Recognition notification

The notification indicates the extent to which a foreign qualification corresponds to its German counterpart. Find out what partial, full or no equivalence mean.
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What is certified?

The recognition notification, also known as the equivalency notification, indicates which qualification the applicant holds, to what extent it compares to the German reference qualification, and, in the case of partial equivalence, which differences exist. Companies can use this official notification to comprehensively assess their foreign candidate’s skills and qualifications. This enables employers to place candidates and employees in business areas that correspond to their qualifications, making the best use of the potential available.

Even if a qualification is deemed to be only partially equivalent, this will still be beneficial for a successful integration in the German labour market. A notification of partial equivalence will outline existing qualifications, but also the differences compared to a German qualification, so that the company can decide on a solid basis which job the employee is best suited for while identifying needs for further training or adaptation qualification.

You can find examples of recognition notifications from the chambers of crafts or IHK FOSA on the website of the project Professional recognition for business (UBA).

How long does the process take?

The latest one month after submitting the documents, the applicant receives a message from the competent body confirming receipt of the documents and, if required, informing them of any missing documents. Once all required documents have been submitted, the qualifications assessment process will usually be completed within three month. In the case of the fast-track procedure, the processing time is reduced to two months.

Processing time can be extended in case there is no information available on the content of the foreign professional training or if there are reasonable doubts about the authenticity of the credential. The competent body can request further documents and, in such cases, extend the processing time once only. Should the applicant be unable to submit the required documents for reasons beyond their control or should the applicant’s documents not provide enough information to review the equivalence, a qualification analysis may be performed.

The results of the notification of recognition

There are three possible outcomes of the recognition process.

Full equivalence

If the assessment authority is unable to establish any significant differences, the notification indicates the full equivalence of the foreign professional qualification to the German reference qualification.  The holder of the notification is then legally entitled to the same treatment and eligible for the same positions as skilled workers who have obtained the corresponding professional qualifications in Germany. Additionally, it facilitates admission to further education.

Partial equivalence

If partial equivalence is certified, this means significant differences between the foreign and German professional qualifications were determined. In this case, the notification includes a list of the applicant’s qualifications, competences, and skills and a detailed description of the significant differences between the foreign and the corresponding German qualification. What happens afterwards depends on whether the German reference qualification is regulated or not.

The German reference qualification is regulated:

Where the corresponding German qualification is regulated, the notification includes information on the formalized compensation measures (e.g. aptitude tests or adaptation period) required for the applicant to obtain full equivalence.

Applicants can complete an adaptation period as a course or work experience in the company (duration: maximum of three years). In the case of regulated professions, a knowledge or aptitude test can also be considered. The test examines the areas in which the most important differences have been identified. In the case of a knowledge test, all contents of the German reference qualification can be tested, regardless of whether differences were found or not.

If the aptitude test or knowledge test is passed or the adaptation period successfully completed, the applicant can submit a follow-up application (or re-application) to the competent body, which checks, whether the significant differences have been compensated. If this is the case, full equivalency is granted.

The German reference qualification is not regulated:

For non-regulated professions, it is possible to apply directly on the labor market even if there are significant differences. In this case you can decide whether the skills and knowledge are sufficient to carry out the job in your company or whether it makes sense to offer targeted measures to compensate the differences. In our section on adaptation qualification, you can find out what an adaptation qualification can look like. After an adaptation qualification, the applicant can submit a follow-up application and thus obtain full equivalence to the German reference qualification.

General information on adaption qualification for non-regulated professions can be found in this article by the West German Chamber of Crafts (WHKT).

No equivalence

Applications can be rejected for various reasons. For example, a negative decision can be made if no comparability between the professional qualifications can be established. In this case, the key differences are pointed out and it is explained why there is hardly any overlap with the German reference qualification. If the application is rejected, you can look for alternatives to the recognition procedure together. This includes the

  • Partial qualification (learning separate modules of vocational training),
  • Second-chance qualification (leading to a state-recognized vocational qualification),
  • External examination (final examination in a German apprenticeship qualification after extensive professional experience in this area without completing the apprenticeship) and
  • (shortened) vocational training.
The information available is not sufficient

If the information available about the foreign qualification is insufficient, a so-called qualification analysis may be performed.

Reasons for this can be:

  • for reasons beyond his or her control the applicant cannot submit all of the documents required for the equivalency review,
  • submission of the relevant documents would involve an unreasonable expenditure of time and effort,
  • the curriculum does not contain all necessary information required for a comparison with the German reference qualification.


The qualification analysis is performed in order to determine whether the applicant has the skills necessary for working in the relevant occupation or for carrying out essential tasks within the occupation. It can be performed by means of work samples, interviews, practical and theoretical examinations, and expert opinions. Which instrument is used depends on the type of qualification and is determined by the competent body. The results are documented and included into the equivalence review. Qualification analyses can be carried out for the entire occupation as well as for individual sub-areas. This usually depends on the information which is already available to the competent body.

This infographic from the Network Qualification Analysis (NetQA) shows you how the qualification analysis is structured.

This video from the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB) includes an example of a qualification analysis.

Costs and Financing

Qualification analysis causes additional costs for the applicant. How high these are depends on the materials and premises required. In addition to funding opportunities for the entire recognition process, various agencies and foundations (job center, special fund for qualification analysis) offer financial aids specifically for the qualification analysis. Further information on the costs and funding of the recognition process can be found in our section under the same name.