Recognition of Foreign Qualifications in Germany

When it comes to applying for jobs in or visas to Germany, it can be difficult for those in decision making positions to ascertain the level or relevancy of applicant’s qualifications. As such, the chambers of trade and government agencies in Germany have a process to help evaluate such qualifications and benchmark them against German equivalents.

The specialist immigration lawyers at Total Law can offer help and guidance throughout the processes of recognition of foreign professional qualifications and onward applications for roles or visas. Call us today on +44 (0)333 305 9375 or leave a message online, to learn more.

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    How the Recognition of Foreign Professional Qualifications works in Germany

    In 2012, the German Federal Government introduced the Recognition Act. This Act intended to implement a new tool for businesses in Germany to understand and secure the availability of skilled workers. Thus far, it’s proved successful: with nine out of 10 skilled professionals with at least one foreign vocational qualification successfully gaining employment in Germany after undergoing the qualification recognition procedure. This benefits both those looking for employment and those looking to secure great talent.

    A standardised and transparent procedure to establish the equivalence of foreign qualifications with German ones governed by federal law, the qualification recognition process allows many to secure a role in a relevant field to their specialism or to start a new business in the country. It includes specific trades that require authorisation such as doctors, nurses and pharmacists.

    Undergoing the qualification recognition procedure is now a prerequisite for the immigration of skilled staff into Germany, under the Skilled Immigration Act 2020.

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    Recognition of Foreign Qualifications: The Process

    In most cases, an employer will take the relevant foreign qualification certificates from the applicant and undergo the qualification recognition process for them as part of the interview process. However, if an individual is to complete the process themselves, it will generally go as follows:

    Determine relevant industry authority

    Each industry in Germany has a nominated ‘competent authority’, which can be considered its main managing body and accreditor. Applicants must know which authority is the appropriate one for their qualification, and this is judged on their profession and the location within which they obtained their professional foreign qualification.

    Each authority has its own required documents for its recognition procedure. Some may allow skills analyses to be undertaken if the documents supplied by the issuing body are considered to be incomplete or insufficient to German standards.

    Collect and submit documents required

    Once the applicant understands which competent authority will manage the recognition procedure for their qualification, they may collect the required supporting documentation and submit it directly to them. The applicant does not need to be in Germany to do this and so it can usually be completed without foreign travel.

    Await processing period to end

    On average, it takes between two to four months for the relevant competent authority to process the certificates and benchmark the foreign professional qualification received against a German equivalent.

    The competent authority may request further information, additional documents or a skills analysis during the qualification recognition processing period. In the event of this happening, the process is considered paused until the relevant additional requirements are supplied and received.

    Receive notice of decision

    Unless there are delays in the process, it should take no longer than three months for the appropriate competent authority to deliver a notice of decision to the applicant. This ‘recognition notice’ provides the decision on the qualification and can take one of three forms for each regulated and non-regulated role. For regulated professions, possible outcomes are:

    • Recognition – whereby the competent authority is able to align the overseas professional qualification to a German equivalent and agrees that the applicant holds all other relevant requirements to practise in Germany
    • Non-recognition – whereby the competent authority is unable to find a German equivalent with which to match the overseas professional qualification. Differences exist between the two that are considered too substantial to match but may be able to be ‘bridged’ with a ‘compensation measure’ such as an interim qualification
    • Non-recognition – whereby the competent authority is able to align the overseas professional qualification to a German equivalent but does not agree that the applicant holds all other relevant requirements to practise in Germany.

    For non-regulated professions, possible outcomes are:

    • Recognition – whereby the competent authority is able to align the overseas professional qualification to a German equivalent
    • Partial recognition – whereby the competent authority is unable to find an exact German equivalent but agrees that additional training may be taken to reach full recognition
    • No recognition – whereby the competent authority is unable to align the overseas professional qualification to a German equivalent.

    Notify employer of decision

    If the process for the recognition of the qualification has not been managed by an employer or potential employer directly, the applicant should notify them of the decision and supply a copy of the recognition notice.

    Laws and Regulations for Different Occupations

    The act of comparing professional qualifications from overseas requires the comparison of the occupation for which it has been granted and for which it will be used if the applicant is able to find gainful employment in Germany. The equivalent role is known as the German ‘reference occupation’.

    If the reference occupation is governed by federal law in Germany, the professional qualification will be investigated for equivalence under the Federal Recognition Act. Most occupations of this type – for example, doctors and pharmacists – are governed by laws specific to them.

    If the reference occupation is subject to the jurisdiction of the federal state – for example, teachers and architects – the corresponding state law is applicable.

    Where a qualification is not a prerequisite for a regulated occupation – for example economists or IT developers – the laws may vary. The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) is responsible for conducting the qualification comparison assessment in most instances.

    If an applicant is a national of a European Union member state, European Economic Area member state or Switzerland, and intends to work as either a pharmacist, mountain guide, estate agent, nurse or physiotherapist, they may apply for a European Professional Card (EPC) to prove their competence.

    It is vital that applicants understand how their occupation matches with a German standard in order to properly apply for professional qualification recognition. Total Law can advise on the nuances and complexities of role-related laws; call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375.

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      Why should Businesses undergo the Process of Gaining Recognition of Foreign Qualifications?

      For regulated occupations, businesses have no choice but to exercise the process of foreign professional qualification recognition as it is mandatory. However, for non-regulated occupations, the process is not compulsory.

      Businesses often choose to formally recognise their foreign employees’ professional qualifications as a means of demonstrating transparency. For many, the recognition procedure also provides a comprehensive assessment of the individual’s professional abilities – helping shape a plan for any additional training or re-training to integrate them into the German equivalent profession.

      The Costs of Recognising Foreign Qualifications

      There is no one set cost for the process of foreign qualification recognition in Germany, as it is dependent on the competent authority’s processing fees and the level of work required for them. Generally speaking, the fees for recognition range between €100 to €600.

      Applicants must also pay for the translation of any documents being submitted if they’re not already in German as well as any certification costs if requested.

      In instances of a workplace processing the procedure for document recognition, the fees are usually covered by them but there’s no requirement for this and policies may vary.

      How long does the Recognition Procedure take?

      On average the recognition procedure takes between two to four months but can be longer if the applicant is asked to supply additional documents or undertake any skills-based testing. The relevant competent authority will be able to advise on estimated timescales at the time of application based on current demand and workload.

      Large employers who file lots of professional qualification recognition requests sometimes have strategic relationship contracts in place with the appropriate competent authorities and so have SLAs for expedited processing.

      Identifying and Understanding Regulated Professions

      With different outcomes for those who are filing for recognition of a qualification across either a regulated or non-regulated profession, it is imperative that the applicant understands under which they fit.

      The German government has an online portal for applicants to search their job role and identify whether or not it is regulated. This is known as the Database of Regulated Professions.

      Not all occupations directly translate from a foreign employer to a German profession. If you’re unsure of yours, contact Total Law for more information on +44 (0)333 305 9375.

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        University and Higher Education Qualification Recognition

        The German government maintains a database called the anabin database which allows individuals to check how their university or other higher education qualification will be evaluated in Germany. A higher education qualification can only be considered comparable if all three of the following criteria are met:

        • The university is listed in the anabin database and is rated either H+ or H+/-
        • The higher education qualification is equivalent to or corresponds to a German higher education qualification
        • If the university is rated H+/- (rather than just H+), the higher education qualification must be listed specifically under the university.

        If the university or higher education qualification isn’t listed on the anabin database or does not have an acceptable rating, the individual can request to have their qualification assessed. This takes place and a Statement of Comparability will be drawn up by the Central Office for Foreign Education, which records the quality of the qualification and certifies how it may be used in Germany for professional and/or academic purposes.

        The requirements for submission of a request for a Statement of Comparability vary based on the country of origin of the qualification. In most cases, a certificate of completion of the qualification along with all related documents must be supplied.

        On average, it takes around three months to receive a completed Statement of Comparability. It costs €200 per request and €100 for copies of the Statement thereafter.

        The Statement of Comparability does not replace the recognition procedure for regulated professions and is considered an entirely separate process.

        How Can Total Law Help?

        The process of moving from the UK to Germany can be a complicated process, with so many complexities at every stage, including the very first step of even deciding which particular visa or temporary residence permit is the ideal choice in maximising the chances of successfully being able to start a new life in a new country.

        Total Law has a team of experienced immigration specialists who can offer a host of services ranging from checking through all of the forms and documentation you plan to submit to ensure it is free of any errors that may hinder your application, to professional translation services.

        We can help make sure that you meet all the eligibility requirements and all the correct documents have been appropriately compiled in order to ensure processing times are as quick as possible.

        Contact Total Law today online or by phone at +44 (0)333 305 9375.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  Providing the relevant competent authority is able to recognise a professional qualification obtained overseas and, in some cases, judge the applicant’s ability to do the role sufficient, a foreign degree can be utilised to work in Germany.

                  It can take up to four months for a decision to be made on the qualification recognition process for Germany, depending on the authority undertaking the work.

                  Anyone is free to apply for a job in Germany but it may be that an employer stipulates foreign qualification recognition as a requirement for role eligibility. If you’re unsure, you should contact the employer directly for more information.

                  Residents of Germany, EU member states, EEA member states and Switzerland may only require qualification recognition for regulated professions. Anyone intending to work in Germany from any other country or with a qualification granted in any other country (known as a ‘third country’) must apply for recognition of their qualifications.