How to start a business in Germany

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Being self-employed in Germany means that you decide on your own working time, duration of work, type of work and place of work. You are not bound by instructions.

There are two types of self-employment in Germany: business people and liberal professions.

Business people (Gewerbetreibende): You run a business, for example, if you own a restaurant, a grocery store or even a car dealership.
Liberal professions (Freiberufler): Mostly studied professions. For example, they often work in counselling, make art, are writers or work as a doctor or therapist.

Your path to self-employment in Germany:

Step 1 (Permissions):
Freedom of movement and freedom of trade apply within the EU member states and with the EEA countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. People from these countries can start their own business in Germany at any time and dont need a residence permit.

Anyone who comes from a country that is not a member state of the European Union (EU) or the European Economic Area (EEA) needs a special residence permit to become self-employment. This residence permit allows persons to pursue an independent activity in Germany. Questions of residence law must first be clarified. Anyone wishing to work independently as a foreigner in Germany must apply for a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment. This can be done at the competent diplomatic mission of the Federal Republic of Germany or at the regional immigration office.

A residence permit for the exercise of an independent activity in accordance with Section 21 (1) (Commercial) or pursuant to Section 21 (5) (Free Profession) Residence Act (AufenthG) is issued on application if:

    there is an economic interest or a regional need, and
    the activity can be expected to have a positive impact on the economy, and
    the financing of the implementation is secured by equity or a loan commitment

At the time of application, a written businessplan is expected, in which the self-employment is to be described and the professional experience or experience as self-employed must be identified.

Step 2 (Create your plan):
If you want to become self-employed, you should clarify a few things beforehand: What exactly is the idea? Who could be considered as a customer and why? How do you want to make money with the company? How to finance the company? How do you want to do marketing and advertising? Why are you better than the competition? Often the business plan is also used for the immigration authority in order to obtain permission for an independent activity.

We recommend using the website Unternehmerwerkstatt Deutschland to create your own businessplan. Please keep in mind that the businessplan needs to be in german language for the application. Further information in different languages can be found on the Existenzgründungsportal des Wirtschaftsministeriums.

Step 3 (Check your qualifications):
Anyone who has completed vocational training or studies in their home country should have it recognised in Germany. However, this does not automatically mean that you meet all the requirements for self-employment. If you want to be self-employed, you need to know what products and services should look like and how to sell them to customers.

Step 4 (Observe formalities):
The establishment of a company must be registered with the trade office in Germany. In addition, special permits are required for some activities. If you are not sure, you should check with the Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Free professions (liberal professions) must be reported to the tax office.

Refugees who hold a resident permit

Refugees whose asylum application has been decided positively are considered to be entitled to asylum. They hold a residence permit and have unrestricted access to the labour market. Whether they are also allowed to set up a business depends on the nature of their residence permit. The competent immigration authority informs you whether and under what conditions one is allowed to become self-employed.

Advice, information and seminars
We support people who want to become self-employed with various offers. Please call us for further information.

Victor Pauls

Victor Pauls

Existenzgründung und Unternehmensförderung
Position: Berater Gründung & Start-ups
Schwerpunkte: Existenzgründungsberatung
Telefon: 07121 201-204
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