Recognition of professional qualifications

The recognition of professional qualifications complements the principle of free movement of persons. It facilitates the pursuit and take-up of work as an employee or self-employed person in regulated professions.

The EEA states have primary competence for education and training. However, national regulations that only recognise professional qualifications from a particular State create obstacles for individuals with qualifications from other EEA States. The EEA Agreement provides for a mechanism for the recognition of professional qualifications and facilitation of administrative procedures.

This recognition system does not concern academic titles. This lies within the competence of the EEA States, where the universities, which are autonomous institutions, are responsible for the awarding of diplomas and certificates to students (so-called NARIC centres).

Recognition mechanism

The Directive on the recognition of professional qualifications 2005/36 entered into force in the EEA on 1 July 2009. This Directive has been amended through Directive 2013/55, which entered into force in the EEA on 1 January 2019.
The consolidated version of Directive 2005/36 can be consulted here. 

Directive 2005/36 codifies previous Directives on mutual recognition, incorporates case law and introduces a number of new aspects, including simpler conditions for the cross-border provision of services. The main elements of the recognition mechanism are:

  • Sectoral recognition system: based on harmonisation of training requirements, allowing for automatic recognition of professional qualifications for doctors, nurses, dentists, midwives, veterinary surgeons, pharmacists and architects.
  • Professional experience for professions in the craft, commerce and industry sectors, also allowing for automatic recognition.
  • General recognition system: applies to all other professions and requires that where there is a substantial difference in education, the host state may require compensation measures, such as an examination or a training period.
  • Specific Directives have been adopted for the legal profession, for self-employed commercial agents, and for activities in the fields of commerce and distribution of toxic substances.

The most important changes of Directive 2013/55 to Directive 2005/36 resulted in

  • Alert mechanism: To strengthen the protection of patients and consumers, an alert mechanism for education and health professions was introduced. It obliges the competent authority of the home EEA State to inform the competent authorities of all other EEA States via IMI of any identified professional from these specific sectors who has been – temporarily or permanently – suspended or prohibited from practising his or her professional activity or who has made use of falsified documents.
  • European Professional Card (“EPC”): The EPC is an electronic certificate to allow the cardholder to obtain the recognition of their qualifications in a simplified and accelerated manner. In particular, this electronic certificate will be exchanged between competent national authorities through IMI. The competent authority of the home EEA State will communicate any requisite information about the professional at stake to the competent authority of the host EEA State via IMI, thereby significantly reducing the administrative burden and costs for professionals.
  • Mutual evaluation of regulated professions: in order to limit as much as possible the number of regulated professions, EEA States will have to provide a detailed list of the professions that are regulated and the activities that are exclusively reserved to these professionals, as well as to justify the need to regulate these professions.
  • Language skills: the host EEA State can only verify the language skills of the applicant once it has recognised their professional qualification, although this can take place before the professional accesses the profession. Language tests – which must be proportionate to the activity pursued and free of charge for the professional – must be limited to the knowledge of only one official language of the host EEA State, the choice of which is left to the person concerned in case of multilingual Member States.

Relevant links

Other EEA Institutions

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