Since 2016, the Western Balkan regulation has enabled all citizens of Albania, Serbia, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Bosnia and Herzegovina access to the German labour market in non-regulated professions. This is not dependent on having a professional qualification and is therefore possible without formal recognition of a foreign professional qualification. However, Lejla Hujić – a recognition advisor for “ProRecognition” at the AHK in Bosnia and Herzegovina – still advises skilled workers and companies to opt for professional recognition under the Skilled Immigration Act when choosing their route to Germany. She explains why in the interview.
In 2021, most of the applications for recognition of professional qualifications were made from Bosnia and Herzegovina. How do you explain this high level of interest in recognition? After all, there’s also the Western Balkan regulation.
Lejla Hujić: The skilled workers who come to us for advice want to get to Germany as quickly as possible. They ask us how best to go about this and about the criteria they must meet. Many of them are in fact already aware of the Western Balkan regulation and want to find out more. However, we do try to ensure the skilled workers understand the many benefits of professional qualification recognition as an alternative route, and this is often the first time they’ve heard of this. Ultimately, most of the people we’ve advised then opt for the route via recognition. We advise each person individually and, by working together with partners here and in Germany such as the Goethe Institute or the embassies in the Western Balkans, we try to prepare a route to Germany with as few obstacles as possible.
Why do you recommend to skilled workers that they enter Germany with recognition of a professional qualification?
Lejla Hujić: To start with, we inform them of both options and explain the advantages and disadvantages. We always recommend recognition if they have completed vocational education and training. This is because the prospects in many professions are excellent, e.g. for electrical fitters, drivers or office managers.
On the other hand, the Western Balkan regulation can also be an option for coming to Germany without recognition. Due to high demand, however, appointments at visa centres are being allocated by drawing lots. Many skilled workers lose out in this process and in some cases have to wait several months or up to a year for an appointment. Also, the Western Balkan regulation only applies to non-regulated professions. For those skilled workers in a regulated profession, for example in nursing, the route always involves recognition. The Western Balkan regulation also involves a priority review by the Federal Employment Agency (BA) – the agency checks whether anybody from Germany or the EU is available to fill the vacancy. The Western Balkan regulation is also currently limited to 25,000 workers per year.
For skilled workers, there is no priority review and no upper limit. Recognition of the qualification also increases the chances that the skilled worker will integrate in Germany both professionally and personally over the long term. And it has advantages for companies.
What is your advice for German companies who are interested in skilled workers from the Western Balkans?
Lejla Hujić: For a skilled worker with recognition, there’s no lottery at the visa centres. Appointments can be booked without any problems and without any lots being drawn. This makes it possible for both companies and skilled workers to sensibly plan entry into Germany and commencement of work. Under the Skilled Immigration Act, employers are also able to initiate the accelerated skilled worker procedure which shortens the processing times involved.
Another important advantage is that with recognition of the foreign professional qualification, the German employer has official proof of the knowledge and professional experience of their skilled worker. This creates transparency and therefore generates a lot of trust. Over recent years, our experience has shown that the route via recognition is better at ensuring skilled workers from the Western Balkans are matched successfully with German companies over the long term.
You also have to keep in mind the foreign skilled worker’s family. They have a key role to play in supporting the skilled worker’s long-term integration and motivation. And under the accelerated skilled worker procedure, the family is able to enter Germany at the same time, which strengthens the skilled worker’s ties to Germany. This creates a win-win situation for everybody involved.