Gaining Self-Employment and Starting Your Own Business in Germany

As an expatriate in Germany, it is already difficult to find work. There are strict regulations allowing only those who are highly skilled and educated to earn work permits in Germany. This is because Germany wants to encourage more Germans to integrate themselves into the workforce. So, while you are in Germany, should you decide to become self-employed, it may be a bit difficult.

If you go to Germany looking to be self-employed, you are going to run into a long of legal red tape. Your best bet is to contact a lawyer who specializes in business, labor, and tax laws, and who is knowledgeable in dealing with expatriates. This way you can know precisely what you need to do in order to establish your own business. The laws are ever-changing in Germany, so hiring a lawyer is helpful to keep you up to date on those laws and regulations.

Residency Permit

Before you can even look into starting your own business, you need to establish residency in Germany. What makes that difficult is that in order to get a residence permit, you need to prove that you are generating a stable income. For those with a highly specialized or sought after skill, this may be easier to work around. If you can prove that the business you wish to establish in Germany will be beneficial to the German economy, then it should be less difficult to get your residence permit; however, there may be some restrictions applied to your residence permit.

Once you have dealt with and received your residence permit, then you have to deal with the steps necessary to establish your business in Germany. In order to do that, you must first figure out the classification of your career field. With each classification comes a different set of regulations. In this situation, again, it would be best to speak with a lawyer who can help you deal with all of the legalities, regulations, and registrations.


Free-Professionals is the classification for those who have academic training in their field. For example, doctors, lawyers, and scientists would qualify as Free-Professionals. Free-Professionals, due to the highly skilled nature and high demand for most of those jobs, typically have fewer issues with the registration process. However, they do have their own set of regulations and procedures, which they will have to deal with when attempting to start their own business.


If your career is in the field of trade, then this would be your classification. Tradesmen typically, after receiving their certificate of registration from the local Trades Office, must pay local trade taxes and become members of the Chamber of Commerce, to which they pay an annual membership fee.


Craftsmen need the approval of the Trade Association and need to meet Germany’s standards for qualifications in their craft. The types of careers in this classification include barbers, florists, and butchers.


The types of careers in this classification include writers, individual consultants, performers, and artists. Freelancing has so many different and additional laws and regulations that it is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney or expert who deals with freelancers, expatriates, and labor laws and regulations.

Becoming self-employed and establishing your own business in a new country is difficult, as there are many laws and regulations that you must deal with along the way. If this is the path you wish to take, and then consult an attorney who can help you achieve your goals. Do not get discouraged and do not give up if this proves to be difficult. If it is in your heart to start your business in Germany, then you can and will make it happen.


Saskia Petz

Tanja Traut

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