Accompany the recognition process

What is the recognition process? Why is it worthwhile for companies to support such a process? Here you can find out what the recognition procedure is and the advantages of formal recognition – both for applicants and for companies.
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Professional recognition at a glance

  • According to the Recognition Act, since 2012 all persons with a foreign professional qualification have a legal right to have their professional qualifications checked for equivalence with a German reference occupation. This entitlement applies regardless of nationality, place of residence and residence status. The prerequisite is that the person has completed formal and state-recognized training or further education.
  • Recognition is a prerequisite for practicing so-called regulated professions - such as medical professions and professions of master craftsmen.
  • Professional recognition also makes sense for non-regulated professions, such as most of the approximately 330 dual training professions in the dual system. Professional recognition is always an integral part of the immigration of skilled workers from third countries (exceptions: IT professions and professional drivers; as of August 2021).
  • For professional recognition, foreign vocational training or further training is compared with German reference qualifications. The applicant's professional experience and other (further) qualifications are also considered.
  • The equivalence tests are carried out by the so-called competent bodies for professional recognition. These include, for example, the regional chambers of crafts and the IHK FOSA (Foreign Skills Approval) as the central recognition body for industrial and commercial professions. Tip: The recognition finder for “Recognition in Germany” helps to find the right responsible part.
  • There are two starting points for professional recognition: Either the skilled worker is already in Germany (as a current or future skilled worker in your company) or the skilled worker is still abroad (e.g. immigration via the Skilled Workers Immigration Act)
The Recognition Act

The recognition of foreign professional qualifications for around 600 German vocational and advanced training professions is regulated by the Federal Recognition Act. The Recognition Act is an article law. It is composed of several laws or amendments to existing laws and includes, on the one hand, the “Professional Qualification Assessment Act” (BQFG) within the remit of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The BQFG regulates the recognition of around 330 apprenticeships in the dual system. On the other hand, the Recognition Act contains regulations for the recognition of professional qualifications in federal professional laws and ordinances for the regulated professions.

In addition, there are professions that are regulated by state law. The 16 federal states have enacted their own recognition laws for these. The regulated professions under state jurisdiction include, for example, teachers, educators, engineers, architects, and social pedagogues. In addition, there are numerous non-regulated professions under state jurisdiction, such as state-certified technicians, state-certified economists and other vocational or technical school education and training qualifications. Further information on the occupations regulated by state law can be obtained from the responsible authorities, such as the district or state government.

Note: Would you like to familiarize yourself more deeply with the Recognition Act? The Recognition in Germany portal has summarized the legal basis for all aspects of the law.

The recognition process

Depending on the individual case, the recognition procedure consists of different processes and modules. These are shown in the following diagram and explained in detail below.

For further information on the recognition process, use the graphic for assessment and recognition of professional qualifications. Download Graphic (PDF) 

The building blocks of the process explained

The equivalency test

This consists of a formal comparison of the foreign training and further education and training with a German reference occupation and, if necessary, an individual test (e.g. consideration of professional experience). In the formal comparison, specified formal criteria - such as content, duration and learning locations - of the German and foreign training are compared. If this formal comparison is not sufficient to assess equivalence or to be able to determine full equivalence, the additional available qualifications (e.g. professional experience or further training) are used in an individual examination to assess the equivalence.

If there is not enough information for the formal comparison, there is another option: the so-called qualification analysis. In the case of immigration via the Skilled Workers Immigration Act (FEG), this option is currently (as of August 2021) not provided (see specialist article).

The notification of recognition

The result of the procedure is a legally binding decision, the recognition or equivalency notice. With the help of this notification, companies can get an idea of ​​the abilities, skills and knowledge an applicant with foreign qualifications brings with him/her. The competent body can achieve the following results as an outcome of a recognition procedure: no significant differences (full equivalence), significant differences (partial equivalence - only for non-regulated professions) or no equivalence. You can find out what these results mean in detail under the heading "The notification of recognition".

After the equivalency assessment

  • If the competent body does not find any significant differences to the German reference occupation during the equivalence test, the skilled worker can apply directly to the labor market.
  • If significant differences are found, a knowledge or aptitude test can be considered for regulated professions (e.g. master craftsmen). The aptitude test examines the areas in which significant differences have been identified, while the knowledge test can relate to all of the content of a German training course. Alternatively, applicants can complete an adaptation course as a course or work experience in the company (duration: a maximum of three years). If the aptitude or knowledge test is passed and the adaptation course has been successfully completed, full equivalence is certified. In the case of non-regulated professions, it is possible to apply on the labor market, even if there are significant differences. Furthermore, it is possible for the applicant to obtain full equivalency through an adaptation qualification. This can also take place in a company as an “operational adaptation qualification”. In this case the missing skills, knowledge or abilities are made up in comparison to the German reference occupation. General information on the adaptation qualification can be found in this technical article.
  • If the foreign qualification has not been certified as equivalent, the specialist receives a rejection notice. In this case you can look for alternatives to the recognition procedure together. This includes the partial qualification (learning individual modules of an apprenticeship occupation), the post-qualification (introduction to a state-recognized vocational qualification), the external examination (final examination in a German apprenticeship occupation after extensive professional experience in this area without completing the apprenticeship) and the (shortened) vocational training.

Find out more about the process and content of the recognition process and how you as a company can support it.

The advantages for companies

Through formal recognition, you can not only find skilled workers, but also retain them in your company in the long term.

Further information for companies

Assessing foreign vocational qualifications with the BQ-Portal

You have an application with a foreign certificate or diploma and want to get an overview of the professional skills, abilities or knowledge your employees have acquired during their education or training abroad?

The BQ-Portal offers you the opportunity to find out about the contents of the foreign professional qualification and to get an initial impression of the qualification yourself.

The country profiles in the BQ-Portal with information on foreign vocational training systems help you to classify a qualification in the education system of the country of origin. They include information on the structure of the vocational education system, country-specific features and key figures. The figure on the vocational training system shows you which qualification level a foreign vocational qualification corresponds to in the country of origin.

In addition, in the occupational profiles you can view the central content of several thousand foreign training or continuing education courses, the duration of training and relevant excerpts from the respective training or continuing education regulations. The occupational profiles are constantly being supplemented.


Webinar: How can companies assess foreign qualifications?

Information is also provided by the webinar "How can I assess foreign qualifications as an employer? In the cooperation webinar between Make it in Germany and the BQ-Portal, you can find out what you as an employer need to know about foreign certificates and how you can find out about foreign professional qualifications. To the webinar.

Please note: The webinar is in German.

Recommendation for action occupational recognition for companies

The recommended action of the Competence Center for Securing Skilled Labor (KOFA) helps you as an employer to better assess vocational qualifications acquired abroad and to make the best possible use of professionally qualified skilled workers in your company. You will learn how you can support and accompany your (future) foreign employees during the recognition process and how to correctly read a notice of equivalence. The focus of the recommended action is on recognition in the area of dual education and training occupations.

On the sub-pages under the heading “Accompanying the recognition process”, you can find out everything you need to know about how you can support professionals in the recognition process.