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Moving to Germany as a skilled worker

22.12.2023 - FAQ

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about moving to, and taking up employment in, Germany as a skilled worker.

FAQ

Before taking up gainful occupation, you require a residence title that authorises you to engage in this work.* Prior to entering Germany, you must apply for a visa at the German mission abroad (Embassy or Consulate General) responsible for your current place of residence.** In most cases, the visa can be issued only following approval by the Federal Employment Agency. Normally, the German mission abroad is responsible for obtaining this approval. If all requirements are met, you will be issued a national visa that is valid for a fixed period. During this period, you must apply for a long-term residence title at the foreigners authority at your new place of residence.

* Not applicable if you have the right to freedom of movement under EU law. Freedom of movement applies to citizens of all EU member states and of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland – they can enter Germany without a visa and do not need permission to take up gainful occupation. Accompanying family members who are third-country nationals are normally required to obtain an entry visa via a simplified procedure. After entering Germany, they enjoy the same privileges as their family members who have the right to freedom of movement.

** If you are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom or the United States of America, you can enter Germany without a visa. You can then apply for your German residence title at the foreigners authority at your future place of residence in Germany. If you wish to take up gainful occupation immediately after arrival, before you have received your German residence title, then you must apply for a visa that allows you to engage in this occupation

There are two categories of skilled workers: those with professional training and those with academic degrees. Qualifications earned abroad must be officially recognised in Germany. Skilled workers with professional training must have completed an officially recognised professional training programme, which according to German law must be at least two years in length.

Skilled workers with academic degrees must provide evidence that they have obtained a recognised university degree or one that is comparable to a German degree. Skilled workers may only take up positions that are considered “qualified employment”.

You may be issued a residence title for skilled workers that entitles you to take up employment:

  • if your foreign degree or certificate* has been officially recognised;
  • if you have already been offered a specific job offer – you must ask your future employer to fill out the “Declaration regarding a contract of employment” (Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis)**;
  • if you have been issued written permission to exercise your profession (or if you have been expressly assured that you will receive this permission) and if you wish to work in a so-called regulated profession (e.g. in the health care sector);***
  • if you meet the respective requirements for foreigners, e.g. a valid passport, secure means of support, etc.

Do not submit a visa application until you have met all of the requirements and are able to present a complete set of supporting documents. If your foreign degree or certificate has not yet been officially recognised, your visa application cannot be processed.

* If you have completed your professional training or higher education in Germany, then official recognition is not required. Different authorities are responsible for officially recognising foreign-earned degrees and certificates. For further information, please refer to:
-
www.make-it-in-germany.com
- www.Anerkennung-in-Deutschland.de
- the hotline “Working and Living in Germany” (Arbeiten und Leben in Deutschland): +49 30 1815 - 1111
-
Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen)
If you hold a degree from an institute of higher education and want to work in a non-regulated profession, confirmation that your degree is included in the anabin database may be sufficient. More information:
https://anabin.kmk.org/anabin.html

** The required form is available here:

Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis (“Declaration regarding a contract of employment”)

Zusatzblatt A zum Formular (Supplement A to the form “Declaration regarding a contract of employment”) (only for visas to carry out the official recognition procedure)

Zusatzblatt B zum Formular “Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis” (Supplement B to the form “Declaration regarding a contract of employment”) (only for visas for secondments, ICT, staff exchanges)

For skilled workers the work must be subject to compulsory social insurance contributions in Germany. Special conditions apply to secondments.
*** Information on regulated professions can be found at
www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de. and (in German only) at https://web.arbeitsagentur.de/berufenet/ergebnisseite/reglementierte-berufe?berufecluster=reglementiert. The authorities that issue written permission to exercise certain professions also determine whether or not they officially recognise your degree or certificate.

You can find information on the different types of visa that are possible here: www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/visa-residence/types/work-qualified-professionals

You can be issued with a residence permit to take up a skilled occupation provided it has been established that your professional training abroad is equivalent to comparable training programmes in Germany. This means you may also take up gainful employment in a related occupation. You must however be able to work in this occupation on the basis of your qualifications. Assistant positions and semi‑skilled occupations do not qualify; it must be a skilled occupation. The Federal Employment Agency checks whether the occupation in question is skilled.

Yes, but certain conditions must be met. If you are unable to obtain an EU Blue Card and your gross annual income will be below a certain amount (less than 55% of the annual assessable income ceiling for the general pension insurance scheme), you must additionally provide proof that you already have suitable old-age provision. This may be proof of existing cover under a statutory pension insurance scheme in your country of origin or in another country, private pension or life insurance policies, or real estate and other assets. The Federal Employment Agency or the mission abroad that is responsible for your visa application will provide information as to whether this proof is required in your specific case

You can apply for a residence permit for researchers if you have signed an agreement with a public or private research institute for the pursuit of a research project. You do not need to obtain official recognition of your qualifications. However, you must have earned at least a university degree that entitles you to enrol in doctoral programmes. The residence permit for researchers does not necessarily require a contract of employment – grant recipients, for example, are eligible to apply as well. If you also meet the requirements for the EU Blue Card, then you can choose whether to apply for the Blue Card or for the residence permit for researchers.

More information is available here: www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/visa-residence/types/other/research

To be employed in the field of information and communications technology, you are not required to present proof that you qualify as a skilled worker. For more information, visit: www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/visa-residence/types/other/it-specialists

Residence titles can be issued for occupations regulated by the Employment Ordinance, regardless of whether the recipient qualifies as a skilled worker. These include management positions in companies, certain secondments, professional drivers, specialist chefs, artists, athletes, certain internships and people employed under contracts for work and services. (See also: https://www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/visa-residence/types/other)

Moreover, citizens of certain countries* may be permitted to work in any occupation. If you wish to work in a regulated profession, it is compulsory for you to have obtained, or been assured that you will obtain, written permission to exercise your profession. In most cases, approval by the Federal Employment Agency is required. For secondments (i.e. in-company transfers) of managers, specialists and trainees, an ICT Card may be issued.

* namely:
Andorra, Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Monaco, New Zealand, San Marino, and the United States (Section 26 (1) of the Ordinance on the Admission of Newly-Arrived Foreigners for the Purpose of Taking up Employment).
Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, and Serbia (Section 26 (2) of the Ordinance on the Admission of Newly-Arrived Foreigners for the Purpose of Taking up Employment).

A skilled worker’s spouse and minor children (i.e. immediate family) may apply for visas for the purpose of family reunification. These visas can be requested at the time the skilled worker submits their own visa application.

You may apply for a visa that will permit you to look for employment in your area of qualification that will be valid for up to six months, provided that your foreign degree or certificate has been recognised.* If you wish to work in a so-called regulated profession (e.g. in health care), you must have either obtained, or have been assured that you will be given, written permission to exercise your profession. Skilled workers with professional training must present proof that they have a command of German at the level needed for their desired occupation (generally level B1).

With this visa, you may work in your professional field on a trial basis for up to ten hours per week.

This type of visa does not yet enable family members to join you.

* If you have completed your professional training or higher education in Germany, then official recognition is not required. Different authorities are responsible for officially recognising foreign-earned degrees and certificates. More information:
-
www.make-it-in-germany.com
- www.Anerkennung-in-Deutschland.de
- the hotline “Working and Living in Germany” (Arbeiten und Leben in Deutschland): +49 30 1815 - 1111
-
Central Office for Foreign Education (Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen)
If you hold a degree from an institute of higher education and want to work in a non-regulated profession, confirmation that your degree is included in the anabin database may be sufficient. More information:
https://anabin.kmk.org/anabin.html

If your foreign professional training is not fully recognised and has been deemed not to meet the same standards as comparable training in Germany, then you have the option of carrying out additional training in Germany so that you can obtain full recognition. The length of stay for this additional training is 18 months, with the possibility of extension for a total of up to 24 months. The prerequisite for this is a command of German, normally at level A2 or higher. Employment is permitted while you are carrying out this additional training, with certain restrictions.

Thanks to placement agreements for certain occupational groups concluded between the Federal Employment Agency and the public employment services in selected countries, it is possible for skilled workers to take up employment in their field while they are still in the process of obtaining recognition of their qualifications in Germany.

Yes, you may also enter Germany for the purpose of school-based or in-company professional training. While in Germany, you may also take a language course, either as general preparation for professional training or one that is targeted to your profession. To attend a qualified training programme, you must prove that you have a command of German at level B1 or higher. This does not apply if the required language skills are to be obtained through a preparatory language course, or have been certified by the educational institution.

During professional training, trainees are permitted to work for up to ten hours per week.

If you are not older than 25, you may enter Germany for the purpose of looking for a training position; this visa requires you to have a command of German at level B2 and hold either a diploma from a German school abroad or a higher education entrance qualification. These stays may last up to six months.

Enrolment in a course of study is possible, as is taking preparatory courses, such as a language course. While studying, students may work up to 120 full or 240 half days per year. You may also enter Germany to pursue an internship that prepares you for university studies; in this case, you may work only during the holiday period. Furthermore, you may enter Germany and stay for up to nine months in order to look for a place at university. You are not permitted to take up employment during this type of stay.

If you have already found an employer, you can authorise this employer to submit a fast-track application* for you as a skilled worker at the local foreigners authority, i.e. at your future place of work. The foreigners authority will advise your employer and be of assistance in filing an application for recognition of your foreign degree or certificate. The authority is also responsible for obtaining the necessary approval from the Federal Employment Agency. The authorities and the Federal Employment Agency must make decisions on recognition and approval within certain deadlines. The fee for this procedure is 411 euros. In addition, there are fees for recognition of your degree or certificate. When all prerequisites that can be examined in Germany have been met, the foreigners authority will issue what is called preliminary approval, which your employer will then send to you. As soon as you have received preliminary approval, you can make a visa application appointment at your mission abroad; this appointment must occur within a period of three weeks. At the appointment, you must present the original letter of preliminary approval together with other documents.** As a rule, the mission abroad will take a decision on your visa application within the following three weeks. The visa fee is 75 euros.

The following are eligible for the fast-track procedure for skilled workers:
- skilled workers with professional training
- skilled workers with academic training
- highly qualified workers
- researchers/scientists
- managers
- professional training courses
- measures to obtain recognition of foreign professional qualifications

- and people in certain other occupations (see www.make-it-in-germany.com/en/skilled-labour-immigration-using-the-fast-track-procedure-for-skilled-workers-how-does-it-work)

** You can find a list of the documents that you must present when submitting your visa application on the website of the respective mission abroad.

The fast-track procedure is designed for, and may only be used by, skilled workers and a small number of related cases. Your employer may also submit an application for preliminary approval to the Federal Employment Agency. The Federal Employment Agency is however only tasked with examining whether the preconditions related directly to the occupation have been met; it does not check if other prerequisites for the issuing of a visa have been fulfilled. This procedure is not suitable if you are seeking additional support for recognition of your qualification as a skilled worker. However, it is suitable if you wish to take up work temporarily in Germany, e.g. through a secondment.

For more information and advice, please refer to:

  • The Federal Government portal for foreign skilled workers: www.make-it-in-germany.com
  • The Federal Government portal on the procedures for obtaining recognition of foreign professional qualifications: www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de,
  • The hotline “Working and Living in Germany” (Arbeiten und Leben in Deutschland), either via its website or by phone: +49 30 1815 - 1111
  • The central service point for recognition of professions (Zentrale Servicestelle Berufsanerkennung, ZSBA) (open as of 1 March 2020).
  • Various advisory services abroad (e.g. the advice offered by the Pro Recognition service at various German Chambers of Commerce Abroad, which are listed on www.anerkennung-in-deutschland.de).
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