Business, work and life in Germany in English

Establishing a company, entrepreneurship in Germany: business migration, obtaining a business visa and residence permit, support for start-ups

This article covers the issues of business immigration, emigration to Germany: how to open and register a business in Germany, what the conditions for obtaining a business visa are. You will also learn about developing a business plan, opportunities for business consulting and financial support for start-ups in the country.

§ How to open your own business in Germany

The citizens of Germany, as well as those of the European Union and several other countries are free to choose, whether to establish their own business or work for hire, as an employed person in Germany. If a person has reached the age of majority, 18 years old, and does not have a judicial restraint on the performance of any activity, s/he can open their own business. However, not every person is entitled to be engaged in this or that kind of business: a number of professions in Germany are strictly regulated and to engage in them as an entrepreneur it is required to have the appropriate level of qualifications, and, for foreigners, that of the German language knowledge; examples of such professions: doctors / medicine, teachers / education. A number of other types of activities fall into different categories, requiring special permission to engage in them, for example: car mechanic, roofer, shipbuilder, broker. In this case, it is usually either required to have a German master craftsman’s certificate, or to take and successfully pass a special exam authorizing being engaged in this kind of activities, it may also be required to confirm your financial standing, provide a Police Verification Certificate, etc., depending on the type of your activity. The citizens of Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other some countries outside the EU and the EEA have to undergo the procedure for their educational qualifications or diplomas recognition in Germany; to this purpose you can also obtain a visa to have your foreign academic degree or obtain a visa to study in Germany. However, many other types of activities are not regulated and do not require any special conditions for beginning entrepreneurial activities.

In addition to having the appropriate qualifications and obtaining special permission, a novice entrepreneur has to choose one of their business activities categories, in particular:

Categories of business activities

When beginning entrepreneurial activities, one should also decide on their legal corporate form, which will be critical for the entrepreneur’s liability, taxation, the required start-up capital to launch business, etc.

Legal corporate form major types as to entrepreneurial activity

So, if a person has the appropriate qualifications, has received the required permits and decided on the category of entrepreneurial activities and their legal corporate form, s/he can apply for their entrepreneurial activities registration; for more details on registering a company in Germany, see below on the page.

§ Business emigration, business immigration to Germany

Business activity in Germany is permitted without restriction for the citizens of their country, as well as those of the European Union and the EEA, however, citizens of other countries are required to obtain special permission to engage in entrepreneurial activities in Germany. Business can be done both by an individual entrepreneur, and by a manager or legally authorized representative of a company wishing to open their representative office in the Federal Republic of Germany, a subsidiary. The main law governing the conditions for granting permission is §21 of the Act concerning Residence, Employment and Integration of Foreigners in the Federal Republic of Germany (in German: Aufenthaltsgesetz), see the link below on the page. The main conditions for foreigners to open a business in the country are listed below:

These conditions are very generalized; for example, the competent regional authorities of the country assess the viability of a business idea, the experience and qualifications of a foreigner who wants to do business in Germany, the amount of capital invested, new jobs, the impact on employment and education of the population, as well as how innovative and research-related the business is.

§ Development of a business plan in order to open a company in Germany

In order to assess the business and possibly obtain a permit to engage in business activities, the entrepreneur provides the Embassy of Germany with their business plan. Below are the main sections of the business plan that have to be described to get started:

A positive decision on the business plan provided will be facilitated by the description of why the business will be successful and what will allow the entrepreneur to outperform the competitors, find and attract potential customers.

The German Embassy in some countries, beyond the business plan, also requests other detailed descriptions of the would-be business: investment plan, market research, competition analysis, marketing strategy, data on the planned number of jobs, and more.

If you meet these conditions and have a ready-made business plan, you can apply to the German representative office at your place of residence for a visa to engage in business activities in Germany.

§ Obtaining a business visa to Germany: conditions, procedure

The citizens of the European Union and the European Economic Area do not have to get either a special permit or a visa to establish and do business in Germany. However, for citizens of other countries, it is required to obtain a business visa to set up an enterprise or carry on entrepreneurial activities in the free professions field. An application for obtaining a visa shall be submitted to the Embassy or Consulate General of Germany in your country, at the place of your residence. General conditions for obtaining a visa to Germany are described on a dedicated page of our website.

Basic documents required for obtaining a business visa to Germany

Depending on the type of activity, the list of documents required for obtaining a visa may vary. A full list of the documents and conditions for obtaining a business visa in Germany can be found on the official website of the Embassy or Consulate General in your country.

With any academic degree available, such an entrepreneur is entitled to certain facilitations and privileges.

Refusal to issue a business visa

In case of a business visa denial in Germany, you can request information about the reasons for rejecting the application. Depending on the reasons for the denial, it may be required to provide the relevant documents or confirm the educational qualifications, revise the business plan to meet the requirements of the embassy. If the reason for the denial is a lack of qualifications, you may change the type of activity to similar or related, for which the requirements are less stringent.

§ Registration of a company in Germany and, later on, obtaining a permanent residence permit, a residence permit

After obtaining a business visa, an entrepreneur can enter Germany to begin their entrepreneurial activity. Upon arrival in the country, s/he has to register at the local Foreigners Registration Office (German Ausländerbehörde) and apply for a long-term stay permit (in German: Aufenthaltstitel, Aufenthaltserlaubnis), which is usually limited to 3 years with the possibility of further renewal. Under certain conditions, in the future you can get a residence permit; read more about how to obtain a residence permit in Germany

Then, a foreigner who has obtained a permit for doing business, has to apply for the registration of their company or entrepreneurial activities; this application has to be submitted to the local Trade Office (in German: Gewerbeamt), to the city administration at the place of residence or, for registration of activities in a free profession, - to the local branch of the Tax Office (Tax Inspectorate). To register a company or business, it is usually required to make an appointment and submit the documents listed below:

When registering a business, the entrepreneurial activity is usually automatically registered with the Tax Inspectorate, the relevant chamber of commerce and other responsible institutions.

Besides, the entrepreneur usually has to conclude a contract for health insurance and disability insurance and, if so desired, for pension insurance. Another important type of insurance is professional liability insurance.

Another opportunity to launch a business in Germany is to buy an already-existing company or part of it, invest in a business already in place.

§ Support for start-ups, entrepreneurs in Germany

In Germany, comprehensive support is provided to the novice entrepreneurs and start-ups: it embraces both free information services, consultations, and financial support in the framework of hundreds of programs regarding gratuitous grants and soft loans, concessional lending.

Consultations for first-time entrepreneurs

In Germany, every novice entrepreneur can get free consultations at official counselling centers that help entrepreneurs organize their business. Depending on the type of activity, you can take advantage of the following offers presented in the list below. Some of them are free, others are paid, and it is also possible to enquire at the consultation center whether the consultation can be paid for as part of state programs to support entrepreneurs. When you go to the website of the relevant institution, pay attention to the menu items "Gründung", "Förderung", "Existenzgründung".

Another opportunity to get advice to a first-time entrepreneur is provided by fairs or Messen for the founders of their own business (in German: Gründermesse).

Financial support

Any start-up needs a start-up capital, but not every entrepreneur has enough own funds to start their own business. To assess the required start-up capital, it is necessary to develop a detailed business plan, including the calculation of the required investments. Government agencies and various foundations offer many start-up financial support programs, including free grants as well as soft loans/ concessional lending. Each program has its own limitations and conditions that should be enquired about at the responsible agencies. The list below shows some support and financing programs:

Novice entrepreneurs interested in financial support for their start-ups can search for a suitable support program on the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy website, a Database of support and financial assistance programs, to search, select "Förderberechtigte" - "Existenzgründer/in" in the field.

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