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Advice in high demand

Daike Witt from the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) talks in an interview about the initial experiences of the chambers of crafts and trades with the Skilled Immigration Act.

The Skilled Immigration Act came into force in March 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic. What experiences have the chambers of crafts and trades had with recognition advice since then?

Daike Witt: The vast majority of the 53 chambers of crafts and trades (HWK) say they have provided in-depth advice on immigration options for foreign skilled workers and the recognition of foreign professional and vocational qualifications. They reported receiving a total of 1,700 enquiries on this topic between March and December 2020. This is shown by the latest HWK recognition survey that the BIBB Recognition Monitoring regularly carries out in cooperation with the ZDH.

Who turned to the chambers for advice?

Daike Witt: The chambers told us that it was predominantly companies which needed advice regarding skilled worker immigration. Immigration authorities as well as people interested in recognition and their contacts in Germany, i.e. friends or family, also sent enquiries.

What were the most common topics covered in the advisory sessions?

Daike Witt: It’s a very broad range. Most of the questions related to how the HWK recognition procedure works. For example, which documents in what form have to be submitted so that the procedure can begin. Or what the options are for refresher training if partial equivalence of the qualification is determined. Many skilled workers and companies also make general enquiries about the entry and residence of skilled workers from non-European countries. Skilled worker immigration from third countries is now no longer restricted to the established shortage occupations, which means a lot more people have a real chance here. But all in all the immigration process for skilled workers is still relatively complex and subject to many conditions. So small and medium-sized companies have many questions as to how they can use these opportunities to acquire new skilled workers in practice.

You mentioned that immigration authorities often contact the chambers for advice. Why do they do so?

Daike Witt: The immigration authorities have been assigned new tasks and are meant to act as an interface between the authorities involved in the immigration process. This results in an increased need for information about the work processes of other stakeholders, such as the chambers of crafts and trades: The accelerated skilled workers procedure pursuant to § 81a of the Residency Act is intended to facilitate the entry of skilled workers from third countries. If a firm job offer is made, the employer can apply to the responsible immigration authority on behalf of the skilled worker for a procedure with a shorter wait for a visa. The immigration authority initiates the recognition procedure. This is why they need to know about the requirements and processes of professional recognition. Intensive regional cooperation between the HWK and immigration authorities also significantly contributes to the fact that promising recognition applications are made and that, as a result, the companies’ investments in the accelerated procedure are worth it. There are already many positive examples illustrating the cooperation of the local immigration authorities and the HWK.

Are there any other new challenges when it comes to providing advice?

Daike Witt: The chambers report that there are more and more enquiries from abroad. These pose a particular challenge if there are language-related communication problems. Some companies, according to the feedback from the chambers, have heard about the new options and have high expectations. Yet these are not always realistic. Many companies hope to acquire workers from abroad as fast as possible. This usually works well when it comes to trained skilled workers. But hold-ups are still always possible, in awarding visas, for example. Frustration runs high for the companies if the procedure does end up taking longer than hoped or if the requirements for recognition are not indicated.

How many applications have been made for the accelerated skilled workers procedure?

Daike Witt: The chambers registered around 340 applications for the accelerated skilled workers procedure between 1 March and 31 December 2020. More than half of the chambers indicate that more and more applications for recognition from third countries have come in since the Skilled Worker Immigration Act came into force. This shows that numerous skilled workers abroad are preparing to immigrate, despite the current entry restrictions due to coronavirus. The new possibilities positively influence the demand for recognition in the crafts and trades sector – this is what the first results indicate at least.

The interview with Daike Witt took place in May 2021. As Head of the Vocational Education and Training Department at the German Confederation of Skilled Crafts (ZDH) she also deals with the recognition of foreign professional qualifications in the crafts and trades sector.

Important information on the responsibility for and details on the recognition procedure, i. e. for occupations in the crafts and trades sector, is provided by the Profi-Filter and Recognition Finder in this portal.

More than 100,000 advisory sessions

Since the Recognition Act came into force in April 2012, the chambers of crafts and trades (HWK) have registered, as of the end of 2020, more than 100,000 advisory sessions on recognition. This is shown by the HWK recognition surveys that the BIBB Recognition Monitoring carries out in cooperation with the ZDH every six months. This predominantly concerns recording and showing the HWK's advisory activities on the recognition of foreign professional qualifications. After all this is an important and often time-consuming part of the recognition procedure. The results of the surveys come from, for example, the reports on the Recognition Act of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).