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

updated on 17. January 2023 5 minutes reading time
Hero Icon

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.

Contents

 

[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.

 

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. 

[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.

Continue browsing