Accompanying the recognition process

What benefits can you and your employees expect from recognition process? Why is it worth your while to support an international job applicant or existing employee in having their foreign qualifications recognised? Here we list the advantages a formal assessment of foreign professional qualifications offer you and your employees.
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Professional recognition at a glance

  • According to the Recognition Act, since 2012 all holders of a foreign professional qualification have a legal right to have their professional qualification assessed for equivalence with a corresponding German reference qualification. This right applies regardless of nationality, place of residence and residence status. The prerequisite is that the person has completed formal and state-recognized initial or further training.
  • Formal recognition of professional qualifications is only mandatory for practicing so-called regulated professions, such as medical professions and professions of master craftsmen.
  • However, even in the case of non-regulated professions, such as most of approximately 330 professions pursued in the dual training system, a formal assessment is helpful for evaluating your candidates’ professional qualifications and identifying further training needs. In addition, professional recognition is mandatory for skilled workers willing to immigrate to Germany from non-EU countries (exceptions: IT professions and professional drivers; as of August 2021).
  • In the recognition procedure, a foreign vocational or further training qualification is compared to a corresponding German qualification. In addition to formal learning outcomes, relevant work experience or other evidence of competence are taken into consideration.
  • The recognition procedures and equivalence assessments are carried out by the so-called competent bodies for professional recognition. These include, e.g., the regional chambers of crafts and the IHK FOSA (Foreign Skills Approval) as the central recognition body for industrial and commercial professions. Tip: You can use the Recognition Finder on the Recognition in Germany website to identify the relevant competent body.
  • 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 initial and further vocational training professions is regulated by the Federal Recognition Act.  It is an ‘omnibus act’ meaning that it comprises several laws and amendments to existing laws. The first Article contains the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act (BQFG). The BQFG regulates the recognition of around 330 professions in the dual training system. Articles 2 to 61 contain amendments to professional laws and provisions concerning regulated professions, such as the Trade and Crafts Code, the Civil Service Act and the Nursing Act.

A number of professions are subject to an equivalence assessment at the state or Länder level. With the enactment of Recognition Acts by Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony-Anhalt in June and July 2014, respectively, the state level laws for the assessment of foreign professional qualifications entered in force in all sixteen federal states. Since then, the procedure and criteria for the assessment of foreign professional qualifications is standardized for professions regulated both at the state and federal level.The regulated professions at the state level include, for example, teachers, educators, engineers, architects, and social pedagogues. In addition, there are numerous non-regulated professions at the state level, 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.

Tip: Would you like to gain a more detailed insight into the Recognition Act? The Recognition in Germany portal has summarized the legal basis for all professions.

The recognition process

Depending on the individual case, the recognition procedure includes different steps 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 modules of the recognition process

The equivalency review

The equivalency review consists of a formal evaluation of the foreign initial or further training with a corresponding German qualification and, if necessary, an individual evaluation (e.g. consideration of professional experience). In the formal comparison, a fixed set of criteria - such as content, duration and learning locations - of the German and foreign training are compared. If a formal comparison is not sufficient to determine equivalence or to be able to grant full equivalence, then additional relevant qualifications such as work experience or further training will be considered and reviewed separately in order to assess equivalence.

Should the applicant’s documents not provide enough information to review the equivalence, a qualification analysis may be performed. In the case of immigration via the Skilled Workers Immigration Act (FEG), this option is currently (as of August 2021) not provided.

The recognition notification

The result of the procedure is a legally binding decision, the recognition notification. The official 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. The competent body may come to the following conclusions: no significant differences (full equivalence), significant differences (partial equivalence - only for non-regulated professions) or no equivalence. You can find out what these conclusions stand for in the section Recognition notification.

After the equivalency review

  • 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.
  • If significant differences are found , 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.  This will enable your company to decide whether the applicant’s qualifications are sufficient for your vacancy or whether you could offer the applicant specific training to make up any deficiencies. Furthermore, it is possible for the applicant to obtain full equivalency through an adaptation qualification. This can also take place in a company. In this case the missing skills, knowledge or abilities are made up in comparison to the German reference qualification. General information on the adaptation qualification can be found in this article. In case the corresponding German qualification is regulated, the notification includes information on the formalized compensation measures, e.g. aptitude and knowledge tests or adaptation period, required for the applicant to obtain full equivalence. During the aptitude test, the examination applies only to the areas, in which significant differences have been identified, while the knowledge test can apply to all of the content of a German training course. Alternatively, applicants can complete an adaptation period in the company with duration of a maximum of three years. If the aptitude or knowledge test is passed and the adaptation period 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.
  • If no equivalence between a foreign professional qualification and a corresponding German qualification is established, the application will be rejected and no description of the skills acquired will be given. In this case you can look for alternatives to the recognition procedure together. This includes the partial qualification (learning separate modules of vocational training), the second-chance qualification (leading to a state-recognized vocational qualification), the external examination (final examination in a German apprenticeship qualification 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 for the long term.

Further information for companies

Assessing foreign vocational qualifications with the BQ-Portal

You have received a job application with a professional qualification obtained abroad and do not know how to determine whether the qualification is appropriate for the employment you are offering. Or: You are wondering whether your employees have skills and qualifications acquired in vocational training abroad which have not yet been fully exploited.

The BQ-Portal helps you evaluate foreign qualifications in cases where no formal recognition is required. For this purpose, the portal provides you with information on the actual contents of foreign professional training programs so that you can assess the qualification yourself.  

The country profiles give you an overview of vocational training systems in other countries, thereby helping you assess the quality of a professional qualification in the context of the country’s education and training system. Profiles include information on the structure of the educational system, its particularities as well as key facts and figures. Each profile also includes an illustration of the education and training system where you can see which level (e.g. assistant, fully qualified professional) the foreign qualification corresponds to.

The professional profiles provide you with information on the contents and duration of foreign professional training programs, and also include translated excerpts from relevant training or further training regulations. This list of professional profiles is continually extended.


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 webinar offered by Make it in Germany and the BQ-Portal, you can find out what you as an employer need to know about foreign credentials and how you can assess foreign professional qualifications.

The webinar is in German.

Recommendation for action: professional recognition for companies

The recommended action of the Competence Center for Securing Skilled Labor (KOFA) helps you as an employer to better assess professional 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 notification of recognition. The focus of the recommended action is on recognition in professional qualifications pursued within the dual system.

On the subpages od the section “Accompanying the recognition process”, you can find out everything you need to know about how you can support foreign skilled workers in the recognition process.