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Germany’s recruitment ban: Why Indian nurses should stay away from agencies (and what free alternatives they have)

India has a flourishing market of international recruitment consultants – and for a good reason: Going through a consultant is extremely convenient, especially if the migration process has multiple bureaucratic hurdles to overcome. This holds especially true for healthcare professionals, who typically need a license to practice. No wonder therefore that when it comes to recruitment for Germany, there is a huge number of private agencies recruiting nurses. There’s just one catch: What these agencies are doing is actually against the law.

The legal framework

The basis for this recruitment and placement ban can be found in Sections 38 and 39 of the German Ordinance on the Employment of Foreigners (Beschäftigungsverordnung, BeschV):

Source: www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_beschv

India is listed in the Annex of this Section under no. 27 (as of Feb 2021). Why? Because the German government follows a list of the World Health Organisation which states the average number of healthcare professionals per capita. If that number is below a certain reference value, it is included in the Annex of the Section. Thus, through the recruitment ban, the German government tries to avoid a brain drain from areas where healthcare professionals are urgently needed.

But let’s take a closer look.

What does the law actually say?

The Sections can be decoded as follows:

  1. The recruitment and placement ban applies only to healthcare and long-term care professions. These are typically nurses but also other occupations such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, etc.
  2. A health or long-term care professional is anyone who intends to work in this profession and has (partially) completed a qualification in this area. This means that even the recruitment of Indian candidates for healthcare apprenticeships is not permitted.
  3. Only the Federal Employment Agency (FEA), as a body of the German government, is allowed to recruit and place such candidates.
  4. Private organisations, irrespective of whether they are placed out of India or Germany, are prohibited from recruiting and placing such candidates.
  5. Anyone in breach of this provision is considered an offence.

So, can healthcare professionals not go to Germany?

Don’t worry, they can. While the ban restricts the recruitment and placement of healthcare professionals, it doesn’t prohibit labour migration of this group in general. However, it is important to take only one of the permissible routes to find a job in Germany:

  • A private agency places a candidate into a job in Germany – Not allowed
  • A candidate requests a private agency to find a job in Germany for them – Not allowed
  • An employer is directly approaching Indian candidates for a job in Germany – Not allowed
  • A candidate is matched by the FEA with a German employer – Allowed
  • A candidate applies directly to an employer in Germany –  Allowed

The rule of thumb that applies: As long you take the initiative to apply and there is no other private intermediary involved, you are on the safe side.

Significant penalties

Now you may wonder: “If it’s illegal to recruit healthcare professionals, how come that there are so many agencies recruiting nurses for Germany?” And to be honest, we’re not fully sure. But there seems to be a general lack of awareness of this law. At the same time, the German mission in India frequently sends warning letters to recruitment consultants that advertise jobs in Germany for nurses.

And compliance with the law is well advised. Engaging in or making use of such recruitment or placement services can be fined with a penalty of up to EUR 30,000 (about INR 25,00,000). And that’s not the only risk: Candidates who came to a job offer in a non-permittable are not eligible for a visa. Thus, it is not only literally risky business for recruitment agencies but also for candidates.

So what’s the alternative?

The good news is that completing the journey on your own is easier than it may first look. There are various free and legal support offerings out there which can be used make it to Germany:

1. ProRecognition

ProRecognition is a one-stop-shop for all queries you may have regarding your career start in Germany. No matter what’s your professional background, the advisory team provides advise and hands-on support at every step of the way, starting at your initial consideration of going to Germany, over the recognition of your qualifications, to job search and visa matters. On top of that, as a government funded initiative, ProRecognition is well connected and can reach out to whichever authority you may need to reach out to. Thus, it is a great reliable alternative to going through a consultant!

2. Make it in Germany

Are you only just starting to consider going to Germany? Then you may want to visit make-it-in-germany.de. The official portal gives you an overview of all topics that may be relevant to your relocation to Germany, from recognition and job search to working and living in Germany. It also puts you in touch with the Hotline Living and Working in Germany through chat, phone, or email.

3. Anerkennung in Deutschland

If you want to do more detailed research on the recognition procedure Annerkennung-in-Deutschland.de is the right go-to address for you. As the name suggests, it’s the official portal of Germany for recognition of qualifications. Its recognition finder allows you to find the right authority, details on the application documents and recognition procedure within a few clicks.

4. Federal Employment Agency

The Federal Employment Agency can accompany you through the last phase of your journey: Finding the right job. You can either explore job postings by using their vast database of vacancies or (provided you fulfill certain requirements) make use of the service of the International Placement Office (ZAV).

As you see, there are various points of contact who can empower and guide you to make it to Germany on your own.