How can I get the degrees I have obtained abroad recognised in Germany?
If you have already obtained a school or vocational qualification (in your homeland or elsewhere outside Germany), you can have it recognised in Germany. In the recognition process, your degree is compared with a similar German degree. When your qualification is verified as an equivalent to the corresponding German degree, your diploma is "recognised" and you will have better chances in the job market.
All people with foreign qualifications have the right to this recognition process- it does not matter what residence status or nationality you have.
The recognition process
In many cases, recognition of your degree is not necessary. But there are some professions for which you need to go through a recognition process, for instance, doctors, lawyers, nurses or engineers. These professions are called "regulated professions" ("reglementierte Berufe"), and you must have your degrees recognised if you want to work in them. Furthermore, you need to have your professional qualifications recognised if you want to become self-employed in a so-called "licensed trade" ("zulassungspflichtigten Handwerk"). You will find a list of all the licensed trades which require recognition in the Trade Guild Codes.
If your job is not regulated, you do not need to have your degree recognised. Going through recognition, however, improves your chances of finding a footing in the German job market. On the Employment Agency's website (in German) and ec.europa.eu (in English) you can check whether your degree is part of the regulated professions in Germany.
Please note: If you would like to come to Germany with a job-hunting or employment visa, you need to have your qualification recognised in advance.
It is worth to seek advice concerning the recognition process in advance. Staff at counselling centres can tell you exactly which body is responsible for the recognition of your degrees, what the next steps are, and how you can finance the recognition process.
The best place to seek help is the counselling centres of the IQ Netzwerk. The staff there can help you through all the steps of the recognition process. You can find one of the counselling centres of IQ Netzwerk in your area on netzwerk-iq.de (sorted by federal state) at the top left under the turquoise menu button. You can also contact IQ Netzwerk by phone or e-mail via the helpline "Working and Living in Germany". The helpline is also responsible for those who are still abroad. The staff speak German and English and can be reached by phone (+49 30 1815 1111). The consultation is free, but you have to pay regular telephone charges for the call.
Depending on whether it is a school diploma, an academic degree or a professional certificate, different bodies are responsible for the recognition procedure.
- School Diplomas are recognised by the Certificate Recognition Offices ("Zeugnisanerkennungsstelle") of each federal state. You can find the responsible office in the anabin database. If you would like to have your school diplomas recognised because you want to study in Germany, you can also contact the university of your choice.
- Academic degrees can be recognised by the Central Office for Foreign Education ("Zenteralstelle für auländisches Bildungswesen" or ZAB). The ZAB maintains a database (anabin) where you can see whether your degree is recognised in Germany. You can directly apply for the recognition of your certificates at ZAB. For more information, check the www.kmk.org.
- For professional qualifications, you can use the "Anerkennungs-Finder" to find out which body is responsible. There you can either enter your job title directly or choose the category "Wählen Sie Ihren Beruf aus der A-Z list" and find your job on the list. The second step is to enter the name of your city. Then the office responsible for your recognition process will be displayed.
If you are not sure what your profession is called in German, you can search the website of the BQ Portal for the exact name (English and German).
Please note: The same offices are in charge of your application for recognition even if you are still abroad. If you are outside Germany, apply to an office in the place where you would like to live in Germany later.
If you have found the proper recognition office, you can apply for the recognition of your degrees directly. But first:
- clarify how you want to fund the recognition process. You can read more in this regard in the section "Where can I obtain financial aid to pay for the recognition process?
- gather all the relevant certificates and documents in advance. In principle, you must submit the originals and certified copies. In most cases, you must have your documents translated by a sworn translator. Ask the recognition office or a counselling centre about the specific documents you need to have translated. The staff can also give you the contact information of sworn translators. If you do not have any documents which prove the qualifications you have obtained, seek advice from a counselling centre.
After your degree has been checked, you will be notified whether or not your degrees have been recognised. Once your degree is recognised, you will receive a so-called "certificate of equivalence" ("Gleichwertigkeitsbescheinigung"). That means your professional skills are equal to a person with a German degree.
If your degree has not been accepted as an equal to a similar German degree, your application will be rejected. If that is the case, you can, for instance, take a test on myskills.de to find out which profession fits your skills and knowledge. You can ask the staff at the Jobcentre or Employment Agency for more information about myskills. Your test results can help to find a suitable job offer and they may translate to further qualifications for you. You can make an initial test at home in advance under www.meine-berufserfahrung.de. The tests are available in different languages.
If your degree is only partially recognised, under certain conditions, you may qualify for further education/training or an exam to achieve full recognition. The counselling centres of the IQ Netzwerk can provide you with advice on these qualifying measures. You can find a counselling centre in your area on netzwerk-iq.de (sorted by federal state) at the top left under the turquoise menu button.
The recognition procedure should typically take no longer than three months, which begins as soon as the competent body has all the necessary documents. For more complex recognition procedures, such a period may be extended once.
The costs of the recognition procedure may vary depending on your case. In addition to the fees for the recognition procedure (100 to 600 euro), you must also pay for the translation and certification of the document.
If you are registered at the Jobcentre or the Employment Agency, you can ask the staff member responsible for financial support for the recognition procedure. The jobcentre and Employment Agency can cover the costs of the recognition procedure as well as further training. If the Jobcentre or the Employment Agency rejects your application, make sure they send you the rejection notice in writing.
If Jobcentre or the Employment Agency does not support you, you can apply for a so-called "recognition grant" ("Anerkennungszuschuss"). Those with low income are entitled to recognition grants. You can apply for such a grant at one of the counselling centres of the IQ Netzwork. Before applying, you can seek advice in advance via phone or e-mail. You can reach the staff (who mainly speak German) on the phone at +49 371 4 33 11 222 or per mail via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Those who live in Berlin or Hamburg also have an alternative way to support the recognition process financially. To learn about the Hardship Fund for Professional Recognition in Berlin visit berlin.de. If you live in Hamburg, visit diakonie-hamburg.de for more information about the scholarship programs you can use to finance your recognition procedure.
Please note: To benefit from the above-mentioned financial aids, you must apply for them before submitting your application for recognition. Otherwise, you will not be able to receive any financial support for your recognition procedure.
For regulated professions, you have to have a work permit and therefore need to apply for recognition of your qualifications. No one can work in these professions without a work permit.