The word Blue Card seems to have a magic connotation these days. Appointments seem to get fixed faster, documents examined within days and the visa issued at a speed rate. It is true that the EU Blue Card is a prestigious title that, if possible, you should try to qualify for when you come to Germany for work purposes. But there are also a number of requirements attached to that, some of which may be difficult to meet. In the end, the Blue Card is also “just” a work permit and has a good alternative. In case you are worried you will not qualify for the Blue Card, let me reassure you: Life is also good in Germany with a normal work title.
The privileges of the small, blue card
The Blue Card was introduced in 2012 as a better way to attract highly qualified professionals. You need to have a valid work contract for Germany in order to get it, and it is limited to the duration of your contract just like any other work permit. There are, however, two main areas in which the Blue Card will make your life easier:
First – It is usually faster to get.
Attracting many Blue Card holders to work in Germany is a national interest. You can notice this when looking at the time the Office for Foreign Education takes to evaluate university degrees: Two weeks for Blue Card applicants, up to 3 months for all others. That’s not fair, you might say, and it’s true. Applying for a Blue Card as a national visa usually goes faster in the German consulates across the world, and it sometimes seems to open doors just by introducing yourself as a “Blue Card holder”.
Second – You can switch it faster for a permanent residence permit
If you plan to stay in Germany for good (or at least, for quite some time), the Blue Card offers another important advantage: With it, you can apply for a permanent residence permit after 21 or 33 months of working here, depending on your level of German. The permanent residence permit is of unlimited duration, and although it might be revoked under certain circumstances, allows you to stay in Germany for life. With a “normal” work permit, you can earliest apply for it after five years and you will have to prove some German skills.
A good alternative: The work permit
If the Blue Card is not an option for you, you may still go for the normal work permit. Depending on the reason you were denied a Blue Card, this will require more effort – it is also by far easier to get a work permit with a recognized university degree than without. But the work permit is a valid and widely used residence permit for Germany. And although the final integration will be slower, it gives you the same rights as the Blue Card.
And don’t despair: We are here to help you. Contact us if you would like to have assistance with your visa, and we will advise you, help you with (almost) all problems and guide you through this at times confusing process. Let us know!
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.
Irena is a trained nurse from Macedonia and moved to Berlin a couple of months ago. She had wanted to move to Germany since she first visited the country as a tourist three years ago, but she didn’t take this decision lightly.
In this interview, she tells us about her first steps into her new life. Half a year into her job in a clinic in Berlin Irena has learned a lot of what it means to start anew in in this young and fast-paced city, and she has come to regard Berlin as her second home.
Start Relocation: Germany has a great need for medical professionals. You are a trained nurse with very good references. Was it easy to find a job here?
Irena: In the beginning I thought finding a job would be easy. I contacted the Federal Employment Agency and quickly had some interviews with them. However, I didn’t have a very good impression of their service and I found it difficult to trust them. I then checked online and found out that they had gotten quite negative ratings in the past! Their promises don’t seem to match reality. First they tell you that you will be paid well and have a good job, but in the end that never happens. I was very disappointed, but my husband then put me in touch with Start Relocation.
Yes, we had already supported your husband with getting his visa and work permit for Germany – and we had found a flat for both of you here in Berlin.
Exactly! And Nenad has been very happy with your service and glad he could recommend you.
Your colleague Miriam told me immediately that she would be happy to help me, and it was “love at first sight”. Getting a job placement with her was very different from what I had experienced with the Federal Employment Agency. Instead of talking endlessly with authorities and filling out questionnaires, she put me in direct contact with my future employer and I could ask them all the questions I wanted.
I am sure Miriam already had some suggestions in mind when she met you…
Miriam advised me to start in a smaller clinic first, so it is easier for me to integrate and learn German as well as all the medical termini! She contacted a small clinic in West Berlin for me, and we had a meeting soon after – me, Miriam, and the head of the hospital. We sat down together and discussed the job, what my expectations are and what the clinic would require of me. My boss then asked me when I wanted to start and I said: Immediately! (laughs)
Do you like your job?
Absolutely! I was a bit nervous in the beginning of course – a new job in a new country, and everything is in German. But I knew that I only needed some time to get used to the new circumstances, and then I would be able to prove what I know and what I can do!
…I am sure it was still difficult in the beginning.
Of course the work flow and how situations are dealt with here are very different from Macedonia. German hospitals have better medical equipment, higher hygienic standards and easier procedures. To be honest – before I started work I was not sure if I could make it. It is so difficult to prove yourself when you have difficulties to communicate in the local language!
I learn so much every day here! This makes me proud and happy. Every day has its new challenges, I really like that. My colleagues and the doctors were a great help in the beginning, and they are still now. We are an international team and my fellow nurses come from all over the world – China, Peru, Bulgaria, Chzech Republic. All of us know exactly how it feels to start in a new place, so we are almost like a family for each other. The patients are from all over the world as well! When there are people from Turkey for example that don’t speak English or German, one of my Turkish colleagues takes over. From what I can tell – I think you can only have good experiences as a nurse here.
How is the support you get from the hospital?
Really good. I remember one situation in the beginning that almost grew over my head. I was alone on shift and had to prepare the equipment for blood sampling, everything had to go very fast. But I didn’t know the names of the medical instruments and where they were stored! One of the doctors quickly helped me and showed me everything, and all went well in the end. This moment gave me great strength and motivation to learn. When you work in a hospital you have to be very fast – a fast learner and a fast worker. This is not a problem if you have good support from your colleagues, and now I know all the medical names and exactly where I find which instrument.
We also have regular classes for medical German that are paid for by the hospital. They have been helping me a lot as well!
Do you have feedback for us as well?
Sometimes I have time to think and then I ask myself: Is this really true? Did this actually happen? I think it doesn’t happen so often that everything comes together at the right time and place. I am very grateful for this. I know I can always ask Start Relocation when I have problems and that they will respond to me super fast and help me whenever they can. Our move to Berlin from Macedonia went very well – without you it would have been very difficult. Finding a job, getting the right permits and all this paperwork done! And the flat market in Berlin is so difficult, we would have never found our current place without you. Relocating is easy when there is somebody helping you through the whole process and who is always there for problems and questions. I am very grateful, because I know that not everybody has the chance to have this.
What do you advise others with the same wish like you?
If you really want to move to Germany, then do it. It’s almost impossible to make mistakes here – people in Berlin are nice and so international! Life here is fast and the people are young. It’s easy to adapt to and integrate into this city.
I hope everyone has the chance like me to succeed here. I hope that everything will work well for others coming here, too. If you work really hard and if you really want something, it will happen. It might not be easy in the beginning, but if you have one goal and one direction then you will succeed – you have to know where you want to go.
In Berlin there are so many possibilities, not only in regard to work. Everyday there are new things to learn, to develop yourself. In Macedonia we also lived in the capital, but it was different there. In Berlin there are always new impulses, new challenges, there is always something going on. If you want to become something or someone, you can just do it. I don’t know why, but I feel relaxed here. I go to the streets in the morning and I feel that I fit. In Macedonia I often felt stressed – life felt more difficult then.
Would you like to find out more about relocating to Germany? Just email us if you have any questions about the immigration process.
Our client Pratiksha came from India almost three years ago. In this interview she talks about German sunsets, Indian childhood teachers and the biggest challenge in her relocation process. She also tells us how she decided to move out of her comfort zone and start a new life in the German capital.
Start Relocation: Hi Pratiksha, nice to see you! And great that you have time for an interview about your relocation to Berlin. Let’s start with where you come from …
Praktisha: I am originally from India. My life journey began at a small town called Kolhapur, situated 380 kms from Mumbai. Basically I come from a small town famous for Red chillies, jaggery and wrestling.
How was your life there?
I am extremely fortunate to be raised in India, where childhood memories are colourful, nurtured with diversity of culture and there are always occasions to celebrate. If I have to limit my words, I would say that India taught me compassion, tolerance and especially the essence of life.
What did you study? / What did you work there?
I did my primary/high schooling in my hometown and then moved to Pune (another major city) to complete my Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. I worked in the mechanical industry for nearly two years.
Why did you decide to come to Berlin?
Moving out of my comfort zone has been always important to me. Germany is known for its amazing technological developments in the automotive/mechanical industry. Coming to Germany for education was a pre-planned decision. I received acceptance letters from a few universities in Berlin.
However, finalising Berlin has a funny story behind it. In high school I was an energetic and talkative kid. My math tutor would always say – “You are crazy my child, you should go to Berlin”. This is a Franz von Suppé quote which he said in a different way to make fun/ scold me at times. Somewhere, in the subconscious mind, I always fancied Berlin. I was aware of the great cultural extravaganza of Berlin. Moreover, I also got admitted in HTW Berlin for Automotive management. This is how I landed up here.
What did you think when relocation became serious, when it was REALLY time to move?
Turning wishes to goals and then achieving those goals is majorly satisfying. When the time came to move – I felt proud of my parents, brothers, family and friends who supported me through the highs and lows. For me, being able to achieve my dreams was a hurdle in itself. I was excited about my future in Germany, but also super proud of my roots and my life that I was leaving behind.
When did you come to Germany and when did you start working at HelloFresh?
I moved to Berlin in October / November 2014. I moved to Berlin to pursue my masters in Automotive Management. I joined HelloFresh SE in February 2016 as a working student for Hellotech. I also completed my master thesis with HelloFresh SE (the Global IT team).
Did you come by yourself or with your family?
I came here by myself and not with family.
Did you get help with the paperwork and the move in general?
I moved to Berlin as a student. I did not take any help with the paper work or general work. I had to do all the paper work in India before relocating as a student.
How was the support of Start Relocation?
I learned about Start Relocation when I got the full time employee contract at HelloFresh SE. Switching from a student visa to a work permit was very challenging.
I had decided to switch from Mechanical to IT. My educational qualifications had a mismatch with the job profile. HelloFresh SE and Start Relocation have taken a lot of effort to get the paperwork cleared. I give all our CTO Nuno Simaria, HR Sarah Rogers and Helen Neumann from Start Relocation for making this happen.
Helen managed to get my paperwork done, she took the appointment for the visa and also accompanied me to the visa office. This process from discussing the full time contract till getting the visa took nearly 4 months. Helen from Start Relocation agency has really been patient with me and handled all my doubts/questions very well. I have troubled her with lot of questions. Thank you Helen! (If you are reading this).
What did you organise yourself and what did Start Relocation/HelloFresh do for you?
For changing my visa to work permit, I have not done a single thing except providing my previous visa details. I did not worry much about this, Helen was amazing at her job 🙂 Start Relocation agency and the HR department have done all the work from scratch
Making appointments at Ausländerbehörde
Getting the paperwork done from the ZAV
Accompanying me to the Visa office to get the work permit.
What was the most stressful part of relocating?
The most stressful part is establishing yourself and adapting to the changes. Personally, there was a huge difference related to the social factors, climatic conditions, lifestyle. I had never travelled to the west before relocating. Basically, the most stressful part is coping up with the nervousness of relocation. The only solution to this is keeping an positive attitude and – go for it!
What was the most funniest?
I come from a tropical country where Sunsets are around 7.00 pm all year round. I arrived to Berlin in winter. Berlin had sunset time around 3.00 pm – 4.00 pm. I found that so funny, because I automatically started being lazy and I never attended any lectures after lunch time. It was funny how the body feels tired automatically after sunset.
It took me two months to cope with this.
Did you have any doubts while moving?
No, I had no doubts while moving. I was prepared or may be confident about the decision I made.
How would you describe what was crucial about the relocation service?
The most crucial thing about relocation service was the smart solutions they provided for each problem that we faced while getting a Work visa. They also took into consideration my individual suggestions, understanding the legal scope of their work and then taking concrete action in acquiring the visa. They have also been considerate enough to approach for help with accommodation.
When did you start to feel home in Berlin?
After moving to the student apartment. I did not have a permanent apartment for two months after moving to Berlin. The day I set up the furniture in my apartment I knew that it was home. Sadly, I have to leave my current apartment by the end of this year. I can always rely on Start Relocation for finding a new home. 🙂
In which district do you live?
I stay in Lichtenberg.
What´s the lifestyle of this place?
The place I stay in is a Student apartment. We have a lot of diversity there, it is also a very calm area. It is not as fancy as Mitte/ Prenzlauer Berg. It is beautiful in its own way. For a person like me who loves to be home in a peaceful location, enjoys strolls in the park with animals around it’s the best place to be in.
What´s extremely different to where you come from?
Climate. I come from a place where 15 degrees celsius temperature was considered to be winter. While in Berlin, that’s the summer. At least this year.
What do like the most about Berlin?
You know the famous quote from Jack Lang “Paris is always Paris but Berlin is never Berlin”. It has been more than 2 years now and I am still exploring the various layers of Berlin. From street art to diverse people. From varying different lifestyles to music & museums. Everything is vivid and crazy. I think that “you don’t move to Berlin, you become Berlin.“
Is there anything you would recommend to people who plan to relocate to Berlin?
Berlin is diverse, and definitely has opportunities for talent. You should definitely start your own story in Berlin, but you need to plan for it. This includes knowing about the job market, housing situation, living expenses. I have experienced the city evolving, adapting to it is the ultimate key.
What is your profession at HelloFresh?
Currently I am 1LQA Manager at HelloFresh SE, I also support my team as QA Engineer. It has been a wonderful experience so far, HelloFresh SE focuses on the individual professional growth along with team progress.
How is your team … how international is it?
HelloFresh SE is very diverse. We have many nationalities. My colleagues are from Turkey, Morocco, South America, United Kingdom, Canada, all around Europe.
Well, interview is finished… You are also happy you can go back to work now?
I am, because it´s always something new.
Thanks for your time, Praktiksha, and sharing your relocation story. It was a pleasure to talk to you!
Would you like to find out more about relocating to Germany? Just email us if you have any questions about the immigration process.