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Germany is undergoing far-reaching demographic change. As people live ever longer lives and the proportion of older people in our society increases, there is a wider need for inpatient and outpatient care services. Hospitals, nursing homes and other care providers are finding it harder and harder to recruit and retain skilled nursing staff.

Nurses and geriatric nurses are responsible for monitoring, providing advice to and caring for patients, whether in hospitals, care homes or the patients’ homes. Depending on their specialisation and their qualifications, some nursing professionals may also be charged with documenting and evaluating care procedures, following doctors’ orders and assisting doctors in their work. Talking to patients’ families forms another important part of the nursing profession’s work. In light of demographic change, the demand for skilled geriatric nurses is rapidly increasing. It is expected that by 2050, more than twice as many people will be in need of care.

In Germany, anyone wishing to work in nursing requires a licence. In order for your professional qualifications to be recognised, you often need to take an adaptation course to bring your language and professional skills in line with the requirements. Applications for the recognition of professional qualifications need to be submitted to the competent authority of the German Land in which you intend to work. If your application is granted, you are entitled to work across the whole country, irrespective of the Land in which your application has been granted. In order for your application to be successful, the following requirements need to be met:

You need to have your qualifications recognised in Germany: If you have obtained your nursing qualifications abroad, you need to have these recognised in Germany. The competent authority will verify whether or not the professional qualifications which you have acquired abroad are fully equivalent to the corresponding qualification issued in Germany. If this is not the case, you can sign up for an adaptation course.

You need to speak German well enough: Depending on the German Land in which you intend to work, you need to prove you have a B1 or B2 German proficiency level under the European Framework of Reference.

Nursing is included in the list of occupations where Germany is experiencing a skills shortage (whitelist). This means that nursing professionals from outside the EU may be recruited and are allowed to come to Germany to work in nursing in line with the Ordinance on the Employment of Foreigners.

Before you apply for a visa, you need to find out what career paths your professional qualifications will allow you to take in Germany. You need to apply for the recognition of the foreign professional qualifications which you have acquired abroad. The recognition procedure may lead to:

A full recognition of your professional qualifications: This means that your qualifications have been found to be fully equivalent to the corresponding German qualification and that you have also met all of the other requirements (for example language skills). Once you have obtained a valid job offer, you can apply for a visa from the German mission located in your home country. More information about this can be found in the visa section. Once you are on German soil, you need to apply for a residence permit issued by the foreigners authority to persons for the purpose of working in nursing care (Section 18 (4) Act on the Residence). Please note that in Germany, nursing is a vocational training qualification, and not, like in many other countries, a university course. Consequently, the EU Blue Card does not apply to nurses wishing to work in Germany.

A partial recognition of your professional qualifications: If the authority scrutinising your application finds that your level of theoretical and practical skills is not sufficient for your qualifications to be fully recognised, you can opt to take an adaptation course in Germany which will bring your qualifications in line with the requirements. If certain criteria are met, you may be granted a visa for the purpose of the recognition of professional qualifications (Section 17a Act on the Residence). This visa gives you 18 months to acquire the missing qualifications by undergoing further training. The training courses you take need to be relevant for the recognition of your professional qualifications. This includes adaptation courses, preparatory courses for examinations, language courses or further training in-house at a company. You are allowed to work part-time and earn money as an auxiliary nurse whilst undergoing adaptation training in Germany. Once you have been granted full recognition, your residence permit may be extended for up to one year, giving you time to find employment as a nursing professional. Detailed information about how you can apply for a visa under Section 17a Act on the Residence can be found in the visa section.

For more information about recognition, examinations, adaptation courses and the German authorities competent for these matters, please go to

Becoming a skilled nursing professional

In July 2017, the German government reformed the nursing training system to update the curricula and make the nursing profession more attractive. The reform is to be implemented by 2020. This means that apprentices who start training in nursing before 1 January 2020 will be subject to different rules and regulations than those who start training after 1 January 2020.

Nursing training programme prior to 1 January 2020

Persons wishing to become nursing professionals can choose between three different vocational training programmes. They can train to become ‘nurses’, ‘geriatric nurses’, or ‘paediatric nurses’. All three of these vocational training programmes take three years to complete. The theoretical part of the training takes place at a vocational school or nursing school, whilst the practical part takes place at the workplace. Applicants need to have a school-leaving certificate obtained after 10 years of schooling; if they have completed vocational training in the field of nursing assistance or nursing support, a school-leaving certificate obtained after 9 years is enough. No matter whether they want to train as nurses, geriatric nurses or paediatric nurses, applicants need to bring a number of key skills to the job. They need to be diligent, emphatic, responsible, emotionally stable and in good physical shape in order to meet the wide range of tasks they will be faced with. Potential employers are hospitals and nursing homes, but also, depending on the type of training completed, outpatient care services, residential homes for the elderly, children’s hospitals and many more.

Nursing training programme from 1 January 2020

On 1 January 2020, the new German Nursing Professions Act (Pflegeberufegesetz, PflBG) will enter into force. All applicants starting to train as nursing professionals after this date will undergo two years of general nursing training. In the third year of training, apprentices will either continue general training to become general nurses or specialise to become geriatric or paediatric nurses. Under the new nursing training programme, the theoretical part of the training will continue to take place at a nursing school whilst the practical part will continue to take place at the workplace. Diligence, empathy and responsibility, emotional stability and physical endurance will continue to be crucial personal qualities that apprentices need to have. In addition to this, the wide variety of workplaces that persons training under the new framework can be employed at will remain unchanged. The requirements for starting training in nursing will also remain unchanged. Those who have completed training as general nurses, geriatric nurses or paediatric nurses can also opt to undergo further training to become nursing care specialists. The duration of their initial training will then be factored in. In addition to the vocational training programme for nursing, a new university course for nursing will be introduced. This course will cover all of the skills taught under the vocational training programme and also take into account the ever more complex needs of persons in need of care.

Brief overview of the changes brought about by the reform of nursing training

The reform is transforming some of the fundamental aspects of nursing training and working life. The new reform places a strong focus on general nursing training. This means that everyone training as a nurse will acquire the basic nursing skills needed to care for persons of different ages and with different needs by taking into account new developments in nursing science. Nursing professionals will have better opportunities for finding work, changing jobs, being promoted and for personal development in all areas of nursing care. Persons training under the new programme will also have more flexibility. They can choose the training option that exactly fits their needs; for example, if they want to study, they can opt for the new generalised university degree in nursing. Another plus of this generalised nursing training is that it is recognised across the EU, giving persons working in nursing even more job opportunities. The new nursing training programme will be completely free of charge, and apprentices will receive adequate remuneration. For further information, please visit and watch the below-given video clips: