Residence permit

Do you have a valid residence permit that allows you to go self-employed in Munich?

Citizens of a member state of the European Union (EU) or an EFTA country (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland), do not need a special permit to go self-employed.

Third country nationals (= citizens of a non-EU or non-EFTA country) will need to clarify whether their residence status/permit entitles them to go self-employed. If not, they must apply to the Foreigners Office for an additional permit. Please note: If the residence permit bears the words “Erwerbstätigkeit gestattet” (“Employment permitted”), or “Niederlassungserlaubnis” (“settlement permit”) a special additional permit is not required.

Self-employment of third country nationals: Apply for a residence permit in accordance with Section 21 of the German Residence Act (AufenthG)

The Munich Foreigners Office (Ausländerbehörde) is exclusively responsible for issuing residence permits and handles the whole application process.

As a third country national you can obtain a residence permit for self-employment if you meet the following requirements:

  • There is an economic interest in or a regional demand for your product or service.
  • Your self-employment is likely to have a positive effect on the economy.
  • The implementation of your business concept can be funded by equity capital or through a loan commitment.
  • If you are older than 45 years of age:
    You need to provide proof of adequate old age pension provisions.

The assessment of the first three requirements is particularly focused on the sustainability of the under-lying business concept, your entrepreneurial experience, the impact on the employment and training situation and the contribution to innovation and research.

Your business plan and the additional documents you upload in the application process have to prove that you meet all these requirements. It is therefore vital to ensure that you have a comprehensive, well-prepared business plan which is revealing your in-depth planning: defining concrete measures and action plans for implementation. The business plan needs to be as carefully worked out as if applying for a bank loan.

Your business plan will not only be reviewed and analyzed by the local Foreigners Office. The assessment additionally will involve other competent bodies in the area of your planned activity, for example the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IHK) for Munich and Upper Bavaria or the Chamber of Skilled Crafts (HWK) for Munich and Upper Bavaria. The authorities involved give an expert opinion on the provided business plan, although only the local Foreigners Office is authorised to make the final decision on the application.

If you are older than 45 years of age you need to provide proof of adequate old age pension provisions. A pension insurance is for example considered sufficient if it grants a capital amount of minimum 250,000 Euro at the time of retirement. Detailed information can be obtained from the local Foreigners Office.

If your planned self-employed activity solely belongs to the liberal professions you do need to provide:
– proof of sufficient funds to finance your projects.
– any licenses required to perform the job in question.
– proof of adequate old age pension provisions (if you are older than 45 years of age).

Which documents do you need?

To ensure that your application can be processed quickly, please submit all required documents completely to the local Foreigners Office:

Good to know: In the online application form of the Munich Foreigners Office you need to select the option “Verlängerung” for the field “Auswahltyp” to see which documents you need to upload for an application:

  • Application Form
  • National passport
  • Proof of housing
  • Health insurance
  • Income tax return notices
  • Other proof of income
  • Profit and loss account or business analysis (BWA)
  • In case of commercial self-employment (=trade/business):
    Comprehensive business plan
  • In the case of liberal profession:
    Service contract, order invoices, account statements showing order invoices.

Procedure of the application

Once you have uploaded all required documents completely to the online application form of the local Foreigners Office, you will be contacted soon. The completeness and quality of the submitted documents is critical to the processing time of your application. Good preparation is the key to fast processing.

Please note: The residence permit according to § 21 AufenthG is basically bound to a specific purpose and issued for a limited period of time . If your application is successful, you will receive a temporary residence permit. When your residence permit expires and you plan to continue living and working self-employed in Munich, you need to repeat the same application process with the Foreigners Office when you initially applied. All documents will be requested and checked once again. Your actual business development will then be compared with your originally submitted financial planning and business plan on the basis of your income statement. A permanent residence permit (=Niederlassungserlaubnis) is usually possible after five years if you meet all necessary requirements.

Are you not in Germany yet?

Citizens of Australia, Israel, Japan, Canada, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America can enter Germany without a visa. However, they are required to apply for a residence permit prior to obtaining employment. All other third country nationals must submit a visa application to their local German embassy or consulate prior to entering Germany.

You may research the point of contacts on the world map here.

The German mission will forward your visa application to the Munich’s Foreigners Office if you wish to live in the city of Munich. The Munich’s Foreigners Office requests the necessary documents, checks them and gives feedback to the German mission. Based on this feedback, the German mission decides if an entry visa can be issued for your planned activity. The entry visa is usually valid for three months and must be converted into a longer-term residence permit at the local Foreigners Office in Germany.


Freelancing in Munich: Freiberufler or Gewerbe?

The terms “Freiberufler“, “freelancer” and “self-employed” are often confused and used as synonyms.

Please note: Self-employed people in Germany are

  • either business people [Gewerbetreibende] with an activity that is classified as a trade or a business [Gewerbe]
  • or members of the liberal professions [Freiberufler] with an activity that is classified as a liberal profession [Freier Beruf]

Different rules apply to these two categories.

It is very important that you distinguish between these two types of new businesses and find out which one is right for you.  Read on here