Recognition procedure

If a professional qualification acquired outside Germany is regulated in Germany, then a professional may only practice their profession in Germany if their qualification has been classified as equivalent to the German reference profession. This equivalency can only be determined by a recognition procedure.

The following guide intends to provide answers to some frequently asked questions.

Regulated professions

Those that wish to practice their occupation in Germany will come across the Recognition Act.

"Anerkennungsgesetz” (“Recognition Act”) is the unofficial shortened name for the “Gesetz zur Verbesserung der Feststellung und Anerkennung im Ausland erworbener Berufsqualifikationen” (“Law on the Improvement of Determination and Recognition of Professional Qualifications Gained Abroad”). The Recognition Act governs the recognition of foreign professional qualifications for professions that are under the responsibility of the Federal Republic of Germany (as opposed to individual federal states).

The Recognition Act grants the following rights, even to persons still abroad:

  • 1.A legal entitlement to the recognition procedure,
  • 2.This legal entitlement is granted irrespective of nationality,
  • 3.The legal entitlement to a recognition procedure exists even if someone is unable to present documents relating to their professional training. In this case, there is a special recognition procedure set out in § 14 BQFG (Law on the Determination of Equivalency of Professional Qualifications)
  • 4.A legal entitlement to launch the recognition procedure from abroad.

According to this law, the applicant can receive full recognition of their qualification (certificate of equivalency), partial recognition/equivalency, or notification that their qualification is not equivalent.

Note: For many federally regulated professions, recognition is carried out not in accordance with BQFG, but according to a procedure that differs from one form of professional law to the next. However, the principles of “legal entitlement to a procedure” and “irrespective of nationality” apply in almost all cases.

Attention: Recognition is not always required in order to exercise a trained profession in Germany. The key factor is whether the profession is a regulated profession.
Regulated professions are activities that – according to legal or administrative provisions – require possession of certain professional qualifications to be assumed or practiced. One form of practice is using a professional title, which is, by way of legal or administrative provisions, limited to persons that have specific professional qualifications (§ (5) BQFG).

Qualifications are examined in terms of the following aspects:

  • Functional equivalency: What activities can the person in question perform in the country in which they gained their qualification?
  • Formal equivalency: What level of the education system in the country of origin does the qualification fit into, what are the entry requirements? How long does the training or education last?
  • Material equivalency: How is the content of the qualification organized?

If fundamental differences are identified, only partial recognition/equivalency can be certified. In this case, part of the qualification must be completed in Germany. If the differences are too great, recognition may be refused altogether.

Automatic recognition

In the European Union, automatic recognition is in place for the professional qualifications for seven so-called “sectoral” professions. Automatic recognition is a form of recognition which takes place without any examination of the specific content of the training, provided the qualifications listed in the respective annex to the directive for the specific member/contracting state are evidenced. This regulation applies to:

  • Pharmacists
  • Architects
  • Doctors
  • Midwives
  • Nurses responsible for general care
  • Vets
  • Dentists

Automatic recognition in these professions is therefore possible because the member/contracting states have agreed to certain minimum training requirements. This ensures that the training in the respective states is fundamentally equal and the learning outcomes comparable.

The authorities of all EU member states are thus obligated to recognize all qualifications from the sectoral professions specified above which meet the following basic criteria for automatic recognition:

  • Minimum five-year training, including a four-year theoretical and practical full-time course and a six-month placement, e.g. in a pharmacy;
  • Communication of knowledge/skills listed in Article 44 and Annex V.6.1 of the directive pertaining to the recognition of professional qualifications.
  • EU Certificate of Conformity:
    Training for one of the above sectoral professions is usually listed in the EU directive. If this is the case, the training is automatically recognized. However, if you started your training in one of these professions before your country of origin joined the EU, the training will often not be included in the EU directive, meaning that automatic recognition is also omitted here. In this case, you need an EU Certificate of Conformity from your country of origin to prove that the training qualification that you acquired abroad meets the minimum requirements of the EU directive. You receive the EU Certificate of Conformity from the responsible authorities of your country of origin. You must have the original version or a certified copy of the certificate.
  • EU certificate of eligibility to practice the profession in your country of origin or certificate of the nature and duration of your previous employment in your country of origin.
  • If you only want to perform occasional services in Germany, you will need an EU certificate of your (legal) settlement in your country of origin.

The certification authority that is responsible for you in Germany can tell you whether and which of these listed documents you actually need to produce. The national information office in your country of origin can provide information about which authority in your home country you need to contact in order to get the required documents. Depending on your country of origin, you can contact the NARICs (National Academic Recognition Information Centers) or the ENICs (European Network of Information Centers) about this. You can find the contact details here.

Unregulated professions

These occupations may be practiced without state recognition. However, as a result there is no legal responsibility, and no general legal entitlement to recognition. The potential employer essentially judges whether the candidate is sufficiently qualified, which affects whether the person is hired and how much they will earn.

However, it is also possible to apply for an evaluation for these professions, as it may be useful for the application process.