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German Residence Permit for Doctors

In recent years awareness has arisen of how deeply understaffed the German healthcare system is. As a consequence, efforts have been made to attract more doctors from abroad to move to Germany. There is a real desire to facilitate living, residency and working opportunities for non-German doctors. Due to the special requirements involved in qualifying as a doctor, working as a doctor is subject to special conditions laid down by legislative, regulatory and administrative provisions. This profession belongs to the so-called “regulated professions”. Other regulated professions include (but are not limited to): nurses, pharmacists, architects and teachers.

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Education and Qualification Recognition

However, education systems vary from country to country. To compensate different levels of professional qualifications, a new recognition procedure for foreign professional qualifications of non-EU citizens and EU citizens was introduced in Germany in 2015. On this page, we examine the requirements for doctors to avail of residency permits and the process involved in recognising qualifications. For further information about how these options refer to your personal situation, please contact our legal team using the details below.

Professional Qualification Recognition Procedure

This procedure under § 17a of the German Residence Act (in German: Aufenthaltsgesetz) in conjunction with the Professional Qualification Assessment Act aims to establish the equivalence of foreign professional qualifications with German professional qualifications. This ensures that doctors and other professionals have similar qualifications and are thus operating on a relatively level playing field.

In general, the chances of having a professional qualification recognized are very high. A recent press release of the Federal Statistic Office (August 2019) showed that in 2017, 21,800 vocational qualifications acquired abroad were recognised nationwide as fully or partially equivalent to a qualification acquired in Germany. The vast majority of successful recognition procedures concerned medical health professionals, including doctors.

Application Procedure for Doctors in Detail

To begin the recognition process, a variety of documents are required. The application can be submitted from abroad or from Germany. The German authorities need proof, especially concerning the completed study schedule and the applicant’s German language skills.

In detail, the following documents are required:

  • A summary of the completed training courses and the applicant’s professional work experience in German,
  • Proof of identity,
  • Evidence of formal qualifications acquired abroad,
  • Evidence of relevant professional experience or other evidence of formal qualifications, where such evidence is necessary to establish equivalence,
  • A statement that no application for a declaration of equivalence has yet been filed.

Which residence permit is applicable is depending on how the professional qualification is assessed:

Option 1:

The applicant’s professional qualification is directly recognized as equivalent. The qualifications are recognized and accepted in Germany.

In this case, adaption measures are not necessary. The applicant can apply for a residence permit according to § 19 a German Residence Act – Blue Card or § 18 German Residence Act – for employment. The applicant will be able to work in Germany as a doctor, nurse or other professional.

Option 2:

The professional qualification is not seen as equivalent.

In this case adaption measures in the form of a qualification course or an aptitude test need to be taken. The applicant has not been rejected and may still be able to work in Germany as a doctor, nurse, teacher etc. but will require further training or coursework. The applicant fulfils the requirements for a residence permit according to § 17a of the German Residence Act. According to this regulation, a temporary residence permit for up to 18 months will be granted for training measures and subsequent examinations.

There is also the possibility that the professional qualification is recognised, but the applicant’s German language skills are insufficient. In this case, a German language course has to be taken by the applicant.

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Practice Group: German Immigration Law

Practice Group:
German Immigration Law

Aykut Elseven

Lawyer | Managing Partner

Nora Nolan


Contact a lawyer about German Immigration and Residency Law

Please use the form to inform us about your concerns in the field of immigration and residency law particularly if you are a doctor, medical professional or in a regulated profession. After receiving your request, we will make a short preliminary assessment on the basis of the information provided and give you a cost estimation. You are then free to decide whether you want to instruct our lawyers for immigration and residency law.