How to obtain professional recognition in Germany

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Updated 2022-11-08 20:20

Certain professions in Germany are regulated and can only be practiced after the qualifications obtained abroad have been recognized in Germany to ensure that a certain standard of knowledge and experience is maintained.

Hence, if you find a job in Germany in a regulated profession (e.g., doctor, lawyer, veterinarian, dentist, paramedic, chartered accountant, social worker, aviator, solicitor, etc.), and your academic qualifications are from a non-German institution, you will need them to be officially recognized in Germany by the Federal Recognition Act. In other words, the recognition of foreign qualifications allows awardees to obtain a German equivalent to their qualifications and practice their skills in a nationally regulated industry. It's worth pointing out that some professions (e.g., teachers and engineers) are regulated by each federated state, and as a result, recognition of qualifications is managed by the relevant state laws. 

Attention

For citizens of a third country (aka non-EU-EEA citizens), the certificate of official recognition is required even for higher education qualifications that do not lead to a regulated profession. Without the certificate of official recognition, it will be impossible to obtain a residence permit in Germany

Useful link: 

Profi-Filter: search for your profession to determine whether it is regulated or not and which is the competent authority for this profession in each federated state. 

Conditions of professional recognition in Germany

The difference between regulated and non-regulated professions is that a regulated profession requires a license or certificate from a regulatory body to be employed in that specific field. In this case, you will have to prove that your foreign professional qualifications (education, training, work experience, certificates) are equivalent to the German qualifications for the same profession. This has to be done for occupations such as doctors, nurses, and lawyers. This certification is mandatory, and you won't be allowed to work in your field of expertise without it. 

Obtaining professional recognition is costly due to the fees for the procedure and the costs of translations and certified copies. In fact, it may cost up to 600 Euros. However, there's a consideration for financial support for professionals who have been living in Germany for at least three months before the start of the recognition procedure. 

Important

You are advised to check first whether you are entitled to settle in Germany before applying for your professional recognition.

Some regulated professions require a good command of German, and professional recognition cannot be granted until there's proof of a certain level of German language skills. The Federal Office for Migration and Refugees promotes language courses for work purposes, meaning that German learning focuses on the terminology that is relevant to a specific profession and the environment that it is practiced in. 

Important: 

To enroll in a language course for work purposes, your level of German must be at B1 already or above. 

Good to know

To register for a language course for work purposes, go to your local job centre — they can point you to the correct language school depending on your level and the type of course you need. Also, if you are already working, you can speak to your employer, who will advise you based on information provided by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. 

How to apply for professional recognition in Germany

The first step for the recognition of your vocational qualifications is to prove your intention to work in Germany and have completed a professional or vocational qualification abroad. Holding German nationality or a residence permit when you apply for professional recognition isn't mandatory. You may also make the application while abroad before arriving in Germany

Next, contact the Service Center for Professional Recognition (Zentrale Servicestelle Berufsanerkennung) of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for a personalized consultation regarding your professional recognition in Germany. An advisor will guide you through the application process, support you with the necessary documents, and mediate between you and the competent authorities if needed. Again, communication is possible when you are abroad, and the service is free of charge. 

Tip: In the useful links below, you can answer a few questions and receive up-to-date information from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research regarding your professional recognition and the relevant authority you must contact. The website will advise you of the contact details of the authority in charge of the recognition procedure and which documents will be needed. Procedures may vary depending on the local laws of the federated state (Bundesländer).

Usually, the recognition application comprises the following documents: 

  • copies of your passport identification or ID card,
  • proof of vocational qualifications and other skills, for example, continuing training,
  • evidence of relevant work experience,
  • proof of the licensed practice of the profession in your home country,
  • a copy of your CV listing your education and work experience in German, and
  • certified translations of all qualifications

Once the authorities concerned have received the required documents, they will determine if your professional level of qualification matches with the occupation you wish to hold in Germany within a maximum period of six months.

Useful links

Hotline for support with recognition 

Recognition self-assessment 

Integration Through Training (IQ) Network advisory centers for free guidance regarding recognition. These centers are mostly in Germany and can also be found in some collaboration centers in other countries.

The outcome

After the examination of your application by the Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen - ZAB), you will receive a “notice of equivalence.” This notice can express different results. “Full recognition” means that the certificate is equivalent to the German qualifications, and “partial recognition” shows some differences in the qualifications and requires compensational training due to a lack of theoretical knowledge, practical skills, language proficiency, or experience in professional practice. In the case of a lack of work experience, the authorities may give you the option to complete an internship, which will lead to full recognition.

Good to know: 

Regardless of whether recognition is required for visa or employment purposes, it may be useful to obtain a Statement of Comparability — an official document issued by the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) in Bonn, comparing completed foreign academic qualifications with the equivalent level of German academic qualifications. Note that the Statement of Comparability should not be confused with the certificate of official recognition.  

Useful links:

Federal Ministry of Education and Research/Portal for the recognition of foreign professional qualifications

Anabin database (in German) to evaluate foreign educational qualifications 

BQ Portal - The information portal for professional recognition in Germany

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.