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Bilateral agreements on recognition

Germany has entered into bilateral agreements with the following countries for the mutual recognition of vocational qualifications: Switzerland, Austria and France.

Here you can find answers to the questions:

  • What do the agreements regulate?
  • To which professions do the agreements apply?
  • How does recognition work?

 

Common goals of the agreements 

Germany has entered into bilateral agreements with Switzerland, Austria and France regarding the mutual recognition of vocational education and training qualifications. The common goals of the agreements are to simplify the recognition of vocational qualifications, to make it easier for skilled workers with the relevant qualifications to practice their professions and complete continuing vocational education and training in the respective partner country, and to increase cross-border mobility with neighbouring states.

 

German-Swiss Agreement 

The agreement of 10 February 2021 between the government of the Federal Republic of Germany and the Swiss Federal Council for determining the equivalence of vocational qualifications entered into force on 1 September 2021. It was incorporated into domestic German law by the Act of 7 August 2021. When compared to national regulations which apply in other respects, the agreement simplifies the mutual recognition of vocational qualifications. It supersedes the previous agreement on the mutual recognition of craft trade examinations and broadens the scope of application.

On the German side, the agreement will apply to initial and advanced vocational education and training qualifications regulated at federal level under the Vocational Training Act (BBiG) and the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code (HwO), while on the Swiss side the agreement will apply to vocational education and training qualifications and to qualifications achieved in federal examinations in tertiary level professional education (federal diplomas of higher education and the advanced federal diplomas of higher education) under the Federal Vocational and Professional Education and Training Act.

The recognition procedure under this agreement replaces the individual check to determine equivalence under the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act and the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code. In Germany applications for the procedure are submitted to the Chambers, who also implement the procedure, and who are responsible for recognition under the Professional Qualifications Assessment Act and the Crafts and Trades Regulation Code. On the Swiss side the normal recognition offices are responsible.

Article 6 (2) of the agreement includes joint informal working tools. These take the form of lists of occupations and do not represent a formal part of the agreement. The competent authorities use the lists as the basis for decision-making when determining equivalence. They are recommendations only and as such simplify the procedure. The goal, in general, is for the competent authorities to make their decisions according to the lists without any further individual checking of equivalence.

The lists are common working tools and will therefore be periodically harmonised and updated by the competent authorities in Switzerland and Germany. The intention is that they should evolve and reflect recognition practice as it develops. The goal is to create a flexible system which can be used to respond quickly to future changes in vocational education and training courses.

Individuals who apply for recognition of their vocational qualification have no legal entitlement to equivalence being determined based on the recommendations contained in the lists. In particular, applicants are not able to invoke the principle of good faith when referring to information from lists which is no longer up to date. 

Key to recognition under the simplified procedure are the requirements set out in Article 3 of the agreement. Under these, the vocational qualifications must enable the individual to perform comparable professional activities. In place of an individual comparison, a comparison is made using the occupational profile. The vocational qualifications concerned must also be assigned to the same level in the system according to the agreement. The agreement includes three levels: 

  • Vocational qualification with 2 years of training
  • Vocational qualification with 3 or 3.5 years of training
  • Advanced vocational training qualification

If the professions are not regarded as equivalent under the simplified procedure, then the agreement allows for a check to be made in accordance with the national procedures which would normally apply.  

The memorandum to the agreement contains further explanations of its application. The memorandum forms part of the justification of the draft bill used to incorporate the agreement within domestic German law.

German-Austrian and German-French agreements 

Bilateral agreements are in place with Austria and France which treat Austrian and French vocational qualifications as equal to the equivalent German qualifications. 

In addition to formally making specific vocational qualifications equivalent in this way, there are “joint declarations” with both countries which establish the basic mutual compatibility of vocational training qualifications.

On the German side, the vocational qualifications made equivalent in accordance with the agreement are listed in the regulations and are also contained in the “Directory of recognised training occupations” of the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (BIBB). The competent authority is able to certify the equivalence upon request. This can help for example with applications. Recognition can be applied for in the normal procedure for all Austrian and French vocational qualifications which are not made equivalent. Key information about responsibility for, and providing details on, the recognition procedure is provided in the Profi-Filter (in the professional section) and the Recognition Finder (in the skilled workers section).