Entrepreneur Visa for Starting a Business in Germany

Foreign nationals seeking to start a new business in Germany may need to obtain a residence permit for self-employment, also referred to as an entrepreneur visa in common parlance.

If you are looking for more information and/or advice regarding how to obtain an entrepreneur visa in Germany, what eligibility requirements you must meet or supporting documents you need to submit, get in touch with our expert immigration lawyers today on +44 (0)333 305 9375 to receive bespoke legal assistance.

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    Starting a Business in Germany as a Foreign National: A Comprehensive Overview

    Strong economy, high standard public infrastructure, qualified workforce, stable governance, and a cosmopolitan and diverse society are among some of the top reasons that induce foreign entrepreneurs to come to Germany for doing business and eventually settle in the country.

    The German government brought about certain changes in the Residence Act in August 2012 to encourage foreign entrepreneurs to invest in Germany. There are two ways of starting a business in Germany as a foreign national:

    • Establishing a new business (in an area which does not fall under the liberal professions in Germany) as a self-employed entrepreneur (Gewerbe)
    • Working as a freelance professional (Freiberufler) in one of the liberal professions

    Citizens of the EEA countries or Switzerland will not require a visa or permit to run a business in Germany or work as a freelancer. Third-country foreign nationals seeking to set up a business or work as a freelancer in Germany, however, must apply for a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment.

    Moreover, if you are from a visa-required country for Germany, you will have to apply for a long stay entrepreneur visa to travel to the country before you can apply for a residence permit.

    Residence permits for self-employment purposes are valid initially for three years, and renewable thereafter if the permit holders continue meeting the original conditions. You will also be eligible to apply for a settlement permit after a certain period, provided you meet the eligibility criteria.

    The number of years you have to wait before applying for a settlement permit is three years if you have set up a business and five years if you are working as a freelancer.

    Overall, the German immigration rules, policies and guidelines are complex in nature, and the requirements vary depending on the applicant’s circumstances. It is, therefore, advisable to consult an immigration lawyer who comes with required knowledge, expertise and experience in business immigration services while planning to set up your own business in Germany, either as a company founder or a freelancer.

    Call us on +44 (0)333 305 9375 today to speak with our legal team.

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    Who is Eligible for an Entrepreneur Visa in Germany?

    Overview

    Depending on which route you would like to take, i.e. whether you would like to set up a business or work as a freelancer in Germany, the eligibility criteria for an entrepreneur visa and/or permit will vary.

    Eligibility Requirements for Setting Up a Business in Germany

    To set up a business, you will have to meet certain general requirements, such as:

    • You are 18 years of age or over
    • You have the required professional skills related to your business idea, which you may demonstrate through appropriate degrees (please note that if you have acquired such a degree abroad, you will need to apply for recognition of your qualification as equivalent to the respective German qualification)
    • You must have sufficient knowledge of German language, since many official papers and documents are available only in German and your customers or business associates may also expect you to speak the local language
    • You have not been banned by any court of law from starting a business in your chosen professional area
    • For some professions, you will be required to prove that you do not have any criminal records in your country(ies) of residence

    In addition, you must fulfil the following specific conditions and demonstrate them in your business plan convincingly:

    • There is an existing demand for your products or services in Germany
    • Your business activities will have a positive impact on the German economy
    • You have already secured financing for your business in Germany, either by injecting capital or through a bank loan

    However, in case you have graduated from a German university or hold a residence permit in the country for the purpose of research, you can set up a business in Germany related to your academic degree or research activities without fulfilling these specific requirements.

    Eligibility Requirements to Work As a Freelancer in Germany

    Apart from fulfilling the general requirements mentioned previously, you must be able to prove that you meet the below conditions if you are planning to work as a freelancer in Germany:

    • You can finance your undertaking
    • You can make a living for yourself and your accompanying family members (if any)
    • You have the licence to practise your profession from the competent German authorities, where applicable
    • You have adequate pension provisions if you are over 45

    Required Documents for the Entrepreneur Visa Application

    To apply for a German visa and/or residence permit for self-employment purposes, you will be required to submit the following documents:

    • A duly completed and signed application form, including page 7 with barcodes
    • Passport which has been issued within the last 10 years and is valid for at least six months, with at least one blank double page spread
    • Copy of the passport biometrics page
    • Two passport photos
    • Proof of sufficient financial means
    • Business plan
    • Proof of medical insurance
    • Previous employment contract(s) for researchers and scientists
    • Proof of university degree for graduates of a German university
    • Proof that your foreign academic/professional qualification is recognised in Germany, where applicable
    • Proof of adequate retirement provision if you are 45 or above
    • Professional references
    • Entrepreneurial/freelancing experiences

    However, please keep in mind that the above list is not exhaustive by any means. You should contact your local German embassy or consulate, or any external consular service provider commissioned by them if applicable, to obtain a complete list of required documents in your circumstances.

    Application Process for German Entrepreneur Visas

    The first step towards obtaining immigration permission to start a business in Germany is to prepare a comprehensive and convincing business plan, for which you may need to undertake a thorough market research. Networking with the German business community is also advisable to understand the country’s business scenario.

    You should visit the business start-up portal of the Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection to understand the key topics and milestones in the entrepreneurial route to Germany as well as to receive professional advice.

    This portal will help you with coming up with a suitable business idea, understanding the various pathways (e.g. working as a freelancer, founding a new business, taking over an existing family business, joining a franchise system etc.), preparing your business plan, exploring different financing options, understanding the various insurances you must have, and with overall advice, contact points and related programmes in Germany.

    Once your business plan is ready, you will have to ascertain whether you need a visa to travel to Germany. If you are a visa-exempt country national for Germany (such as the citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, Korea, New Zealand and the US), you may travel to the country without a long stay visa. Citizens of all other countries must apply for a long stay entrepreneur visa to travel to Germany.

    If you need a long stay entrepreneur visa, please start your visa application process by collecting the required supporting documents. Even if you do not need a visa to travel to Germany, you may have to show such documentary evidence to German immigration officers at your port of entry.

    Please fill in the relevant visa application form online completely and correctly. Once complete, please print two copies of the form and sign them. Handwritten forms will not be accepted.

    Next, please get in touch with your local German embassy or consulate to book a visa interview appointment. In some countries, this part of the process is outsourced to a third-party service provider. You can check your local German embassy/consulate site to ascertain this information.

    On the date of your visa interview, please visit the embassy/consulate/visa application centre, carrying your completed and signed application form as well as the supporting documents. Please ensure that you have arranged all your supporting documents in the same order as mentioned on the visa checklist, and are also carrying the required photocopies.

    Your local German embassy/consulate or visa application centre staff will review your documents and application form, and ask you a few questions about your immigration circumstances. They will also collect your visa fees. Please keep the fee receipt with you since you will need it to collect your passport after your visa processing is complete.

    Next, your details and information provided on the visa application form will be entered into the online system of your local German embassy/consulate, and you will be given a printout of your application. You must review this printed copy to verify its correctness and then sign the same.

    Finally, you will have to provide your biometric information, i.e. your facial image and a 10-digit fingerprint scan.

    Eyeing a business venture in Germany? Let our expert team guide you in securing your Entrepreneur Visa. Contact Us

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      Entrepreneur Visa Germany Processing Time

      The processing time for an entrepreneur visa in Germany may take up to six months. Some cases will take more time than others depending on the applicant’s immigration circumstances and/or the complexities involved.

      The countdown for receiving a visa decision starts only when your documents are received by the German embassy/consulate. In case you are asked to submit additional documents, the calculation of your visa processing time will start from the date on which you have submitted the pending document(s).

      Entrepreneur Visa Germany Costs

      If you require a long stay entrepreneur visa to travel to Germany before you can apply for a residence permit for self-employment purposes, you will have to pay a non-refundable visa processing fee of €75.

      On the date of your visa interview, you will have to pay this fee in your local currency, at an exchange rate approved by your local German embassy/consulate.

      A German residence permit for self-employment purposes costs €100, while a settlement permit will cost a maximum of €147.

      Next Steps After Receiving the Entrepreneur Visa

      After travelling to Germany on an entrepreneur visa, you will have to register your address in the country with the local competent authorities within two weeks of your arrival. This is mandatory for visa-exempt foreign nationals as well.

      Once the registration of your German address is complete, you can apply for a residence permit at your local immigration office. You must apply for a residence permit for setting up a business or working as a freelancer, as applicable in your case, within 90 days from entering Germany.

      If you are going to work as a freelancer in Germany, you will have to register with the tax office within four weeks. You may need to present the relevant proof of qualifications to the Chamber of Commerce in case your freelance work is subject to chamber regulations.

      If you are running your own company, you will have to apply for a trade licence and register your business at your local trade office in Germany before starting your work (except for certain sectors such as farming, gardening and viticulture, fish farming, forestry etc. which do not require a trade licence).

      You will be able to apply for a settlement permit in Germany, if you so wish, after completing the specified number of years in Germany, i.e. three years for foreign nationals running a company and five years for freelancers.

      Unlock business opportunities in Germany with the Entrepreneur Visa. Consult our legal team for top-tier advisory today. Contact Us

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        How Can Total Law Help?

        If you are seeking expert business immigration advice and services for starting a business in Germany, either as a company owner or a freelancer, our team of immigration advisers can guide you throughout the process, irrespective of how complicated your immigration circumstances might be.

        Our document and application checking service package offers a thorough assessment to confirm that your documents and application are in line with the guidelines set by German immigration authorities.

        In case your visa application is rejected, our competent lawyers can assist you in appealing the decision or submitting a fresh application rectifying the previous errors as mentioned in your visa refusal decision letter.

        Dial +44 (0)333 305 9375 today to receive bespoke legal advice from our expert immigration advisers.

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                  Frequently Asked Questions

                  The following professions are considered liberal professions in Germany:

                  • Medical professional activities (e.g. a doctor)
                  • Advisory activities (e.g. a lawyer or tax adviser)
                  • Scientific and technical activities
                  • Creative activities (e.g. an independent artist)
                  • Educational activities etc.

                  If your entrepreneur visa application is rejected, your local German embassy/consulate will send you a letter detailing the reason(s) thereof. If the refusal was due to a mistake on your part, you will need to submit a new visa application after rectifying the same.

                  However, if there are reasons to believe that German immigration authorities have made a mistake by refusing your visa, you may write a letter of appeal for visa rejection to your local German embassy or consulate.