EU Recognition Directive

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The new EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications came into force in 2005. It provides that the Member States of the EU recognize each other's vocational qualifications as being equivalent and grant people pursuing these professions free access to the domestic labour market.


The EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications (2005/36/EC) regulates (in conjunction with Directive 2006/100/EC) the professional recognition of regulated professions. It applies to all citizens of a Member State of the European Union (EU), of the other countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland who have gained their qualifications in a Member State and guarantees them access to the same profession and under the same conditions as nationals. The Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications came into effect on 20 October 2005 and had to be transposed into national law by the Member States within two years. In Germany, the directive has been transposed in the professional specialist laws and regulations.

In the course of reforming the Directive, changes came into effect on 18 January 2016, such as the introduction of professional identity cards.

Freedom of Establishment

EU citizens wishing to settle in another Member State and pursue a regulated profession in that country on a permanent basis may claim freedom of establishment. In such cases, the European Union provides for automatic recognition of the professional qualifications listed in the Annex to the Directive for seven so-called "sectoral" professions (doctors, dental practitioners, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists, nurses, midwives, architects). This is because there are uniform training standards for these professions in the entire European Union. The responsible authorities conduct an individual evaluation of the equivalence of professional qualifications for all other regulated professions. Full recognition is given if the content and duration of training largely coincide. Partial recognition may be granted if training contents differ in part. Applicants may make up for missing know how by taking an aptitude test or an adaptation period. Full recognition can be achieved upon passing the test or successfully completing the adaptation period.

The Free Provision of Services

The free provision of services allows migrants from Member States to temporarily provide services under the same conditions as Germans. They are not obliged to have their professional qualifications recognized for this temporary activity. Exceptions are activities which may have an effect on people's safety and health.

Central Office for Foreign Education

All countries in the European Union (EU), the European Economic Area (EEA), Switzerland and the Council of Europe and UNESCO (European Region) have an information centre which can provide information on qualifications and vocational recognition in the respective country within the framework of the EU Directive on the Recognition of Professional Qualifications. As a rule, this function is performed by the NARICs (National Academic Recognition Information Centres) or the ENIC (European Network of Information Centres). The Central Office for Foreign Education (ZAB) is responsible for this task in Germany.

Further information is available on the website of the European Commission.