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Immigration Service for Self-Employed Workers and Investors § 21 AufenthG

German Lawyers explain how to move to Germany.
Fore more information, feel free to contact us.

As the world’s third largest export nation, competing with China and the US, Germany is rightly viewed as a door to the world. With EUR 469 billion FDI, the country has also proved itself an investment magnet and one of the top regions for foreign investors. Germany is one of the main destinations for investments within the European Union. Entrepreneurs as well as investors appreciate its competent personnel, as well as its political, social and legal security.

In order for entrepreneurs and other self-employed workers to settle down in Germany, several hurdles will have to be overcome. Our experienced team of lawyers will assist you in starting your business in Germany and acquiring a German residence permit.

You will find below a list of the most frequently asked questions and answers regarding residence permits for self-employed workers:

Who is eligible to apply for a residence permit for foreign entrepreneurs and self-employed workers?

According to § 21 AufenthG (German Residence Act), entrepreneurs and self-employed personnel from non-EU countries can acquire a German residence permit. The following persons are entitled to apply:

  • Foreign entrepreneurs who aim to set up a business in Germany
  • Foreign entrepreneurs who aim to set up an overseas branch of a business
  • Freelancers

However, the provision extends beyond individual entrepreneurs. Directors, managers, and legal representatives of business partnerships, as well as stock corporations, are entitled to apply so long as they do not hold an employee status.


What are the legal requirements for § 21 AufenthG?

The key to obtaining a German residence permit as a self-employed person is to show that the business will have a positive effects on the German economy, i.e. that there is an economic interest in and/or a regional need for the business and that funding has been secured. Entrepreneurs have to show that their business will increase the market potential as well as sales opportunities of other German enterprises and that it will create a positive impact on the economy. If the applicant has exceeded the 45th year of his life, he will be required to prove that adequate pension provisions have been made.

In 2012, the law was changed to the effect that the applicant will no longer have to demonstrate a minimum investment amount or the creation of a certain amount of workplaces.


The following aspects determine whether the business in question will be of economic and/or regional interest:

  • Sustainability of the applicant’s business concept
  • The applicant’s entrepreneurial experience
  • The qualifications of the entrepreneur
  • Financial investment
  • The company’s impact on employment and vocational training
  • Contribution to the national or regional economy, innovation, and research
  • Competition with established businesses

Who makes the decisions concerning residence permits?

The relevant immigration authority in Germany is the Foreigner Registration Office. It is in charge of reviewing whether the legal requirements have been met. The Registration Office will then seek the advice and approval of relevant trade bodies, public and judicial trade associations and authorities responsible for occupational permits, as well as the chamber of Industry and Commerce, which are given a right to influence the process.


Is there an exception to the general legal requirements applicable to freelancers, § 21 subsection 5 AufenthG?

As provided by § 21 subsection 5 AufenthG, freelancers are considered self-employed, and are therefore entitled to a residence permit. The following occupations are included in the exception:

  1. Freelance scientists, artists, authors, teachers and educators
  2. Self-employed medical doctors, dentists, veterinarians, lawyers, notaries, patent lawyers, surveying engineers, engineers, auditors, tax consultants, consultant economists and business economists, certified accountants, tax agents, homeopathic practitioners, dental surgeons, physiotherapists, journalists and photojournalists, interpreters, translators, flight controllers and comparable professions.

The offices responsible for the above-mentioned professions will be in charge of the decision as well. However, the requirements of § 21 subsection 5 AufenthG do not have to be met. In any event, a permission to practice will have to be acquired.


Can you explain the process from starting a business up to holding a residence permit?

Our team of legal experts, tax consultants and accountants will assist and support our clients from the moment of implementing their business idea up to the acquisition of a German residence permit.

Step 1: You have decided to instruct Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte PartG (attorneys at law).

Step 2: Subsequently, you will receive a non-binding mandate contract, a general power of attorney, as well as a detailed conduct of proceedings and an estimate for an advance payment.

Step 3: After we have received all the necessary documents signed by you, we will send you a detailed list of all required documents, such as your CV (Curriculum Vitae), proof of health insurance etc. Following that, we will take all the necessary steps in order to set up your business and obtain your residence permit.


How long will my residence permit be valid for?

The validity of the residence permit is limited to a period of 3 years. Subsequently, a settlement permit (unlimited residence permit – § 9 subsection 2 AufenthG) may be granted if the applicant can show that he has covered his cost of living and that the business is successful.

What do your legal services include?

Schlun & Elseven Attorneys is a team of highly skilled lawyers who specialise in comprehensively supporting entrepreneurs, and offer an all-around package of legal services.

Among other things, we offer the following legal services:

  • Visa application to the German embassy – (we are going to complete the forms and documents together with you)
  • Business plan review – (our vast experience allows us to advise you efficiently on the requirements of the business plan, and together we will determine whether your planned business activity is suitable for obtaining a visa)
  • Company formation – (we will assist you in finding the right company structure and help you set up your business in compliance with the law)
  • Due diligence – (in case you want to invest in an already existing company we will help you negotiate the terms and conditions. If necessary, we will provide legal due diligence of the targeted company)
  • Employment contracts – (Our specialised department for labour law will support you in drawing up employment contracts and can advise you on all matters regarding labour law)
  • Application for a residence permit – (we will apply for a residence permit to the responsible immigration authorities right after you have obtained your visa)
  • Application for a settlement permit – (after you have set up and operated your business successfully for three years we will apply for a settlement permit on your request)
  • Family reunion – (after you have obtained your residence permit, we will help your family join you in Germany)

How much do your legal services cost?

The fees we charge for our immigration services largely depend on the project itself and the services demanded by our clients. After we have received your request for assistance, we will make a noncommittal, transparent offer for our all-inclusive services.

Schlun & Elseven Rechtsanwälte (attorneys at law) consists of a team of experienced lawyers, whose practice areas include immigration law, labour law and contract law. We will accompany you during the whole process that leads up to obtaining your business visa. We will help you set up and operate your business successfully in Germany. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

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