Förderprogramm "Integration durch Qualifizierung IQ"

FAQ – Placement Agencies

What are placement agencies?

Placement agencies bring together applicants and employers (companies) and place workers (also from abroad).

There are different types of placements:

  1. Simple placement
  2. Placement on behalf of employers who require employees with specific qualifications and specialist skills (headhunters),
  3. Placement and support of the entire process of recruitment, employment and termination of the employment relationship as well as other additional services.
What services do placement agencies offer?

Placement agencies offer a job offer or an employment contract in Germany on behalf of companies looking for workers. They place workers with companies. Sometimes they also offer support in finding accommodation, registering with the authorities and arranging language courses both in the home country for preparation as well as in Germany. They can also help with the recognition of professional qualifications acquired abroad.

In the preparation phase, the agencies organise health tests, the preparation of visa applications, the organisation of integration courses and language courses or the examination of language skills at B1-B2 level. They arrange online interviews with potential employers and prepare candidates for knowledge tests or adaptation courses for the recognition of professional qualifications.

Some agencies offer additional services like translations, travel and health insurance before entering Germany, or a pick-up service from the airport. These services can be charged to both applicants and clients. You may have to pay both the agency as well as the employer for a service.

Please note: placement agencies almost always charge a fee. You only have to pay the fee once you have signed an employment contract.

Please note: an employment contract is no guarantee for a visa.   

The placement agency must provide you with a placement contract. This will tell you how much you have to pay in fees and what the agency does in return. Additional services provided by the placement agency often have to be paid for separately.

Sometimes it seems as if the placement agencies offer all services free of charge, even a free language course. This can be misleading. This is because the placement agencies pre-finance these services and later reclaim the money from your employer. Sometimes the agencies receive their pre-financing from the companies, depending on the duration of your employment with the company. For example, through monthly payments in the first three years of your employment. That can be a problem if you don't stay with the company for three years and the placement agencies don't get their pre-financing back. Then they can claim the money from you.

How can you recognise a reputable placement agency?

There is no general office or authority that inspects placement agencies. However, there is a seal of quality for placement agencies in the care sector: “Faire Anwerbung Pflege Deutschland” (Fair recruitment for care in Germany). Companies that have this seal are ones with good working conditions, including for foreign skilled workers.

But you can also protect yourself from dubious agencies by keeping these things in mind:

  • Always read the contract very carefully.
  • The contract must clearly state which services the agency has to provide. It should be clear what will really be done. The obligations of the placement agencies are often formulated in very general and non-binding terms. For example, it often doesn’t say that the placement agency will provide you with a flat, but that the placement agency will only support you in looking for a flat. This could mean simply showing you a list of flat adverts.

The risks should also be clearly explained in the contract: For example, what happens if you terminate your employment or fail a language test. In most cases, the placement contract contains services that you have to provide. Such as regular participation in a language course, including passing the final exam; the translation of all documents (which are necessary for recognising the profession); timely application for the VISA to start work in the company. It is often absolutely mandatory to adhere to the contract duration.

There is a risk that you will not be able to meet all obligations. The agency can then demand a penalty payment. But only if this penalty is also stated in the contract.

Please note:

  1. The contract may stipulate that the employee is bound to an employment relationship. This may be agreed if the employer pays for further training for you and releases you from work for this time. It is also possible that the placement agency pays for the training for you and wants the money from you later.
  2. You are responsible for official fees, for example for a visa or a notice of recognition (you are liable for the fees). If the placement agency has promised to pay your fees but doesn’t, you will have to pay these fees yourself.
  3. Sometimes accommodation is linked to the contracts. The rent for the official accommodation might be deducted from your salary and you might have to pay a very high rent. If the contract is terminated, you may lose your accommodation very quickly.

You should not only receive the placement contract in German, but also in your native language or in English.

Please note: the placement agency is not allowed to keep your passport or original work documents. If the agency tries to keep these documents or demands them, then directly contact your advice centre and the police.


What does this mean for your employment contract?

You conclude your employment contract with the company. You conclude the placement contract with the placement agency. If you breach the placement contract, for example if you don’t take part in the language course or lessons, this can have consequences. It could mean that you can’t be deployed as planned in the placement contract. If you concluded the employment contract in your home country (abroad), it must not be changed at a later date. A one-sided change is only possible for your employer if he/she issues a notice of amendment (Änderungskündigung). However, you and the employer can jointly agree on an amendment contract. This is only possible if both sides agree.

Can the agency give you a contractual penalty?

Agreeing contractual penalties in contracts is generally permitted. The contractual partner can then demand the money from you if you do not fulfil all the agreed obligations. Sometimes, however, these agreements are ineffective or the penalty is far too high. In this case, you should definitely seek advice.