed with a German qualification. Degrees and qualifications are very important in the German job market. For some jobs, in so-called regulated professions, a certain qualification is mandatory. For other jobs (in non-regulated professions) the recognition of qualifications is not legally mandatory, but in many cases an advantage. Especially if you want a job that corresponds to the qualifications you have acquired, you should ensure that your professional qualifications are recognised. Otherwise it can happen to you that, despite good qualifications, you work in Germany in a job that is far below your professional competence.
Tip: Before you start the recognition process, you should seek advice from a body specialising in recognition. Often there are special features in the procedure or specific requirements which the Advice centres can point out to you. They accompany the procedures and can give valuable tips on financial support. Here you can find a qualified advice centre near you.
2. Recognition absolutely necessary - regulated professions
Recognition is mandatory for the regulated professions (regardless of the country of training). Examples of regulated professions are: Medical professions (except helper activities), lawyer, teacher, educator or engineer. You will find a list of all professions that are regulated in Germany here.
The recognition process checks whether your professional qualifications are comparable to the German reference occupation. This is used to check equivalence. To do so, the responsible office will use your documents (e.g. on qualifications, exams, training content, etc.). Your professional experience also plays a role here.
The recognition procedures are carried out by various bodies in Germany that are responsible for the recognition of professional qualifications. Which profession it concerns is decisive. You can find out which office is responsible for you in the Recognition finder. The recognition finder can be called up in several languages.
Example: If you would like to know whether and where you can have your training as an educator recognised, enter your occupation in the Recognition finder. Here you will find the most important information about whether your profession is regulated or not, what requirements are placed on the profession in Germany and what training you must have completed. The recognition finder will also guide you to the office where you can apply for equivalence for your profession.
For an application for recognition (determination of equivalence) you do not need German citizenship and you do not need a place of residence in Germany. It is sufficient that you have a completed professional qualification from abroad and want to work in Germany.
Tip: Since 2016, EU citizens have had the opportunity to have the professions of pharmacists, nurses, physiotherapists, mountain guides and real estate agents digitally recognised. In the FAQs you can find out more about the European Professional Card.
3. Recognition for non-regulated professions
The non-regulated professions in Germany include all professions that are trained in the dual system (vocational school and on-the-job training). These are currently around 330 professions. For the non-regulated professions, formal recognition is not a mandatory requirement for entry into the job. You can apply directly to an employer as a plumber, car mechanic or industrial clerk.
But even if you can start the job directly with a non-regulated profession, your training can be recognised. After all, a qualification that is recognised as equivalent makes it easier for you to find employment that matches your qualifications. You also have quicker access to further training.
4. What applies to school certificates and university degrees?
The certificate recognition offices of the Federal States decide on equivalence with a German school leaving certificate for professional purposes, which you can access via the anabin database. The universities are usually responsible for the recognition of school qualifications for the purpose of university admission.
If you have a university degree abroad, you can have your certificate assessed by the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) and receive an assessment of which German university degree your degree is comparable to. This not only enables you to get into the job significantly faster, but also according to your qualifications. The university to which you want to apply is usually responsible for the recognition of study and examination achievements. An exception to this are courses of study that are completed with a State examination and are recognised by the respective examination offices in the Federal States. They will evaluate for you the level at which you can continue your studies in Germany.
A first point of contact for you are the student secretariats of the universities as well as the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which also provides advice on master and doctoral studies. You can find detailed information on the respective recognition procedures in the academic and school sector here.
5. Advice and information portals
The Internet portal “Recognition in Germany”, the database anabin and the BQ portal are among the three central Internet portals that provide information on the subject of recognition of foreign professional qualifications/degrees.
Please note: The portals are often also available in several languages. Please check that you can find out the most important information in your native language.
Recognition in Germany
The portal “Recognition in Germany” provides a compact overview of the various procedures for professional recognition and the responsible authorities. Recognition in Germany has an online tool, the “Recognition finder” which guides you step by step through the recognition process. In addition, you will find comprehensive information on the various educational pathways - school, job, training and university - as well as on job search and the various advisory services.
Tip: The hotline “Working and Living in Germany” carries out an initial telephone consultation on the subject of recognition. The hotline offers comprehensive advice in German and English on the subjects of “job search and work”, “recognition of foreign professional qualifications”, “entry and residence” and “learning German”. The hotline can be reached Monday to Friday from 9:00 to 15:00 under the number: +49 30 1815 - 1111.
Nationwide, the advisors of the Integration through Qualification (IQ) support program also offer the necessary recognition and qualification advice and also offer qualifications for both regulated and non-regulated professions.
Tip: You can also take advantage of advice on recognition abroad. The ProRecognition project currently advises specialists on recognition in 10 countries. In the European Union, advice centres have been set up in Poland and Italy. Advice is based at the German chambers of commerce abroad.
The anabin database provides information on evaluating foreign educational qualifications and supports authorities, employers and you as an employee in classifying your qualifications obtained abroad within the German education system.
The information portal for foreign professional qualifications (BQ-Portal) of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy gathers all relevant information on foreign professional qualifications and vocational training systems on one platform. It offers chambers and companies a comprehensive knowledge platform. The portal also offers comprehensive information on the process and the conditions of the recognition procedure in Germany.
FAQ Recognition of foreign professional qualifications
There are 7 “sectoral” professions (doctor, dentist, veterinary surgeon, pharmacist, nurse responsible for general care, midwife, architect) where the European Union provides for automatic recognition of professional qualifications, due to the fact that harmonised training standards apply EU-wide for these professions. If you are an EU citizen and you want to practise one of these professions in another EU country, an equivalency review is not required for your qualifications to be recognised. Even in these cases, however, you must apply for and receive authorisation to practise the profession – doctors, for example, require a licence to practise medicine (Approbation) – before you can start work. To receive authorisation, you must provide certain types of evidence (e.g. proof of necessary language skills, an official certificate of good conduct, etc.).
Costs that arise in connection with the recognition process according to the Recognition Act or the Foreign Professional Qualifications Acts of the respective countries (e.g. for translations, fees for procedures for checking the equivalence of foreign professional qualifications and in particular for a qualification analysis) can be reimbursed under certain conditions. The amount and type of costs that are borne can vary greatly depending on the professional field. Applicants should therefore inquire in advance which costs can be borne and what amounts cannot.
You can find offices in Germany that provide advice on recognition and costs here:
• IQ-Network on the topics of recognition and qualification
• IQ-Advice centres nationwide
• Recognition of professional qualifications, university degrees and school certificates
Support options for recognition
The German employment agency can support you financially in carrying out the recognition procedure:
If you are a jobseeker, the costs for a recognition procedure for example for translations, certified copies and fees from the mediation budget can be borne. The employment agency can also support the participation in measures that serve to promote vocational integration by imparting professional knowledge.
For jobseekers, but also for employees, costs for further training and qualifications can be borne under certain conditions. The further training and qualifications must, however, enable the recognition of a foreign vocational qualification and increase the chances on the labour market.
You must apply for the bearing of the costs in advance in the above-mentioned cases at the employment agency responsible for you or, if you receive unemployment benefit II, at the job centre.
Please note: If you are not entitled to funding from the employment agency, you can apply by 30.9.2019 for the recognition grant from the Federal government . The recognition grant is intended in particular for employees who work below their completed qualifications and only have a very low income. The recognition grant of the Federal government is a maximum of 600 Euro and does not have to be repaid. It is important to submit an application for funding first before starting the recognition process of the foreign professional qualification. You can submit the application for example at a Recognition advice centre of the support programme Integration through Qualification (IQ) in your area. Detailed information on the recognition grant can be found here.
In Berlin and Hamburg there are also State programmes that offer financial support in addition to the recognition grant.
The authority responsible checks whether the qualification you have obtained abroad is equivalent to the corresponding German comparable occupation. Your qualification is considered equivalent if there are no significant differences between your foreign and the corresponding German qualification.
In addition to your training, the office responsible also takes into account your professional experience at home or abroad. Any significant differences found can be compensated for by relevant professional experience or continuing vocational training.
As a rule, the recognition process is completed within three months of the submission of the complete application documents, which means that the period only begins when all the necessary documents have been presented. In particularly difficult cases, it can be extended once. This is the case if evidence is missing and has to be requested from abroad or a qualification analysis is being carried out. If you receive full equivalence with the comparable German training for your job abroad, you are entitled to the same treatment and payment as a German employee.
In the case of partial equivalence, there are significant differences in certain areas between your professional and the German reference qualifications. The notification shows the gaps in detail, so that they can be closed with adaptation qualifications.
No equivalency is rarely decided because applicants receive detailed advice before recognition is carried out. Find out more here.
In Germany, non-regulated professions are in total around 330 professions that are trained in the dual system (part-time vocational school and on-the-job training). Examples of these are: Trade professions such as plumber, baker, carpenter, bricklayer, hairdresser. Technical professions such as electronics technician, mechatronics technician or commercial professions such as industrial clerk, merchant in wholesale and foreign trade, banker.
There is no legal requirement for professional practice for these professions. Therefore, also no procedure for recognition with a comparative occupation is necessary. EU citizens can thus apply directly to the German labour market. In these cases, the foreign qualification is assessed by the employer.
However, it can be very useful if you also have your qualification recognised in Germany in order to make your foreign qualification more understandable to employers and companies. In addition, a qualification recognised as equivalent enables easier access to an adequately paid job and further training. You can find the list of all apprenticeships in Germany here.
For foreign university degrees leading to a non-regulated profession, e.g. mathematicians, economists, journalists, a recognition is also not required.
Most of the professions in Germany are non-regulated professions. The test of equivalence has a different function in the regulated and non-regulated professions. A regulated profession is a profession that can only be practiced if proof of a certain qualification has been provided. These are, for example, medical professions, legal professions, teaching at State schools and civil service professions (e.g. soldier or police officer). Academic professions can also be regulated, such as the education of architects or engineers. You can check on the website of the Federal Employment Agency and on the multilingual website of the EU Commission which professions are regulated and require recognition. The link to the Recognition finder will take you directly to the location that will carry out the recognition procedure for you.
As a rule, fees are charged for the procedures. These can sometimes be very different and are based on the fee regulations of the responsible body and the effort required to carry out the procedure. The fees are currently between € 25 and € 1,000.
The Chamber of Industry and Commerce FOSA and the chambers of trade charge between € 100 and € 600, depending on the procedural effort. In cases in which the recognition is refused, you have to reckon with costs between € 100 and € 200. You also bear the costs for certification, translations or copies yourself. The IQ-Network Baden-Württembergprovides an assessment of the costs that may be incurred.
For example, if you have completed vocational training abroad and cannot present all the documents in Germany, you can use a qualification analysis to provide practical proof of your professional skills. It is not an examination, rather
- for example, you hold a technical discussion with an expert about the profession you learned,
- you put your skills to the test with a work sample or
- you work on trial in a company.
You yourself have the opportunity to show the potential employer what you can do and the employer himself can better assess your professional abilities.
You can find all the important information about this and about financial support at this link.
In the course of the reform of the EU directive from 2005, new changes came into force on 18 January 2016, including the introduction of professional cards.
Since 2016, it has been possible to carry out the professions of pharmacist, nurse, physiotherapist, mountain guide and real estate agent via recognition in a digital process (European professional card). With this electronic certificate, the recognition procedure is significantly accelerated and simplified. It can be requested directly via the website Your Europe of the European Commission.
On the website Recognition in Germany you will find detailed information on the procedure for the European Professional Card. You will also find the direct link to apply as well as a multilingual explanatory video on the page.