If you want to move to Germany to start a business and are from a third country (Drittstaat), you’ll need a visa to give you the right legal status to enter the country. A visa for starting a business in Germany is known as a Visum zur Selbstständigkeit (self-employment visa). But, before you can apply, you need to meet all the requirements. This article explains what these are in plain English.
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- Two types of business activities
- What are the visa requirements?
- Visas for liberal professionals (Freiberufler)
- Visas for commercial business persons (Gewerbetreibender)
- You’ve got a visa, now what?
There are two different ways you can be self-employed person in Germany:
- Freiberufler – A liberal professional that works in the field of healing, scientific, technical or consulting (e.g. doctors, lawyers, engineers, computer scientists, etc.), or
- Gewerbetreibender – An entrepreneur in a commercial field that doesn’t belong to the liberal professions.
Depending on your business, you’ll have to apply for a visa as one or the other.
The application process to get a self-employed visa is basically the same regardless of what type of business you have. But, there are some differences in the requirements that you have to meet. Below is a short primer.
If you want to start a business as a liberal professional (known in Germany as a Freiberufler*in), you can apply for a residence permit to pursue a liberal profession (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Ausübung einer freiberuflichen Tätigkeit). The first step is to get you an entry visa for Germany. Once you’re here you can apply for a residence permit.
To do this you have to show proof that:
- You can finance your business.
- You can cover your own living expenses (i.e., means to support yourself).
- You are licensed to practice in the profession in Germany and therefore have the right professional qualifications.
- If you’re 45+, an adequate retirement plan.
Individuals who want live and start a business in Germany and that don’t fall under the freie Berufe category, can apply for a residence permit for self-employment (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zum Zweck der selbstständigen Tätigkeit).
To get a self-employment residence permit to set up a commercial, craft or industrial business, your business has to meet the conditions in Section 21 (1) of the Residence Act:
- There is an economic interest or a regional need for your product or service.
- Your business can be expected to have a positive impact on the economy.
- You can finance your business via equity capital or a loan.
- If you’re 45+ you must have an adequate retirement plan.
The self-employment visa gets you into Germany. Next up is applying for a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Ausübung einer selbständigen Tätigkeit).
The information published on our site is all written and checked by experts with the utmost care. Nevertheless, we cannot guarantee its accuracy, as laws and regulations are subject to constant change. Therefore, always consult a specialist in a specific case – we will be happy to put you in touch.
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