Opening a branch office

Setting up an office in Munich

Munich is Germany’s third largest city and is renowned for its resilient, strong economy. The city and broader region boasts a highly dynamic labor market characterized by a great variety of industries and a strong international focus. This page provides a quick overview to foreign companies who are interested in doing business in Munich. This can be achieved by a number of ways. From finding business partners to setting up an office in Munich. Learn who to contact for advice to startups and established companies on expanding to Munich.


Legal structures

Setting up a German market presence requires a legal structure. Expanding foreign companies can choose between these options:

  • founding a subsidiary (Tochtergesellschaft)
  • setting up an independent branch office (selbständige Zweigniederlassung)
  • setting up a dependent branch office (Betriebsstätte or unselbständige Zweigniederlassung)

Setting up a representative office (Repräsentanz) is another option.

Decisive criteria for the choice of legal form are generally the terms of taxation, liability, initial and operational costs, the administrative burden, personal involvement, and flexibility. Contact a tax advisor, a lawyer or a consultancy organization to guide you towards the legal form that suits your company’s situation best.

 Founding a subsidiary (Tochtergesellschaft)

A subsidiary is an independent company established and predominantly held by another company (parent company). It trades under its own name and prepares its own balance sheet. The rules of incorporation of the subsidiary, its business registration and entry in the Commercial Register are governed by German law, even if the parent company is domiciled abroad.

When choosing the legal form of the company, a corporation is usually the best option for larger, established companies. There are four major forms of corporations under German law: Limited Liability Company (GmbH), Limited Liability Entrepreneurial Company (UG haftungsbeschränkt), Stock Corporation (Aktiengesellschaft AG) and Partnership Limited by Shares (Kommanditgesellschaft auf Aktien KGaA).

Besides corporations there are also different forms of partnerships. There are four major forms of partnerships in Germany. Civil Law Partnership (GbR), General Commercial Partnership (oHG), Limited Partnership (KG), GmbH & Co. KG. Their main difference lies in the liability of their partners and required registration obligations.

According to Germany Trade and Invest, the economic development agency of the Federal Republic of Germany, foreign companies often choose the private limited liability company option (Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung – GmbH) for local subsidiary formation. The main reason for the popularity of a subsidiary in the form of a GmbH is the separate limited liability, which this company form offers.

Get an overview on legal structures, taxes and accounting and registration with the tax and trade office on our website or at Germany Trade and Invest. In-depth information is available from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK) on their website and upon request from their business expert office (tel. +49 89 5116 2222, email

Setting up an independent branch office (Zweigniederlassung)

The independent, also known as autonomous branch office (Zweigniederlassung) fulfills tasks that exceed mere implementation and support-related tasks. It is dependent upon the head office company at the internal level but engages in business activities independently. However, the foreign head office company is liable for the business transactions concluded by the branch.

At the organizational level, autonomous branch offices are to a degree independent from the parent company. For instance, an autonomous branch office usually has its own management with executive powers, a separate bank account, and accounting as well as independent business assets.

Foreign companies can register an autonomous branch office in Germany if they are entered in a foreign commercial register (or a comparable directory). The autonomous branch office must be entered in the commercial register (Handelsregister) and registered with the local trade office (Gewerbeamt). As of August 2022, the online procedures for commercial register applications have been significantly extended. The involvement of a German notary is required. Documentation verifying the existence of the head office company as well as the power of representation for persons acting on behalf of it is needed for the registration.

Source: Germany Trade and Invest

Setting up a dependent branch office (Betriebsstätte)

 A dependent branch office is a subordinate department of the head office company and does not have any autonomy from it. It focuses on maintaining contacts and initiating business in Germany. The dependent branch office is not able to independently participate in the general business transactions of the head office. It performs support and implementation-related tasks without having any individual business discretion and is entirely dependent on the head office.

Registration with the local trade office (Gewerbeamt) is required.

Source: Germany Trade and Invest

Branch office taxation

A branch office is subject to taxation in Germany if it is considered to be a permanent establishment according to the applicable double taxation agreement. An autonomous branch office is generally regarded as a permanent establishment, whereas a dependent branch office is only ever considered a permanent establishment under certain conditions.

The profit attributable to a German permanent establishment of a foreign corporation is taxed in Germany according to German taxation rules for corporations. Special rules apply for tax returns and income determination for permanent establishments.

All corporations and German permanent establishments of foreign corporations – are subject to corporate income taxation. Income taxation of corporate companies generally consists of three components: corporate income tax, solidarity surcharge, and trade tax. Due to locally set varying trade tax levels, there is no consistent nationwide tax rate for corporate income taxation. Double taxation agreements distribute taxation rights among countries.

Please see our overview on taxes for more info and get in depth-information at Germany Trade and Invest or from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK).

Source: Germany Trade and Invest

Setting up a representative office (Repräsentanz)

Representative offices are an option at a preliminary stage to explore the German market. They serve to assess opportunities and risks associated with market entry and to establish initial contacts. However, the concept of representative offices is not recognized under German commercial and trade law. Therefore, they can only provide information and advisory services and cannot conclude business transactions in Germany. Legally effective business dealings may be conducted only by the parent company in its country of domicile.

Alternatively, the parent company could open a permanent establishment as described above. Another option includes hiring an external, independent businessperson, e.g. a commercial representative (Handelsvertreter) who has been instructed accordingly to manage the office. In this case, the company is not conducting independent commercial operations in Germany.

Compulsory membership in one of these chambers is required by law:

Please check, if you are obliged to register with other institutions and authorities such as the social insurance agencies, if you require any official licenses or permits and which rules and regulations might be important when running your business.

Visa and Entry Regulations

Citizens of EU and EFTA States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland) are entitled to freedom of movement and have unrestricted access to the German labor market. They do not require a visa or a residence permit to enter and obtain employment in Germany.

Germany distinguishes between different kinds of residence titles for specific purposes subject to the length of stay and the intended (business) activity in Germany. The type of residence title needed depends on the person’s country of origin, the length of the intended stay and the intended business activity in Germany.

Residence titles include Schengen and national visas, residence and settlement permits.

A Schengen visa is sufficient for conducting most business and administrative activities that need to be organized prior to locating to Germany. It authorizes the holder to enter and stay in Germany for a temporary period (up to 90 days in any 180-day period).

A residence or settlement permit authorizes the holder to stay for the long term (i.e. more than 90 days in any 180-day period) or to work on a self-employed basis or as an employee in Germany.

For most foreign nationals, visas have to be obtained prior to entering Germany in their respective home country. They must be applied for at your German embassy or consulate.

The portal Make it in Germany and the Federal Foreign Office (Auswärtige Amt) provide detailed information on visa for entry and stay in Germany. Applications for a Schengen visa may also be submitted online via the electronic application acquisition system of the Federal Foreign Office.

1. Visas for setting up business in Germany

For most activities related to the process of setting up of a business in Germany, a Schengen visa is sufficient for most non-EU nationals.

2. Visas for running the business On-Site

2.1 Visa for self-employment

Entrepreneurs from non-EU countries managing a company on-site in Germany in a self-employed capacity require a residence permit for the purpose of self-employment (Aufenthaltserlaubnis für selbständige Tätigkeit). A residence permit for the purpose of self-employment is limited to a maximum of three years. If the investment project is successful (and success and subsistence appear to be secure over the long term), after three years it is possible to apply for a settlement permit (Niederlassungserlaubnis).

2.2 Visa for employed work

Non-EU-citizens who would like to work in Germany on an employment basis require a residence permit in the form of a visa for work purposes. Instruments such as the EU Blue Card and Intra-corporate transfer ICT Card provide further options for foreign employees to access the German labor market. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry for Munich and Upper Bavaria (IHK) provides information and advice on hiring employees from abroad. The Germany Trade and Invest portal offers information in English.

2.3 Visas for business trips to Germany

For most activities related to business trips to Germany, a Schengen visa is sufficient for most non-EU nationals.

Source: Germany Trade and Invest

Please note we are not able to answer visa requirement queries or support individual visa applications. Your German embassy or consulate is exclusively responsible for issuing visa and handles the whole application process.

Sectors and clusters, companies and industry networks in Munich

Fact Sheet: Munich’s economy in figures

Munich has a particularly diversified mix of all important economic sectors. Here is a selection that is particularly in focus.

  • Munich. The Business Location. Facts and Figures 2023
  • Sectors and clusters in Munich and its surrounding districts
  • Several international business communities engage in and facilitate dialogue between Munich/Bavaria and the specified countries and regions.
  • From the municipal Statistics Office (Statistisches Amt) you can obtain official data on the society, the economy, the environment and the City of Munich.
  • The company data base of the Bavarian Chambers of Industry and Commerce helps companies to find new customers or to search for suppliers, wholesalers, distributors and service providers.
  • The company database “Key to Bavaria” offers comprehensive information about Bavarian export-orientated companies which operate in the 22 most important sectors in Bavaria, as well as research and technology transfer institutions and specialized government agencies and associations.

In Germany, a multitude of associations provide many-facetted lobbying. Along with professional associations, chambers of commerce, employers’ and employees’ associations, you’ll also find unions and consumer groups.

Industry associations and networks (selection)

Industry associations
The “Deutschen Verbände Forum” provides a list of associations and organizations with more than 14,000 addresses

The German Chambers of Commerce Abroad (AHK) offer a global network with experts offering to build bridges, facilitate access, provide contacts and solve problems – in Germany and in more than 90 countries abroad.

Advice and business consulting services

Invest in Bavaria supports both domestic and companies from abroad to grow their business in Bavaria. As the business promotion agency of the State of Bavaria, their service is confidential and free of charge. Request assistance.

Do you have any questions? These organizations and businesses are ready to offer you their advice and consulting services, tailored to your company’s needs. Please note that we may not offer any recommendations.

Tax advisory

Tax advisors help with questions about tax, business matters, accounting, and choice of legal structure. You can use the official directory of tax advisors to check whether a certain person or organization has acquired full recognition and therefore has the right to offer unlimited assistance with tax matters. The German Federal Chamber of Tax Consultants (BStBK) and the Chambers of Tax Advisors provide a search facility to help you find tax advisors for specific areas or with special qualifications throughout Germany.

Chamber of Public Accountants (WPK)

Members of the WPK are public accountants and sworn auditors who can be researched via a professional register.

Legal advice

Lawyers can advise you on legal structure as well as contract law issues such as sales contracts, general terms and conditions, employment contracts, partnership agreements, etc.

Notarial advice

There is a legal obligation to involve a notary in certain legal transactions. These include real estate sales contracts, founding a corporation, selling shares to shareholders, structural changes to, for example, capital measures or articles of association, company reorganization or succession, shareholders’ agreements or trustee agreements, and the pledging of shares. Notaries provide expert advice to the parties involved and inform them of the significance of such legal transactions. They protect the interests of the contract partners via legally sound wording and ensure that people lacking legal knowledge are not disadvantaged. They certify legal transactions and act as an interface between the contract partners, authorities, courts, and tax offices, to ensure smooth execution of the documents. As public servants, notaries are impartial and independent.


The local Chamber of Commerce and Trade (IHK) has compiled effective recruiting strategies for companies. Numerous online job platforms and recruitment agencies are offering their services. Some recruiters can be found with the help of associations for business consultancy or temporary employment companies. The employer’s service of the Federal Employment Agency offers specialist services, from the recruitment of specific professional groups to brokering management staff. Invest in Bavaria can provide contacts for acquiring staff. They also provide information on the public programs with which the federal government and the states promote the establishment of a qualified group of staff and further training programs for new employees. Job fairs, industry fairs and events of Munich universities are a way to attract individuals who are gravitated towards your business and recruit emerging talent.

The focus of the Munich Employment and Qualification Program (MBQ) is to help you acquire and retain new and existing staff. MBQ services for your company include access to the region’s talent pool via various, innovative advisory and qualification projects in diverse industries, advice and information on acquiring and retaining employees, advice and information on employees in understaffed professions, free participation in job and training fairs in Munich, recruitment projects from abroad, welcome culture for international employees and training provision for new and existing staff.

Business advice and coaching

Identify the topics you need advice on. There may be multiple topics which cannot be handled by one adviser alone. Ask other entrepreneurs you know, your local chambers or professional or industry associations for suitable contacts. It is also worth searching the online directories of consultancy associations.

Consulting services from the chambers and the Institute for Liberal Professions (IFB)

The experts at the local Chamber of Industry and Commerce (IHK) can give advice at every stage of your company’s development, from founding, growth, and stabilization, to innovation, crisis management, and succession. Topics range from business issues to legal matters and tax law. It is also possible to analyze your financial and cost accounting figures.

For questions related to the skilled crafts sector please turn to the Chamber of Skilled Crafts, the Handwerkskammer für München und Oberbayern (HWK).

From doctors, tax advisors, lawyers and engineers to coaches, business consultants, healing practitioners, artists, and journalists, the Institute of Liberal Professions, Institut für Freie Berufe (IFB) knows the world of self-employed work inside out. Thanks to its specialist knowledge and focus, the IFB is the first point of contact for freelancers and self-employed people seeking advice and support.

Advice on commercial locations

Are you looking for commercial property? Would you like to move to or grow your company in Munich? Or do you want to modify, relocate or expand your premises? The experts at Munich’s Department of Labor and Economic Development can help. Contact: tel. +49 89 233-27677, email

Startup funding program

Do you have an innovative, technology based startup and are you planning to settle in Germany or Europe? Invest in Bavria developed the “Ois Easy” start-up package* (Bavarian for a carefree business landing) together with their partner BayStartUP specifically for startups from abroad who want to open a new branch or a new office in Germany and establish themselves on the German market in the long term. Contact: tel. +49 89 24210 7508, email

BayStartUP is the Bavarian startup network for founders, investors and industrial players. As the central institution for startup financing in Bavaria, BayStartUP supports innovative founders in building up their companies and in the search for startup and growth capital. Contact: tel. +49 89 3 88 38 38-0, email

Visit Munich Startup to learn more about the Munich Startup Ecosystem, gain insights and network with fellow startups at one of the many events in the city.