As a German Jobs Advisor, I work a lot with international doctors who want to work in Germany. I first met Ana, a Russian physician, when we went together to the Foreign Office in Germany to apply for her Blue Card. We had already been in close contact for a couple of months and had shared the excitement and anxious waiting that accompanies the huge step of building a new life in another country. I guided her through making all the necessary applications and arrangements. Here is a summary of the most important things everyone who wants to work in Germany as a doctor should do:
1. Choose 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 didn’t pose a great difficulty. When we spoke, her first question was a natural one: “I have been to Potsdam, near 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 up, 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 has already had a job offer in a hospital in Potsdam, I guided her through the application for the Blue Card – a prestigious work permit for highly qualified professionals. In her case, this entailed communicating with the Federal Employment Agency, translating necessary documents and preparing for her appointment at the consulate.
2. Apply for a medical license.
Doctors however, need something more than ‘just’ a valid work permit. The ‘Approbation’ is needed as well. This is the license issued by the German state that permits doctors to work in their profession. It is valid across Germany and lasts a lifetime. There are some requirements attached to getting it, so Ana decided to take a course in medical German to reach the necessary C1 level (for normal, everyday German, B2 is sufficient). With a Russian diploma in medicine however, obtaining an Approbation takes longer. This goes for all medical diplomas that were issued in non-European countries and is due to the lengthy evaluation of the academic qualification.
As Ana had already signed her work contract, she wanted to start work quickly. But she was probably going to have to wait a long time for her Approbation to be approved, and she couldn’t start work without a license. She therefore decided to also apply for the ‘Berufserlaubnis’ (temporary medical licence). This is only an option for candidates with a definite job offer. The temporary medical license is valid for one to two years and is linked to the federal state in which it was issued. Because Germany is a federal republic each state has its own office and its own rules. Applying to the federal state in which you will work is therefore absolutely necessary!
3. Spezialize in Germany as a ‘Facharzt’.
With my help, Ana prepared the required documents and received the temporary permit in no time. She moved to Potsdam and had her first weeks as an assistant doctor in the midst of the city – intensive and challenging, but utterly rewarding. Some time after, she contacted me again with a wish that had been on her mind for a while. Ana wanted to progress professionally and wanted to be a ‘Facharzt’ (specialist) in the medical field she had majored. This usually entails a higher salary and greater responsibility. She asked me: “But could I start this process when I still don’t have my Approbation but only my Berufserlaubnis?”. This is of course possible, no need to worry about that!
Receiving the title of Facharzt will take several years (depending on the medical field you choose) but can be started while you have your temporary medical license – actually it is better to be proactive and start as soon as possible! Ana could start to do her ‘Assistenzarzt in Weiterbildung’ in the same hospital. She started with the common trunk in the ‘Innere Medizin’ and was very happy here as she learned a lot in a short time and would move closer to her goal: being a ‘Chirurg’ (surgeon) in Germany.
4. Start a new life.
When Ana and I met several weeks after her arrival, for her final appointment at the Foreign Office, she was already deeply immersed in her new life and told me about all the changes since we last spoke. With her Berufserlaubnis and Blue Card in hand, and her Approbation and specialization on the way, she was all set for a new adventure that may very well last a lifetime.