Validating Highly Educated Refugees’ Qualifications

Katarina Mozetič

Forced Migration Review 58, June 2018, pp. 37-39


This article highlights initiatives in Sweden and Norway to streamline procedures for validating refugees’ qualifications. There are lengthy processes for validating foreign qualifications in Norway, Sweden and Germany, which prevent some highly educated refugees from entering the workplace. For occupations regulated by law (e.g. doctors and teachers), refugees need to obtain national licenses, requiring proof of language skills, examinations, supplementary courses, and usually a period of practical training. Many refugees no longer have their original qualifications certificates, which are required to validate their qualifications, and encounter difficulties obtaining new certificates from institutions in their home countries. Sweden and Norway have introduced initiatives to streamline the process of validating foreign qualifications.

  • In Sweden, fast-track programs have been established for occupations with labor shortages (chefs, teachers, social workers), which enable refugees to undertake Swedish language courses, internships and supplementary theoretical courses in parallel to reduce the time to obtain a license.
  • The Norwegian Agency for Quality Assurance in Education (NOKUT) developed a Recognition Procedure for Persons without Verifiable Documentation (i.e. missing, insufficient or unverifiable documentation), which includes input by NOKUT employees with knowledge about the educational system in the applicant’s country of origin and two external experts with subject-specific expertise. An applicant’s educational background is verified through a questionnaire, interview and oral/written assignments relating to the applicant’s field of expertise. Similar procedures exist in Sweden.
  • Due to the increasing number of refugees, NOKUT has developed a faster, cheaper evaluation procedure for those without verifiable documentation, combining an evaluation of available documentation and a structured interview carried out by an experienced NOKUT case officer.