In Germany, there are two ways of setting up your own business: you can either work as a freelancer (Freiberufler) or set up a business as a self-employed entrepreneur (Gewerbe). Find out more about the best approach for you in the article on types of new businesses.
If you would like to embark on a freelance career as a Freiberufler, you will have to apply for a “residence permit for the purpose of freelance employment” (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Ausübung einer freiberuflichen Tätigkeit) at the competent authority. You will be granted a permit if you can prove that you will be able to finance your undertaking, make a living for yourself, and have the permission to practise in your profession, where needed. If you are older than 45 years of age, you also require adequate pension provisions.
Special rules apply to self-employed artists. You can find out more about this in the "Special regulations for artists" section.
Advisory services will help you assess whether you fulfil these requirements.
Term of your residence permit
If your business idea is successful and you are able to make a living for yourself and your family as a result of your business, you can have your residence permit extended, which is initially limited to a maximum of three years. After five years, you can obtain a settlement permit, which will allow you to settle down in Germany for an unlimited period.
When you apply for a visa, a residence permit, settlement permit or an extension of these documents, you generally have to pay a fee. The fee depends on your location, the duration and the purpose of your stay. A residence permit will cost you a maximum of €100 while a settlement permit will cost €147 at most. As a rule, the fee for visas is €80. Please consult the competent foreigners' authority or mission abroad about the fees you can expect.
When you apply for a residence permit, you generally have to present the following documents:
- Completed application form
- Valid passport
- Business plan
- Proof of health insurance
- Researchers and academics: current employment contract
- Graduates from German universities: copy of your degree certificate
- People over the age of 45: proof of adequate pension provisions
It would be wise to also submit documents on the following topics:
- Your references
- Your entrepreneurial experience