Becoming a doctor in Germany: Four steps to guide you through German bureaucracy


Becoming a doctor in Germany: Four steps to guide you through German bureaucracy


I met Ana for the first time when we went together to the Foreigner’s office to apply for her Blue Card. We had been in close contact for the past couple of months and had shared the excitement and anxious waiting that accompanies this huge step of building a new life in another country.


First step: Finding the right visa

She first contacted me when she still lived in Russia and was seeking a job as a medical practitioner in Germany. As doctors are desperately needed in many parts of the country, finding a job was nothing that posed a great difficulty. Her first question was the most natural: “I have been to Berlin recently and already have a valid Schengen visa – could I simply use this to start working in my new job?”. I am always very grateful when this question comes, because I can prevent a lot of confusion and – at worst – a return trip to Moscow. Unfortunately, Schengen visas cannot be used to start a new job in Germany, and it is absolutely necessary to apply for the correct visa in the German consulate of the home country before leaving.

As Ana already has a job in a hospital in Berlin, I guide her through the application for the Blue Card – a prestigious work permit for highly qualified professionals (link to blog: Blue Card vs work permit). In her case, this entails all communication with the Federal Employment Agency, translating necessary documents and preparing her appointment at the consulate.


Second step: Applying for a medical license

Doctors however need something more than ‘just’ a valid work permit. The “Approbation” is needed as well – the license issued by the German state that permits doctors to work in their profession. It is valid across Germany and will last a lifetime. There are some requirements attached to that, and Ana decides to take a course in (medical) German to reach the necessary level (B2 + exam level C1 held by the German Medical Association). With a Russian diploma in medicine, however, obtaining an approbation requires more time. This goes for all medical diplomas that were issued in non-European countries and is due to the long evaluation of the academic qualification.

As Ana has already signed her work contract she cannot wait for the approbation to start her new job. She therefore decides to also apply for the “Berufserlaubnis” (provisional medical license). This is an option only for candidates with a definite job offer and allows her to work and, simultaneously, to adjust her German level as well as eventual professional deficiencies. The provisional medical license is valid for one to two years and is linked to the federal state in which it was issued – applying to the state in which you will work is therefore absolutely necessary!


Third step: being recognized as a “specialist”

With my help, Ana prepares the required documents and receives the provisional license in no time. She moves to Berlin and has her first weeks as a resident doctor in the midst of the city – intensive and challenging, but utterly rewarding. She then contacts me again with a wish she had been thinking of for a while now. Ana would like to pursue her career and be recognized as a “specialist” in a relevant medical field – this usually entails a higher salary and greater responsibility. She asks me: “But can I start this process when I still don’t have my approbation?”. I tell her that this is possible. Receiving the title of “specialist” may take several years (depending on the medical field you choose) and may be started as well with your temporary medical license. The time in which you were practicing with a temporary license may be added to your overall training time, but there is unfortunately no guarantee for that. In the end this also depends on if your position with your provisional license had been in the same area in which you also want to take your specialty.

If you are already a specialist in a medical field, you may also get this title recognized in Germany and directly start with a higher salary (link to blog: salaries for doctors). This is relatively secure if you come from another EU member state, but more complicated from if your diploma was issued in a state outside the EU. No matter where you come from, you first have to get your approbation in order to be recognized and work as specialist. Your documents will be examined extensively so be prepared for gathering a whole pile for the process!


Fourth step: Starting a new life

When Ana and I meet several weeks after her arrival for her final appointment at the Foreigners’ office, she is already deeply immersed in her new life and tells me about all the new changes that have happened since we last spoke. With her Blue Card in hand and approbation on the way, she is all set for a new adventure that may very well last a lifetime.

Are you ready to start your own adventure in Germany? Check here if you have all the needed requirements and let us help you start your life abroad! Just email us if you have any questions about the immigration process.