Requirements, procedures and required documents of the EU Blue Card work and residence permit as an option for Chinese professionals

Are you considering emigrating to Germany? For our Chinese customers, the EU Blue Card is the quickest route when immigrating to Germany as a professional. For our German customers, the EU Blue Card is a very profitable option for bringing professionals from their Chinese branches to Germany.

What are the requirements for applying for an EU Blue Card? What documents need to be prepared? Let's dig a little deeper! Please note that German states can differ in the interpretation and implementation of regulations and laws.

1. What is the EU Blue Card?

The EU Blue Card is a work and residence permit that was introduced in Germany on August 1, 2012, to attract highly qualified personnel from outside the EU to work and live in Germany. Blue Card holders can apply for permanent residence in Germany if they have already worked in Germany for 21 months (B1 level German) or 33 months (A1 level German) if the relevant requirements are met. If the other requirements for naturalization are met, the Blue Card holder can also apply for German citizenship. The length of stay in Germany and other EU member states is considered.

2. What are the requirements for applying for an EU Blue Card?

In order to receive an EU Blue Card, the applicant should meet certain requirements: The employer must be a company registered in Germany. The applicant must have a German university degree or a foreign degree that is equivalent to a German university degree. You can check whether your foreign university degree is equivalent to a German university degree in ANABIN, the online database of the Central Office for the Examination and Evaluation of Professional Qualifications (Zentralstelle für die Prüfung und Bewertung von Berufsabschlüssen, ZAB) of the Federal Foreign Office in Germany. If you cannot find your university and field of study in the ANABIN database, you should contact the ZAB to have the university degree obtained in China evaluated.

With the implementation of the European Blue Card Directive 2021/1883 in German law, the migration opportunities with Blue Card EU have changed and are partly relieved. The changes have been gradually applied since 18. November 2023. However, these changes require certain adjustments by the German authorities. It is possible that the regulations will only come into actual application later.

Initially, the content of your new job should match your educational background and professional experience. Your annual salary before taxes should be at least €45.300 (as of 2024). Young professionals who have received their university degree in the last three years should have an annual salary before taxes of €41.041,80.  IT professionals without a university degree could now get a Blue Card EU if they could prove three years of comparable professional experience. Their yearly salary should also be €41.041,80€ before tax. Professionals in the fields where a shortage in the workforce in Germany exists, for example  mathematics, computer science, natural sciences, engineering, and human medicine should have an annual salary before taxes of at least €41.041,80 (as of 2024). The list of jobs with workforce shortages is with the implementation of the EU Directive extended. In the latter case, written consent from the Federal Employment Agency (Bundesagentur für Arbeit, BA) is required. Please note that the required salary varies from state to state and is adjusted annually.

3. What is a pre-screening and what documents and information should I be able to provide?

Before applying for the EU Blue Card, a pre-check should be carried out to analyze whether the EU Blue Card application process could be successful in your case. The following documents are primarily required from the applicant:

  • CV
  • University diplomas (usually four-year bachelor's degree required from Chinese applicants)
  • Job description and position and, if applicable, job references from current employment in China

4. Do I need academic recognition?

If the result of the preliminary check is positive (i.e., receipt of the EU Blue Card is realistic), but you cannot find your university and your field of study in the ANABIN database, then your Chinese university degree would usually also have to be recognized here, which can be done through the recognition procedure (ZAB).

5. What documents do I need to apply for an EU Blue Card?

The application can be made using the standard procedure, or you can choose the accelerated application via the accelerated immigration procedure for professionals at the local immigration office. In both cases, the following documents (and the corresponding application documents from the authorities) would have to be prepared by the applicant in advance:

  • Scanned copies of the first page of the applicant's passport
  • Children's, marriage and birth certificates certified and legalized in China, and scanned copies of the first page of spouse's and children's passports if a family reunification visa for spouse and children is planned
  • University diplomas certified and legalized in China, transcripts from your university in China (courses and score for each course) – This procedure could become more accessible in the future. China has ratified the Apostille Convention. The Convention has been applied since November 7th, 2023. You will find more information about the Apostille Convention in our Article (in German): "China ist dem Haager Apostille-Übereinkommen beigetreten"
  • Your address in China
  • Confirmation of recognition of your university degree issued by (ZAB) (if this is necessary)
  • Power of attorney
  • German employment contract
  • CV
  • References from China

6. Brief description of the standard application procedure

Within the standard application procedure, the applicant would contact the relevant German embassy in Beijing (depending on the applicant's place of residence) on-site in China - we are talking about Beijing here as an example - and hand in all the application documents there. However, as mentioned above in point 4, if needed in this case, it would be necessary to go through the ZAB recognition procedure (approximately eight weeks).

The standard application process should usually take three months if the documents are complete. After the D visa has been issued (valid for three months, similar to the Schengen visa), you can enter Germany and then register with the registration office (as a rule you should be able to present a rental agreement), and then convert the visa into a German residence permit (Blue Card EU). If there is also family reunification, then the German immigration authorities will be independently contacted by the German embassy/consulate in China regarding the valid marriage certificate, and birth certificate (should first be certified and legalized in China, then translated into German or English, please check the new regulations that are subject to the Apostille Convention). The immigration authorities in Germany then check these factors. That is, the marriage and birth certificates etc. would have to be submitted in China first. Since the circumstances of the applicants are different, the immigration authorities in Germany and the German embassy in China will weigh up whether a main application is first made only for the EU Blue Card for the employee and then perhaps only after the D visa has been granted to the applicant, an application for family reunification for spouses and children is made (it applies the same free compulsory schooling to children of EU Blue Card holders as to native children in Germany).

7. Brief description of the accelerated immigration procedure for professionals - using Beijing as an example

The accelerated immigration procedure for professionals („Beschleunigtes Fachkräfteeinwanderungsverfahren“), which is applied for by the German employer, is explained in more detail below. For this, the German employer would first have to apply for preliminary approval (validity: three months) for the accelerated immigration procedure for professionals at the local foreign authority (the foreign authority, „örtliche Ausländerbehörde“, takes over the processing, usually together with the employment office, „Arbeitsamt“) in Germany.

With the pre-approval, an appointment at the German embassy/consulate in China, Beijing - here we also take the example of an applicant from Beijing - can be booked (you should be able to get the appointment within three weeks) to apply for the D visa. After entering Germany, you will be registered with the registration office (often you should be able to present a rental agreement), and the D visa, also for family reunification, will be converted into a German residence permit (Blue Card EU) at the local immigration office.

8. What application fees do I have to pay?

Official fees are incurred in China and Germany, such as visa fees for the German embassy/consulate in China, notary fees for the certification and legalization of the Chinese university degree, and the Chinese birth and marriage certificate in China (if family reunification is involved), still, please have a look on the changes that are subject to the Apostille Convention, additionally there are fees for the foreign authority regarding the pre-approval (if the accelerated professional immigration procedure is applied) and the recognition of the Chinese degree (if a recognition procedure of a Chinese university degree is required) as well as fees for the conversion of the D visa into a German residence permit (Blue Card EU) and the residence permit for family reunification. However, the legalization process of Chinese university degrees, Chinese birth certificates, and marriage certificates could become much easier after the ratification of the Apostille Convention.

9. How long does it take to get an EU Blue Card?

The processing time varies from case to case, depending on the applicant's situation. We recommend that you start preparing your documents as early as possible. These include, for example, the duration of the ZAB recognition procedure (approx. eight weeks), the preliminary approval at the immigration authorities (approx. three weeks) and the application at the German embassy in Beijing (approx. three to four weeks).

Normal procedure: usually a few months to a year

Expedited process for professionals: three to five months, in some cases longer

10. Validity of the EU Blue Card

For a maximum of four years when first issued. If the employment contract lasts less than four years, you will receive the EU Blue Card for the duration of the employment contract plus three months.

11. Benefits

You do not have to present a German language certificate to apply for the EU Blue Card. If you have received an EU Blue Card and have already worked in Germany for 33 months, you can apply for a settlement permit in Germany, similar to the Green Card. If you have German language skills at level B1, you can apply for a settlement permit in Germany after just 21 months. After receiving your EU Blue Card, you can stay in a third country, such as China, for up to twelve months. If you apply for a residence permit for your spouse and children on the basis of family reunification in Germany, your spouse does not have to prove German language skills at level A1. Your spouse can get a work permit immediately after entering Germany, and there are no restrictions on the work they can do. You are insured in German statutory health insurance, and your entire family is entitled to health insurance benefits. You can apply for a child allowance of €250 per month/child for your children.

Privileged family reunification is possible for individuals with a Blue Card EU if they lived in another member state of the European Union before. If family members are subject to visa requirements, it is possible to enter Germany with the residence permit issued in the previous member state together with the Blue Card EU holder without having to undergo the visa procedure beforehand.

Our services

Our bdp business and legal teams in China and Germany offer a comprehensive service package tailored to your needs. Our services include:

  • Analysis of the feasibility of applying for an EU Blue Card
  • Visa application for family reunification (if necessary)
  • Application preparation in GER and CN
  • Preparation of application documents in GER with ENG translation
  • Recognition procedure of your Chinese university degree (ZAB) (if necessary)
  • Accelerated professional immigration procedure: Application for pre-approval at the local immigration office in Germany
  • Job description, employment contract creation, review, and adjustment
  • Effective communication and coordination between you, GER, CN, the immigration office, and the employment office to ensure that the application process is completed successfully.

In addition, we offer our customers the following services on request:

  • We will help you to book an appointment at the relevant German embassy/consulate in China - depending on where the applicant resides.
  • We will accompany you to the local immigration office to convert the D visa and visa for family reunification into a German residence permit (Blue Card EU)
  • We accompany you with the application for a registration certificate, help you to open a bank account in Germany, and support you in finding kindergartens, finding accommodation, signing rental contracts, renewing your driver's license, etc., in Germany.
  • We support the German employer in applying for the social security number, personal tax number, health insurance, and health insurance card for the applicant in Germany.

If you have any further questions about applying for the EU Blue Card, please do not hesitate to contact us.

 Further information

By: Sara Zimmermann (Senior Consultant), Fang Fang (Partner at bdp China), Translation: Qian Li (Consultant), Double-check: Hong Lang (Business Development Manager)