The Qualifications Directive requires the EU Member States to establish a procedure to examine and recognise professional qualifications. The host state must compare the migrant’s qualifications and abilities with those required by the national system.

It allows the application of compensatory measures by the host state if there are substantial differences between the training acquired by the migrant and the training required by the host.  The compensatory measures may take the form of an adaption period or an aptitude test. The choice is generally up to the migrant unless specific derogations exist.

If the comparison reveals that the holder has knowledge and qualifications identical or, at least, equivalent to the national qualification, the host state is obliged to recognise the qualification.  If the comparison reveals the applicant only partly fulfils the necessary qualifications, the host member state can require compensatory tests or training to demonstrate he has acquired the relevant knowledge and qualifications.

Where access to a regulated profession requires completion of a professional traineeship, the competent authority must recognise professional traineeships carried out in another Member State (provided that the traineeship is in accordance with published guidelines) when considering an application for recognition of a professional qualification. There is an obligation on competent authorities to publish guidelines on and recognition of professional traineeships carried out in another Member State, or in a State other than a Member State.

General Systems of Recognition of Qualifications

The general system of recognition applies on a fall-back basis to all professions not covered by specific rules on recognition.  The system is based on mutual recognition of qualifications by the EU Member States.

Where access to a profession is regulated in the host state (i.e. subject to requirements for qualifications) the regulatory body in the host state must allow pursuit of the profession under the same conditions as for nationals provided the applicant holds qualifications obtained in the home member state which shows a level of training at least equivalent to the level required in the host state.

There are five levels of qualification ranging from attestation of competence through to university degrees and completed professional training.

  • an attestation of competence which corresponds to general primary or secondary education or
  • an attestation of competence issued by an authority in the home States on the basis of a training course not forming part of a certificate or diploma;
  • a certificate which corresponds to training at the secondary level of a technical and professional nature or which is general in character and supplemented by a professional course;
  • a diploma certifying successful completion of training at the post-secondary level of at least one-year duration or comparable professional training;
  • a diploma certifying the successful completion of training at the university level of a duration of at least three years and less than four years;

Compensatory Measures

The host state may make recognition of the qualification subject to the applicant completing compensatory measures if

  • the training is one year shorter than required by the host Member State or
  • the training covers substantially different matters to that covered by the evidence of formal training required in the host Member State or
  • the profession as defined in the host Member State comprises one or more regulated professional activities which do not exist in the corresponding profession in the applicant’s home State and the difference consists of specific training which covers different matters from those covered by the migrant.

Aptitude tests or adaptation periods of up to three years may be required if the training is one year shorter than that required in the host state, if the training received covers substantially different matters from that in the host state, or if the profession in the host state comprises one or more regulated professional activities which do not exist in the corresponding profession in the applicant’s home state and the difference consists of specific training which covers substantially different matters than those completed by the migrant.

The host Member State must generally offer the applicant a choice between an adaption and aptitude test.  Host Member States can vary this requirement with the EU Commission’s consent.

Procedures for Recognition

An individual application must be made to the regulatory authority in the host state accompanied by the required documents and certificates. The competent authority has one month to acknowledge receipt and draw attention to any missing documents.  A decision must be taken within three months of the date on which the application was received.

Member states are to make available all information about the recognition of qualifications including a list of competent authorities and documents required through the national single points of contact created under the Services Directive. Professionals must be given the possibility of completing recognition procedures online. The national point of contact is to provide advice and assistance in individual cases.

In cases where services are provided under the professional qualification of the Member State of establishment, the regulatory authority in the host State may require the service providers to furnish the recipient of the service with certain information including information regarding insurance cover and professional liabilities.

Evidence Required

The host Member State may require that the service provider makes a declaration prior to providing any services and renew it annually. The host country may also require that the application is accompanied by certain documents listed in the Directive such as proof of nationality, legal establishment, indemnity insurance and professional qualification.

If the host Member State requires registration with a professional association, this must occur once the relevant authority receives a declaration with the applicant’s file. For professionals whose role has health or safety implications, the host Member State may carry out a prior check of the service providers professional qualifications.

Member States may require migrants to have knowledge of languages necessary for practising the profession.   The evaluation of language skills is separate from recognition of professional qualifications.   It must take place after recognition of an actual access to the profession is sought.

Decision and Appeal

EU member states are obliged to give reasons for decisions in the area of mutual recognition of qualifications, so that European Commission and in the event of a dispute, the European Courts, can verify their compatibility with European law.

Most decisions of the competent authority in relation to the recognition of qualifications may be appealed. The person concerned may appeal to the High Court not later than 42 days from the date of the notice of that decision or the expiry of the period within which the decision or acknowledgement should have been made. In this regard, the decision of the High Court is final and conclusive.

The competent authority may reverse a decision to recognise evidence of professional qualification where it is satisfied that information on which the competent authority relied on in order to make the decision was not correct. Where the competent authority proposes to reverse a decision, it must provide the person concerned with notice in writing stating the intention to reverse the decision and the reason for this, identify the incorrect information pertaining to the decision and invite the person to make representations within a period of two weeks from the date of the notice.

The competent authority will consider any representations made and if it remains of the view that the decision should be reversed, then the competent authority may provide the person concerned with notice in writing reversing the decision and provide the reasons for the reversal. The competent authority must also inform the individual of their right to appeal.

EU States Co-operation

The authorities in the Member States are required to exchange information as necessary for complaints by a recipient of a service against the service provider to be pursued. The host Member State can ask the Member State of establishment for information regarding a service provider’s legal status and freedom from penalties.

The Directive provides for representative associations at both national and EU level to establish common platforms to determine measures to compensate for substantial differences identified between the requirements of different Member States.  The purpose is to make recognition of professional qualification easier.

The EU Commission may submit implementing measures to the Member States. Once they are in place the Member State must waive the imposition of compensatory measures on applicants who meet the relevant conditions.

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