Germany at a Glance
Doing Business in Germany
Before you can start doing business in Germany, whether as an employee or entrepreneur, you need to sort out your paperwork, licenses, qualifications, and possibly a number of other rules and regulations. This article has all the information you need to get a basic idea of what is required.
For even more details, plus additional information on German business culture and the job search, please see our section on Jobs and Business in Germany. Looking for Jobs and Getting a Work Permit for Germany are two key articles on the topic.
For low-skilled workers, access to Germany’s labor market is limited. However, if you are highly- qualified, such as a university graduate, it has legally become easier to work in Germany with the EU Blue Card system.
To receive a Blue Card, you must be able to show proof of your qualifications and a job offer that would provide you with an annual income of 49,600 EUR (as of 2016). If you have considerable experience in IT, mathematics, medicine, the natural sciences, or engineering, the EU Blue Card still applies to you as long as you make at least 38,688 EUR per year. Requirements concerning other professions such as academics, executives, and senior employees have also been simplified.
Visas, and as such the residence permits, are also available to third-country nationals and graduates who are completing an in-company training course. For graduates with a foreign degree comparable to a German degree, the jobseeker’s visa is an option. With this visa, you may reside in Germany for up to six months to search for employment. To get this visa, you must show proof of a university degree and that you will be able to support yourself for the duration of your stay. It is important to keep in mind that you are not allowed to work or be self-employed while in Germany on this visa.
More information on visa requirements (including employment visa) can be found in our article on how to get a German visa.
Starting Your Own Business
Setting up your own business in Germany is a valid option, but by no means a simple task. If you are planning to establish your own company, you should first figure out whether you need a license or permit, or if you need to take a test regarding your specialized skills. This information will be available at the chamber of industry and commerce.
You must be a member of the chamber of industry and commerce or the chamber of crafts (Handwerkskammer). To become a member of the chamber of crafts, you must have worked as a company director or you must have been self-employed with three to six years of relevant job experience. You can also register if you have the equivalent to the German master-craftsman’s certificate (Meisterbrief).
You should also register your company at the trade office (Gewerbeamt) in the municipality where you want your business to be located. To do this, you must bring a valid ID or passport, a residence permit, between 10 and 40 EUR, as well as, depending on the sector your business is in, a craft (Handwerkskarte) or trade (Gewerbekarte) card, or a permit of authorization (e.g. catering). Furthermore, you are required to inform your tax office (Finanzamt) of your profits with a statement of assets and liabilities and a balance sheet comparing annual profit and loss.
Basically, your business should have a positive effect on the German economy. Also make sure that your qualifications from university or previous employers are accredited in Germany.
Self-employed individuals are either characterized as business people (Gewerbetreibender) or liberal professionals (freie Berufe). Liberal professions include health professions, legal and tax advisory professions, linguistic and information-providing professions, and scientific or technical professions.
Some individuals in the liberal professions must be members of their respective chamber and some must respect certain professional rules. Freelancers are not required to register with the trade office, only the tax office. If you are in a liberal profession, you do not pay trade tax.
A good site for checking whether you qualify for self-employment and how to go about setting up your own business is the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology.
InterNations features a useful introduction to self-employed work in Germany as well.
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