Procedure and content

What does the Recognition Act aim to achieve? Who can have their foreign professional qualifications recognized and what does the equivalence of qualifications mean? Below you will find the most important information on the recognition process and procedure.
What is the purpose of the Recognition Act?

The “Recognition Act” is the abbreviated title of the “Act to improve the assessment and recognition of professional and vocational education and training qualifications acquired abroad”, which came into force on 1 April 2012. The Recognition Act is a so-called omnibus act, comprising several new laws and amendments to existing laws. The first article of the Recognition Act is the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act, known by its German initials as BQFG, under the responsibility of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It also contains provisions for recognition of professional qualifications in around 60 federal laws governing the regulated professions. The Recognition Act is aimed at enabling the holders of foreign professional qualifications to find work suited to those qualifications, thereby improving the use of the professional qualifications obtained abroad in the German labor market (Paragraph 1, BQFG). Thus, the Recognition Act contributes to securing an adequate supply of skilled labor and improving labor market integration for migrants living in Germany.

Who is entitled to recognition of their foreign professional qualifications?

Anyone who has obtained a professional qualification abroad can submit an application for recognition of the qualification. This specifically includes:

  • individuals who already live in Germany
  • citizens or residents of the EU, EEA or Switzerland
  • individuals living in other countries who can demonstrate that they intend to work in Germany.

Applications can be submitted within Germany or from abroad regardless of nationality and residence status. Thus, German citizens who obtained their professional qualification abroad are also entitled to an equivalency review.

An application for an equivalency review can be submitted only by the individual seeking recognition of their professional qualifications. Applications are not accepted from (potential) employers.

Which assessment authority is responsible for the recognition depends on the German qualification for which equivalence is being sought and the applicant’s place of residence. You can use the Recognition Finder on the Recognition in Germany website to identify the relevant assessment authority.

You can assist your employees in gathering the documents required for the assessment process and filling out the application form. Find here a list of the documents to be submitted, along with comments [in German]. Please bear in mind that the assessment authority can ask the applicant to provide additional documents if required. Thus, once the application has been submitted it is advisable to ask the assessment authority whether the documents provided are sufficient.

Note: Only individuals with a formal professional qualification can apply for an equivalence assessment. 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.

What does ‘equivalence of qualification’ mean?

“Equivalence” does not mean that the foreign qualification must be identical to its German counterpart. The key criterion for granting equivalence of qualification is that as a result of foreign vocational training the applicant has acquired the knowledge and skills necessary for practising that profession in Germany. In addition to formal learning outcomes, relevant work experience or other evidence of competence are taken into consideration.

Which regulations apply in which professions?

The Recognition Act is a federal law. If the corresponding German qualification is regulated at the federal level, the equivalence is reviewed in accordance with this act. This applies to both regulated and non-regulated professions. The special provisions for recognition of professional qualifications, which include the clauses for EU/EEA citizens, govern the majority of regulated professions, such as those in health care. The Professional Qualifications Assessment Act, the first article of the Recognition Act, concerns about 350 non-regulated professions covered by the dual system of vocational training.

The laws of the sixteen German states (Länder) provide the legal basis for assessing foreign qualifications in occupations regulated at the state level, such as teachers, architects and engineers. They are modeled on federal laws but individual details may differ. Find out more about the difference between federal and state responsibilities.

University degrees that do not qualify graduates for a regulated occupation and do not clearly correspond to a German reference profession are covered by different legislation and assessed under the aegis of the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB).

Recognition of professional qualifications and residence permits: in what way are they related?

Recognition of foreign professional qualifications does not lead automatically to issuance of a residence permit. However, the new Employment Ordinance in force since 2013 opened up the German labor market for skilled nationals of non-EU countries who have completed vocational training in occupations with skills shortages and was granted full equivalence in result of the assessment process. The Federal Employment Agency ascertains which occupations are affected and maintains a White List [in German] in line with the developments on the labor market.

How does the recognition process work?

After an application and all relevant documents have been submitted, the assessment authority responsible reviews whether the foreign professional qualification is equivalent to the German reference qualification. This review is always based on the German training program as defined at the time of the review.

Find out how you can assist your employees or job applicants in the assessment process.

How long does the recognition process take?

Once all required documents have been submitted, the recognition process will usually be completed within three month but can be extended (once only) in complicated cases.

How much does the assessment process cost?

There is no simple answer to this question. The recognition process is subject to a fee based on schedules established by the relevant assessment authorities and different states. The fee varies greatly depending on the amount of work involved in completing the assessment process, the individual situation, and the reference profession. More information on the costs of the assessment process.

The recognition process in overview

In the equivalence assessment, a foreign vocational or further training qualification is compared to a corresponding German qualification.

Formal check: First, a fixed set of criteria, such as content, duration of training or places of study are compared.

Individual check: 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.

The result of the process: an official 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 assessment authority may come to the following conclusions:

  • Full equivalence
  • Partial equivalence
  • No equivalence

More information on the recognition notification.

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.