Recognition of foreign qualifications in Germany


In Germany, the recognition of foreign training and university degrees is crucial for anyone wishing to work in their chosen field. 

However, this process can be complex and requires a thorough understanding of the procedures and requirements. 

In 2023, several changes were made to the legal situation to simplify the immigration of skilled workers to Germany. But how does recognition actually work, and what do the changes look like in practice? 


What does the recognition process look like? 


Submit an application

It all starts with applying the competent authority or body in Germany. The procedure varies depending on the profession and federal state.


Submit documents

All relevant documents must be submitted, including certificates, proof of qualifications, and, if applicable, references.


Comparison with reference occupations

The foreign qualification is compared with a German reference occupation. Criteria such as content, duration, and training level are considered.



A reference occupation is a standardized occupation in Germany that serves as a benchmark for assessing foreign occupations with similar activities. Certain criteria are defined to assess the comparability of different occupations and training courses. 



Based on the comparison, a decision is made whether the foreign qualification is recognized in full, in part, or not at all. The applicant will be informed of this decision in writing.



Protected professions vs. free professions


Protected professions

In Germany, some professions are protected by special laws. State recognition is required to practice these professions, which is granted by the relevant chambers or state institutions. Examples of protected professions are doctors, lawyers, and architects.




A chamber is an organization that represents specific professional groups and looks after their interests. It serves as a self-governing body for the respective professional group and is often made up of its representatives. Chambers play an essential role in regulating and promoting professions and in ensuring quality standards and professional ethics.



Free professions

In contrast, there are professions that are not protected by special laws and can, therefore, be practiced freely. These include careers in information technology, marketing, and management consultancy.



University degree vs. vocational training 



University degrees

The recognition of higher education qualifications in Germany is regulated by the so-called “Higher Education Framework Act,” which sets uniform nationwide standards for the recognition of academic qualifications. This means that recognizing higher education qualifications is coordinated at a national level. Centralizing this process makes it easier for applicants to access the job market, as they can go to a single body to recognize their qualifications.


Tip: Use

The website is an important resource for people who want their foreign qualifications recognized in Germany. The website is an important source of information for people who have obtained an educational qualification abroad and would like to have it recognized in Germany. It was developed and is operated by the Standing Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK) and the Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB).
It offers a comprehensive database with information on foreign education systems and qualifications and information on recognition in Germany. Applicants can use this information to prepare their recognition process better and identify potential hurdles at an early stage.


Vocational training

In contrast, training occupations are not regulated by a central law. Instead, the recognition of foreign training qualifications is the responsibility of the respective chambers, such as the Chambers of Industry and Commerce (IHK) or the Chambers of Crafts. Each chamber has its procedures and requirements for recognizing foreign training qualifications. Therefore, the application for recognition must always be submitted to the relevant chamber.



Training from third countries vs. within the EU


Third countries

Training qualifications from countries outside the EU are often subject to stricter recognition requirements, which may require additional examinations or certificates.


EU qualifications

Qualifications from EU countries are generally recognized more quickly, as EU directives apply here to facilitate recognition. Nevertheless, additional requirements may also be imposed here, especially if the training content is not directly comparable.




What to do if recognition is missing or partial?


If recognition is not granted or only partially granted, there are various ways to respond. This can include submitting missing documents or additional examinations. In some cases, further vocational training may also make sense to increase the chances of full recognition.


New Skilled Immigration Act 


The new Skilled Immigration Act, which came into force in Germany in 2023, marks a significant step in the country’s immigration policy. It aims to facilitate access to the German labor market for highly qualified skilled workers from abroad, thus countering the shortage of skilled workers. 


Simplification of recognition procedures


An important new feature of the Skilled Immigration Act is simplifying recognition procedures for foreign qualifications. This should make it easier for skilled workers to have their qualifications acquired abroad recognized in Germany and to work in their professional field more quickly.

In some cases, recognition is no longer even necessary. However, this depends on the profession, the employer, the location, and the individual work experience of the skilled worker.


Do I no longer need recognition? 


Despite the simplified legal situation, recognizing foreign qualifications in Germany still makes sense.

It increases opportunities in the labor market and facilitates integration into the German professional system. Comparability with German reference professions also enables employers to assess qualifications better. It is, therefore, advisable to actively approach the recognition process and, if necessary, take additional measures to improve your qualifications.

Even if recognition is no longer strictly required by law, many employers still want to ensure the comparability and reliability of foreign professional qualifications. 


Questions about the recognition of your professional qualification? Do not hesitate to contact us; we are here for you! You can find more information about our Germany-wide service here.