What does the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act aim to achieve? Who can have their foreign professional qualifications assessed and what does the equivalence of qualifications mean? Below you will find the most important information on the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act.
- What is the purpose of the Recognition Act?
- Who is entitled to the assessment of foreign professional qualifications?
- What does ‘equivalence of qualification’ mean?
- Which regulations apply in which professions?
- Recognition of professional qualifications and residence permit: in what way are they related?
- How does the assessment process work?
- How long does the assessment process take?
- How much does the assessment process cost?
- What funding is available for the assessment process?
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 assessment of their foreign professional qualifications?
Anyone who has obtained a professional qualification abroad can submit an application for assessment 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.
Which assessment authority is responsible for the assessment 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.
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 line with the developments on the labor market.
How does the assessment 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.
How long does the assessment process take?
Once all required documents have been submitted, the qualifications assessment 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 assessment 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.
For your guidance, a number of examples are given below, showing the rates for applications submitted to:
- a chamber of crafts: €100 EUR - €600
- Hanover and Braunschweig Chambers of Commerce and Industry: € 300
- Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foreign Skills Approval (IHK FOSA) or Wuppertal-Solingen-Remscheid Chamber of Industry and Commerce: ca. €420 (€ 550 including the assessment of professional development)
- Westfalen-Lippe Medical Chamber: € 125
In addition to the application fee, applicants must meet the costs for translations and certified copies. Should it prove necessary to provide additional documents evidencing the contents or duration of foreign professional training programs, the overall cost will be higher. If these documents are not available, other processes incurring additional costs for the applicant, such as technical discussions, work samples, theory examinations or expert surveys, may be used instead. Depending on the assessment authority, an applicant will be required to pay the fees at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of the assessment procedure.
Those who are granted only partial equivalence and would like to obtain full equivalence should bear in mind the costs for the additional training necessary ( compensation measures).
What funding is available for the assessment process?
Companies may apply to the Federal Employment Agency for funding for additional training measures. Applications from small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are particularly welcome.
Information on the various funding options in the 16 federal states can be found on the Federal Employment Agency’s website [in German].
WeGebAU (Weiterbildung Geringqualifizierter und -beschäftigter älterer Arbeitnehmer in Unternehmen) is a program for funding training measures targeting low-qualified and older employees. Your company may be able to apply such funding to the needs of staff with qualifications obtained abroad.
Work-related German language courses may also be eligible for funding from the European Social Fund (ESF). The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) provides comprehensive information on this issue [in German].