You may not have to go far to find suitable staff with foreign qualifications: after all, in Germany, there are about 2 million people who have obtained a vocational or further training qualification abroad. Many of these people do not work in the profession they have qualified for, as their qualifications are unknown in Germany or have not been recognized.
This could offer you significant resources to capitalize on. It may even be worthwhile for you to take a closer look at your own workforce or the regional employment market: you may be able to find staff who have obtained skills and abilities abroad and who could offer (even more) added value for your company if you place them in a position that is suited to their qualifications.
In the section on "recognition process" you will find information that will give you an idea of the qualifications your staff or candidates have gained abroad. In the section on “procedure and content” you will find additional information on the recognition of professional qualifications obtained abroad. Furthermore, you can use the section "contact persons" to find existing offers of information and advice. if you have any queries.
Once you have decided to recruit international staff, the world is your oyster. As you select a country to recruit from, you may choose to leverage existing business contacts or take into account any positive experience you have gained with international staff. Once you have decided in which country you would like to look for staff, the BQ-Portal will give you an idea of the local vocational training system and professional profiles.
The simplest and most cost-effective way to recruit international staff is through the Internet, for example by advertising vacancies on your company’s website or in national or international job listings. Printed media may also be useful for finding qualified international staff, but you will need to find out which kind of printed media will be most suited for the people you are trying to attract.
Alternatively, you can turn to your local employment agency. The Federal Employment Agency’s Employer Services branch [in German] may be able to support your search with their International Placement Services (ZAV) [in German], which can advise you in many ways. They will help you to present your company at international events, for example, so that you can contact potential candidates directly in their country of residence. In addition, the International Placement Services will advise you on legal requirements for international candidates. If you would like to fill more than just one position, it may make sense to present your company at a job fair. The International Placement Services (ZAV) [in German] will offer advice on how to go about that, too.
One more option is EURES, the European Job Mobility Portal, which offers information, advice and recruitment services for small and medium-sized enterprises. It will help you contact potential candidates in the European Economic Area and will let you browse job listings or advertise vacancies.
No matter which path you choose, you will have to bear in mind the specific characteristics of the country you are trying to recruit from. The BMWi’s “Kompetenzzentrum Fachkräftesicherung”, a competence center aimed at securing a skilled workforce in Germany, has published a guideline on recruiting international staff („Rekrutierung aus dem Ausland“) which offers practical tips on how to advertise vacancies internationally.
If you decide to recruit qualified international staff, you have to consider certain legal issues. These vary depending on the country of origin and profession foreign professionals intend to perform in Germany.
Here you will find the information on the conditions that apply to different immigrants groups:
The Federal Employment Agency has compiled a useful information package for companies.
- As a rule, every EU citizen may take up employment in Germany.
- Citizens of other countries will normally require a residence permit in order to take up employment.
Please refer to the website of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) [in German] for further information on employing international staff in Germany.
For non-EU citizens, the German government has revised the Employment Act that came into effect in July 2013. The amended version is aimed at facilitating immigration for qualified professionals. In this context, the recognition of professional qualifications obtained abroad is crucial, as it is required for immigration. Please refer to the website of the Federal Government for additional information on the amended Employment Act.
The White List is a list of occupations in which people with vocational training qualifications from non-EU countries can access the German labor market. The formal recognition of foreign professional qualifications in such occupations can lead to the issuance of a residence permit.
For skilled workers to be able to access the German labor market, both the following factors must apply:
- the vocational qualifications they have obtained abroad must be equivalent to a German qualification,
- there must be a shortage of skilled workers in the occupation for which they are qualified.
The Federal Employment Agency ascertains which occupations are experiencing a skills shortage and updates the White List in line with developments on the labor market. It approves recruitment from abroad in these occupations if the terms and conditions of the jobs offered are not less favorable than those for comparable domestic workers.
A good start and a sustainable integration are essential if you want to ensure that international skilled employees stay with your company in the long term. Even before your new international employee arrives in Germany you as a company can support them, thereby sending out a positive signal and making them feel welcome. Below you will find out how this can be done.
The online portal for international qualified professionals Make it in Germany provides you and your new international employee with information in German and English about entering the country, working and living in Germany as well as with all relevant contacts.
Immigrants who have acquired a certain command of the German language will find it much easier to master the challenges of everyday life and work. As a result, it is very important for international qualified professionals to acquire both basic general and professional German skills. Your company and employees will all feel the beneficial effects of effortless communication with your new colleague.
- You may encourage your new international employee to start learning German in their country of origin. The Goethe-Institut, for example, offers German language courses in more than 92 countries and also provides learners with basic information about Germany.
- Once your new employee has arrived in Germany, they should focus on improving their language skills in terms of their relevance for the job. You as a company may facilitate their learning process and progress by releasing them from their duties in order to be able to attend language courses or by helping with funding. General German language courses are offered by adult learning centres (Volkshochschulen) or private institutes.
- Work-related German courses may be applicable for funding from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees as part of an ESF-BAMF programme. Further information can be found here.
Integrating at work
There are many ways of helping your new team member integrate into the daily work routine of your company.
- To introduce your new team member to their new responsibilities, you can create a “job manual” and then discuss it with them. This manual should contain all relevant information on workflows and procedures involved in the job. It is also useful to include corporate policies, rules of conduct, contact persons, tasks and mutually agreed performance targets. Make sure your employee will have enough time to conduct dealings with authorities and attend language or further training courses.
- You may consider providing key policies or rules in English or other foreign languages. Also inform your new staff about informal rules, such as dress codes. This way it will be easier for them to adapt to the norms in your company.
- Introduce important contact persons to your new employee in person. For the initial introduction period it is also advisable to appoint a person to act as a primary contact for the new team member. Ideally this should be an experienced member of staff who will guide their new colleague through their first steps in the company as a kind of mentor.
- Provide further training opportunities. Young qualified professionals from other countries often have little professional experience, especially if their professional training did not involve any practical work. By offering further training, you will be able to train your new employee according to the particular needs of your company. You may either provide in-house training or facilitate participation in an external course.
- Check how the integration process is progressing. Valid instruments for checking on the progress of integration are feedback discussions or your “job manual”. This should provide both parties with insights on which targets have been reached and where there is still room for improvement.
- Organise welcome and/or team building events so that your new employee gets to know and interact with their colleagues. This way any reservations that might exist between your existing staff and the new team member can be reduced.
- Point out development perspectives. This will increase your new employee’s loyalty to the company and your chances of retaining them on a long-term basis. For this goal, formal recognition of the equivalence of their professional qualification may be necessary.
- Support the formal recognition process. The recognition of foreign professional qualifications is far more than a well-founded assessment of qualifications. It is also a way of appreciating an achievement and fosters integration as well as long-term loyalty to the company.
- Establish a welcoming culture in your company.
You can also help your new international employee integrate into life outside of work.
- Help them find accommodation. You may, for example, provide (temporary) accommodation for your newly arrived employee or help them organize transport for their move to Germany. There are also other practical issues you may help with, such as finding the right heating or electricity supplier or providing information on television and radio license fees (“GEZ”).
- Help them deal with authorities and formalities. You may also help your new employee open a bank account, inform them about insurances and tell them which authorities they may need to contact upon their arrival. EU citizens have to register as residents at their local register office and request a wage tax card, while residents of non-EU countries have to apply for a residence permit at the foreigners’ registration office. Driving licenses issued by non-EU countries must be converted to German licenses.
- Provide them with opportunities to socialize with other employees of your company, such as meeting up for lunch, joining company sports teams or going to company parties.
- You may also ask your new employee whether they would like you to get in touch with an immigrant organization or advisory center on their behalf. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) provides advice to adult immigrants and offers information on local contacts that may be useful. Many communities also have local organizations for immigrants that may help your new employee adapt to the local culture.
- Promote measures to reconcile work and family life. If your new employee moves to Germany with their family, they will greatly appreciate this. In order to retain international qualified professionals who plan to build their future in Germany on a long-term basis, you may, for example, assist their partner in finding a job. In addition, you can also provide or arrange child care.
Further practical information on living in Germany you can find on the official website Make it in Germany.
Initiatives for integration and securing a skilled workforce in Germany
The IQ Network advises immigrants on all aspects of the German labour market. The IQ contact point "Counselling and Training" provides comprehensive information on professional recognition.
This project of the DIHK and ZDH informs companies about the advantages and benefits of formal recognition of foreign credentials. Therefore 11 chambers of commerce and industry and 5 chambers of crafts working together to promote the recognition within the companies.
NETZWERK Unternehmen integrieren Flüchtlinge is an initiative of the DIHK, supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi). The initiative offers its member companies information on: legal issues, integration initiatives, best-practices, cooperations.
The skilled worker offensive of the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS), the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (BMWi) and the International Placement Services (BA) provides companies and professionals with comprehensive information on the issues concerning the skilled labor supply.
The official website provides the skilled workers with all the important information about working and living in Germany in German and in English, thereby contributing to a welcoming culture in Germany.
The Competence Centre for securing skilled labor supports small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in finding and binding skilled workers, in gaining a reputation as an attractive employer and remaining competitive and successful.
The hotline on recognition of professional qualifications operated by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees can answer your questions concerning requirements for submitting an application in English and German.
The Innovation Office brings together all the important Information about regional supply of skill labor and networking. It supports regional projects, initiatives and networks. Furthermore the Innovation Office makes good ideas public.
As a competent service provider, GIZ supports the German Government in achieving its objectives. With its various projects the GIZ assists companies in recruiting foreign professionals. The GIZ develops tailor-made solutions to the challenging problems.
check.work supports the German economy in evaluating professional experiences and qualifications of refugees. The online application is easy to use, intercultural understandable and can be used early in the integration process. Therefore check.work helps refugees on their first steps into the German labour market.
The JOBSTARTER programme centres on the following goals: strengthening in-company vocational training and unlocking new skilled labour potential. One of the projects of JOBSTARTER is KAUSA. This project fosters the participation of self-employed entrepreneurs and young people with a migration background including recently arrived immigrants and refugees in the dual VET system. There are 29 regional KAUSA Service Agencies all over Germany.
A regional IQ Network Hamburg (NOBI) informs the skilled migrants and employers about the Recognition Act, provides initial counselling and offers adaptation measures that enable the applicants to obtain a full equivalence in the craft sector. Besides, NOBI is working on the development of standards for compensation measures in healthcare and engineering professions.
Neue Deutsche Medienmacher operate an online portal for refugees and migrants aimed at facilitating their integration in Germany. Handbookgermany.de is an information platform from communities for communities of refugees and newcomers.
The initiative informs about the benefits of vocational education and training and provides free materials. On an "Info-tour" experts give advices to young people regarding the topic dual vocational education.
Improving the quality of work in ways which benefit companies and employees – that is the central aim of the Initiative New Quality of Work. Founded in 2002 by the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs (BMAS) and leading social partners.
The offensive Mittelstand – Gut für Deutschland is an independently working spin-off of the Initiative New Quality of Work, which aims to improve the competitiveness of the German middle class. It is committed to fair and reliable working conditions.
The website altenpflegeausbildung.net brings together all the relevant information about geriatric care training. They also have an expert team which answers all question regarding the profession geriatric nurse.
The program Perspektive Wiedereinstieg (Vocational Re-integration as a Perspective) supports women and men who have withdrawn from employment for a number of years for family reasons and now seek to reenter the labor market.
Further information on professional recognition
The multilingual portal provides the visitors with all the relevant information on the assessment process for each profession. Besides, with the help of a tool Recognition-Finder of the portal applicants can identify the assessment authority responsible for their own particular case.
Initiatives for initial and continuing training / Working in Germany
A portal BERUFENET, which contains a rich set of information on German occupations, can help the applicants to identify the corresponding German professional qualification for the assessment process.
The website Perspectives in healthcare occupations of the Berlin IQ-Network provides those seeking recognition with an overview of German healthcare profession profiles and qualification requirements for each profession.
The Europass enables those interested in recognition of their professional qualifications to create important documents such as curriculum vitae in a standardized form, thereby making their skills and qualifications easily understood in Germany.