As a result of the war in Ukraine, many Ukrainian nationals are currently arriving in Germany. For these people, the legal opportunity to work is often an essential concern. This applies not only to the theoretical matter of work permits but also to very practical questions, such as the recognition of training and university degrees. In the following, we will answer these important questions in order to give a rough overview of the possibilities for Ukrainian citizens in Germany.
Am I allowed to enter Germany as a Ukrainian citizen?
Ukrainian citizens can enter Germany without a visa, as Ukrainians generally enjoy the Schengen freedom of movement. The only requirement for this is a biometric passport. Without such a passport, the only possibility to enter Germany is an application for a humanitarian exemption. However, in practice there are currently no border controls.
Am I allowed to reside in Germany as a Ukrainian?
Foreigners generally need a so-called “residence title” to live in Germany. For the first 90 days of residence, Ukrainians are subject to the Schengen freedom of movement. After these first 90 days, a corresponding residence title must be applied for at the authorities (if necessary with the help of an immigration lawyer). However, in light of the current crisis situation, the Federal Ministry of the Interior (“Bundesministerium des Innern und für Heimat” (BMI)) has issued an exception to this rule in order to enable Ukrainian protection seekers to enter the country without complications and to make the administrative process manageable. According to § 2 UkraineAufenthÜV, all foreigners who were in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, and then entered German territory by May 23, 2022, are now exempt from the requirement of a residence title.
Am I allowed to work in Germany without a residence title?
As long as you have not been granted a residence title, you are not allowed to work. Nevertheless, the residence title provided by the government generally provides for an unrestricted possibility of gainful employment. This also applies to all self-employed activities. Working without a residence title is a misdemeanor that can have considerable consequences in regard to the residence law.
Where can I get a residence permit as a Ukrainian?
Residence permits are regularly applied for at the immigration authority (“Ausländerbehörde”). The responsibility of the immigration authority depends on the place of residence. In practice, the registration of an apartment or accommodation at the responsible municipality or city leads to the fact that they pass on the relevant data to the immigration authority, which then sends the application forms to the Ukrainian citizen in Germany.
Which residence title do I need as a Ukrainian citizen?
With the expiry of the UkraineAufenthÜV on May 23, 2022, every Ukrainian will need a residence title for legal residence in Germany. This raises the questions for which title Ukrainian citizens should apply. The answer to this depends on the individual case and cannot be answered in a general way.
Asylum and subsidiary protection for people from Ukraine
First of all, in the case of Ukrainian nationals, it is definitely not advisable to apply for asylum or subsidiary protection at the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (“Bundesamt für Migration und Flüchtlinge” (BAMF)). These titles are accompanied by massive restrictions on freedom (obligation to live in an initial reception facility, residence obligation, residence assignment) and usually also prohibit the gainful employment necessary to secure a livelihood. If asylum has already been applied for, consultation with a lawyer is recommended in order to possibly negotiate a subsequent change of title with the immigration authority.
Residence permit according to the so-called mass influx directive
In practice, the authorities have started to automatically send out applications according to section 24 of the German Residence Act (“Aufenthaltsgesetz” (AufenthG)) as soon as they are notified. Section 24 of the Residence Act is, like asylum, a humanitarian residence title, but without the numerous restrictions of the Asylum Act. The norm was put into force by the European implementing decision 2022/382 of the Council of March 04, 2022, which activated the so-called mass influx directive (“Massenzustromsrichtlinie”), which provides for admission according to section 24 of the Residence Act. A title according to section 24 of the Residence Act allows both dependent and self-employed gainful employment.
Immigration of skilled workers from Ukraine
Even though a residence permit pursuant to section 24 of the Residence Act basically allows gainful employment and, compared to asylum, comes without restrictions on freedom, it nevertheless has serious disadvantages compared to the residence titles for highly qualified persons. For example, the EU Blue Card entails considerable privileges with regard to freedom of movement, family reunification, settlement permits, and naturalization. This applies not only to the purely legal possibilities but unfortunately also to the actual work speed of the authorities.
Choosing the right residence title is not just a formality, as the residence titles are mutually exclusive to prevent abuse. In practice, this means: Anyone who holds a humanitarian residence title (for example, under section 24 of the Residence Act) is “blocked” for the EU Blue Card. Thus, anyone who fills out the application under section 24 of the Residence Act can no longer apply for skilled immigration at a later date. Although the BMI has addressed this problem in an authority instruction dated March 14, 2022, it remains to be seen how the judiciary will deal with the situation. Therefore, if there is an entitlement to the titles for skilled workers, this should definitely be applied for as a matter of priority. In unclear cases, an immigration lawyer should clarify beforehand whether there is a corresponding claim.
How to get a residence permit for skilled workers and especially the EU Blue Card?
Of course, the question arises how Ukrainian citizens can obtain the EU Blue Card or other titles for the immigration of skilled workers. The common feature of the titles for the immigration of skilled workers is the existence of a recognized completed education or university studies and a concrete job offer.
Recognized training or recognized university studies
The training or university studies must be recognized in Germany. Recognition is regularly carried out by the Central Office for Foreign Education (“Zentralstelle für ausländisches Bildungswesen” (ZAB)) of the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (“Kultusministerkonferenz” (KMK)). The ZAB operates a publicly viewable central database (anabin.kmk.org) for university degrees. If the university degree at a specific university is entered in this database, it can be assumed that the degree will also be recognized. If the specific university degree is not entered in anabin, this does not mean that it will not be recognized, but only that the recognition must be carried out manually. In this case, a corresponding “certificate evaluation” must be carried out at the ZAB. Certificate evaluations for the EU Blue Card are given priority at the recognition office, cost about 200,00 Euros, and take about three weeks. The documents to be submitted are listed on the ZAB website and vary according to nationality.
In the case of a completed apprenticeship, the procedure is slightly different. Although the Federal Institute for Vocational Education and Training (“Bundesinstitut für Berufsbildung” (BIBB)) maintains a list of recognized training occupations, this does not conclusively clarify the necessary comparability of qualifications. Rather, in the case of so-called regulated occupations, a specific recognition procedure must be completed. The federal government has set up its own information portal for this purpose (anerkennung-in-deutschland.de).
Particular job offer
If the formal requirements for the immigration of skilled workers are met, a corresponding job offer is required. In concrete terms, this means that employment may only take place in the field in which the university degree or apprenticeship was completed. This requirement is handled generously by the authorities (for example, a doctor may also work as a pharmacist or a tax consultant as a banker), but the desired employment may not be completely unrelated to the subject. In practice, this sometimes leads to disputes with the immigration authorities. However, these conflicts can regularly be settled with the help of a lawyer for immigration law.
There is a whole range of other requirements, but these can usually be met with a completed degree and a corresponding job offer, even under more difficult conditions.
What happens after that?
In the long term, the immigration titles for skilled workers, and especially the EU Blue Card, open up a whole range of possibilities for Ukrainian citizens. For example, it is possible for skilled workers to apply for an unlimited settlement permit after just four years. In the case of the EU Blue Card, this period can even be shortened to up to 21 months if appropriate language skills are available. The EU Blue Card then also allows naturalization and mobility throughout the European Union via the EU permanent residence (“Daueraufenthalt-EU”).
In conclusion, taking into account the current situation, if a qualified training or university degree is available, it is recommended to have the degrees recognized in Germany as soon as possible. At the same time, an integration and language course should be attended and employment sought. If there is no prospect of employment or recognition of the qualifications when the UkraineAufenthÜV expires on 23.05.2022, an application for humanitarian protection in accordance with section 24 of the Residence Act can still be submitted to the foreigners authority at the place of residence.