In many countries within the EU, it is not only your actual qualifications
but also your formal education that is of major importance. Your
diploma may be decisive to your success in obtaining a position,
no matter whether a regulated or non-regulated profession is involved.
The holding of a particular degree, or evidence of a comparable
education may influence the employment contract that you obtain
and/or your wage rate.
Your formal education may be relevant to your employer with a view
to his ability to demonstrate that he acted prudently in entrusting
certain tasks to you. If you are unable to submit evidence of having
attained the required educational level, the employer may in certain
countries be subject to liability, should your work cause injury.
Your qualification level, including all university degrees or equivalent,
may be relevant in deciding which trade union you may join, which
in turn may influence your employment contract and wage rates. In
some countries the membership rules of the trade unions certify,
for all practical purposes, a person’s education and qualifications.
Consequently, you should always bring with you a detailed description
of your educational attainments, together with the originals of
your examination certificates. You should also be in touch with
your national contact point regarding the recognition of your degrees
in the foreign country in question (see section 3 below).
2. The EU legislation
Article 57 of the EU Treaty provides the legal basis for EU legislation
covering the mutual recognition of diplomas. Recognition of professional
qualifications is one of the supporting measures which makes possible
the free movement of workers.
Employees who are seconded (or posted) abroad by their employers
seldom have difficulties with the recognition of their qualifications.
However, many have spouses or partners who will accompany them,
and who will seek employment whilst abroad. These family members,
like other job-seekers, may need a formal recognition of their qualifications
in order to get a job. Formal recognition can also be important
for setting salaries at company level.
The first question is whether the profession is regulated or non-regulated
in the host country. If it is regulated either the sectoral or general
EU directives will apply to the expatriate.
Regulated professions are restricted to persons holding
given qualifications such as lawyers, accountants, teachers, physiotherapists
and electricians. The number of regulated professions varies in
different Member States. Some professions are regulated in one country,
but not in another.
a. Regulated Professions covered by Sectorial directives
Medical professions and architects
If you are a medical doctor, general nurse, dentist, midwife, veterinary
surgeon, pharmacist or architect, your professional qualifications
are covered by a sectoral directive and the training has to a certain
extent been harmonised at the EU level. Therefore national qualifications
will, in principle, be recognised automatically. This will allow
a professional to practise as a self-employed or employed person
in any other EU-country.
You need to make a formal application for recognition to the competent
authority in the host Member State. The authority has three months
in which to process the application. Decisions not to grant recognition
must be reasoned, and it must be possible to appeal against them
in national courts.
How to proceed
Information and documents should be submitted to the competent
authorities. An administration fee is normally payable.
In all EU countries there are contact points that can put you in
touch with the appropriate authority. You will find the contact
point through http://europa.eu.int/europedirect
Documents you will need to produce:
- An application letter to the relevant authority
- A relevant registration form
- An identity document showing that you are an EU or EEA national
- An official copy of your diploma
b. Regulated Professions not covered by sectorial directives –
the general system
For regulated professions not covered by the transitional or sectoral
directives, the general directive will normally be applicable if
the profession is regulated.
The main purpose of the general directives is to recognise - not
to harmonise. Those who are qualified to practise a regulated profession
in one Member State should be qualified to practise the same profession
within the whole European Union. Since there is no co-ordination
of the minimum training requirement, the general systems do not
permit automatic recognition of qualifications. You must apply for
The general system applies to a person who:
- Is a national of a Member State
- Is fully qualified to practise a regulated profession in Member
- Wishes to practise the same profession in Member State B and
the profession is regulated in Member State B
- Is not covered by another system of recognition
How to find out whether the profession in question is regulated
Through the contact point in the home country or in the host country,
which you can identify through http://europa.eu.int/europedirect
You can also look up information on specific regulated professions
How to gain official recognition of professional qualifications
in the host Member State
What is recognised is the "final product" - i.e. the
degree, the professional part of it and your professional experience.
The applicant must send an application for recognition to the competent
authority in the host Member State, which will consider every application
individually. This authority has four months in which to reply.
- The competent authority may recognise the professional qualifications
as they stand. In that case you can start practising your profession
subject to the same conditions as nationals of the host Member
State. In some countries, such as, the UK, you have to register
with the relevant professional body.
- If the authorities consider that the applicant's training is
significantly different in terms of duration from training in
the same field given in the host country, he/she may be asked
to provide proof of experience. If there are significant differences
in terms of content he/she may be asked to undergo an adaptation
period, or to take an aptitude test in the host Member State.
- If the application is rejected, the reasons for the decision
must be clearly stated. You can appeal to a court or a tribunal
in the host Member State. Community institutions are not empowered
to revoke an administrative decision issued by the national authorities
on your case. Only a competent national body can revoke a decision
to reject your application for recognition.
You can find the competent authority through the contact point
mentioned above: see also the country specific chapters in this
Contact the competent authority in the host Member State for a
full list of the documents required before leaving your home country.
You should expect to need the following:
Documents you may need
- Proof of nationality (a copy of your identity card or passport)
- A certified copy of your diploma or other formal proof of qualification
- A document describing the duration and content of the studies
(e.g. diploma supplement for higher education or certificate supplement
for vocational qualifications)
- A document describing the professional competence
- A certificate concerning the practical vocational training
- Documents concerning your professional experience (e.g. certificates
from employers in the Member State of origin)
In some cases certificates of medical fitness, solvency and/or
good conduct may also be required (if these requirements also apply
If any of the basic documents need to be translated into the official
language/s of the host country, this will have to be done at the
applicant's own expense by a sworn translator.
You may also have to pay administrative fees and the costs of organising
a possible aptitude test, but these charges must not exceed the
real costs of the service provided.
There are many national rules which vary from one profession to
another (such as registration with a professional body, or the rights
and duties of the profession). You should contact the competent
authority for the rules governing your profession.
c. Non-regulated professions
If the profession is not regulated in the host Member State, it
is not subject to any formal EU restrictions. This means that no
authority at the European level is responsible for issues concerning
non-regulated professions not covered by Community Directives. In
theory you are free to practise the profession in the host Member
State with the same rights and obligations as its nationals.
However, even if the recognition directives are not applicable,
you still have certain rights as regards the recognition of diplomas.
The authorities of the host country are in any event obliged, under
the Articles of freedom of movement of the EC Treaty, to take account
of professional diplomas and qualifications acquired in another
Member State. The European Court of Justice has arbitrated in many
cases of this kind.
Many reports state that in reality there are problems in this area,
because insufficient familiarity with qualifications in other countries
is a barrier to free movement. This can lead to problems when applying
for a job or in the drafting of salary scales.
You should provide yourself with documentation on your qualifications
and professional experience before moving abroad.
In some countries the national information centre for academic
recognition of diplomas NARIC evaluates international credential
for professional purposes, even if the profession in question is
not regulated. They can, on request, issue advisory statements on
qualifications taken abroad by comparing them to the nearest qualifications
in their own country.
The national reference points for vocational qualifications can
be contacted for questions relating to vocational training.
A model for a Diploma Supplement was developed by the European
Commission, The Council of Europe and UNESCO/CEPES in order to facilitate
transparency and recognition of qualifications for academic and
professional purposes.The model includes a description of the higher
education system in each country, which provides a context for the
qualifications. It is recommended especially for young graduates
to ask for a diploma supplement from their university. Further information
may be found on http://europa.eu.int/comm/education/policies/rec_qual/rec_qual_en.html
The certificate supplement for vocational qualifications has been
developed in parallel to the Diploma supplement. It contains a detailed
description of the qualification acquired by the holder of a vocational
certification and is issued by the awarding authorities. Further
information may be found on http://www.cedefop.eu.int/transparency/certsupp.asp