System for the recognition of professional qualifications

Directive 2005/36/EC on the recognition of professional qualifications

It sets up a system for the recognition of professional qualifications in the European Union (EU), which also extends, with certain adaptations, to the other European Economic Area (EEA/EFTA) countries and to Switzerland.

It aims to provide access to labour markets for professionals in other EU countries, further facilitate cross-border service provision and simplify administrative procedures.
It lays down rules on the mutual recognition of professional qualifications between the EU, EEA/EFTA countries and Switzerland.
It introduced a mutual evaluation of national professional regulations and a transparency exercise (i.e. screening the entry restrictions to professions and assessing their necessity).

It also contains ongoing transparency obligations requiring all EU countries to report on the professions they regulate, and to communicate to the European Commission the reasons for considering that existing or new requirements comply with the principles of non-discrimination and proportionality.
It applies to all nationals of EU and EEA/EFTA countries and Switzerland wishing to pursue a regulated profession, either on a self-employed or an employed basis, in a country other than that where they obtained their professional qualifications.

The Commission has published an interactive map of the regulated professions in Europe. These are professions to which access, or the right to practice, depends on having specific qualifications. They also include professions for which the use of a specific title is protected, such as chartered and certified accountants in Ireland.
It does not apply to professions covered by specific directives such as Directive 2006/43/EC on statutory auditors. In the case of lawyers, while their qualifications are covered by Directive 2005/36/EC, they also benefit from two specific directives (77/249/EEC and 98/5/EC) which introduce additional ways for them to provide cross-border services, either temporarily or by establishing themselves permanently in other EU countries.

Temporary mobility

Professionals may provide their services in another EU country on a temporary and occasional basis from their place of establishment in their home country.
The destination country may ask for a prior declaration but they do not have to go through the recognition procedures.
This does not apply to professions that have public health and safety implications, for which EU countries may require prior recognition of their qualification under Article 7(4) of the directive.
Permanent establishment

The directive provides for 3 qualification recognition systems:

1.automatic recognition for professions whose minimum training conditions are harmonised to a certain extent at European level: doctors, nurses responsible for general care, dentists, veterinary surgeons, midwives, pharmacists and architects;

2.automatic recognition for certain occupations based on their professional experience: professionals in crafts, trades and industry;

3.the general system for the abovementioned professions which are not covered by the automatic recognition system is based on the principle of mutual recognition of qualifications.
The general system also applies to the other regulated professions where access is granted to any individual who can demonstrate that he or she is fully qualified in their home country.

However, if the authorities of the host country find significant differences between the training acquired in the individual’s home country and that required for the same activity in their country, they can offer the individual the choice of an adaptation period or an aptitude test. The professional experience of the applicant has to be taken into account when considering the imposition and extent of such compensation measures.

Partial access

The directive introduced the principle of partial access to a profession where the activities covered by a regulated profession differ from one country to another.
This can be useful for professionals working in a genuine sector of the economy that does not exist as a profession in its own right in the EU country to which they wish to move.
Language checks

The directive only allows host countries to carry out systematic language checks for professions that have implications on patient safety.
Language checks should take place only after the host country has recognised the qualification, should be limited to the knowledge of one official or administrative language of the host country and be proportionate to the activity to be pursued.

European professional card (EPC)

The directive as amended by Directive 2013/55/EU (applicable in EU countries from 18 January 2016) provides for the possibility of creation of a European professional card (EPC) for selected professions. This allows professionals to obtain recognition of their qualifications more simply and rapidly through a standardised electronic procedure. The card is based on the use of the internal market information system (IMI) and is issued in the form of an electronic certificate.
The EPC has already been implemented in the first wave for nurses responsible for general care, physiotherapists, pharmacists, mountain guides and real estate agents.

Access to online information and procedures

EU countries must make all information on recognition of qualifications for all regulated professions available through points of single contact.
Professionals should be able to complete the procedures and formalities covered by the directive online through the point of single contact or the competent authorities in charge of the profession.
Assistance centres in each EU country must provide advice and assistance to individual cases.

Implementing and delegated acts

In 2015, the Commission adopted Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/983 which sets out the procedure for:

issuing the EPC; and
applying an alert mechanism introduced by Directive 2005/36/EC that ensures that EU patients and consumers are adequately protected from professionals who have been prohibited or restricted from practising the profession in one country or have used falsified diplomas for their application for the recognition of their qualification.

In 2020, the Commission adopted Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1190 correcting Regulation (EU) 2015/983 and clarifying that the competent authority of the home EU country shall decide whether to extend temporary EPCs issued after the prior check of qualifications under Article 7(4) of the Directive.

The Commission has also adopted Delegated Decisions (EU) 2016/790, (EU) 2017/2113, (EU) 2019/608 and (EU) 2020/548 amending Annex V to Directive 2005/36/EC and updating the list of the evidence of automatically recognised formal qualifications and training courses.

Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/907 establishing a Common Training Test for ski instructors (CTT) created in 2019 an additional and voluntary scheme of automatic recognition for ski instructors across the EU. Ski instructors not covered by the CTT still benefit from the general system for mutual recognition of qualifications set out in the directive.

COVID-19 pandemic

Following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and introducing measures to cope with the impact of the crisis, the Commission adopted a communication containing guidelines on EU emergency assistance on cross-border cooperation in healthcare related to the COVID-19 crisis.


Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications (OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, pp. 22-142)

Successive amendments to Directive 2005/36/EC have been incorporated into the original text. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/983 of 24 June 2015 on the procedure for issuance of the European Professional Card and the application of the alert mechanism pursuant to Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 159, 25.6.2015, pp. 27-42)

See consolidated version.

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2020/1190 of 11 August 2020 correcting Implementing Regulation (EU) 2015/983 on the procedure for issuance of the European Professional Card and the application of the alert mechanism pursuant to Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council (OJ L 262, 12.8.2020, pp. 4-5)

Communication from the Commission — Guidelines on EU Emergency Assistance on Cross-Border Cooperation in Healthcare related to the COVID-19 crisis (OJ C 111 I , 3.4.2020, pp. 1-5)

Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2019/907 of 14 March 2019 establishing a Common Training Test for ski instructors under Article 49b of Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council on the recognition of the professional qualifications (OJ L 145, 4.6.2019, pp. 7-18)

See consolidated version.

Commission Decision 2007/172/EC of 19 March 2007 setting up the group of coordinators for the recognition of professional qualifications (OJ L 79 of 20.3.2007, pp. 38-39)

Directive 98/5/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 16 February 1998 to facilitate practice of the profession of lawyer on a permanent basis in a Member State other than that in which the qualification was obtained (OJ L 77, 14.3.1998, pp. 36-43)

See consolidated version.

Council Directive 77/249/EEC of 22 March 1977 to facilitate the effective exercise by lawyers of freedom to provide services (OJ L 78, 26.3.1977, pp. 17-18)

Proportionality test for new regulation of professions

Directive (EU) 2018/958 — proportionality test before adoption of new regulation of professions

It establishes rules for proportionality assessments to be conducted by EU countries before adopting new professional regulations or amending existing regulations.

It aims to:

prevent undue restrictions on access to or the pursuit of professional activities;
the proper functioning of the internal market.

Regulated professions

The directive applies to new rules in EU countries which restrict access to or the pursuit of regulated professions.
A regulated profession means that the access to or the pursuit of a professional activity or group of professional activities is restricted, by regulation, to people having specific professional qualifications. This also covers the use of professional titles which are restricted to holders of specific qualifications.

Public interest

EU countries must ensure that any new or amending rules are justified and proportionate with regard to public interest objectives recognised by the Court of Justice of the European Union, such as:

public policy, public security or public health;
protecting consumers, the recipients of services, and workers;
safeguarding the effectiveness of fiscal supervision;
combating fraud and preventing tax evasion and avoidance;
protection of the environment.

Assessment of new measures beforehand and monitoring afterwards

EU countries must:

assess the proportionality of a measure before introducing new, or amending existing, legislative, regulatory or administrative rules; and
monitor the compliance of such measures with the principle of proportionality after their adoption.


The assessment must be:

accompanied by a sufficiently detailed explanation which allows for an assessment of whether it complies with the principle of proportionality;
undertaken on the basis of qualitative, and where possible, quantitative evidence;
carried out in an open and objective manner.


In assessing the proportionality of new or amending rules, EU countries must consider a number of proportionality criteria established by the Court of Justice, including:

whether the measure can achieve the public interest objective, and whether that objective is being pursued in a consistent and systematic manner for comparable activities;
whether existing rules, such as product safety law or consumer protection law, are not able to achieve the objective;
the impact on the free movement of persons and services within the EU, on consumer choice and on the quality of the service provided;
whether less restrictive means could achieve the public interest objective;
the effect of new rules when combined with other requirements.


Before introducing new regulations, EU countries must:

make information available to the relevant people concerned; and
must give them the opportunity to make their views known.
The reasons for proportionality need to be recorded in the Regulated Professions Database and made publicly available.


Directive (EU) 2018/958 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 June 2018 on a proportionality test before adoption of new regulation of professions (OJ L 173, 9.7.2018, pp. 25-34)


Directive 2005/36/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 7 September 2005 on the recognition of professional qualifications (OJ L 255, 30.9.2005, pp. 22-142)

Successive amendments to Directive 2005/36/EC have been incorporated into the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.


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