Starting a business in Germany as a non-European citizen
To start a new business or to begin working in Germany as a non-European citizen you have to obtain the necessary documents and licenses to prove that you have the appropriate authorization to do so.
In general the foreign investor first requires a valid visa allowing them to enter Germany and to stay for 3 months. This visa can be transformed into a temporary residence permit or under certain circumstances into a permanent residence permit.
Under German law, responsibility for issuing visas lies within the authority of the Federal Republic of Germany, i.e. its embassies and consulates-general. Visas are issued by the embassy responsible for the area in which the applicant has his or her ordinary residence or domicile.
As a rule, applicants must submit visa applications, together with all necessary documents in person at the German embassy responsible at their place of residence. Visa application forms can be obtained from that embassy free of charge (in the local language).
Generally, all foreigners require visas for stays of more than three months or for stays leading to gainful employment. Exemptions apply to EU and EEA (European Economic Area) citizens and Swiss nationals. Furthermore, citizens of Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea and the United States of America can obtain a residence permit that may be required after entering Germany.
Citizens of all other countries planning a longer stay in Germany must apply for visas at the relevant embassy before arriving at the country. Visa applications must be approved by the relevant aliens authority in Germany, i.e. the aliens authority in the place where the applicant intends to take up residence. The approval procedure usually takes up to three months, in some cases longer, since the aliens authority will often consult other authorities (e.g. the Federal Employment Agency).
A detailed guide about how to apply for a visa as well as more information and downloads (for example an application form for the issue of residence permit) are offered free of charge on the following pages:
Germany Trade and Invest
and Federal Foreign Office