Gewerbeerlaubnis: Do I need a licence for my business in Germany?

updated on 4. January 2023 22 minutes reading time
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In general, there is Gewerbefreiheit (freedom of trade) in Germany. This means that people setting up businesses in most industries/trades don’t need a permit or authorisation. However, there are some exceptions for which you need a “Gewerbeerlaubnis” (business licence).

 

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Andreas Munck

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Got questions about setting up a business in Germany?

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years experience

Hi, I’m Andreas and I’ve been advising businesses in Germany for over a decade. I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions you have in a one-on-one consultation.

 

What is a Gewerbeerlaubnis?

In Germany, you usually only need a “Gewerbeanzeige” (this roughly translates to “trading notification”) to pursue a trade. The term roughly means to notify the authorities of your business – that is, to register your commercial trade activities.

However, for some professions, you need a “Gewerbeerlaubnis” (trade licence) as well. The permit is a check of someone’s qualifications and personal and spatial eligibility.

If you need a special licence for your profession, the application has to be an attachment to your “Gewerbeanmeldung” (business/trade registration).

 

Who needs a Gewerbeerlaubnis (business licence)

Not everyone is free to pursue any trade in Germany (despite the Gewerbefreiheit or freedom of trade). Depending on the business, you may need a Gewerbeerlaubnis (trade licence), which is issued by an authority. Below you will find a list of the fields of activity for which you need a Gewerbeerlaubnis and where you can obtain one in each case.

NB: The following list is not exhaustive. Before pursuing a particular trade, it is essential to find out from the authorities exactly which licences, permits or permissions you need to get.

Beruf
(Occupation)
Benötigte Erlaubnis
(Required permit)
Zuständiger Ansprechpartner

(Responsible contact agency)

 

Altenpfleger

(geriatric nurse)

This “Berufsbezeichnung” (occupational title) requires permission according to § 1 of the Nursing Care for the Elderly Act. Prerequisites include a state exam Behörde für Soziales, Familie, Gesundheit und Verbraucherschutz

(authority for social affairs, family, health and consumer protection)

Anlageberatung, Anlagevermittlung
(investment consulting, brokerage)
These activities require a permit in compliance with § 34f Gewerbeordnung (Trade, Commerce and Industry Regulation Act). Differs according to the Bundesland (federal state)
Apotheke
(pharmacy)
The management of a pharmacy requires a licence as per § 1 Para. 1 ApG. Behörde für Gesundheit und Verbraucherschutz, Fachbereich Pharmaziewesen

(authority for health and consumer protection, pharmacy/pharmacology department)

Arbeitnehmerüberlassung
(employee leasing)
The commercial hiring out of workers must be authorised as per section 1 subsection 1 of the AÜG. Landesarbeitsamt

(state employment office)

Private Arbeitsvermittlung nach § 293 SGB III
(private employment agency as per § 293 SGB III)
No licence requirement, but requires approval by a competent (relevant) body One of the 33 recognised Zertifizierungsstellen (certification bodies)
Arzneimittel

(pharmaceuticals)

Manufacture (“Herstellung“): Requires a licence in accordance with § 13 AMG.

 

Placing on the market (“Inverkehrbringen“): Requires a licence under Section 1(2) of the Pharmacy Act.

 

Wholesale (“Großhandel“): Also requires a trade licence. See § 52a AMG.

 

As a retailer of over-the-counter medicinal products, proof of expertise is required as per § 50 AMG.

Handelskammer

(chamber of commerce)

Auktionator
(auctioneer)
A commercial auction of third-party property, real estate and rights is subject to approval according to § 34b GewO. This excludes internet auctions such as eBay. Verbraucherschutzamt

(consumer protection office)

Automatenaufstellung

(automatic/vending machine installation)

An amusement arcade or the setting up of gaming machines with the possibility of winning (e.g. slot machines) are subject to licensing as per § 33c GewO. Verbraucherschutzamt

(consumer protection office)

Bauträger und Baubetreuer

(property developers and building supervisors)

Acting commercially as a builder in your own name or on behalf of a third party, preparing or carrying out building projects or acting as a building supervisor for a third party is subject to authorisation as per § 34c GewO. It varies depending on the federal state.

 

For example, this is an info page for Berlin.

Beherbergungsbetrieb

(accommodation provider)

Only requires a licence if alcohol is served to “non-guests” of the accommodation provider. Guests are overnight guests in this context. Verbraucherschutzamt

(consumer protection office)

Bergbau

(mining)

Miners need a permit, authorisation as per §§ 6,7,8 of the Bundesberggesetz (Federal Mining Act) Varies depending on the federal state:

 

Oberbergamt / Landesamt für Bergbau

(higher mining authority / state mining authority)

 

 

Bewachungsgewerbe

(security business)

The guarding of the life, safety or property of third parties is regulated by § 34a GewO and requires a licence. Gewerbeamt

(trade office)

Briefbeförderung und Postdienstleistungen

(mail transport and postal services)

Anyone transporting mail needs a licence as per §§ 5, 6 of the Postgesetz (Postal Act) Bundesnetzagentur

(federal network agency)

Buchführungshelfer

(accounting/bookkeeping assistant)

The preparation of income tax returns, bookkeeping and payroll accounting is not subject to the ban on unauthorised assistance in tax matters as per § 6 No. 4 StBerG.

 

But, the person must have passed the “Ausbildungsberuf” (apprenticeship/skilled occupation) final examination and worked in accounting for at least 3 years with an average of at least 16 hours per week.

Gewerbeamt

(trade office)

Buchprüfer, vereidigt

(auditor, sworn)

The activity of a “vereidigter Buchprüfer” (sworn auditor) requires an official appointment in compliance with §§ 128ff of the Wirtschaftsprüferordnung (German Auditors’ Code).

 

NB: All official appointments stopped in 2005. The profession now falls under the category of “Wirtschaftsprüfer” (certified public accountant/chartered accountant).

Wirtschaftsprüferkammer

(chamber of public accountants)

Darlehensvermittlung

(loan brokerage)

The brokering of loans requires permission as per 34C GewO. “Gewerbetreibende” (commercial traders) who broker loans to finance their goods don’t need a permit as per § 34c para. 5 GewO. Varies depending on the federal state.
Energie (Strom und Gas)
(energy – electricity and gas)
Suppliers need a licence as per § 4 Energiewirtschaftsgesetz (Energy Industry Act) The ministry responsible for energy – varies from state to state.
Fahrschule
(driving schools)
Operators need a permit as per §§ 1,2,10 Fahrlehrergesetz (Driving Instructor Act). Differs depending on the federal state.
Finanzdienstleistungen

(financial services)

The provision of financial services on a commercial basis is subject to authorisation under Section 32 (1) of the Kreditwesengesetz (“KWG” – German Banking Act). This also includes finance leasing and factoring. Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin)

(federal financial supervisory authority),

 

or

 

Deutsche Bundesbank Hamburg

(central bank of Germany, Hamburg)

Gaststättengewerbe

(hospitality industry)

Only if serving alcohol that requires a licence under the Gaststättenrecht (hospitality law).

*Except in Hesse where notifying the Gewerbeamt of the “Verkaufs alkoholischer Getränke zum Verzehr vor Ort” intended sale of alcoholic beverages for consumption on-site is enough.

Ordnungsamt

(public order office),

 

or

 

Gewerbeamt

(trade office)

Gefahrstoffe

(hazardous materials)

The placing on the market of hazardous materials is subject to authorisation as per § 2 ChemVerbotsV (prohibited chemicals ordinance). Varies by the federal state.
Glücksspiel

(gambling)

If you operate games of chance or lotteries, a permit is required under the Rennwett- und Lotteriegesetz (racing betting and lotteries act). Check with your local authorities.
Güterkraftverkehr

(road haulage)

The paid or “gewerbsmäßige Beförderung” (commercial transport) of goods with motor vehicles with a permissible total weight of more than 3.5 t is subject to licensing as per § 3 GüKG. The authority in your state that looks after “Verkehr” (traffic/transport) or “Güterbeförderung” (freight transport).

 

In Berlin, for example, the Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten is in charge of this permit.

Handwerk

(skilled trades)

Commercial “Handwerk” (craft/skilled trade) has to be entered into the “Handwerksrolle” (register of craftsmen) as per § 1 HandwO. örtliche Handwerkskammer

(local chamber of crafts)

Honorar-Finanzanlagenberater
(fee-based financial investment advisers)
Permission is a requirement as per § 34h Gewerbeordnung (trade regulations) Differs depending on the federal state:

 

Gewerbeamt

(trade office),

 

and/or

 

IHK

(chamber of commerce).

 

Immobiliardarlehensvermittler
(real estate mortgage broker)
This activity requires a licence as per § 34i Gewerbeordnung (trade regulations). Differs depending on the federal state:

 

Gewerbeamt

(trade office),

 

and/or

 

IHK

(chamber of commerce).

Immobilienmakler
(real estate agent)
Permission as per § 34c Gewerbeordnung (trade regulations) Differs from state to state.

 

For example, in Berlin, the Ordnungsamt (public order office) handles this permit.

Inkassobüro

(debt collection agency)

Commercial management of the legal matters of third parties in the subject area of debt collection requires authorisation as per § 2 RDG. For most federal states it’s the Landgericht (district court). But, there are exceptions, including Berlin where it’s the Kammergericht.

 

Check the “Competent Registry Authority” for more info.

Kapitalanlagegesellschaft
(investment company)
The shareholders require a licence as per §§ 17-21, 45 para. 1 of the Kapitalanlagegesetzbuch (German investment code). Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin)
Federal Financial Supervisory Authority
Kindertagesstätte

(day care centre)

The care of children or young people in a day care centre requires permission as per § 45 of SGB VIII. Behörde für Soziales und Familie

Authority for Social Affairs and Family

 

For example, in Berlin, it’s the Senatsverwaltung für Bildung, Jugend und Familie that issues permits.

Kernanlagen

(nuclear facilities)

 

Licence as per § 7 Atomgesetz (atomic energy act). Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz, nukleare Sicherheit und Verbraucherschutz (BMUV)

Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection

Krankentransport

(ambulance service)

Commercial ambulance services require a permit as per the ” Rettungsdienstgesetz (rescue services act) in your state. Apply for a permit at the responsible authority in your state. This is often a Behörde für Inneres (authority for the Interior).

 

In Berlin, for example, it’s the Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten.

 

 

Kreditinstitut, Banken
(credit institution, banks)
Banking in Germany is highly regulated. You need a licence as per § 32 of the Kreditwesengesetz (banking act). Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht

(federal financial supervisory authority)

Lotterie

(lottery)

If you operate games of chance and lotteries, a licence under the Rennwett- und Lotteriegesetz (racing betting and lotteries Act) is required. In Berlin, the competent authority is the Landesamt für Bürger- und Ordnungsangelegenheiten.
Luftfahrtunternehmen

(airline)

Permission as per § 20 Luftverkehrsgesetz (air traffic act). Luftfahrt-Bundesamt

Federal Aviation Office

Mobile Verkaufsstände nach §§ 64ff GewO

(mobile sales stands as per §§ 64ff GewO)

Anyone selling goods at private flea markets or other non-fixed events requires a travelling trade permit. The sale of goods at fixed events (e.g. weekly markets) doesn’t require a permit. Check with your local government or IHK.

 

In Berlin, it’s the Bezirksämter (district offices) that look after this.

Personenbeförderung mit Straßenbahnen, Omnibussen und Kraftfahrzeugen im Linien- oder Gelegenheitsverkehr

(passenger transport with trams, buses and vehicles providing regular or occasional services)

Anyone transporting passengers by motor vehicle, bus or tram requires a permit as per §§ 2, 13 PBefG. Usually, several authorities – it varies depending on the federal state.
Pfandleiher

(pawnbrokers)

Whoever grants loans commercially against collateral, including interest and costs, requires a permit as per § 34 GewO. This varies depending on the federal state. For example, if you’re setting up your shop in Berlin, the local Bezirksamt (district office) is in charge of this.
Podologe

(podiatrist)

To practise medical foot care, you must have a licence as per § 1 sentence 1 of the Podologengesetz (Podiatry Act).

 

Additionally, you need to have undergone a 2-year full-time educational course and passed the exam.

The Gesundheitsamt (public health office) in your area.

 

For example, in Berlin, this is called Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales (LAGeSo).

 

Rechtsberatung wie z.B. Rentenberater oder Frachtprüfer

(legal consulting, e.g. pension consultants or freight auditors (this is a different profession to Rechtsanwälten – lawyers)

The provision of legal services to external clients requires authorisation as per § 1 of the Rechtsdienstleistungsgesetz (legal services act). Amts- oder Landgerichtspräsident

(district or county court president)

Reisegewerbe

(itinerant trade/business)

The “Reisegewerbekarte” (itinerant trade card) as per § 55 GewO is required if you make sales outside a fixed commercial establishment. This includes:

-visiting homes or businesses (door-to-door sales),
-the offering of goods and services on the street or in public places,
-entertaining activities as a showman etc.

This differs from state to state.

 

In Berlin, for example, it’s the Ordungsamt (public order office).

Spiele mit Gewinnmöglichkeit

(games with the possibility of winning)

 

Spielgeräte mit Gewinnmöglichkeit

(game machines with the possibility of winning)

The public, commercial operation of games of skill or games with the possibility of winning (classically fairground stalls, for example) is subject to licensing as per § 33 GewO. Varies depending on the federal state.
Spielhalle

(amusement arcade/gaming hall)

Anyone operating an amusement arcade or similar business requires a trade licence according to § 33i GewO.

 

*See also “Automatenaufstellung” (vending machine installation).

Verbraucherschutzamt

(consumer protection office)

Sprengstoffe
(explosives)
Permit obligation as per § 7 Sprengstoffgesetz (explosives act). Varies according to federal state – the trade supervisory body at the district or municipality office.
Steuerberatung

(tax consulting)

The provision of commercial assistance in tax matters requires an appointment as per §§ 2, 40 StBerG. A tax adviser is considered a “Freiberufler” (liberal professional). Steuerberaterkammer

(chamber of tax advisers)

Telekommunikation

(telecommunications)

Providers of telecommunications services have to file a notification with the Bundesnetzagentur (federal network agency) as per § 6 of the Telekommunikationsgesetz (telecommunications act). Bundesnetzagentur

(federal network agency)

Tierhandel und Tierzucht

(animal trade and breeding)

The commercial breeding and holding of animals, vertebrate animals trade, the operation of an animal carnival or riding business, and the exhibition of animals all need licensing as per § 11 of the Tierschutzgesetz (animal protection act). Veterinäramt

(veterinary office)

 

In Berlin, for example, this office is part of the the district “Ordnungsamt“.

Umweltgutachter

(environmental verifier)

As per § 10 UAG, the profession of a “Umweltgutachter” (environmental verifier) is subject to licensing. Deutsche Akkreditierungs- und Zulassungsgesellschaft für Umweltgutachter mbH

(German accreditation and licensing society for environmental verifiers Ltd.)

Versicherungsunternehmen

(insurance companies/insurers)

Official permission is mandatory as per § 8 Versicherungsaufsichtsgesetz (insurance supervision act). Bundesanstalt für Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (BaFin)

(federal financial supervisory authority)

 

Versicherungsvermittler oder Versicherungsberater

(insurance intermediary or insurance advisers)

 

Anyone who brokers insurance or advises on insurance requires a permit as per §§ 34d GewO (trade regulations). IHK

(chamber of commerce)

Versteigerungsgewerbe

(auctioneers)

You need authorisation to carry out an action you as per § 34b Gewerbeordnung (trade regulations). Varies depending on the federal state.
Waffenhandel und -herstellung

(arms/weapons trade and manufacturing)

The manufacture, purchase or sale of “Schusswaffen” (firearms) and/or “Munition” (ammunition) is subject to authorisation as per § 21 WaffG. Either the Gewerbeamt (trade office) or Landespolizeiverwaltung (state police administration) – this varies from state to state.
Wohnimmobilienverwalter

(residential property managers)

Die gewerbliche Vermittlung von Verträgen über Wohnräume o.ä. ist nach § 34c GewO erlaubnispflichtig Depends on the federal state.

Our advice: Even if your business is not listed here, find out before setting up whether it is an activity that requires a permit.

If you do need permission, apply for the respective certificates and persons in good time so that you can submit them with the business registration.

 

The obligation to register

Even if your “Gewerbe” (trade) doesn’t require a separate permit, skilled crafts and trades similar to them must registered as per to the Handwerksordnung (skilled crafts code). This means that these kinds of businesses must report to the local “Handwerkskammer” (HWK) (chamber of skilled crafts). You can find a detailed list of all trades affected by this regulation here.

 

Requirements for a Gewerbeerlaubnis (business licence)

Within different industries, getting a business license involves meeting specific criteria. Depending on the respective industry, these vary greatly and fall under three categories:

  • Professional requirements: A degree or training or further education serves as proof, depending on the required qualification.
  • Factual requirements: These concern, for example, the condition of the commercial premises or proof of financial standing (SCHUFA information).
  • Personal trustworthiness: A police clearance certificate, an extract from the Gewerbezentralregister (central business register) and a clearance certificate from the Finanzamt (tax office) are required.

 

If you need a business licence for a specific profession, find out at an early stage what the requirements are!

 

[BEGIN: Insert an Image between this tag]

Andreas Munck

[END insert Image]

Got questions about setting up a business in Germany?

  • Startup expert
  • 10+ years experience

Hi, I’m Andreas and I’ve been advising businesses in Germany for over a decade. I’d be happy to call you and answer any questions you have in a one-on-one consultation.

 

 

The Master list of all Company Formation articles can be found here.

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