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Moving to Germany as a skilled worker

14.01.2020 - FAQ

Here are answers to the most frequently asked questions about moving to, and taking up employment in, Germany as a skilled worker.
The information reflects the legal situation as of 1 March 2020.

FAQ

Differentiation is made between employment as a skilled worker and other forms of employment. Before taking up work, you must obtain a residence title that authorises you to be gainfully employed.* 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. If you have previously resided in Germany, the foreigners authority at your future place of residence must also give its approval. Normally, the German mission abroad is responsible for obtaining such approval. If all prerequisites are met, you will be issued a national visa with a validity of six months. During this time, you must apply for a German residence title at your local foreigners authority.

* Not applicable to individuals who fall under the EU freedom of movement regime. Freedom of movement within the EU applies to citizens of all European Union member states, as well as citizens of Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland – who can enter Germany without a visa and must not obtain permission to take up employment. All third-country nationals accompanying these individuals are normally required to obtain an entry visa under a simplified procedure and will enjoy the same privileges as their family members who fall under the EU freedom of movement regime.

** If you are a citizen of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand or the United States of America, you can enter Germany without a visa. You can then submit an application for your German residence title at the foreigners authority of your future place of residence in Germany. If you wish to begin working immediately upon arrival prior to obtaining a German residence title, then you must apply for a visa.

There are two categories of skilled workers, those with professional training and those with academic training. Degrees 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 training must have earned a degree from an institute of higher education. Skilled workers may take up a position only if it is 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

Zusatzblatt A zum Formular “Erklärung zum Beschäftigungsverhältnis” (nur bei Visum zur Durchführung des Anerkennungsverfahrens)

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. The authorities that issue written permission to exercise certain professions also determine whether or not they officially recognise your degree or certificate.

If you qualify as a skilled worker, you can apply for an EU Blue Card if you meet the following requirements:

  • you have been offered a specific position, for a duration of at least one year,
  • the position matches your professional qualifications, and
  • your gross annual salary will be at least 55,200 euros.

In these cases, approval by the Federal Employment Agency is not required.

For certain professions* (doctors, skilled workers in the fields of engineering, the natural sciences, mathematics and IT), a gross annual salary of 43,056 euros is sufficient, provided that the Federal Employment Agency has given its approval.

If you do not meet the EU Blue Card requirements, you can still be issued a residence title that includes the right to be employed as a skilled worker in your area of qualification. For this, you must be able to work in this occupation on the basis of your qualification. Assistant positions and semi-skilled occupations do not qualify; it must be a skilled position. The Federal Employment Agency that will examine whether your foreign degree or certificate matches the occupation that you wish to take up. 

* For a list of these so-called MINT occupations, click here.

You may obtain a residence title that includes the right to be employed as a qualified worker in your area of qualification. This means you may also take up employment in a related occupation. You must however be able to work in this occupation on the basis of your qualification. Assistant positions and semi-skilled occupations do not qualify; it must be a skilled position. The Federal Employment Agency will examine whether your foreign degree or certificate matches the occupation that you wish to take up.

Yes. If you do not qualify for an EU Blue Card and your gross annual salary will be less than 45,540 euros, you must also present proof of adequate provision for your old age. Such proof may be provided in the form of 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.

You can apply for a residence title for researchers if you have signed an agreement with a public or private research institute for the pursuit of a research project. You need not obtain official recognition of your degree. However, you must have earned at least a university degree that entitles you to enrol in doctoral programmes. A residence title 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 this residence title or for the residence title for researchers. If you enter Germany to pursue doctoral studies and wish to enrol at a German university, you will have the status of a researcher if you have signed a contract of employment with the university or research institute. If you are enrolled full time and do not have a contract of employment, then you must apply for a student residence title.

To be employed in the field of information and communications technology, you are not required to present proof that you are a skilled worker, provided that the following criteria are met:

  • comparable qualification that you have acquired through at least three years of professional experience during the past seven years;
  • an annual gross salary of at least 49,680 euros;
  • a command of German at level B1 (this requirement may be waived in exceptional cases, e.g. if you can prove that the specific occupation requires only a command of English).

In addition to qualification as a skilled worker, residence titles can be issued for occupations regulated by the Employment Ordinance. 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. As a rule, you do not need to obtain official recognition of your degree. If you wish to work in a regulated profession, you must have either obtained, or have been assured that you will be given, written permission to exercise your profession. Moreover, citizens of certain countries* may obtain work permits for all occupations. 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).
By the end of 2020, also the following countries: 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).

The skilled worker’s spouse and his/her minor children (i.e. the so-called nuclear family) may apply for visas for the purpose of joining their family member. These applications may already be submitted at the time that the skilled worker requests his or her visa. To obtain approval, it is important that the entire family’s living costs can be met, and that it can be provided sufficient housing, without any support from the German state. In principle, the spouse is expected to acquire a certain command of German prior to entering Germany. Along with the submission of a visa application, he/she should be able to provide a German language certificate of the lowest level (A1). There are exceptions to this requirement – for example, when the skilled worker meets the EU Blue Card requirements. Applications for members of the nuclear family may also be submitted at a later point in time. In this case, too, the following must be presented: the skilled worker’s contract of employment, proof that living costs can be met, proof of sufficient housing, and a language certificate. If children of the skilled worker who have attained the age of 16 intend to join their parents at a later time, then they themselves must acquire a command of German beforehand.

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

** For more information on regulated professions, click here. The authorities that issue written permission to exercise certain professions are the same ones that determine whether or not they officially recognise your degree or certificate.

If, due to higher German training standards, your foreign professional training certificate has not been fully recognised, then you have the possibility to obtain additional training in Germany that will enable full recognition of your professional training certificate. The length of stay for such additional training is 18 months, with the possibility of extension for a total of up to 24 months. The prerequisite for this is normally a command of German at level A2 or higher. During additional training, a trainee may, with certain restrictions, also hold an occupation.

Thanks to agreements for certain occupational groups concluded between the Federal Employment Agency and public employment services in selected countries, the recognition procedure can be conducted in Germany at the same time that the skilled worker takes up employment in his or her field.

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

** A list of the documents that you must present when submitting your visa application, will soon be available 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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