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Establishing a GmbH for Non-EU citizens

Founders welcome!

Settlement permit via gainful employment

Recent years have seen Germany become increasingly open to immigration. While the reasons for this have been humanitarian in part, they have also been economic: the German economy is currently experiencing both a boom and a shortage of skilled workers. These circumstances led Germany to relax some of its policies affecting Non-EU nationals, making it easier for them to work or do business in Germany and, in this context, to obtain (permanent) settlement permits.

The German laws governing the right of residence contain detailed regulations on residing and settling in Germany for purposes of pursuing gainful employment (both employment by a third party and self-employment).

These laws give special privilege to the following:

– Highly qualified workers
– Managers
– Workers from the science, research and development fields
– Graduates of German universities
– Qualified specialists
– Freelancers

The conditions for Non-EU nationals wishing to become self-employed in Germany have also been significantly relaxed. While previous legislation required such persons to invest at least EUR 250,000 and create at least five full-time jobs in order to obtain a residence permit for self-employment, the new provision in the German Residence Act (Aufenthaltsgesetz) offers significantly more leeway. Its phrasing is now much more general, and states that foreign nationals may be granted residence permits for purposes of pursuing self-employed activity if:

– there is a corresponding economic interest or a regional need,
– the activity in question is expected to have a positive impact on the economy, and
– the start-up process is financed by equity or a loan commitment.

While the requirements for obtaining a residence or settlement permit through self-employment are, of course, still stringent, they are significantly less so than in the past. With professional help, meeting them is by all means achievable.

The process will require the following steps:

1. Before entering the country: Apply for a national visa at the German embassy in the country of origin for undertaking an activity in a self-employed capacity (Aufnahme einer selbstständigen Tätigkeit). However, a business travel visa may suffice if you do not plan to settle in Germany permanently or over the long term.

2. After entering the country: Apply for a temporary residence permit for a period of one to three years.

Overall, you basically need to submit the following documents:

  • valid passport
  • biometric passport picture
  • application completed in german
  • shareholders’ agreement / memorandum of association or a similar document
  • curriculum vitae with proof of the professional qualification
  • business plan
  • proof of residence (rental agreement)
  • health insurance offer which clearly shows that working in Germany would be covered too
  • for persons 45 or older: Proof of an adequate provision for old age

An unlimited settlement permit may be granted after three years. We would be more than happy to support, advise and accompany you in this endeavour. Our expert service offers you all the help and advice you could possibly need. Contact us at any time to find out more.


We will do this for you


For foreigners in particular, it is difficult not to make any mistakes in this process and to submit all documents and applications on time. We will help you establish your GmbH in Germany. In this process, we work with various cooperation partners who will also support you, for example, in the preparation of the business plan and with respect to financing questions.

Contact us for more information!

Nicole Mutschke
Lawyer specialising in banking and capital markets law

Henning Linnenberg
Lawyer specialising in banking and capital markets law

Claudia Halstenberg
Lawyer specialising in banking and capital markets law

Contact us now!