Recognition of professional qualifications is in high demand

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Federal Cabinet Recognition of professional qualifications is in high demand

The number of applications for recognition of foreign professional qualifications in Germany continues to rise. Recognition is an important tool both for Germany to attract skilled workers and for those workers to integrate into Germany's labour market. This is the bottom line of the sixth report on the Recognition Act.

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Foreign nurse next to a hospital bed.

Foreign nursing staff is urgently needed in Germany. The Recognition Act is an important building block for covering the demand for skilled workers.

Photo: Getty Images

The so-called Recognition Act covers the recognition of foreign qualifications for professions where the Federal Government is responsible for professional qualifications. There are more than 600 such professions, such as doctors and cooks. The sixth report on the Recognition Act was now adopted in the Federal Cabinet.

Why is the Recognition Act important?

The Federal Recognition Act grants skilled workers from abroad the right to have their professional qualifications checked as to whether they meet the same standards as the respective German reference profession. It is thus an important building block for meeting Germany’s demand for skilled labour.

The law makes it easier for foreign skilled workers to use their professional qualifications on the German labour market, making coming to Germany a more attractive option. This means that it is also crucial to integration in the labour market.

The Recognition Act regulates the recognition of foreign qualifications for professions where the Federal Government is responsible for professional qualifications. These are:

Non-regulated professions – these include approximately 330 dual training professions, such as electronics technicians and cooks. 
Regulated occupations – these include professions in the fields of health, safety and social services, such as doctors and physiotherapists.

The Recognition Act does not apply to professions governed by state law, such as teachers and child care workers. For these professions, recognition is regulated by the corresponding federal state law .

Which current developments does the report reflect?

There continues to be high demand for recognition of professional qualifications in Germany. The total number of applications is steadily increasing. Almost 365,000 applications were submitted between the law entering into effect in 2012 and the end of 2022, for professions under federal as well as those under state law. In addition, around 229,000 applications were submitted by private individuals for assessment of certificates for university qualifications acquired abroad.

Almost 49,500 applications for recognition of foreign professional qualifications were submitted in 2022, a new record. The high total number and the increasing demand reflect the great importance of the established review procedure for securing skilled labour for Germany.

The number of cases in which recognition is granted also continues to rise: decisions on more than 52,000 applications were taken in 2022 alone, and most of these decisions were made within the prescribed period of three months. Just under half (47 percent) of the qualifications in question were recognised as fully equivalent. A further 51 percent of foreign professional qualifications were recognised as being partly equivalent. In such cases, applicants have the option to undergo additional training or take knowledge tests. 

Are applications being submitted from abroad?

Just over half of the applications for recognition are made by foreign professionals who are already in Germany. A large number of applications is also submitted from abroad. Their number has tripled since 2019 – for occupations under federal law – and they now account for 48 percent of applications. In particular, the number of applications received from non-EU countries has increased significantly. This means that recognition of professional qualifications is increasingly being used by skilled workers as a targeted way of migrating to Germany. The greatest number of applications is submitted from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey and the Philippines.

What role does recognition of qualifications play with regard to the shortage of skilled workers?

In view of demographic change, the German economy is facing major challenges. It is becoming increasingly difficult to fill vacant positions, whether in the skilled crafts and trades, healthcare professions or IT. Many companies therefore have to rely on foreign skilled workers. Ensuring that the demand for skilled labour is met is therefore one of the central tasks of the Federal Government.

Healthcare continues to play the biggest role when it comes to recognition of professional qualifications. Occupations in the health and care sector that are governed by federal law accounted for almost 80 percent of all applications for recognition in 2022. This shows that recognition of qualifications helps to meet demand for skilled medical staff and, above all, nursing staff in the long term.

Doesn’t the new Immigration Act make the Recognition Law redundant?

The current reform of immigration law opens up new opportunities for entry without prior recognition under certain conditions. Nevertheless, recognition of qualifications remains of great importance for the integration of foreign skilled workers into the labour market, as it increases the likelihood of skilled workers securing adequate employment and pay. In addition, it creates transparency about foreign qualifications and thus supports employers in hiring skilled workers and personnel development.

The Skilled Workers Immigration Act enables health professionals in particular – for whom official recognition remains mandatory – to come to Germany and go through the recognition process while working in an area that is related to their qualifications.

What are the advice and support services available?

The Federal Government’s official online Recognition Portal includes a Recognition Finder which points the way to the appropriate recognition body and offers information about recognition of foreign professional qualifications – in German, English, French, Greek, Italian, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Arabic and Ukrainian.

In addition, the "IQ contact points" offer initial advice at regional level to applicants for recognition in all federal states. The Federal Government supports this advisory service within the framework of the funding programme "The Network IQ – Integration through Qualification", which is jointly supported by the Federal Ministries of Education and Research and of Labour and Social Affairs, as well as the Federal Employment Agency.

The "BQ-Portal, which is run by the German Economic Institute, supports competent authorities and employers in assessing foreign professional qualifications.  

Individuals with a low income can also apply for a contribution towards the cost of the recognition procedure . An allowance of up to 600 euros per person is available for application-related costs, i.e. fees and translation costs in particular.

The Working and Living in Germany hotline is available from Germany and abroad, and those interested in matters related to the recognition of foreign professional qualifications, entry and residence, job search and learning German can seek advice here in German and English. It is available at +49 (0)30-1815-1111 from Monday to Thursday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and from 9 a.m. to noon on Fridays.