Visas for starting a business in Germany: A plain English guide

updated on 1. June 2022 5 minutes reading time
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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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Andreas Munck

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Got questions about setting up a business in Germany? 

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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.

 

Contents

 

Want to know more about German immigration process for founders? We’ve got you covered.

 

Two business types in Germany – and two types of visas

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
  • GewerbetreibenderAn 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.

What are the visa requirements?

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.

 

Liberal professionals (Freiberufler)

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.
The immigration process for liberal professionals (Freiberufler) who want to live and start businesses in Germany at a glance.
The immigration process for liberal professionals (Freiberufler*in) who want to live and start businesses in Germany at a glance.

 

Commercial or trade business persons (Gewerbetreibender)

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 immigration process for business people (Gewerbetreibender) who want to live and start businesses in Germany at a glance.
The immigration process for individuals who want to live and start commercial businesses in Germany at a glance.

 

What happens after you get a visa?

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).

More on the residence permit (Aufenthaltserlaubnis) here. 

 

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.

firma.de accepts no liability for any damage caused by errors in the texts.

 

 

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

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