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31.7.2012 | Von:
Daria Braun

What Is Being Criticized?

Die polnische Zahntechnikerin Eva Fijalkowska (l) schaut am Montag (02.04.2012) in der Handwerkskammer Berlin gemeinsam mit Dilek Intepe von der Handwerkskammer in ihre Unterlagen. Fijalkowska ist die erste ausländische Arbeitnehmerin, die einen Antrag auf Anerkennung ausländischer Berufsabschlüsse stellt. Ab dem 1. April haben Migranten einen Rechtsanspruch darauf, dass ihr Berufsabschluss aus dem Heimatland innerhalb von drei Monaten überprüft wird.A polish dental technician files an application to have her qualifications accredited at the chamber of crafts. (© picture-alliance/dpa)

"The accreditation act is a milestone in integration policy," the Federal Minister of Education Annette Schavan emphasized when the accreditation act went into effect (BAMF 2012b). In fact, however, in the framework of the legislative process there was repeated criticism of the fact that the law’s regulations fell short. SPD Bundestag member Sven Schulz, for example, on September 29, 2011, called the draft of the legislation "lightweight" and concluded in his speech in the Bundestag that "this law (...) [is] an improvement but that it would not lead to the desired real progress" (Bundestag document 17/15445). The following section discusses those aspects criticized by opposition politicians and practitioners that have not been improved by the accreditation act when it is compared with previous practice.

Special Laws

Although the law creates a legal basis for all those seeking accreditation, because of the subsidiary regulation that gives precedence to the particular special law which governs a profession as opposed to the BQFG, in certain areas the citizens of third countries continue to be disadvantaged vis-à-vis EU citizens and Spätaussiedler. The special law governing lawyers, the Bundesrechtsanwaltsordnung [Federal Lawyers’ Regulations], for example, stipulates that only EU citizens and Spätaussiedler have a legal right to an accreditation procedure. Moreover, in Art. 4 of the Bundesrechtsanwaltsordnung it is noted that the BQFG may not be applied. As a result, lawyers from third countries continue to be excluded from the legal right to an accreditation procedure. Nor does the general legal right to an accreditation procedure that is enshrined in the BQFG alter this (Lembert 2011: 9).

Academics in the Non-Regulated Sector

According to the BQFG, in principle the possibility of accreditation exists in the case of regulated and non-regulated professions. However, in the academic sector the "accreditation act" only applies to those certificates of higher education that in Germany lead to taking up a regulated profession. Academics who wish to take up a non-regulated profession (for example economists or social scientists) will continue to be limited to having their certificates evaluated by the Central Office for Foreign Education (German acronym: ZAB) (BMBF 2012). This represents a disadvantage vis-à-vis other occupational groups.

Laws of the Bundesländer

The purview of the accreditation law does not extend to those professions that are regulated at the state level, such as the engineering profession, kindergarten teachers or school teachers. For these professions the individual Bundesländer still have to create the legal bases for the accreditation of certificates acquired abroad. An initial step in this direction was taken by the city state of Hamburg. The Hamburg Authority for Schools and Occupational Training (BSB) and the Authority for Work, Social Affairs, Family and Integration (BASFI) of Hamburg worked out a ministerial draft bill, which the Hamburg Senate will in all probability pass in the summer of 2012. This draft has the title "Hamburg Law on the Accreditation of Foreign Occupational Qualifications" (HmbABQG) and is modeled on the Federal Act on Accreditation BQFG and a "model law" elaborated by the Federal-State Working Group on Accreditation.[1] In large part the Hamburg draft legislation corresponds to the BQFG, but the HmbABQG is more far-reaching in that it includes the right to independent consultation (Art. 2(1) HmbABQG draft).


Connected with the laws of the Bundesländer is the issue of the transferability of the accreditation decision. The BQFG leaves open the issue of the transferability of accreditation decisions from one Bundesland to the next. Since the BQFG is a federal law whose purview thus extends throughout federal territory, federally regulated professions may also be exercised in those Bundesländer in which the accreditation decision itself was not made. In the area of state-regulated professions, confirmations of equivalence between a foreign and a German certificate in principle continue to apply only in that particular Bundesland which made the decision (Maier et al. 2012: 14). A teaching certificate acquired in Ghana and recognized as equivalent in Bavaria does therefore not entitle its holder to work outside of Bavaria. In state-regulated occupational fields, it lies in the sphere of responsibility of the Länder to reconcile among themselves their state laws in such a way that the accreditation notification becomes valid nationwide (AG 2011: 7). Coordinated action by the Länder is in this case essential in order to develop comparable and unbureaucratic accreditation and assessment procedures that ensure a transparent and uniform legal situation.

Consultation and Monitoring

The law does not regulate (Bundestag document 17/6919, Bundestag document 17/6271) the legal right to consultation and monitoring before, during and after the accreditation procedure that has been demanded by various parties. At the same time it is precisely the advising of those seeking accreditation that forms the elementary basis for making such an application. Without such advising, the affected persons would have difficulty even after the BQFG takes effect in informing and orienting themselves in a focused manner. This is also made clear by a report from the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) concerning the service point for accreditation in the state of Saarland. "The support service provided by the service point is the first and essential step towards successful labor market integration" (BAMF 2011: 36). A number of Bundesländer have created their own structures for supporting those seeking accreditation. Worth mentioning here is especially the Zentrale Anlaufstelle Anerkennung (ZAA) [Central Drop-In Center for Accreditation] in Hamburg, which since October 2010 has been advising immigrants who have educational certificates acquired abroad. In addition, in the framework of the nationwide support program "Network for Integration through Qualification" (IQ Network), set up by the German Federal Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (BMAS), the setting up of initial drop-in centers in all of the Bundesländer has taken place in order to enable comprehensive personal advising of immigrants who have certificates acquired abroad. The German federal government rejected the legal embodiment of the right to consultation on the grounds that "pursuant to SGB [the German Social Insurance Code] III there is already the legal right to labor-market related consultation through the federal labor administration, which also includes issues of accreditation where needed (Bundestag document 17/7382: 12). But in practice it has been shown that comprehensive consultation is one of the most important building blocks for successful integration into the labor market. "Only through consultation can occupational perspectives be opened up which are practicable and realizable," confirms the report on accreditation consultation in the state of Saarland (BAMF 2011: 23). The advising should be continued following the conclusion of the accreditation procedure – the report also goes on to say – in order to point out the opportunities available for continuing education, career changes, occupationally related language courses or employment application training. Because: a successfully completed accreditation procedure, which concludes with the confirmation of the equivalence of professional qualifications acquired abroad, is often not sufficient on its own to ensure successful integration into the labor market (BAMF 2011: 14).

Adjustment Qualifications



If in connection with an accreditation procedure for professional qualifications acquired abroad a partial accreditation of the credentials is pronounced, the ascertained deficiencies may be compensated for through so-called adjustment measures (also called "adjustment qualifications"). These include, for example, courses and internships. The successful completion of an adjustment measure leads without a concluding examination to a complete accreditation of the professional qualification acquired abroad (Hillenbrand et al. 2010: 23).
For regulated professions[2] the BQFG stipulates that essential differences between the qualification acquired abroad and the German qualification may be compensated for through adjustment qualifications (an adjustment course of study lasting a maximum of three years or the passing of a qualifying examination in Germany). Those affected, however, have no legal claim to such an adjustment qualification (AG 2011: 24). The need for adjustment qualifications and occupationally related language courses will, according to estimates, strongly increase in the first two years following the coming-into-effect of the BQFG, to approximately 25,000 applications annually (Knabe 2011: 5f.). This high level of demand is based on the new general legal claim to an accreditation procedure. It nonetheless remains unclear how this high demand should be met, since so far there are not enough continuing education services (BAMF 2011: 36).


The issue of the financing of adjustment qualifications has also not been adequately addressed. It is assumed that only very few immigrants who want to have their qualifications acquired abroad accredited will be in a position to finance the post-qualification/adjustment measures needed on their own. The Federal Employment Center in the case where equivalence has been established assumes the costs arising for unemployed employable people, for example the costs of translations, certified copies and expert opinions, or when the accreditation agency assesses fees for establishing equivalence (Knabe 2011: 6). A good example of an alternate model of financing is provided by the already existing stipend program of the city state of Hamburg, which supports all immigrants with foreign certificates who cannot be reached by the offerings of the Federal Employment Center. This stipend program goes further than the support offered by the Federal Employment Center in that it also covers living expenses. Fifty percent of it consists of a loan that has to be repaid and fifty percent consists of a nonreimbursable grant. In addition to this stipend, funds for other expenses, for example learning aids, course and examination fees, may be applied for (cf. www.diakonie-hamburg.de). It is feared that the lack of financial support relating to adjustment qualifications might cause the failure of many accreditation procedures and that only a fraction of educated immigrants will profit from the BQFG. Michael Gwosdz from the Central Drop-In Center for Accreditation in Hamburg expresses this as follows: "The door to the labor market is now open. But many people will not make it beyond the threshold" (Kaufmann 2012). In order to ensure that all those affected have the same opportunities and that as a result the Federal Republic of Germany can make full use of the potential of skilled workers from abroad, the establishment of a (federal) support program is being demanded from the ranks of politics and by practitioners, a program that should cover the resulting costs while also ensuring the living expenses of qualified immigrants (Lembert 2011: 11, Bundestag document 17/6919, Bundestag document 17/6271).

Uniformity and Transparency

Not only the state-regulated professions come under the jurisdiction of the Bundesländer but also the implementation of the "accreditation law" for all other professions. As a result, the BQFG fails to create a nationwide uniform accreditation and assessment practice, although it contains guidelines for standardizing the accreditation process. The law is also unable to reduce the great number of accreditation agencies and the associated confusion of competences which thereby results. In principle it provides for the possibility of bundling competences but it is unable to assert this in a compelling way (AG 2011: 7).[3] This means that the BQFG is applied differently in each Bundesland, a fact which impedes the introduction of nationwide uniform procedures. In some occupational fields, however, efforts are being made – independent of the BQFG – to counteract the problem of fragmented areas of responsibility and to make accreditation practice more transparent.

This text is part of the policy brief on "Procedures for the Assessment of Qualifications Acquired Abroad in Transition".


The Federal-Länder Working Group on Accreditation works in the framework of the "Qualifications Initiative for Germany" for a simplification of the accreditation procedures for foreign qualifications.
In non-regulated professions there is no possibility of obtaining an adjustment qualification. The federal government justifies this by pointing to the discrimination of German nationals, since German nationals in the case of interrupted education or when they have failed examinations do not have the possibility of obtaining credit for past performance either (Knabe 2011: 5). Holders of a non-accredited foreign qualification in non-regulated professions can attempt to apply for employment directly in the labor market or they may begin additional training (Maier et al. 2012: 24).
In Art. 8(1–3) BQFG the law names some of the agencies responsible depending on the profession in question, but confers the authority to adjudicate on the agencies themselves pursuant to Art. 8(5) BQFG.
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