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Refugees from Ukraine

The BIBB Recognition Monitoring Project has examined how the war in Ukraine has impacted on advice and applications for recognition. Moritz Scholz summarises the findings from the short survey in an interview.

What was the aim of the short survey and who were the participants you spoke to?

Moritz Scholz: The findings from the official statistics on recognition for 2022 will not be available to us until late summer 2023 and for this reason we wanted to gain an initial overview of the current situation regarding advice and applications made by refugees from Ukraine. In three rounds, each involving approximately 20 to 30 participants, we asked staff at recognition offices and advisory organisations as well as other experts, including the Central Assessment Agency for Healthcare Professions (GfG), for their assessment. The surveys were conducted in writing or over the phone in March and June 2022 and most recently in September and October 2022. The focus was on the experience of competent authorities responsible for medical and education professions as well as for the recognition of engineers. This was because many Ukrainians have sought advice on these professions from advisory centres in the Network “Integration through Qualification (IQ)”.

What changes are the different participants seeing?

Moritz Scholz: In most cases both the advisory organisations and recognition offices are seeing a sharp rise in advice enquiries from war refugees from Ukraine. This dynamic was observed across all rounds of the survey. The IQ advisory centres, for example, reported that in September 2022 in some federal states every other person seeking advice came from the Ukraine. In our interviews, respondents also reported that at the outset questions were more frequently related to issues around residency rights or to financing and searching for accommodation. Professional recognition was therefore not the focus during initial advice. At this point, only a very small proportion of enquiries to recognition offices resulted in an application for recognition. It should be noted that recognition is only required for practising regulated professions, for example in the healthcare sector or in education. For most positions, there has so far been no change in the number of applications. It should be added that a proportion of the individuals now having their qualifications from Ukraine recognised were already living in Germany before the start of the war.

Why are very few refugees having their qualifications recognised? Is being able to obtain the necessary documents a factor here?

Moritz Scholz: According to the competent authorities, obtaining documents for recognition is not a problem in most cases. The authorities already have plenty of experience in this situation from previous refugee movements. In practice, they are therefore very flexible and skilled in finding individual solutions within the legal scope available to them. The advisory organisations also confirmed this. In many cases, for example, statements declared under oath are accepted if original documents cannot be obtained from Ukraine. As regards the status of documents, in some cases the authorities do not require translations and certifications and instead use “reference cases” and the public electronic training register in order to verify Ukrainian qualifications.

According to respondents, the biggest hurdle along the way to recognition is the fact that the war refugees generally have only very limited German language skills. Even if language skills are not required in the recognition procedure, requirements can be very high when it comes to the authorisation to practise, particularly in the education and medical professions. Many Ukrainians are currently still on integration courses or language courses.

What opportunities are there for making the path to recognition easier for people from Ukraine?

Moritz Scholz: Basically, refugees from Ukraine should not receive preferential treatment in professional recognition over refugees from other countries. It is also difficult to “shorten” the recognition process. In the recognition of doctors of medicine or educators, the protection of patients, and of children and young people respectively must be the primary goal.

In practice, however, it is evident that federal states are finding ways to make it easier for Ukrainian refugees to access employment. It’s already possible, for example, for Ukrainian doctors of medicine or educators to work without full recognition, for instance in providing psychological support in initial reception centres or as teachers in “welcome classes”. While exemptions such as these are not new, they are currently being applied increasingly in some federal states. In Saxony and in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, an adaptation period has also been designed for general nurses – this is being led by the Federal Ministry of Health. This is tailored to Ukrainian curricula on the basis of sample assessments and is intended to compensate for differences between Ukrainian and German nurse training alongside employment and in this way achieve full recognition.

A large amount of information is now also available on recognition in Ukrainian, for example from “Anerkennung in Deutschland”.

What developments are you anticipating in the future?

Moritz Scholz: Some advisory organisations and competent authorities are anticipating higher application numbers in spring 2023 because many Ukrainians will have completed their first language course by then. The Central Assessment Agency for Healthcare Professions (GfG) is more cautious in its assessment and looks to its experience of recognition with Syrian refugees who frequently did not apply for professional recognition until two to three years had passed. The GfG is of course aware that the situation cannot be directly compared.

Whether refugees from Ukraine have their qualifications recognised depends on a number of different factors: How will the situation in Ukraine develop? Are people able to, or do they want to return back to their home country? What future prospects is Germany offering refugees? These are ultimately very personal decisions. In each case, the federal government and federal states are working to set up opportunities in the German labour market for people from Ukraine.

The interview with Moritz Scholz took place in January 2023. He is a research assistant in the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training’s (BIBB) Recognition Monitoring Project which provides academic support in the implementation of the Recognition Act. Contact for questions: 

In a publication (only available in German) on the “Recognition of Ukrainian professional qualifications” (2022), the BIBB Recognition Monitoring Project specified background factors and challenges. However this does not include the findings of the short survey.

Cover BIBB Discussion Paper
BIBB, 2022

Recognition of Ukrainian professional qualifications

Educational level and labour market participation of Ukrainians living in Ukraine or Germany, recognition of professional qualifications and potential for improvement of the recognition process.

Information about responsibility for, and details on, the recognition procedure for the German reference occupations is provided in the Profi-Filter here in the professional section and in the Recognition Finder in the Skilled workers section of “Anerkennung in Deutschland”.