Legal basis

Learn more about the Recognition Act, professions regulated at the federal and state levels, and the legal basis for EU and non-EU citizens or Ethnic German repatriates.

Until recently, it was not always possible to reliably assess the quality of professional qualifications obtained abroad. As a result, the skills and abilities of foreign-trained professionals have often gone unused. The Professional Qualifications Assessment Act, also known as the Recognition Act, which came into effect on 1 April 2012, is aimed at resolving this problem: It has been designed to facilitate the assessment and recognition of foreign professional qualifications. People with foreign professional qualifications may now have their qualifications evaluated by an assessment authority (e.g. chamber of trade or industry), irrespective of their nationality. As part of the assessment process, the applicant’s foreign qualification will be compared to the corresponding German qualification in order to determine their equivalence.

Here you can find the legal text, amendments and background papers to the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act:

  • The Professional Qualifications Assessment Act (the current version of the Act dated December 25, 2016): The German Recognition Act is a federal law which was designed to facilitate the assessment and recognition of foreign professional qualifications. 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. 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.
  • Amendment to the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act and Other Acts (December 22, 2015): the act serves the implementation of the EU-directive 2013/55/EU on the recognition of professional qualifications and on administrative cooperation through the Internal Market Information System ( ‘the IMI Regulation’ ).
  • As of 1 August 2013, a change in the legal basis: the passage of the E-Government Act [in German], which came into force on 1 August 2013, made the application process for the recognition procedure easier: An application for assessment of a foreign qualification can be submitted per e-mail: The amendment to paragraph 6 article 1 of the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act enables the applicants to submit an application for equivalence assessment directly per e-mail. Previously, the applicants were obliged to hand in the application per mail, fax or e-mail with qualified electronic signature. The requirement to submit originals or certified copies in accordance with paragraph 5 article 1 of the Professional Qualifications Assessment remains in force. The recognition procedure could be simplified and accelerated through a new legislation that would allow submitting simple copies, especially in the case of applications from abroad. “Place of residence of the applicant” will be considered (amendment to paragraph 17 article 2): the place of residence of the applicant is important for evaluating the regional distribution of applications as well as for collecting data on the applications from abroad. Thus, the assessment authorities collect from now on data on the place of residence alongside nationality, gender and date of application. The place of residence  will be included in the next release of statistics.
  • Existing legal provisions remained in force:
  • Background of the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act [in German]: The explanations on the German Recognition Act provide an overview of the purpose of the law, its structure and content, the methods in accordance with the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act and the amendments to provisions governing specific professions. They are aimed at making it easier to understand the law.
  • “AG Vollzug” information leaflet [in German]: This information leaflet on the assessment of foreign professional qualifications will provide those wishing to have their qualifications recognised in Germany with important information regarding the German Recognition Act. It deals with questions such as: What is the Recognition Act about? Who can have their qualifications assessed? Which documents do you require?
  • Information on choices available for ethnic German repatriates under the Federal German Expellee Law: German repatriates can choose whether they would like to have their qualifications assessed in accordance with Section 10 of the Federal Expellee Law or in accordance with the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act.

Here you can find further relevant regulations and laws in the context of the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act:

Skilled Workers Immigration Act

The Skilled Workers Immigration Act is intended to facilitate the immigration of qualified workers from third countries. The law came into force on 1 March 2020.
The main innovations include the following:

  • a uniform concept of skilled workers, which includes university graduates and employees with qualified vocational training
  • the waiving of a priority examination in the case of recognised qualifications and employment contracts
  • the abolition of the limitation to occupations for which there is a shortage of qualified vocational training
  • the possibility for skilled workers with qualified vocational training to come to Germany for a limited period of time to look for a job, in accordance with the existing regulations for university graduates (prerequisite is a necessary knowledge of German and the ability to earn a living)
  • improved opportunities to stay in Germany for qualification measures with the aim of having professional qualifications recognised
  • Simplification of procedures, a bundling of responsibilities at central foreigners authorities and accelerated procedures for specialists

In order to achieve a targeted increase in the immigration of qualified skilled workers from third countries, the Federal Government is supplementing and flanking the provisions of the Skilled Workers Immigration Act by further improving administrative procedures. These include in particular visa procedures, targeted advertising measures in conjunction with business and industry, accelerated recognition of foreign educational qualifications and increased language support, particularly abroad.

The Service Center for Professional Recognition (ZSBA) provides support in this area.

Federal and state responsibilities

Federal Recognition Act

The Professional Qualifications Assessment Act came into effect on 1 April 2012 and provides the legal basis for assessing foreign qualifications for professions which are regulated by the federal government. Those who have obtained vocational training outside of Germany can now have their qualification reviewed for equivalence to a German qualification – irrespective of citizenship, residence status or the country in which the qualification was obtained.

The Recognition Act at the state level

A number of professions are subject to an equivalence assessment at the state or Länder level. These include, for example, nursery nurses and geriatric nurses.

With the enactment of Recognition Acts by Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony-Anhalt in June and July 2014, respectively, the state level laws for the recognition 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.

Article 1 of the state level Recognition Acts contains the state-specific professional qualifications assessment acts. In formulating the provisions, the states have been using the federal model as a template, but individual details may differ.

The current acts adopted at the state level are available at the portal Recognition in Germany [in German].

Further information on the recognition process.

Regulated professions

For certain professions, German law stipulates that you require a certain professional qualification to be able to work in that profession. These are called regulated professions. In Germany, examples include professions in the medical and legal sectors, a number of crafts qualifications at the Meister level, teachers at state schools and professions in civil service.

This European Commission database contains a list of regulated professions in EU member states.

EU/EEA citizens

Besides the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act, Directive 2013/55/EU  of the European Parliament and of the Council that amended Directive 2005/36/EC also applies to EU and EEA citizens, however, it only regards regulated professions. A number of factors determine which recognition process applies:

If a person wants to take up permanent residence in a different member country – for example, in order to set up a private business or work as an employee:

Three different recognition processes can apply. Which option applies depends on the particular profession:

  • Certain qualifications are “automatically recognised” if the minimum requirements for vocational training are uniform throughout Europe. These include the following professions:
    • Doctors
    • Nurses
    • Dentists
    • Veterinarians
    • Midwives
    • Pharmacists and
    • Architects.

The corresponding qualifications for these professions are recognised by the host country without the need for further review. The applicant might, however, need to demonstrate language proficiency.

  • Specific regulations and a simplified recognition process apply for regulated trade and crafts professions. Further information about the recognition of craftsmen’s qualifications in accordance with the EU Recognition Directive [in German].
  • All other professions are assessed by way of the “general process”. This involves assessing the applicant’s specific qualifications.

If an EU/EEA citizen has a qualification in a non-regulated profession, they can apply to an assessment authority to have it evaluated according to the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act. Further information on the recognition process.

If a person only wants to stay temporarily in another member state for service or work delivery (Erbingung einer Dienst- oder Werkleistung):

In this case EU citizens can refer to their right of freedom to provide services which will be effective without any restrictions for the entire European Union from January 2014 on. However, when it comes to providing services, trade regulations of the respective country have to be followed.

More information can be found in the Handbook - Rules on the supply of services or work under the freedom to provide services and the freedom of establishment.

The United Kingdom

Following ratification of the withdrawal agreement by the European Union and the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom withdrew from the European Union on 1 February 2020. For businesses and citizens, this date does not change in principle, as the exit agreement provides for a transitional period during which EU law will continue to apply in principle in and vis-à-vis the United Kingdom, but without the participation of the United Kingdom in EU institutions.  The transitional period ends on 31 December 2020 and may be extended by joint decision until 30 June 2020 for a maximum of two years. EU law will no longer apply in relation to the United Kingdom after 31 December 2020. Consequently, applications for recognition submitted after 31 December would be subject to the recognition systems for professional qualifications from third countries.

On Recognition in Germany you can find more information on recognition after Brexit.

The BMWI also provides detailed information on the Brexit. 

Ethnic German repatriates

German repatriates can decide whether they would like to have their qualifications assessed in accordance with Section 10 of the Federal Expellee Law [in German] or in accordance with the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act.

Section 2, clause 1, sentence 2 of the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act stipulates that Section 10 of the Federal Expellee Law and the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act can be applied alongside each other. The Federal Expellee Law is not a law that specifically governs the assessment of ethnic German repatriates’ qualifications. However, it does include a specific provision which concerns the equivalency assessment and recognition of qualifications. This provision is aimed at making it easier for German repatriates to integrate into professional, cultural and social life in Germany (see Section 7, clause 1, sentence 1 of the Federal Expellee Law).

Further information on the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act:

  • “Integrationsrendite” – Study on the economic benefits of better integration of immigrants [in German]: This study looks at a number of central indicators related to education, the labour market and income in order to analyse how successfully immigrants are currently being integrated. Looking at causes and effects, it suggests ways of improving the current situation and quantifies the cost and benefit of such a strategy.  
  • The "Brain Waste" study [in German]: This study conducts analyses and empirical research to examine current recognition processes in Germany and highlights the risks and opportunities associated with recognising qualifications obtained abroad. In addition, it suggests effective ways of supporting foreign immigrants on the basis of their professional qualification as they integrate in the German labour market.  
  • “The new Recognition Act – new tasks for the chambers and support from the BQ-Portal” [in German]: This issue of the a magazine on vocational training in theory and practice (“Berufsbildung in Wissenschaft und Praxis – BWP”), which is published by the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB), focuses on the new Recognition Act. The issue provides background information to the new law, describes its initial implementation and outlines perspectives for the future.