The Act for the Improvement of the Establishment and Recognition of Occupational Qualifications Acquired Abroad which took effect in April 2012 establishes for the first time a general legal right to a procedure for the accreditation of qualifications acquired abroad. Henceforth citizens of third countries for whom legal access to such an accreditation procedure had been denied hitherto may also invoke this law. This general legal right applies furthermore independent of one’s resident status in Germany so that even for asylum seekers the opportunity exists to have their qualifications assessed. At the same time, holders of non-academic professions may apply – other than was the case previously – for an examination of equivalence even in the area of the non-regulated professions. These regulations significantly extend the circle of those who may benefit from a qualifications accreditation procedure. Whether the approximately 300,000 people who have educational certificates acquired abroad out of a total of roughly three million immigrants currently living in Germany are actually reached by these new regulations will, however, only be revealed in actual practice, particularly since the purview of the law only extends to federally regulated professions. For the last-named professions the BQFG introduces uniform procedural regulations and procedural flows with the aim of making the assessment practice more transparent.
On the whole, access to accreditation procedures is made more just, fairer and more "potential oriented." The newly created information services also provide those affected with essential support before, during and after the accreditation procedure. Especially the "initial drop-in centers for accreditation" (Erstanlaufstellen Anerkennung) should be cited as important advisory contact points. Especially as far as orientation within the system of accreditation is concerned, they play an important role, since the responsibility for accrediting qualifications and educational certificates acquired abroad still lies in the hands of the individual Bundesländer with their specific implementation regulations. In addition, different regulations governing professional rights compound the problem of accreditation so that supportive consultation represents an important building block. Financing the accreditation procedure and the adjustment qualifications which may be required remains for many educated foreigners a big obstacle on the way to having their qualifications acquired abroad accredited, since the law has adopted no regulations to this end. As long as no financing programs have been developed, it is to be assumed that many holders of qualifications acquired abroad will for financial reasons decide against pursuing an accreditation procedure. In the end, accreditation procedures could also fail because there are too few or too few suitable adjustment measures for dealing with the expected large number of applicants.
The law on accreditation represents an initial success in improving the accreditation of qualifications acquired abroad, although important aspects of the issue have still not been adequately addressed. Whether the regulations fall short and whether the primary goal of the law – "better utilization of professional qualifications acquired abroad in the German labor market" (Art. 1 BQFG) – is attained, will be shown at the latest in four years when the German Bundestag and the Bundesrat are presented with the first assessment report from federal statistics.
This text is part of the policy brief on Interner Link: "Procedures for the Assessment of Qualifications Acquired Abroad in Transition".