Qualifications of refugees

In this section, you can get an overview of the qualifications of refugees in Germany. Our compact country overviews provide you with information on education and vocational training in the main countries of origin and contact points for all aspects of integration of refugees in companies.
Qualifikationen von Flüchtlingen

Refugees in Germany: Brought Qualifications

In 2015 and 2016, many people came to Germany as refugees. Many refugees have already completed a vocational training or have work experience and are highly motivated to integrate into labor market and society. Therefore, they can use different ways to have their professional skills and qualifications assessed and recognized in Germany that suit their individual goals.

Below you will find the most important questions and answers about the qualifications that refugees bring with them and the possibilities for recognition.

What qualifications do refugees bring with them?

According to a representative survey, 25% of refugees abroad have either started higher education (17%) or vocational training (8%). A total of 17% have also completed their studies or training abroad. On the other hand, 75% of the refugees say they do not have any formal training, including many who have learned a profession informally or have otherwise gained experience on the labor market. Respondents of survey: more than 5,500 refugees aged 18 and older who arrived in Germany between January 2013 and January 2016 (source: IAB-BAMF-SOEP, 2019).

How many professional qualifications of refugees have been recognized so far?

Many refugees have studied in their home countries or have completed formal vocational training. Many of these skilled workers with refugee experience have undergone professional recognition in recent years. Between 2015 and 2018 around 8,475 Syrian vocational qualifications were recognized, as well as over 1,400 qualifications from Iran and over 800 qualifications from Iraq. The most common are recognition procedures in the field of health professions (doctor, nurse, dentist).

Very few professional qualifications have been recognized from other main countries of origin of refugees so far. This includes Somalia, Eritrea (102 recognized credentials between 2015 and 2018), Afghanistan (234 recognized credentials between 2015 and 2018). This is partly because vocational training often takes place informally, "learning by doing", in these countries and therefore cannot be recognized in Germany.

Our compact country overviews give you a valuable insight into the formal education in the country of origin of refugees in question.

When can refugees apply for professional recognition?

When it comes to professional recognition, the same rules and procedures apply to refugees as to all skilled workers with a foreign professional qualification. An overview of the most important information about professional recognition from a company’s perspective you will find in the section "Accompanying recognition procedures".

Mainly the following applies: only individuals with a formal professional qualification can apply for recognition. Workers without a formal vocational qualification are not entitled to an equivalency review, since undocumented skills alone cannot be considered. However, for applicants who already have at least one formal vocational qualification, additional competences acquired by informal means may be taken into account. The minimum duration of vocational training must be one year.

Why is vocational recognition sometimes out of the question?

In most of the refugees’ countries of origin non-formal and informal vocational training based on the principle of “learning by doing” is quite popular, which are not considered by the Recognition act.  This is particularly the case in the skilled trades and in countries with a weakened school system such as Afghanistan and Somalia. Some vocational qualifications of refugees also fall into the field of private, non-state-recognized training. Other vocational training courses, on the other hand, are too short (e.g. several weeks or months) in comparison to German training programs. Refugees are therefore often not entitled to recognition procedure.

In such cases, skill assessment procedures are a possible alternative to recognition procedure. You can find an overview of these procedures in the subsection "Integration of refugees: contact points for companies".

What if certificates are not available?

Original credentials are required for recognition of foreign professional qualifications. If these are not (no longer) available or incomplete, a so-called qualification analysis may be performed. Applicants can provide practical proof of their professional skills, for example by means of work samples, interviews, practical and theoretical examinations, and expert opinions.

What alternatives to professional recognition are there?

In addition to the qualification analysis and skills assessment procedures, there are other options available depending on the individual goals:

  • A shortened vocational training in Germany. In this case previous school or vocational knowledge is recognized.
  • An external examination. In this case, a person with work experience takes part in the regular final or journeyman's examination and thus acquires a formal German professional credential. To pass the theoretical part of the journeyman's examination, extensive knowledge of German is essential.

The competent body proves whether a shortened vocational training or external examination are available.

Compact country profiles for assessing the qualifications of refugees

Our compact country overviews give you a valuable insight into the country of origin of refugees in question. They cover the countries with the largest number of refugees in recent years: Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Nigeria. Here you will find information on

  • population and educational attainment in the relevant country,
  • number of asylum seekers from that country in the European Union,
  • a short overview of the education system and its particularities,
  • illustration of educational pathways and degrees,
  • as well as examples of successful labour market integration of refugees thanks to professional recognition.

Tip: On the homepage of Recognition in Germany you will find numerous testimonials from refugees and other foreign skilled workers who have successfully completed the recognition procedure.
















Report: Education and vocational training in the countries of origin of refugees

The report "Education and Vocational Training in the Countries of Origin of Refugees" presents the education systems of the six numerically most important countries of origin of refugees (Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran and Somalia - reference year 2016) with a focus on vocational training. The report helps companies and counseling centers to better classify foreign qualifications in the curricula vitae of refugees. The report outlines key differences to the German education system and, in particular, to dual vocational training. Please note: The report is written in German.

Representative study "Refugees from Ukraine in Germany: Escape, arrival and everyday life"

The analyses are based on around 11,200 interviews with Ukrainian men and women who came to Germany between 24 February and 8 June 2022. 

The study provides the very first representative data on Ukrainian refugees in Germany. Based on this, the short study presents findings on their arrival and the current living situation. These findings can help actors in the various policy areas to draw conclusions about the particular problems and support needs of Ukrainian refugees. The key findings are:

  • The intentions of Ukrainian refugees to stay are heterogeneous: 37 percent want to stay in Germany forever or for several years, 34 percent plan to leave after the end of the war – the majority of them want to return to Ukraine – and 27 percent are still undecided.
  • The vast majority of adult refugees are women (80 percent). Many of the women came to Germany without a partner (78 percent), but with underage children (48 percent). Of the men, 71 percent live in Germany with their partner.
  • The refugees have a high level of education compared to the population in their country of origin: 72 percent have university degrees.
  • Only a few had a good knowledge of German at the time of the survey (5 percent). However, half of the respondents are already attending a German language course.
  • 74 percent of the respondents were living in private accommodation at the time of the survey, only 9 percent in shared accommodation.
  • Most of the refugees rate their health as good, but their life satisfaction is significantly lower compared to the German population. In addition, the psychological well-being of Ukrainian children is low compared to other children in Germany.
  • 17 percent of the refugees of working age were employed at the time of the survey. 71 percent of them had a job that required a vocational or university degree.
  • The refugees expressed a particular need for support in learning the German language, finding a job, medical care and finding a place to live.
  • In 92 percent of the families with children of school age, at least one child attends a school in Germany.

Study "Refugees from Ukraine in Germany: Escape, arrival and everyday life"

IAB Short Report on the Employment of Refugees in Germany

How well refugees integrate into the labor market is essential for their participation in society. Companies play a central role in this. Their hiring behavior is a key factor in determining whether and how quickly integration into training and employment succeeds. In the short report "Companies with Foreign Employees Hire Refugees More Frequently" [in German], the authors examine which companies employ refugees particularly frequently.

Using the BQ-Portal to Assess Vocational Qualifications of Refugees

Our country profiles give you an overview of the structure of the education system, its particularities as well as legal bases. Our 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.

More about BQ-Portal

Integration of refugees: contact points for companies

Since 2015, numerous integration initiatives for refugees have emerged. Other initiatives already existed before and were expanded to include this target group. Below you can find an overview of the most important contact points and portals at the federal level. There are also numerous contact points and integration initiatives at the state and regional level.

Tip: On the website of the Competence Center for Securing Skilled Labour (KOFA) you will find an overview of the nationwide and regional initiatives for companies and refugees, sorted by the state.

Integration initiatives

The NETWORK Companies Integrate Refugees (NUiF) is an initiative of the German Chamber of Industry and Commerce (DIHK), funded by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Action. Around 2,800 companies have joined it so far (as of September 2021). The network offers its member companies information materials and checklists, practical tips and the exchange of experiences, events and webinars. Active companies can share their work as “best-practice examples”.

The welcome guides (Willkommenslotse) assist small and medium-sized companies in filling vacant training and work positions with refugees since 2016. The welcome guides located at more than 80 chambers inform and advise companies on topics such as funding and support options, administrative expenses and qualification requirements. You can find your local contact person in this database.

The IQ network advises migrants on all questions related to the German labor market as well as recognition and qualification topics. In addition, they offer a wide range of advice, information and support for refugees. The IQ Landesnetzwerk Hessen, for example, provides an information sheet on the labour market and vocational training system in Syria.

Portals for integration and professional recognition

The Competence Center Securing Skilled Labour (KOFA) assists companies in finding, retaining and qualifying skilled workers. You can find all information on integration of refugees at www.kofa.de/fluechtlinge. For exampl, the section “Hiring refugees” provides information and helpful tips on the topics of internships, training and employment of refugees. In addition to practical examples, you will find an overview of all initiatives on integrating refugees, including initiatives on skills assessment (note: scroll).

To promote the opportunities of professional recognition, DIHK and ZDH have started the project “Professional recognition for business” (UBA). The project informs companies about the possibilities and opportunities of professional recognition. Since 2020, the pilot project UBACONNECT was created in order to bring together companies and skilled workers who need adaptation qualifications.

The information portal "Recognition in Germany” leads you through the most important steps while hiring foreign skilled workers. In addition to practical information, you will also find helpful support services here.

The anabin database provides information on recognition of foreign higher education credentials and supports authorities, employers and employees as well as private individuals in classifying a foreign qualification in the German education system.

The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) offers the first contact points in the field of integration and asylum procedures with its information platform for integration courses, immigration authorities and migration advice centers. The card-based digital information system (in short: "BAMF-NAvI" database) provides daily updated information and contact details for advice centers and authorities.

The Handbook Germany provides refugees with information and tips on life in Germany in eight languages. The section “work” answers important questions on recognition of foreign qualifications, among other themes.

Contact points for skills assessment

Professional recognition is not available for refugees who completed informal training or short training courses in their home country. Nevertheless, they bring work experience, knowledge and skills that may be useful on the German labour market. The following skills assessment tools can be used to assess the skills of refugees.

check.work supports the German economy in evaluating professional experiences and qualifications of refugees. The online application is easy to use, interculturally understandable and can be used early in the integration process. Employers can create profiles based on the work experience and competences of their employees. This creates an initial base to support refugees with good prospects of remaining in Germany as they take part in the German labour market.

The BMBF-funded ValiKom Transfer project records and certifies professionally relevant competencies using a validation procedure. The procedure is aimed at all people who have work experience and technical know-how, but no formal professional qualification.Currently 30 chambers across Germany take part in the project. As of September 2021, the procedure can be carried out for 13 skilled trades, 19 industrial and commercial professions and two agricultural professions.

The EU Skills Profile Tool of the European Commission presents the competencies and qualifications of third-country nationals (especially refugees) and simplifies the path to the labour market. The tool allows third-country nationals to present their skills, qualifications and experiences in a way that that can be understood by employers, education providers and organizations across the EU. The competence profile can also be used, among other things, as an orientation for the recognition of qualifications.

The MYSKILLS test was developed by the Bertelsmann Foundation and the Federal Employment Agency for refugees who cannot prove their vocational skills or who have completed informal vocational training. With the help of the test, counselors from the employment agencies can target job placements more effectively. Companies receive a differentiated picture of the professional skills and knowledge of refugees. The test can be carried out for 30 professions. The participants can choose between twelve languages.

Further information

KOFA Guide "How to Successfully Integrate Refugees": In this KOFA guide, you will learn what to consider when employing and integrating refugees and where to find support. The guide is aimed specifically at small and medium-sized enterprises.

Brochures of the NETWORK Companies Integrate Refugees: In eight brochures, NETWORK has compiled detailed practical tips for integrating refugees into everyday work life. Topics ranging from training to exam preparation are covered. The "Handbook for Companies" covers issues relating to finding, getting to know and hiring employees with refugee experience.


In our calendar of events, you will find selected events in the coming months on the topics of skilled worker immigration, professional recognition and labor market integration.