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Setting up a business in Germany

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The German government is very open to foreign investment. European citizens do not need special work permits or work visas to invest or develop a business in Germany. However, different conditions may apply to non-European Union nationals according to their country of origin.

 Good to know:

Berlin has grown to be start-up hub number one in Germany with a great support network and scene.

Requirements for setting up a business in Germany

General requirements are a minimum of 18 years of age and never having been banned from practising your profession that you intend to start your business in. Minimum required share capital depends on the type of company.

To start a business in Germany, or to work self-employed in the country, citizens from outside the EU-EEA will need a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment (Aufenthaltserlaubnis zur Ausübung einer selbständigen Tätigkeit). You can apply for this visa at the German consulate or embassy in your country of residence. 

Once in Germany, if the investment is of at least €500,000 and the creation of at least 5 jobs, residency permits will be granted without particular difficulties to non-EU nationals. If these conditions cannot be met, German authorities will closely consider the application taking into account local economic interests, the level of capital use, the effects on the labour and training market, as well as the sustainability of the business concept. For this purpose, the Foreign Office (Ausländerbehörde) will consult with IHK (Industrie- und Handelskammer), HK (Handelskammer) or trade authorities and other professional representatives.

How to establish your business in Germany

It is your responsibility to:

  • conduct marketing or feasibility studies,
  • define the structure of your company,
  • register any trademark and
  • register the company in the local trade register (Gewerbeamt) or tax office (Finanzamt) – depending on your profession you can set up a business as self-employed (Gewerbetreibender) or freelancer (Freiberufler).

Do not hesitate to seek help from an accountant or a tax lawyer when establishing your company. Before going ahead with your project, check that your activity is not subject to special regulations in Germany. For some professions, you may have to prove that you don’t have a criminal record. As an EU resident in Germany you can usually ask for a “European certificate of good conduct” at the local registration office.

For more information about administrative formalities, procedures and legal framework, seek advice from the chamber of commerce of your home country established in Germany or contact directly the local IHK chamber of commerce in the German locality where you want to set up a business. The IHK website will help you find your local office:

As a self-employed person, or as an investor in Germany, you need to pay income tax, property tax and professional tax. You will also need to affiliate with a health insurance fund. 

 Useful links:  

Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy www.existenzgruender.de
How to Germany - setting a business www.howtogermany.com
American chamber of commerce in Germany www.amcham.de
British Chamber of commerce in Germany www.bccg.de
IHK Chamber of Commerce www.dihk.de
Handwerkskammer, Chamber of Craftsmanship www.zdh.de
Gründerlexikon www.gruenderlexikon.de
Bundesverband Deutsche Startups e.V.deutschestartups.org

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